“He’s so white! You need to Mexicanize him! Make sure he knows what a piñata is and a cascarón. He needs a tan. Does he tan? He’s so pale!”
My 13-year-old niece’s enthusiasm for my son Danny when she met him overflowed. He was about five months old and this was his first trip to my hometown, San Antonio, so that he could meet my sister’s family as well as my extended family, all of whom are Mexican American. Quickly, Danny became mi güerito and mi güero chulo.
I share my niece’s sentiments: I want Danny to be raised knowing and embracing some Mexican culture. I assured her that Jen and I were raising Danny with Mexican traditions and that we also want Spanish to be his second language. The latter is more difficult since neither Jen nor I is fluent in Spanish. I’m one of those Mexicans who can get by in conversation; I want better for Danny. The hope is that he grows to appreciate his Mexican culture as well as its language.
Since birth, Jen and I have spoken English and Spanish to Danny. With the help of the “Buena Casa Buena Brasa” Spanish story and song program and Spanish-speaking friends, Danny has a fair grasp of the language. He definitely understands a lot more than he speaks. Of course, the more Spanish we speak, the more he speaks. He’s also quickly learned that when he really wants my attention, speaking in Spanish helps. He even knew this at one year of age, often using the word más when asking for more food. Currently, he uses the following Spanish words and phrases: quiero, por favor, buenos días, buenas noches and sí. Overall, Danny is progressing and he’s on his way to being a better Spanish speaker than Jen and me.
As far as Mexican customs and traditions go, Jen and I have placed emphasis on the following values: Family, hospitality, Día de los Muertos and Mexican cuisine. Most of these values intertwine with one another, especially cuisine, hospitality and family. Much to Jen’s dismay, we often host large parties in our home: an annual Christmas party, a crab feast and Danny’s birthday party. We also often have friends over during the day and for dinner.
Danny’s favorite Mexican dishes are papas con huevos, tortilla soup and guacamole. As for our friends, they are our family. We definitely live by the saying, “Mi casa es tu casa.” An unspoken and understood practice that we also live by in our home is that our little boy is spoiled. Mexican mothers tend to spoil their sons and Danny is no exception. That child is not for want or need.
Prior to his third birthday I asked Danny what type of piñata he wanted and he said, “A beehive with bees and Pooh Bear.” Baltimore isn’t the piñata capital of the world, so I decided to make it by hand. When we celebrated his birthday, Danny and his friends cracked open that beehive and shouted with glee. The monitos, candy and Band Aids littered the ground. Their smiles shone brightly just as they did when they cracked open a piñata at our Easter party and when they smashed cascarones on the heads of each other and their parents. (OK, some kids cried with that one.)
When they smashed that beehive piñata, not only did Danny carry on a Mexican tradition, but he also shared it with 50 other people who aren’t Mexican. They, too, learned about our family’s traditions and shared in the joy and love that accompanies a different culture.
So far, I think Danny appreciates his culture and language. I especially love when my Papito smiles at me and speaks Spanish to me without any prompting. I love his little Spanish accent just as much I love every other part of him.