Welcome to my #2 post for the #YourTurnChallenge.
Pura Familia (Pure Family)
So it seems like forever since I wrote a term paper on my family’s history. Actually, it seems like another life entirely – my college years.
The paper was a requirement for a history elective I took as a way to weasle out of one of those mass-audience sleeper classes.
My escape route came in the form of Chicano History from 1900 to the Civil Rights Movement. And wow, did it ever open my eyes — just not in the way I’d expected.
The assigned paper required us going back into our family history – to trace our genealogy – for as far back as we could validate. But we had to try to go at least four generations back.
For my family, U.S. Census records would only take me so far. I would be dipping into Catholic parish records from Mexico within about, oh, two generations. Ay, Dios mio.
Note: The background image on my blog is one of those documents. This one is, too.
To be sucked into the past like that was not just full of pressure because I needed the class to graduate. The time investment this paper required was on a level I’d not known before. Little did I know the reward would far outweigh the work.
The content was a piece of postre. Just interview people and ask them lots of questions. I was a journalism major, so that was easy. Then, compile them into a history of my family.
But the genealogical research opened up a cultural curiosity in me beyond my wildest dreams. Our family tree that began with the living soon wound its way back to some of the founders of the city of San Antonio, Texas.
Figuring out these disjointed parts wasn’t what took all my time. Actually, what will take all my remaining time on this earth, I think, will be connecting those dots and adding still more.
Enamorada (In Love)
But for the first time – really – I was getting in touch with my heritage, and I loved it. I still love it and I still romanticize about retirement so I can do genealogical research. All. Day. Long.
Just understanding how my ancestors made a living was illuminating. Entrepreneurs, left and right: grocery store owner, gas station owner, seamstress, musician, bootlegger, molino de nixtamal owner … you name it! And in more recent generations, pastors. The irony. But it takes all types to make up familia, doesn’t it?
It really is all about ánimo (motivation)
So here’s my challenge to you. If you have never looked into your past – into your family’s origins – you should, regardless what your background is.
And if, like many, you are Latino/a but not quite “Latino enough,” definitely dedicate some time to this rich experience. It will make you feel more Latino/a than you knew you could feel, and give you roots you can identify with.
They’re all yours, and no one can take that away.
Note: Does this #YourTurnChallenge week feel a little like NaNoWriMo to anyone else? NaNoWriMo is a growing movement designed to get writers just to dump out crap and crank out the contents of a book – in its most raw form. If you love #YourTurnChallenge, you should try NaNoWriMo sometime.