I've wanted to write about this topic for a while now. People often forget that being raised by parents from foreign countries and also being raised in a culture that is the complete opposite of what their parents are used to have their challenges. The problem I kept running into when trying to sit down and write was the same question kept popping up over and over, 'Where do I start?'
My parents immigrated from Mexico about 20 years ago. They came from having almost nothing to having everything at their finger tips. My dad worked long hours (and still does) to provide all the necessities for his family. The first thing my parents bought was 2 plates and silverware so they didn't have to keep eating fast food and could eat an actual home cooked meal. While my dad was at work my mom would be at home reading or watching the news, on their little TV, trying to learn English. My dad had learned during his time attending a high school here. They both have worked many minimum wage jobs during their time here in the United States and doing so they have always tried to teach my siblings and I that nothing in this world comes easy, somone had to work for the luxuries passed down generation to generation.
Let's just say I am so proud to have such hardworking people as my role models!
One of the hardest things about growing up with my parents was, they were very religious. We weren't Catholic, we were Christian. That meant ALWAYS wearing dresses and skirts (no showing of the knees), no trick-or-treating, no Harry Potter (thank goodness I'm done with church now), church every Sunday morning AND afternoon, and Soul Winning every Saturday morning from 8 am to about noon.
As a kid sitting at home while other kids got to go trick-or-treating and your just sitting there ignoring the knocks on the door got was pretty sad. My mom eventually saw how sad we were that we couldn't go out and took us to the store and bought us candy instead. It was nice and all but I wanted to dress up and be princess Ariel, but there was none of that because Halloween was the devil's birthday. Having to get up every Sunday and Saturday when all you wanted was to watch TV or anything but listen to people yell at you got annoying really fast. So much so that my sister and I would just pretend to be sick so we didn't have to go. It worked.
Since this isn't about religion I'll move on to something else. English barriers. Yes, my parents knew enough English to make it day by day but there were times when they needed translators, a.k.a, my sister and I. We weren't needed all the time but when you just want to do something other than translate all the time, it gets exhausting.
Overall the biggest thing my sister and I faced (not including our parents) was racism.
In the fifth grade or so we lived in a predominately white community, which meant the school were also mostly white. It's not what I want anyone to every face. It hurts. To go to school everyday to be pick on because of the color of your skin or the shape of your eyes or the language you speak at home (I still spoke English at home) made me not value myself for sometime. My sister and I were treated as though we were stupid by our peers and it was very hard to know who was your friend and who was an impostor. Some would say that 'kids will be kids'. Well then teach your kids to be respectful of other people and to be color blind! By color blind I mean, don't treat others differently because of their nationality, something they don't choose when they come into this world.
The good and bad thing about this story is my parents changed their complete attitude towards the world when my brother was born. They are very lax with their punishments with him, while my sister got spanked or the belt or the paddle if we stepped one hair out of line. He even got to go trick-or-treating, go figure .___.
I'm not mad, I'm happy that my parent's thinking turned around for him, he doesn't deserve the strictness my sister and I got.
The biggest fact about me that my friends go big-eyed over is how big my family is. Mexicans tend to have pretty big families, that or it's just me. In my immediate family its just 5 of us, but my extended family is maybe.... 10? 15? times bigger than that.
I have roughly 90+ cousins (that's counting cousins related to me by marriage, 2nd cousins and maybe two or three 3rd cousins) 10 aunts and uncles on my mom's side and 9 on my dad's side (not counting those related to me by marriage - trust me there would be more). It's huge. The awkward part is when family members come up to me and hug me to lovingly because I'm so big the last time I saw them. I was either a new born or like 5 five. Some even ask me if I remember them and the majority of the time the answer is no. I do feel bad because we're family and I have no idea who they are. I love them all to death either way.
To me having a big family was a normal thing. It was weird or an "oh my god!" moment it was my family after all.
I do remember growing up feeling a little jealous of my friends who had their grandparents with them. They could go visit them, they did fun things together and sometimes got a little spoiled by them. I never really had that. My grandparents were in Mexico and it wasn't like I could just get up one day and fly there. Now that I'm older I do get slightly sadder when I talk about them because both of my grandparents on my dad side have past away and so has my grandpa on my mom's side. My remaining grandmother is in Mexico and hardly ever hear from her.
Does it suck? Of course it does, I don't have that bond between a grandparent I've always wanted, but I can't have everything can I?
My parents didn't grow up with computers, or cell phones, or even cable (good.. god... O___O) They did have TV but I can't imagine how big it was or its quality. So now that we have a computer, laptop, cell phones, and anything with electricity they still think it's all useless. Let's say my brother or sister want to play a game on the computer, my dad will get on his soap-box about how the computer is only for business. If we want our own cell phone we
have to pay for it. I didn't get my own cell phone until I was 17 or 18. You can imagine walking down the hallways with some little phone while everyone has the latest iPhone or Galaxy Note.
But now when my parents do use the computer for business all I hear from my room is, "Brenda! How do you print?" "How do I save this?" "The computer isn't turning on!" "Why is it doing this?!"
I mean in my favor, it makes me look like a genius!
Everyone who knows me knows that my favorite thing in this world is food.
Of course one of my favorite foods in the world is Mexican food!
Growing up in a Mexican family you get all authentic food from Mexico. Not like restaurants who say they're authentic. The truth is, they kind of are, but theres just something about the food that just tastes... not the same. Tamales and tacos are amazing homemade. My favorite dish is posole. It's like a type of soup with shredded chicken, mais, and magic. You can add lettuce, radishes, onions, celantro, lemon, and eaten with tostadas
That's one of the nice parts of having a different background. You're exposed to different types of foods and I found that I'm prone and open to trying new foods. I just hope when I live on my own I'll be able to cook the dishes my mom and dad made me because I think I will be sad if I can't eat them anymore or I make it wrong. Great.. no i'm hungry Dx
Neither of my parents went to college. Being the first in the family to attend college was a big deal. It was also a lot of pressure. When I was accepted I was so happy! Even though everyone gets accepted to community colleges, I felt so accomplished and everything I had to put up with in high school and back was finally paying off!
I had to choose between attending a college I thought was good or what my parents thought was good. I am currently attending a community college, but I do wish I had gone with my gut and went to an art college. My parents want me to be a doctor, or lawyer, or accountant, basically anything that makes a lot of money. Don't get me wrong, those are great! But they aren't for me. There are people in my family who have tried to talk me out of being an illustrator, so much so that anyone who tries I tell them to go ahead but they won't say anything I haven't heard already.
I mean give it your best shot.
Moving forward I just want to make my parents happy whichever career path I take I want them to be proud of me for never giving up and keeping my dream alive (hence all the Disney gifs). One day I want to be able to take care of them like they did for me. I want to support them
financially, emotionally, and everything they ever did for me, I want to give it all back!
So you're probably either really inspired or really confused. "What does this have to do with art?" you might be asking. Well... nothing really. I think the biggest message I'm trying to send is, we all come from different backgrounds, and some of us are starting a fresh start in a new country. We all have our ups and downs and we shouldn't let those negative impacts in our life define us. Just like some of us aren't going to let out differences stop us from accomplishing our goals that our parents have paved the way with their handwork and determination.