Did you know that Houston is one of the most diverse cities in the U.S.? I absolutely love the melting pot of cultures, languages, and restaurants that are all intertwined with a decidedly Texan twist. It has always been important in our family to expose our kids to different cultures and languages in order to create a sense of global awareness, acceptance, tolerance and empathy.
We are a multicultural smorgasbord in our house! All three boys were born right here in the great city of Katy; however, they embody a rich mix of cultures that we celebrate on a daily basis. My kids are Cuban, Argentinean, Colombian, with a splash of Spanish and German, and yet they are unequivocally American! It is very important to my husband and me that our kids know and understand their roots alongside their American upbringing. So, how do we raise multi-cultural kids? Easy! Ok, maybe it’s not always easy, but read on…
Celebrating the Language ::
We are blessed to have grandparents nearby that are very involved in our boys’ lives. My Cuban parents, my brother, and I immigrated to the U.S. in 1981. I was only 10 months old when I arrived. My mother in law is Colombian and my father in law hailed from Argentina. Both my husband and I have each lost a parent so the two that are left do an amazing job of speaking Spanish to the kids. My dad has even given the boys Spanish lessons during the Summer. Thanks to said mamá and papá, my husband and I are both completely bilingual. Being fluent in both languages has afforded us many career and travel opportunities that we hope our children will have as well.
Now here’s the honest kicker :: the hubs and I find it difficult to speak Spanish to each other! GASP! It feels a bit unnatural to us since we both grew up in the U.S. Even though technically Spanish is our first language, we are more comfortable speaking English to each other and to our kids. So its takes a very constant and deliberate effort to keep the language alive. In speaking with a few of my multicultural mom friends, they agree that this is one of the hardest aspects to instill in our kids. One friend mentioned that they watch cartoons in French and another mentioned they read books in Italian to help instill the language. We also play lots of Latin music in order to introduce the boys to different artists and rhythms.
My boys are at an age where they don’t always want to speak Spanish back to me; however, I do eavesdrop when they speak to their grandparents in Spanish and it completely warms my momma heart. I know that they understand it and slowly but surely they are speaking it and are more interested in learning Spanish. We are going to make sure that this becomes a priority in our home. As Pitbull would say, Dale!
Celebrating the Food and Holiday ::
Another way we keep our traditions alive is with holiday festivities and FOOD! In so many cultures, life and love is shared through food. Honestly, this is probably the easiest and most consistent way we keep our culture alive. I was blessed with a mom that was an amazing Cuban cook and she passed that along to me! We also regularly visit our favorite Cuban, Colombian and Argentinean restaurants where we make the boys order in Spanish along with por favor and gracias. Christmas in our house starts on Dec 24th with a traditional Nochebuena and the pernil, also known as roasted pork, is the main attraction. There’s dancing, dominoes and mojitos…those mojitos, extra mint please, are for the adults mi gente! I love sharing this tradition with our boys. We leave cookies and milk out for Santa but our Christmas festivities are definitely rich in Latin traditions.
Staying Connected ::
I dream of taking the boys on a trip to each country that is in their heritage, but alas, it’s expensive to fly 5 people to South America and going to Cuba is another blog post-worthy endeavor! Only our oldest has been to Argentina when he was a baby. I do have to say that losing my mother opened up this intense yearning to not lose my culture since so much of our family’s cultural identity was kept alive by her. I want my boys to be fully immersed in the cultures that have made them who they are. In the meantime, technology has a wonderful way of making the miles disappear, even if for just a little while. We regularly Facetime or WhatsApp with our family in Argentina. It’s always fun hearing my husband’s Spanish accent become very Argentinean when he is talking to his brother and for our boys to get to know their cousins down South!
It is such a unique blessing to be able to share these bits and pieces of where we came from with our children. In a world that is becoming less tolerant, having the opportunity to speak more than language, to visit other countries, and to taste different foods brings about unity and an unfailing human spirit! I want my children to celebrate their heritage, their cultures and to never forget where they came from so that they can share this gift of global awareness and acceptance with others. All of my multicultural mom friends and I agree that it takes a firm commitment to instill these traditions in our kids but it is so worth it! And y’all…I think I’m doing something right because the favorite song of Summer 2018 around here is Gloria Estefan’s and Miami Sound Machine’s 1985 hit CONGA!
Where does your family hail from and how do you keep cultural traditions alive?