In my pre-western move to California from New York City and Westchester County, Sundays were filled with the traditional attendance in church followed by families gathering for a fairly filling meal. My Mother was a great cook. Her recipes have gone to the grave with her. With her passing, the traditional Sunday gatherings have gone by the way side too. It is not surprising that her absence changed the dynamics of our clan gatherings, for my children and I were trying to "make it" in America. I’m certain that many people find their families scattered to the four corners of the world and like me find an inflexible schedule requiring weekday commuting and busy weekends to catch up on chores, children's games, and other activities. What’s missing today is the connection among the different generations and a tolerance and appreciation of what each generation has to offer everyone in the family.
I am a product of a very different kind of upbringing from my children and indeed from my cousins. First, I was an only child. My mother, I assume for the fact that I was sent to boarding schools when I was still at toddler, spoiled me later in life and would do everything for me. It could be she did not feel as connected to me since I learned to love the nuns who cared for me. Furthermore, I was bilingual when I started going to boarding schools. I began learning French in the first boarding school I attended in Tarrytown, New York. So on weekends, I mixed up my languages. It was an interesting linguistic stew which I can no longer produce as I did not master French when I moved back to the city for a short while.
For a short time I enjoyed not having to endure the pangs of separation each Sunday as I returned to the boarding school. I was able to go to both public schools and a Catholic School since religion was important to my mother. Her plans for keeping me with her during the week fell through and I was once again asked to go to a boarding school. This time I selected the school based on its name—Sacred Heart Villa. It was closer to the city—Dobbs Ferry, New York was predominately Italian and really a beautiful town. I was exposed to Italian as the sisters used it to converse among themselves. Of course, some words being similar to Spanish gave me clues of what was going on. My choice of schools led to some of my happier school moments, even if Sundays still led to feelings of abandonment or anxiety when I returned to the schools. After I arrived at the school, the structure for the day and week ahead kept me too busy to cry at not being home with my parents.
Today’s Sundays are empty for me. I have no brothers or sisters so I have no nieces and nephews to love and spoil and my own children are less attached to me than I was to my parents. As an adult I spent Sundays with my Mother or Father. Now they are gone and my three are grown and busy.
There is a cost, I think, to this lack of contact. For example, it is not easy to know people whom one does not see. Many members of the Rodríguez family are not speaking Spanish nor do they wish to learn it. I understand the reasons they may have, but I’m a bit more proud of Spanish –the language and the myriad of cultures where the language is spoken. Unfortunately, here in the US politics have created loss of pride at being bilingual or of having a residual accent when one speaks English.
Loss of point of view
Knowing more than one language allows a person to learn and use the myths of the culture which frequently form the short cuts among members of a group and the metaphors that help us shape the meanings we wish to convey. Many of the Latinas who write in English demonstrate much of what I’ve lived and studied. When used a “hybridized” language is both effective and creative. I hope to go back to writing about my creative “Latina Sisters” so I can contribute in some small measure to what has turned out to be a long tradition of submissive subversion a quality found in Sor Juana Inés de La Cruz, Rosario Ferre, Ana Lydia Vega, Judith Ortiz Cofer, Leslie Marmon Silko and countless others who stride two or more cultures and rhetorical approaches to writing and history making.
Future blog entries will explore some of my findings which I hope help others interested in code-switching, mixing, or as I say hybridizing. In point of fact, the use of cross cultural strategies in communication is important and should be maintained as peoples of the world continue to communicate. The alternative to having many cultural approaches would be to decrease the numbers of languages so that only English exists. However, the influences of other languages will continue to inform communications for cultural approaches are not so easily erased.