Priming the family story pump

When I was starting my family research paper for my Mexican American history class so many years ago, my professor told us to start with what we know — to start with the living.

Continuing to learn and tell my family’s history means a lot to me. I’m a dots connector, so when I see the past and present woven together through story, it puts me in awe of time, of history, of my own life and how I got here.

In fact it fills me with, I don’t know, a confidence in knowing and understanding a little more about who I am. It helps me feel like I belong. For someone who grew up as a minority in most situations, that is saying a lot.

And I can only imagine what it could mean to more of my loved ones.

I feel a family history project coming on
So I’m feeling another family history “project” coming on, but this one’s gonna need some help from my familia. They just don’t know it yet.

It’s time again to follow Dr. Zamora’s advice and capitalize on the time we have with those of us who are still here. I mean, each of us can come up with at least one story or memory to share, right?

There’s always a party pooper, but they can stay home from the party*. I just think it would be great to honor senior family members, as well as those who have gone ahead of us.

I can’t wait to see how this turns out.

* You’ll learn soon enough that I have a special fondness for música tropical, namely salsa. It’s not uncommon in some songs to label party-poopers — the ones who never enter the dance floor — as los aburridos (the bored ones). So sad.

The morning after

So it’s the morning after (OK, the day after…my morning got away) completing #YourTurnChallenge.

I’m kind of numb, kind of relieved, pretty tired but overall really energized by the experience.

I’ve tried something similar before, and I mentioned NaNoWriMo in a separate post. That’s about cranking out the crap that wants to grow up to be a novel. And I do mean crap. A minimum of 1500 words, every day, for 30 days. Doesn’t have to be good. Just needs to be written.

Wasn’t quite for me, although it did generate the foundation for documenting my family’s history through story. That has been very rewarding. But it mostly stayed in my journal, until now. So yay for that.

Surprisingly, I came closer to hitting NaNoWriMo’s word count during YTC than I could have imagined. Today, I’m keeping it short – mostly because this time feels sacred somehow.

I’m still processing what all of it means in the grand scheme and how I can apply it more professionally, as well as personally.

What I’m really getting my head around is that finding your voice just requires using it. That’s it. Just ship.

Build it so they will come
I have a post coming soon for the professional comms audience: “Build It So They Will Come.” It’s still about the same stuff – using what you know to help others build their knowledge base. We just need to remember, they might not learn it in a way that resonates with them unless we share.

Here’s to the wheels being greased and turning again. Clink! Clink!

Remember the Ánimo – A Recap

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.

Pedacitos (Pieces)
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.

OK. Done.

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.