Multicultural Mamas: Jessica

Jessica and I met in the hospital with our one week old newborns in our arms. In that sleep deprived memory, I think she heard us speaking Spanish and it prompted conversation (because it’s THAT RARE in our area!) We remet when our family started attending our current church and Jessica (y su familia) quickly become dear friends, as we now share cenas together regularly as part of a Spanish speaking small group. It’s an honor to have her share her story here and I pray that it’s an encouragement to all who seek to raise their families to celebrate multiple cultures.

Ventura Family

I snuggled in bed with my son Austin on his third birthday and opened “Un Dia de Nieve.” Una mañana de invierno Peter se despertó y miró por la ventana. Había caído nieve durante la noche. Todo estaba cubierto hasta donde le alcanzaba la vista, the story began.

I had been thrilled to find the Spanish-language edition of Ezra Jack Keat’s award-winning “The Snowy Day” at our local used bookstore months ago. It wasn’t until this winter after Austin had heard stories about Christmas and snow, and had actually experienced his first snowfall of the season, that he took interest in the simple story of a young boy experiencing the joys of a fresh snowfall. I laughed to myself when I realized that in this one story Austin’s worlds came together. Austin’s dad is from Honduras, where Spanish is spoken but no snow falls and where parents don’t typically read bedtime stories to their children; I am from southern California and grew up surrounded by books, including “The Snowy Day”; and Austin and his little brother Caleb are growing up in snowy New England.

This fall someone described our family as being composed of a Hispanic father, a White mother, and two Hispanic boys. Really? Hispanic boys? What about their White mother? My immediate response was indignation that my ethnicity had disappeared from the equation. But the reality is that I don’t know if our children will grow up to be either White or Hispanic, or even gringacho (a mix of gringo and catracho). They are part of a generation who will have a difficult time checking any box in particular when asked their ethnicity. These days, one is better off identifying with the neighborhoods we grew up in rather than our race. This comment is not to mean my husband and I don’t take pride in where we come from or that we don’t try to instill that same pride in our children. We do. But during the third year of our son’s life, it has already become apparent that Austin will be just as influenced by our community as he is by the environment we create at home.

In reality, the environment we create at home is just as influenced by our community as it is by my husband and I. Take food as an example. When we first got married, Rafael called up his sister whenever he missed una comida típica. The two of us would follow her instructions to make the dish, so that the next time I would be able to make it on my own. Living in Texas, it was not difficult to find most of the Central American ingredients (although the cheeses and creams I found were often more Mexican than Honduran). Where we now live north of Boston, I have had to become more creative with ingredients. After two cities and eight years of evolution in my kitchen, every dish Dilcia has taught me has now taken on a North American flair – higher fiber, lower fat, different spices, parmesan cheese in place of queso fresco, etc..

Language, el idioma, is another example. Before Austin was born, we learned from parents who followed the “One Parent One Language” model for bilingual families that it was a struggle to get their children to speak anything but English once they started going to school. So my husband and I decided that we would both speak Spanish with our children. It was even easier when Rafael’s niece came from Honduras to live with us for three months at a time, once when Austin had turned a year old and once when he was two and a half years. But at three years old, Austin is starting to replace single words with sentences in English when he speaks to us. Rather than “Agua,” he tells me, “I want water.” He corrects me, “Not gradas, stairs.” It doesn’t help that with the arrival of Austin’s little brother (and with him, a loss of energy), I respond to my husband in English more and more. While I do not want to discourage my son’s current language development, I try to bolster the Spanish influences. The children’s room at our local library only has two Spanish titles for his age group, so I comb through the foreign languages box at the used bookstore for treasures like “Un Dia de Nieve.” I set the Netflix and Verizon settings to the Spanish language, so any cartoon that is dubbed in Spanish will automatically play on that setting (although most of his favorite shows are only in English). When his grandma wanted to buy him a kids tablet for Austin’s birthday, I made sure to get one with access to Spanish language learning games.

And then there is futbol. Rafael grew up playing the sport anytime he could get out of the house to the closest patch of green where the neighborhood boys were playing. He got into trouble so often for ruining his shoes that he would slip them off and play barefoot. Although I also spent hours outdoors with the neighborhood kids, I didn’t play soccer until my mom enrolled my siblings and I in recreational soccer. Since I never excelled athletically, I left organized sports behind once I reached eighth grade. Our sons only have the luxury of neighborhood free play half the year, when there is enough light and warmth after school hours for the neighborhood kids to be out on the sidewalk. Like it was for me, it will be difficult for them to find kids to play soccer with outside organized leagues. But since Rafael plays indoor soccer one or two times a week, the boys have the opportunity to join him on the sidelines. Already, Caleb often stays home with mom while Austin joins dad at his pickup games.

Regardless of these little struggles of bringing up our sons the way we’d hope to, the community our family has found since moving to Boston’s North Shore is one I am truly happy to raise my kids in. Although the majority of the families in our neighborhood could be described as White, they applaud our efforts to raise Austin and Caleb bilingual. And most of the families we spend time with are of foreign or mixed heritage: North, Central, and South American, Asian, African, Australian, and European. Since neither my family nor my husband’s live by, our close friends have become our family. We have made friends who model to our boys the highest two commandments in the Bible: loving God and loving their neighbor. The children do speak English together and the food we share does not promote any particular ethnic flavor; with these families in our lives, I am proud to watch our sons are grow up White, Hispanic, and a whole mix of other ethnicities.


Multicultural Mamas: Julia

I’m excited to introduce Julia to you today! She’s a fellow multi-cultural mama – having an Argentinian heart and husband. We actually went to college together, but have recently become reunited now that our chiquititos are in the same preschool.  I’m excited that they can speak Spanish with one another and our families can navigate this journey together 🙂

I emerged from the bedroom wearing my bathing suit and ready for an afternoon by the pool on a December day. My soon-to-be husband watched me with a critical eye.

“Mi amor, you cannot wear that!”

“What do you mean I cannot wear this?”

I was dressed in a modest black two-piece with what I thought to be a cute short bathing suit skirt.

“Take off the skirt”

He proceeded to pull at the skirt and then was onto my bathing suit bottoms as I swatted him away.

“And pull up the sides.” As he pulled he began to give me a wedgie. I was a white-bottomed girl from New England and my behind had never seen the sun!

“Trust me,” my fiancé said. How dare he care, let alone control, what I wear to the pool!

But as I walked outside and saw every women from 10 to 60 years old sporting thong bikinis I began to understand and realize that I needed to trust my ally that would help me navigate this new multicultural life.

Not every transition has been as shocking and embarrassing as strutting my first thong bikini with a white bottom on a beach in South America but I would say this marriage of cultures and languages has allowed me to be more confident in myself and more flexible in my priorities and ideas about life.

Julia's niños hermosos in under Argentinean flags.

Julia’s niños hermosos in under Argentinian flags.

We are currently raising two Castellano speaking (Argentine Spanish), matte drinking (Argentine tea) boys here in the United States. We are loving the adventure and I am learning to trust my ally (aka my husband) in much more than just wardrobe choices. We are learning how to make Spanish speaking a priority, time with family from Argentina happen, and how to give ownership of culture and language to our boys. We are determined that Argentina will not just be the country that their father is from but the country they are from. It is taking teamwork and commitment on both sides. It is hard work and can feel like another value that we are placing on the pile of expectations for our life. But then I hear my son ask, “Is our blood blue because we’re from Argentina?” And I know that it is sinking in. He feels ownership and believes our whole family is from Argentina even though his mom is learning right alongside her boys. And the struggle to learn Spanish and embrace a new culture is all worth it! Because this merge of two cultures, values and languages starts with me. If I embrace it and make it my own so will my boys. And so I begin to use Argentine slang (“vos sos re linda”), drink matte and travel thousands of miles to celebrate Christmas using different traditions even if I feel silly or it is challenging at times because this is our own version of how to build a bi-lingual, bi-cultural family.


Are you a multicultural mama that would be willing to share your story? Please be sure to contact me!

It’s official – I’m caucasian.

My [amazing] mom is a genealogy guru. Discovering where our family has come from and the rich histories of our ancestors has captivated her for a few years now. It’s been exciting to hear all that she’s dug up!

In elementary school, I remember asking about my heritage and learning that, ethnically, I was mostly Irish and a little bit German. My dad’s side of the family had come over during the potato famine and settled along with the 1.5 million others who fled to America during that time. We proudly celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with homemade Irish Soda Bread and corned beef.

My mom’s side was a bit more of a mystery, but we heavily celebrated our German heritage through traditions passed down by my grandmother (Oma). Eating traditional kartoffelkloesse and sauerbraten reminds me of sitting in Oma and Papa’s beautiful dining room with my little legs swinging from the big chairs and hearing the cookoo clock letting us know it was time to eat.

I’ve carried these cultural expressions with me into adulthood. And then, this past month, my mama gifted me a DNA test through  The results were NOT what I expected…

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I’m mostly English? There was no mention of England during my childhood! I suddenly feel a bit more proper and could use a spot of tea 😉

Besides realizing that I’m 100% European, I’m intrigued to know the stories behind my ethnic identity.  Does that 1% from the Iberian Peninsula include descendants of the shipwrecked Spanish Armada in Ireland during the 1500’s?

Are Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cambridge (I just call her Kate 😉 and I fourth cousins removed? Let’s start planning the family reunion!

What stories have been passed down in your family? Do you have traditions that you practice?