My experiences in a cultural group are many. I have been married to a Mexican man for almost 23 years. The one thing that stands out most in my experience is the amount of love that is displayed in a family group. My husband comes from a family of twelve children. The first time I went to Mexico to visit his side of the family, our son was four months old. I remember seeing the whole family setting together on one very long couch with Aunts and Uncles and parents. Everyone was jammed in there together with their heads on each other’s shoulders watching television. It astounded me because when I was growing up, my siblings and I used to fight over “our cushion” on the couch.
Granted, I came from a family of only five children, but they shared everything in their family. The Mexican culture is a very giving culture. I remember going to visit friends and family with my husband while we were there. In every home you entered, you were offered food and drink. If you didn’t accept something, my husband would say they may get offended. I was not used to eating so much or so often. One of the obvious differences in the food was the amount of spiciness (pica) in the food. This did not bother me at all as I like spicy food and have come accustomed to its rich flavor. I never really tried spicy food before meeting my husband.
Along with the Mexican culture came the culture of city-life. My husband is originally from Mexico City and I come from small rural areas in Michigan. We had a farm with sheep, pigs, chickens, horses, dogs, cats, and the list goes on. We eventually moved to a fruit farm and grew apples, pears, and peaches. I really had never gone to any big cities except when we would go to Kalamazoo to shop for school clothes at the beginning of the school year. It seems funny to say this now but that really was a treat for us kids while growing up. Our small towns also didn’t have a McDonalds but it did have a small ice cream shop that we would go visit if our team won its softball game on the weekend.
Mexico City was an eye opener. I visited the subway for the first time in my life. I saw homeless people sitting on the sidewalks in the zocalo (center of town) with their hands out. Transportation was a bus, taxi (usually a Volkswagen bug), or trolley car, that you usually had to walk a few blocks to get to before you could get to the subway. It could take hours to get to work in the morning and hours to get back home.
Family members would leave at 8:00 a.m. and not return until 8:00 p.m., some even later. I was accustomed to leaving at 6:45 a.m. and returning at 3:15 p.m. Whenever we visit Mexico City, I am always treated with respect and kindness, not only from my husband’s family, but from strangers as well. This is very different from how I see a lot of people treat the Hispanics in the United States.
Some are treated with respect from others but I also see and hear when others treat them with disdain because they are speaking Spanish in public instead of English. Not once did anyone treat me ill when I spoke English while I was in Mexico any of the times I was there. I even hear people at work make comments about the food Hispanics eat. I personally like Mexican food and know there are a lot of Southerners that eat the same types of food Hispanics eat. I am grateful for the opportunities afforded me through my husband. I feel I am more cultured and understanding of the diversity others from different cultures encounter. We need to open our arms and welcome people from all over to become a more rounded, understanding people to others.