SBS 301 Cultural Diversity/Prof. Koptiuch         Fall 2012       Personal Memory Ethnographies

Betsy Martinez

My World Through Hispanic Eyes

It had been a long day. The sun was still out and I was more than ready to get home and eat everything on the stove top. When I walked inside of my house, the mixture of smells escaping the kitchen stove top caused a bewilderment of emotions inside of my belly. I set my book bag down and went straight into the kitchen. It was nice to see that I had arrived just in time for dinner, and my family was gathered around the table about ready to dig into the delicious feast. I served myself a little bit of everything. Beans, rice, enchiladas, and salsa added an array of colors to my plate, making it look like the most delicious plate of food I had ever seen. I poured a cold glass of Horchata to add the finishing touches to my meal, and I prepared myself to sit down and have dinner with the family that I came home to, my family.

My auntie and cousins were sitting at the table getting ready to gossip during dinner since this to them is socializing time. They started talking about the different things currently happening with a couple of members in my family. They were filling me in about who got married to whom, who had cheated on whom and when and where, and more of the usual gossip that always makes its way to the dinner table. I was not really into the gossip because I had been starving since I had been at school all day and really had not time to eat in between classes. Right before I was getting ready to take a bite of my food my family start getting into the topic of marriage. The question that was asked next came out of nowhere and it was something that I was definitely not expecting.

“ Why do you not have a boyfriend and why aren’t you get married already?”
my auntie asked.

I was stuck and in shock. I never had anyone ask me this before and in a very perplexed way I responded, “Why do I have to have a boyfriend and be married, I am twenty-one, that is absolutely way too young.” Immediately after, they all looked at me and started making jokes and comments. They were saying that I was going to be left behind and that I was going to get too old and nobody would be interested in me when I am older as if that was all that there was to life. They made it very clear that I needed to hurry up and get married and have kids so I can catch up to the rest of my cousins, as if I were suddenly in a race that I never signed up for.

They conversed about how I was always at school and that I am never home to know enough about the family or about what is going on around me. They told me that I am too caught up in “whatever” it is that I am doing in school and that it cannot be healthy for my personal life and for my future. I took a moment for myself and thought: what in the world are these relatives of mine talking about? Are they really suggesting that a married life is far better than going to college, getting a degree, and having a professional life? At first I was not quite sure what they were implying when this topic was first brought up during dinner, but after this conversation and after some time passed I started realizing the reality of the situation.

I never knew how my family felt about me going to school. I was the first person in my family to receive a full ride scholarship to attend a university, so when the opportunity was given to me, I seized it. I am a pre-med student, driven and dedicated to the sciences and I love what I do. I wanted to be different from the rest of my family. I wanted to give myself a voice, a voice that is often taken away from a woman when she marries and has a family. The majority of my family members are immigrants from Mexico, meaning they come from a traditional Mexican culture that sets women up to live what seems to be a life of oppression. Women do not have a word to say about this because it is expected for them to be caretakers of their home, dealing with cleaning, raising children, being a wonderful wife no matter the circumstances. While this is a wonderful life for many, this is not something that defines or will ever define who I am. I do not want to live on a very narrow minded path with no connections to freedom to explore the world and the possibilities it has to offer us.

My cousin, Lizbeth, once told me that my auntie, with whom I live, really liked the idea of me going to school to try to better myself, but that she was not thrilled at the fact that I focus so much of my attention on school. Scared that I might never make enough time for a family, Liz explained to me that my auntie said,

She never goes out on any dates and she has not had a boyfriend in so long that I worry that she might not ever have a family. She might always be caught up her busy world that she might not ever find the true meaning of happiness. If she only knew that I just want her to feel good and accomplished, even if she does not have a super high paying job. There are more important things to life than just studying and becoming successful.

I could tell by the way Liz was telling me what my auntie said that they really just wanted me to be part of the “normal” side of the family. I was never into the idea of marriage so it was never something that was part of my long-term goals.

Since I was a toddler, I dreamed of being a doctor, dreamed of doing something for the community because I always liked to help those around me without asking for anything in return. I want to be successful and have a very well-paying job to be financially stable in the near future. I never intended my attendance in college to be such a controversy in my family. I do not doubt the slightest bit that my auntie wants me to be happy, but I would like for her to understand that, this that I am doing right now, going to school, makes me happy. If I would have gotten married and had kids and stayed at home like the majority of the girls in my family do, then I would truly be a miserable young lady with no hopes for the future. That is simply the lifestyle that I do not want to get into at this stage in my life. I am only twenty-one and I have my whole life ahead of me. I would love to be able to say that I had a family that I could support and fend for without any struggles or financial issues and this can only be achieved if I finish school, work, and earn a title in the work force.

For me to see how much women in the past have struggled to get their independence and their voice out in a world where the man still dominates, really empowers my thoughts. There have been many historical achievements made that make women seem more desirable and efficient in the workplace and in society without having to depend on men. Since I was born, in 1991, there have been a couple of achievements in women’s rights that really begin to mark the independence and freedom of choices that women have. In 1992, congress saw the highest number of women holding office positions compared to any other year prior to this. A decade or so later, in 2008, was the 160th Anniversary of the First Women’s Rights Convention. To see that we have been making changes in society for this long shows a giant leap for the generations that follow. History is being made in my lifetime and I would like to be a part of it. For me to stick around to the traditional stay-at-home mom with no interactions in society would completely break my heart.

I am not at all against creating a family, I just do not think like the traditional girls in my family. I would like to enjoy and discover who I am before I dedicate my time and effort to a family because it takes a lot more than hard work to have a successful life and healthy family. Due to my ideas about how I think about life, my family treats me a little differently. It is almost as if I am not really a member of the family, I’m almost like an outsider because I do not share the same way of thinking; I believe that in order to be successful I have to understand what it is I can do for myself as a woman. Then, maybe one day when everything is said and done and I have my degree, I can sit down with them once again at the dinner table to talk about the family that I will have, just as they desired all along.

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