Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Mexico 2.0

So at some point I want to write something a bit more insightful about my journey to my homeland. But for now I sort of just need to rant about my dad. Living with him has been a difficult undertaking, and our relationship has continued to get better since I was 10, but there are still some rough spots. Through my relationship I have learned a lot (and theorized even more) about the development of an individual as affected by genes, environment and upbringing. I'm pretty sure that if I had grown up with the same parents but in the environment he grew up in, I would seem a lot more like my dad on the outside. As I grew up in Saint Paul, however, the ways in which we are alike are a lot more subtle. We both get restless at night and like to sleep until 1 PM if we can. We're both really good with children and we like socializing with a lot of friends at a time. We're both creative, curious, and like to experiment– and we're both relentlessly stubborn about our own opinions of the world.

As you can imagine this combination of personalities under the same roof can be painful at times. The biggest barriers to arriving at understandings are cultural: language, upbringing, social maturity. Some of these, however, have started to crumble. My father is a lot better at English and I'm a lot better at conversational Spanish. After sharing my insight that I am a lot like him and that were I brought up in Mexico I would be even more so helped him see how my upbringing has affected me. And as I gain entry into adulthood, he is able to accept more of the wisdom his parents and friends give him to help see other perspectives. So, in Saint Paul we at least have an understanding.

Now, here in his house in Mexico there are different rules. I get the whole different culture thing. I mean, I don't understand Mexican culture just quite as much as he does, but I understand and expect differences. What I think is hard for him and easy for me is to see the culture and his family as they are now, in the 21st century. For me, I am just starting to learn about the finer points of the culture from my aunts and cousins. For him, he is stuck in the past and expects everything to stay the same. So much changes in 20 years that he has not been a part of because it's hard to stay in contact with people you only see once a year and who just now got internet access. When he goes to Mexico he hears gossip, he sees old friends to see where they are and he sometimes plays a game of soccer and then goes out for beers with the fellas. When I come to Mexico I am super-aware of all the differences because they stare me right in the face. I go to town with my cousins, I go shopping in the tourist city of Mazatlán, I talk with my aunts about how different my experience back in MN is. While he wants to preserve his history, I'm learning about the present.

What really complicates the matter is that it is hard for me to distinguish culture from the individuals. And I now realize that I looked to my dad to be the authority on Mexican culture. The fact is that his own family thinks he's kind of crazy with his attitudes about things. He's starting to lose his authority over my experience of his culture and it's really hard for him. All day long we've been fighting about stupid things like grammar and big things like how we should plan a trip to the aquarium. But he hasn't just been fighting with me, he's been arguing with the entire family. I happen to have an advantage because I know him better than his family does now. I know how to argue with the adult version of him, so I lay out all his shit on the table in front of his family, who sit there and laugh at him. And I feel bad, but what can I do? How can I tell him that I think he's been visiting a Mexico that hasn't existed for 20 years now? Better yet, how can I preserve my relationship with him, stop blatantly disrespecting him in a culture that values respect for elders and still keep my sanity and enjoy my week of vacation?

If you've made it this far, please feel free to give some advice!

PS - My mom, aunts and grandmother are totally on my side. This makes me feel simultaneously better and worse. It means I'm not crazy– just mean.

3 comments:

  1. I can't give advice, but I'm sorry, that sounds really difficult.

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  2. i have thought hard for the past couple of days to try to give some stellar advice. it seems like since this isn't my problem the answer should just pop out at me. but the best i can do is tell you to talk to him. being direct and all that. not in the lecture way, your way is wrong allow me to correct you, but in telling him how you're conflicted. i realize tho this isn't easy (and possibly not possible) given the description of the relationship between you and your dad. so i dunno. but i feel for you.

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  3. I would say don't be mean to him -- don't lay his shit out for people to laugh at him about. Let things slide a bit, be the reed to his wind, instead of trying to huff, puff and blow down his brick house (sorry, mixed metaphors). The point is, flexibility will get you through this.

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