La Patría for Bicultural Families

Mexico City photo by maxmaria

The other day we were all having a conversation.  My family and us.  Somehow we landed on the subject of death and a final resting spot, and before I knew it we were all taking turns describing how we would want to be despedidos de este mundo.  It sounds gory I know, but it really wasn’t.  For the sake of everyone’s privacy, I won’t go into details about who wanted what, but there was definitely talk about a grupo de banda leading a caravan of mourners to a funeral, as well as ashes being spread across the ocean, and probably everything in between.

For me the tough part wasn’t ideating about how I would want my family and friends to pay me their last respects.  It’s really simple actually.  I would just want a little bit of música, and cómo dice la canción, “que sea una gran fiesta la muerte de un pobre.”  The physical location of where that grand celebration would take place.  Well that’s a whole other story.

You see, como bien saben, growing up we kind of moved from here to there and never really had a place where I could say I grew up.  We lived in the Valley, and then we came to Houston.  Pero Houston is so big and we moved so often that I was constantly making new friends, getting comfortable with them, and then immediately moving right afterwards.  It’s hard to really claim any of these places as my real hometown.

Which also succinctly accounts for why I have always considered La India María to be such a heroine in my life, with her ni de aquí ni de allá philosophy.  She summed up so well what it felt like to be a first generation Mexican American.

A final resting place for me entonces becomes a question of which country (Mexico or the United States) I would want to be buried in at the end of my journey in this world.  Sure, in Mexico we have generations of family in the panteon at El Sauz… but I don’t know that I would feel at peace resting there in a country that was really more of a fantasized dream all of my life, rather than an actual patría.  I don’t know what it would have been like to grow up there, to go to school there, to have a family and a career there.  I only know what it was like to romanticize my childhood summers in Mexico. I’m quite content with those memories too, however.

On the other hand, being buried in this country kind of feels unnatural too.  Where would I be buried?  What city?  Where would my family end up?  And my ancestors, and family bloodline?  Sigh… there are so many questions!  I’m still very confused, but I have decided not to think about it a whole lot for the time being.

Then Edgar came home earlier this month and told us he was asked to start raising and taking down the flag each school day.  He’s been getting up extra early every morning all excited and ready to go to school to fulfill his patriotic duty.  I watched him raise the flag with a group of his classmates the other day.  He was full of so much pride and joy that I couldn’t help but swell up myself too.

And here I go with my dilemma again.