One thing that I always try to teach my children is that although we are American, understanding our heritage gives us an idea of how our ancestors lived and how and why our traditions came to be. I believe it is very important to learn our culture and where we came from, especially from a familial perspective. Understanding where we came from allows us to share how things came to be–through necessity or through old traditions and beliefs. I learned at an early age to participate in cultural activities because it creates a bond that we all share.
Here are three cultural things we share as family that creates a bond and makes us who we are.
- Language- When I was a child, my mom expected us to learn Spanish at home and learn English at school. This was especially challenging growing up in the rural south. However, all of her hard work paid off. I am bilingual today because she understood how important it was to pass on her primary language. Being bilingual has presented me with so many opportunities and has allowed me to see the world through a different perspective. This is something I am teaching to my children.
- Cultural Holidays– Days of celebration, such as Día De Muertos (Day of the Dead), is a Mexican holiday celebrated throughout Mexico, and by people of Mexican heritage elsewhere. The multi-day holiday involves family and friends gathering to pray and remember family members and friends who have died. This also involves creating an altar to remember the person who has passed. Every year we create one for my late stepfather Raul. The altar is a visual of how we remember him and his favorite things. Taking part in this activity will ensure that my children carry on the tradition to their children.
- Food– Food is something that brings our family together, and understanding how the recipes are passed from generation to generation is always a way to bond. Many recipes were out of necessity, or even survival at times. My mom has a special recipe for tamales (tamale is a traditional Mesoamerican dish, made of corn masa, steamed in a cornhusk or banana leaf) that she learned from her mother, which she is now teaching to my children. Along the way, each person adds his or her own special ingredient, helping the recipe to evolve and become unique.
I think overall, every family looks back on their heritage to understand how their relatives lived, what they believed, what they passed down, and why. These things create a family and become bonding moments for future generations. These things make us unique and, in turn, we can share the experiences and teachings with others. It’s important for us to celebrate our heritage and continue traditions that will bring us together.