Our cultura is rich in history, art, music, folklore and my favorite, cuisine! Growing up we can remember the foods that we ate, maybe it was natilla con buñuelos, o pozole, o arroz con gandules with lechón, all while being gathered with our familias. We can remember the music that was playing and the stories being told. As children, those experiences helped us understand our culture, where our parents came from, and what being Latino meant.
But what about OUR kids?
We cannot assume that our kids will automatically absorb the culture and the language. While many of us are 1st generation born or raised in the US, for our families English was a second language and Español was their first. Thus, we were likely raised more Latino than Americans because of it. Our children likely have English as their first language and may be raised in a more traditional American environment as well, making it difficult for us as parents to keep the cultura alive.
So how do we do it?
You have to consciously work at it. Just like any successful relationship or career, you have to work at it consistently and consciously. With time you will start to help your children make that connection and you will start creating your own legacy.
Ok but where do I even begin? How can I pass down what my familia passed down to me if my child is only 3?
Start with the language. Some of us are fluent speakers, readers, writers of Español, others are not. Wherever you are in the Español spectrum, it's never too late to learn as a familia. With audio books, youtube, podcasts, etc, you can have access to a Spanish lesson 24/7. Immerse your child in Español even if you don't speak it. Children absorb TODO.
If they watch tv, have them watch programs like Univision's Planeta U (spanish cartoons), if you watch youtube, there are many channels like El Club de Mamá Oca , Plaza Sesamo that they can watch, if you have Netflix many of the cartoons have a Spanish audio option.
Read to them and then read some more. Children are likely to focus more and retain more information when there isn't a fast moving image so reading will help you both learn faster.
Have everyone that knows Español talk to them in Español...all the time. Whether it's Facetiming with your mamá or talking on the phone with tu abuela the more they are immersed in it the more natural it'll feel and become to them. Check out my funny parents!
2. Introduce them to your flavors and cuisine. Even if your great great abuela (que en paz descanse) is rolling in her grave because you can't make tamales, doesn't mean you can't buy them and introduce them to your children. Yes it's wonderful when we can keep a familia's recipe alive generation after generation but maybe we're not all cooks!
3. Get involved with your comunidad. Whether you're involved in church, your local mamá's group, or an online community group you can get support, many offer free classes, programs, or cultural events that will help your child discover his heritage.
4. Take advantage of family gatherings. Latino familias love an excuse to get together. Use this opportunity to ask about your family tree, get in the kitchen to see your abuela making tamales (take pictures and shoot video), ask about your history, art, or music. Every familia is unique and special (like this one). Memories are beautiful and great but unless you document them somewhere, with time they too will fade.
5. It takes time. Document and save a digital and a hard copy. Technology makes it easy to document things and that's great, but it lacks the emotional connection you get when you physically hold a picture, a handwritten letter, or your baby's original hand print. Documenting our familia's stories, traditions, recipes, keeps our Latino legacies alive. So maybe you're not a chef but maybe your son will grow up to have his restaurant empire. Wouldn't he love to use a passed down recipe? A tangible document will create that connection, a digital copy will ensure that if the tangible copy gets ruined, you have a backup.
A little at a time goes a long way. Don't stress. Get your whole familia involved. Documenting and sharing your famila's history and traditions is a gift for your entire familia and you shouldn't feel like this is your burden to carry alone! Know that the journey may not be perfect but you will not only be honoring your ancestors and famila's history you will be passing the torch to your children and future generations. Be proud of this mamá, you are on the right track.
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She is a bilingual parenting educator and founder of Mi Legasi, an online platform that helps Latina moms and multicultural families raise bilingual childrenwho are connected to their roots through courses, workshops, blogs, and products.
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