Posted on November 24, 2010 - by michelle
I had a great time learning about my people’s bilingual Thanksgiving drama—at least I know I’m not the only one!! Sadly the space FoxNewsLatino.com allotted me was limited, and I wanted to share more of the wonderful stories people sent me from across the country. Scroll down here for more touching and hilarious tales of culture clash and confusion on Turkey Day!!!
Luis Rodriguez, 27, Chicano Studies Student from Inglewood, California.
The first thing I thought of was how my cousin and I would always hang out during Turkey dinner when I was little and as a teenager. We always communicated in English, and some of the foods were only eaten by the second- generation people in the room (the ones who could pronounce the food like stuffing, mashed potatoes, mac n cheese). The English didn’t cause us to refrain from speaking with the older (Spanish-speaking) people, but the language did reinforce the already existing cultural differences between us.”
You know it is also interesting how gender roles were recreated in the kitchen… the second generation women would take over half the kitchen (oven) for the turkey while the first-generation would take over the stove/flame part of the stove for mole and tortillas and tamales.
Sometimes, people would try to break through the cultural boundaries. Specifically, the women who made the Mexican traditional dishes (mole and tamales) tried communicating with the women who made the thanksgiving style dishes (i.e. turkey, mashed potatoes, etc.)
The gender roles were definitely reinforced despite the change in available foods. Women made the food despite their individual level of assimilation.
Also, what was interesting was that the traditional Mexican dishes were made over open flames (mole and tamales) while traditional thanksgiving dishes were made in the stove (i.e. turkey, candied yams, ham) so the women were able to communicate while they cooked.
Hello. My name is Della Gutierrez. I am a fellow Tejana. I have found that my being and upbringing has both intimidated and angered many a FLUENT Spanish-speaking person. Being that I am from the southwestern part of the U.S., I was brought up w/a limited Spanish vocabulary. In speaking my dialect of Spanish, I have had been ridiculed, criticized, and harshly corrected by being asked: “What kind of Mexican are you?” To this I reply: ” I am a Tejana, like my mother and her mother before her.” I say this with pride, because I know where I came from and know where I am going!
Margarita Valdivieso, mother of a 15 and 16 year old, on her first Thanksgiving in 2001:
My name is Margarita. Eight years ago I volunteered at my child’s school to learn English. Thanksgiving day was coming and they invited all the school staff to celebrate a Thanksgiving lunch. Well, in Mexico we have a “good manners tradition,” You never arrive at someone’s houses empty-handed. I made pumpkin candy (pumpkin with Piloncillo syrup) and I went to the lunch room. I put my dish on the big table, and three African American teachers asked me, “What is that?” I answer Mexican Pumpkin Desert, and one of them said “Oh My Gosh! Get out of here!” I felt so bad; I turned around and sneaked out quickly. Next day one of the Hispanic teachers asked me why I left the party so soon. I explain to her what happened and she began to laugh. She told me, “Chica it’s an expression!” I’m still having trouble with my English, but at least no one kicks me out with an expression.
Nora Diaz, 43, a television programmer and co-founder of Casa Latina, said
A Very Diaz Thanksgiving in Norwood, NJ:
Growing up, our Thanksgiving table was a barrage of English and Spanish conversations flying in every direction across a very packed dining room table. My Spanish dominant mother always took it in stride – “que dios la bendiga”. My mother understood enough English to know what was being said but she stuck to the Spanish conversations. My Cuban grandmother, that’s another story. She would become exasperated and finally yell out – “Hablen en Esponol!!” We would comply – for about two minutes- and then it was back to the bilingual free-for-all. This went on for, well, years. I could easily switch back and forth but it was much more difficult for my brothers and some of my cousins(the boys that is) to converse in Spanish. To be honest, their attempts were comical, and sometimes painful. But they did try – for those two minutes.
In the end we all enjoyed – and still wax nostalgic about – those days. The thought of having one of those Thanksgivings back – including today’s new additions to the family- makes me cry. My beloved grandmothers – both of who lived with us – and champion of a mother are no longer with us. And these days, due to intermarriage with Gringos, and the difficulty of keeping the language alive in those circumstances – it’s mostly English. Though, when it is our year to have Thanksgiving together, my aunt – now the matriarch – still keep us on our Spanish speaking toes. It’s still, “pasa me otra empanada, por favor” or “estas habichuelas están deliciosas”. While the language may be fading for some in our family, we will never give up rice and beans with our Thanksgiving meal. And yes, we eat stuffing too. You can never have too many sides on Thanksgiving can you?
Sylvia Melendez-Klinger, writing from Chicago
I have an American husband who doesn’t understand much of what my loud family is saying in Spanish. Also, he can hardly understand why my family do so many crazy adventures like out of the blue deciding to get on the car and start driving from Miami to Chicago to come visit us.
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