"Heard the story this morning. Wow. I had no idea that things had not changed from 65 years ago when my parents chose to avoid discrimination for their children by leaving Texas for Chicago and not teach us Spanish. As a result I was cut off from extended family- both Mexican and Anglo. On the rare occasions when we visited or were visited by my mother's family I could not speak to my grandparents, and was constantly frustrated by aunts, uncles, and cousins who could slip easily from English to Spanish and back again - especially when they would tell jokes in English but give the punch-line in Spanish. My mother had been brain-washed by white teachers in Texas to forget her Mexican background if she wanted to succeed in the US. She always believed she was white - despite looking decidedly brown. She did not look typically Mexican, however, because of a lot of European in the bloodline, so in Chicago she was assumed to be Italian or Greek and one time even Eskimo! Once, she visited us in El Paso where the Army had stationed my husband. She was appalled and very disapproving of the fact that store signs and billboards were usually in both English and Spanish on the Texas side of the border. Every day of my life I have regretted not knowing how to speak Spanish. But I regret more never being able to speak to my grandparents."
My sister posted this in response to an NPR story on immigration. Since she posted it publicly, I don't think she'll mind my posting it here. If she does I'm sure I'll hear about it. She was kind enough to email a copy to me since the contrarian in me opted out of using Facebook some time ago. I don't know that we ever talked much about growing up Mexican-American in Chicago because I don't think we ever really thought much about it. Dad was a white, East Texas hillrod and we didn't speak Spanish at home. Sometimes we'd have tamales at Christmas but that was about as ethnic as it got. The only real discrimination I ever encountered was when a Cuban friend and I were barred from entering a greasy spoon near our school because as the owner said, " I don't want no damn Puerto Ricans in my place." Rather than being offended, we thought it quite funny since neither one of us was Puerto Rican.
I don't think I've ever really acknowledged how courageous my mother was in attending university as a Mexican-American woman in 1940s Texas or how brave my dad was in marrying her. But then again, maybe it was just his ornery, contrarian streak.