La Pocha

In August 2004, I took advantage of my break between work and returning to grad school by taking a trip to visit family in Mexico. It was the first time since I was 10 years old that I visited Guanajuato. I had a great time and grew closer to my father’s extended family, most of which still live in Salamanca, Guanajuato. Every day I met new relatives and reconnected with relatives I hadn’t seen in years. It was a bit overwhelming.

I found myself struggling to express myself, especially when I was hanging out with my cousins. I’d understand everything they said, but I would trip up when I tried to explain what I was going back to school for, how my family was doing or whether or not I had a boyfriend (everyone asked that question). I felt more ashamed of my pocha-ness around my peers than my elders, although nobody judged me. In fact, they complimented the skills I did have and asked if my siblings — who didn’t go on the trip with me — spoke Spanish as well as I did (they don’t).

The only time anyone judged my language skills was when I spoke in English.

While exploring the colonial city of Guanajuato, my cousin’s boyfriend, Chucho, asked me if I had a car. When I responded affirmatively, he asked what kind.

“Un Dodge Stratus,” I replied.

“¿Qué?” Chucho asked. He was lost.

“Es como un Neon, pero más grande. He visto muchos en Guanajuato.”

Chucho’s face lit up and he smiled. “¡Oooo, un Estratús!” he exclaimed as he finally figured it out. “No te entendí. ¿Cómo lo dices?”

I pronounced it again in English. Chucho got a kick out of it again and told Paola, my cousin, that my pronunciation was really weird.

Huh? But I was saying it right. I’d been struggling to find the right words to express myself since I arrived in Guanajuato. My family was patient as I tried to explain something like UPS, but they never teased me. Instead, I was teased about my pronunciation in English.

While Chucho and Paola continued laughing, I silently comforted myself. My Spanish was better than their English. Most of my cousins study English in high school and college, just like I studied Spanish. Of course, I did have the advantage of growing up in a bilingual household.

Four years later, I still struggle on annual trips to Guanajuato or when I sit down and have a conversation with my Spanish-dominant tías in East LA. When I read novels or listen to music from México and South America, I have to look up words like aturdido and acatar.

But it’s okay, I understand and am understood. That’s all that matters. I’m comfortable with my pocha-ness.

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Five days is never enough

On the way to Cozumel, we landed first in Mexico City and then changed planes to arrive at our (almost) final destination. I joked to my dad, that I wanted to leave the airport, take a taxi to the bus station and buy a ticket to Salamanca. He looked at me like I was weird. Why would I want to go to Salamanca, a pretty average city in Guanajuato when I could go to paradise?

Simple: family. I miss them.

Salamanca has become my “happy place” since I visited on my own three years ago for the first time in about 15 years. I was overwhelmed with the kindness and hospitality of my family out there. I ate great food and visited beautiful cities. Thankfully, I was there long enough to get to know all my family out there and I left with a melancholy feeling. I was happy to return to my parents, siblings and home. I was happy for the time I spent out there, but I was truly sad that I had to be separated by a border and hundreds of miles from such great people. Prior to my trip, I’d never given any serious thought to how immigration splits up families. I was lucky enough to grow up close by to my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. However, I felt truly sad when I realized that my dad didn’t have that opportunity and was separated from his family.

Now I go back every chance I get. I went in December 2005 for my cousin Teresa’s wedding. I was only there for two days. I returned in August 2006 for my cousin Beatriz’s quinceañera. The trip came in the middle of a rough summer.

I had not planned to return to Salamanca this summer. The trip to Cozumel was pretty expensive and my work schedule only allows me to be away 5 days tops. But then my parents decided to go to be padrinos for a quinceañera. That was all the motivation I needed to ditch work for a few days and buy another plane ticket.

Five days wasn’t enough last year, and it definitely was not enough this time around. At least I didn’t forget my big memory card and got plenty of photos.

Short photo essay after the jump. Continue reading

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Speak for yourself

You know what’s weird? When people talk about you like you’re not even there. My parents keep doing that with family here in Guanajuato. As soon as they greet us and we inevitably sit down to eat something, they ask about the other half of the family who stayed home on this trip. Well, they always stay home. Danny, Lori and Adrian have not been to Guanajuato in almost 18 years. They don´t know much of the Mosqueda clan because they don’t really visit LA, but they do know many of the members from our maternal family because they travel to LA pretty often.

¿Porque no vinieron tus hermanos?

I tell them that it’s not that they don’t want to come, it’s more that they don’t have the freedom to leave work all the time like I do. They also might not have the money. Lori and Adrian are also the least fluent in Spanish and they have problems expressing themselves in Spanish.

And then my parents begin to talk about why I like to come to Mexico. It’s like they don’t realize that I’m there and I can speak for myself. It’s pretty annoying.

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Live and direct from Cozumel

My sister looked at me like I was weird for packing my laptop.

“You’re going to take it? Why?”

“Well, I can add photos to it as we go and charge my iPod.” I added something else that might have made sense to someone else besides me, but I didn’t say that I was hoping the hotel would have free wi-fi or that I could easily find it somewhere in Cozumel. That would make me seem like an internet addict. Which I’m not. I swear.

It was actually a pleasant surprise after having a not-so-great welcome to el Caribe Mexicano. Don’t get me wrong, the people were nice and helpful, but that didn’t matter when they were dealing with 8 hungry, cranky and hot people who had been traveling since 8 p.m. the evening before (check the itinerary here).

However, once we all showered, ate and napped we got back to enjoying our vacation in Cozumel. So far, we’ve been pretty low key. The guys went out and partied while my parents, Lori and I stayed in and just enjoyed the warm water in the pool. Today, we had breakfast in el centro, shopped a little, my dad rented a scooter and we took some rides with him. Later, I watched the final of the Gold Cup game with my brothers, Cain and Mike at Margaritaville. We were all cheering for Mexico (except Mike). Adrian really did look that excited when Mexico scored its first and only goal, but he didn’t get to make that face during the game. Instead his face looked more like one of those looks fans make when their team gets close to scoring and barely misses. I hate when Mexico loses to the US, but I think it sucks even more when you’re in Mexico.

Later in the day, we had a family meeting to plan out our week, went snorkeling and had yummy tacos.

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I should be packing

Without fail, the days leading up to vacations are always the most stressful.

I’ll try to check in while in Cozumel next week. (I miss my blog when I’m away. I’m a nerd. I know).

Hopefully I’ll have some good stories of family bonding and drama, exciting adventures exploring the Yucatán and the beautiful island of Cozumel, and some great pictures to share.

¡Cuidanse!

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