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So… You’re Always Going to be Latino?

One day, we walked out of the Spanish service at our church, and it was almost like Billy released a deep sigh. "I need this interaction with Latinos," he told me. It was a statement that took me a while to understand.

When we first me, I knew he had grown up in Guatemala. We were both living in L.A. with its prominent Latino presence. (You might say that...) And we ate pupusas and joked about Spanglish mix-ups. I knew without a doubt he was Latino.

But after two years of marriage, we relocated to Atlanta. Life was moving along swimmingly, and we were both enjoying meeting new friends and sharing this adventure together.

I didn't notice anything unusual... at first. But then I observed Billy getting tongue-tied speaking Spanish. He was forgetting words. And he struggled in a way very different from me in not feeling completely himself in certain situations.

Over time, we realized we needed to make some changes in our life to incorporate more Latino relationships. We been seeking out a multiracial church, and Billy joined a soccer league comprised nearly 100% of Latino players.

And Billy relaxed.

I hadn't really recognized before that he was tense. He is quite comfortable with people from different backgrounds. But when I really think about it, it makes perfect sense.

Always being the only Latino in the room. Always speaking in your second language. Always running tone, actions, and expressions through a cultural filter so you don't get offended at innocent remarks or miss important, subtle clues. Always trying to make sure you are acting, reacting, and speaking in culturally appropriate ways.

Exhausting.

This understanding was revolutionizing for me as a wife. I was recognizing a unique aspect of my husband's social needs. This isn't to say he only hangs out with people that look like him or talk like him.

We still highly value diverse friendships. But it does mean he needs spaces where he can speak his first language. And places where he can relax in the culture.

As we discussed his original statement to me, all I could say is, "So... you're always going to be Latino?" My question may sound ridiculous, but it really was an eye-opening conversation as we began to flesh out some of the realities of living out a cross-cultural marriage.

Billy just laughed at my question and answered, "Sí."

Billy and I will be at the 2012 Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) Conference next week in Minneapolis, Minnesota. We are leading a workshop discussion on cross-cultural marriage and multicultural families. If you are attending, we invite you to join us! We'd also love to connect. You can "tweet me" at @SarahQuezada.  

8 comments

  1. That's so great that he is still able to feel recharged and connected from the Latino community...even in the South of all places! And I'm sure those ties to the Latino community will be invaluable as your sweet bicultural baby gets older.

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    1. We have definitely enjoyed forming those new friendships! Thanks, Alyssa. :)

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  2. I understand Billy's struggle, its happened to me as well.

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    1. Thanks for the shout out, Eveline!

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  3. I love this Sarah! I like your blog, by the way :-)

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    1. Thanks, Becca. I enjoy yours as well! :)

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  4. Naomi C9:03 PM

    Wow again you write such a relevant blog article. You are able to articulate things that I have noticed in our relationship as well. When I first met my Costa Rican husband (in Canada) he had many Latino friends and I would have described him as very outgoing. As our lives moved forward together we seemed to acquire more and more Canadian (English speaking) friends. It was not something we consciously did, it just happened and I noticed he had became more quiet and reserved. For some reason I could never put my finger on the apparent change in character. That was until we recently moved to Mexico where the outgoing/talkative man I first knew has returned. Now I get to experience what it feels like to always be communicating in a second language and unsure of cultural differences. Your word explain it well, "Exhausting". I agree it is important to make a conscious effort in seeking out and retaining friendships that encourage both ethnic backgrounds of a multiracial couple. Thanks again for sharing your experiences, they help me realize the things I have experienced are a "normal" part of a cross-cultural marriage. Have fun with the workshop (a growing need in our churches) and if you ever do one near El Paso, TX, let me know, we'll be there.

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  5. Thanks for your reply, Naomi. It encourages me to hear that we are not the only ones experiences these complex intersections of ethnicity, personality, and friendships! It's definitely something we didn't notice or consider at first, but have recognized over time. I hope things become less tiring for you as you all transition into your new lives in Mexico. How exciting!

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