By Laura Erendira Mena Fuentes, Associate, Digital Connector
Growing up, I’ve always pictured myself marrying into another Latino family. Why? Because I never really thought about dating outside my race, reason being that I didn’t want to have to explain cultural references, memes, music, and god forbid I’d have to translate convos. Well, life gave me a plot twist and here I am engaged to a white man whom I’ve had to teach my culture to and translate for...funny how things work, right?
I am a first-generation Latina and no one in my family has ever seriously dated, let alone married, someone outside our ethnicity. I met Eric at work when I lived in St. Louis. From the start, we both knew it would be a challenge because of our backgrounds. Language was and continues to be a big challenge. For example, Eric’s interaction with my grandparents is all based on hand gestures and pictures. It’s quite interesting seeing my grandparents and Eric communicate, but typically I’m the one translating their conversations.
I’ve always felt like the odd one out. I’m your stereotypical Mexican who is short at 5 ft with brown skin and Eric is 6 ft tall and with fair skin. I felt a little self-conscious about what others would think of us. My family had a little hesitation too because they wondered if he’d be okay with some undocumented family members, if he’d like spicy food, the language barrier, etc. As time has gone by, we’ve both adjusted to each other’s families. Here are some highlights I’ve learned during the past five years of our relationship:
- Embracing Culture: I’m the one who’s in my head about things. Eric or his family don’t care that I’m Mexican or different.
- Last year, Eric and I had a memorable experience when we went to Mexico to visit more of my family members. It was his first time out of the country and not knowing much of the language, people, environment, etc. While we were there, Eric was treated like a king since he was the guest. My family catered to him and had bought him American cheese, made sure the water was cold, made sure the salsa wasn’t too spicy, etc. Needless to say, they were very hospitable!
- Discovering New Foods: I’m Americanized, but since meeting Eric, I’ve been introduced to more American food that has become part of my diet. I tried my first ever brats, chicken and dumplings, I had my first real “American Thanksgiving” where I had turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing, and endless amount of pies among other items. Normally, I would have tamales, rice, beans, pozole, or any other Mexican dish. Eric has also become accustomed to having new dishes such as chicken tinga, pepinos (cucumbers) with tajin and chamoy, gorditas, tamales, carnitas, etc.
- New Pronunciations: His family can’t pronounce my name, so they call me by my family nickname, Lala. It’s not an issue, but for starters, I pronounce my name the “Spanish way” so phonetically it’s “Lah-OOH-rah” or like the Black-Eyed Peas’ song “Louda”, not the English version of Laura. It has to do with the “r” and rolling of the tongue.
At the very end of the day, I love and appreciate Eric so much for being open to learning and asking questions. We may have uncomfortable conversations sometimes but at the very least, we both are constantly growing being comfortable with the uncomfortable because love has no race.