Culture

How I Learned to Forgive My Cuñada and Why You Should Too

I suppose it’s not that uncommon, but my cuñada didn’t like me much for many years.

“Nice to meet you,” she said, in clipped and heavily accented English the first time we met. She shook my hand taking it away quickly and barely made eye-contact, but I knew she didn’t approve of my short hair, my tattoos, or the fact that I was third-generation Mexican-American. If I had been someone else entirely, she probably would have found other things to hate about her too. My cuñada had left Mexico by herself. From what I know now, there were some dark reasons that she had to leave. It took her two tries to cross in Tijuana, but she made it all on her own, knowing that her brother would pick her up in Los Angeles, show her the way in the Bay Area, and support her financially for as long as was necessary.

She must have felt that my relationship with her brother was a threat.

When we first met, I was visiting the apartment that they shared then. We hadn’t been dating long, but things had gotten serious fast on account of our ages and his immigration status. I was 28 and he was 33.

“She’s just one of those women who doesn’t like other women very much,” my marido explained.

I hated those kinds of women. He squeezed my hand on our way down the stairs of his apartment on our way to eat. We always went out to eat those days. I could see the spring light shining through the large glass-front apartment door. Everything was shiny, new, and bright then, except for this one thing; this relationship with my cuñada.

I was pretty much the opposite of my cuñada. I was American-born, raised by women, had been in a band with women, and was about to start attending Mills College, a private women’s college in Oakland. I defaulted to hating or distrusting men and liking women, feeling a kinship through our shared inequality in a male-dominated world. But for months and months, maybe years, when I’d see her, my cuñada would attempt a smile and say, “Hola, Morena,” her lip sneering as it rolled over the ‘r’ in my family nickname, Morena. 

Still, I had vowed to not default to hate her just because she was a woman who didn’t get along with women, or because she was my sister-in-law.

I wasn’t going to compete with her or play into the catty-woman stereotype, and I was going to be kind and compassionate to her no matter what.

She made this very difficult.

When we first met, my cuñada had been living in the US for three years already, but she spoke very little English. I was surprised by how little English she spoke. She was surprised that I spoke very little Spanish.

“Hay muchos Mexicanos que no pueden hablar español.”

She said it a few months after my marido and I were married. She said it not to me, but to a friend who was bilingual, perhaps thinking that I wouldn’t understand her.  Then she said it again to another friend. I took a deep breath and reminded myself that I promised not to participate in the catty-woman stuff or be passive-aggressive or hate a family member. I made myself another promise – to be kind and compassionate no matter what, but not to take her shit either.

I knew, though, that this one slight was so personal that it was going to be hard to forgive.

My marido got into bed first that night. I put on my nightgown, and sat down on my side.

“Hey, you need to have a talk with her sister ‘cause if you don’t do it. I’m going to have to do it.”

He looked up. “About what?”

“About what she said.”

“What did she say?”

I put my hand on my hip and did my best imitation, “Hay muchos Mexicanos que no pueden hablar español.”

“Oh, that.” He made a face.

“You better talk to her because if I have to do it, by the time I’m finished with her, she will be so embarrassed that she has been in the US for three years and doesn’t speak English that she will never want to speak it. That’s what’s going to happen.”

It wasn’t my finest moment.

“Okay,” he said, “I’ll talk to her.”

He never told me how the talk went, and I never asked because I didn’t need the argüende and because she never said it again. Within a year, she made us the padrinos of her first born, but I knew that I was only the madrina because I was la esposa de su hermano.

Photo provided by Michelle Cruz Gonzales

I still get a flash of anger when I think about her “hay muchos Mexicanos” comment, or the time she wouldn’t get out of the car to come and see our new house, or all the times I saw her roll her eyes and sneer at me, but I’m older than she is, and committed to supporting women, so I just waited her out. I took my ajihada on weekends to give my cuñados a break, made sure to remember my cuñadas birthday, participated in their extended family’s parties, even when I didn’t want to, and tried to forgive and not hold it against her when they had to miss our son’s birthday parties, prioritizing her marido’s large family’s numerous gatherings over ours.

Slowly but surely over the years, the ice began to thaw between us. My warmth, no matter how awkward and forced, combined with time and maturity, on all our parts, has allowed something new to develop, something real. And it’s good that I worked hard not to hold grudges and forgave what I perceived as slights because learning to forgive is good for our health. It can lower blood pressure, risk of heart attacks, cholesterol, and forgiveness can help improve sleep.

“Hi, Morena,” she smiles when she sees me now (which seems like all the time), and hugs me tight, and dumps a pile of food she brought, leftovers from the Philipino restaurant where she works, or un bote de frijoles that she made at her place and brought with her, a whole packet of corn tortillas, the family-size packet, and cans of soda in any flavor anyone in the house might drink. The other night she brought me a bottle of my favorite wine, and I shared it with her because that’s what cuñadas do. That’s what we’re supposed to do.

My Cuban Family’s Favorite Thanksgiving Tradition Is, Of Course, Asking Me “¿Y Tu Novio?”

Culture

My Cuban Family’s Favorite Thanksgiving Tradition Is, Of Course, Asking Me “¿Y Tu Novio?”

The Show James Corden / Youtube.com

When it comes to Thanksgiving, there’s a few traditions I always uphold, but I know I’m not the only one…

I plan my outfit days in advance which means…

Arriving in stretchy pants.

Ivy Park

The better to eat with! My mom calls me a fodonga, but, whatever, because…

Stretchy pants mean room for seconds and thirds!

Selena / Warner Bros.

You thought this was a game??

Along with plates of delicious food, my tías bring a heaping side of chisme. So you can find me snacking on that in the kitchen.

Frida / Miramax Films / Giphy.com

That plus all the draaaaanks will temporarily console my rage.

But I’ll dodge them as soon as they hit me with THE question.

You know which question I’m talking about.

And when I remind my tías that I am, indeed, still single, they come back with the inquisition: “y tu amigo en tu Fayboo?” or “why don’t you get back with Esteban?” Because he’s an asshole, Tía Rosa.

And you better believe I’ll be getting sized up by the Weight Watchers committee.

me.me.com

Fortunately I’m geared up for the “Oh hiiii, flaca” or “Oh hiiii, gordita.” That’s it. No in between.

And when I tell the fam I’m going out with friends after dinner, I’ll be serving this look.

Credit: Parks & Recs / NBC

My parents always tell me to be home by midnight, even though I’m an adult, pay taxes and haven’t lived at home for years. And once I’m about to leave…

Here comes the guilt trip. I end up loving up on that coquito, tequila and everything else that is at home that I inevitably stay in.

Nothing Like The Holidays / Overture Films

“I just miss you so much, mijita. But it’s okay if you’d rather be with your friends.” :puts purse down: You win, mom.

It’s okay though, because la familia knows how to party.

Partying Celia Cruz GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY
Credit: Sony Discos / Giphy

The Celia Cruz comes on and everyone is getting down, including my 80-year-old abuela! It’s seriously the best!

13 Thanksgiving Side Dishes to Bring That Will Showcase Your Latinidad

Culture

13 Thanksgiving Side Dishes to Bring That Will Showcase Your Latinidad

This year don’t bring some basic bland food to Thanksgiving. Bring something that will surprise your jefitos, impress your primos, nourish your vegan/vegetarian friends, and showcase your Latinidad. Forget boring mashed potatoes, over-salted, cream-sauced vegetables, store-bought pie, or being afraid of vegan/vegetarian dishes.

You’re an adult now, this is your chance to show your love through home-made food like your family has done all these years.

1. Tamales de Green Chile y Queso

Pinterest

There’s nothing more festive than tamales over the holidays, and you don’t have to wait until Christmas. Prepare a dozen or so of these for yourself and anyone else who’d rather fill up on hearty Mexican food than dry turkey. This recipe is vegetarian if you make your own masa as instructed, but if you don’t care if they are fully vegetarian, or you just don’t have much time, you could buy prepared masa con manteca from any Latin American food market. Some of us never make our own masa!

2. Brussels Sprouts with Mexican Chorizo

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If you want to bring something a bit more traditional, or you’ve been asked to bring a vegetable side dish, try these Brussels sprouts. Don’t be afraid that people don’t like Brussels sprouts, cooked this way in the fat from the cooked chorizo, they are sure to impress. The red Mexican chorizo will turn the light part parts of the sprouts red, resulting in a festive, and Mexican flag-colored, green and reddish.

3. Sqirl’s Brussels Sprouts

http://blogs.kcrw.com/goodfood/2013/11/thanksgiving-side-recipe-sqirls-brussels-sprouts/

Or maybe you’d rather put chicharron powder on your Brussels. Cooked in butter, sherry vinegar, and fleur de sal. Sqirl LA’s food is so good people from all over the country, often come straight from the airport to eat there. It happens so often that the restaurant will happily store your luggage in their stock room. Bring this Latin-flavored recipe to Thanksgiving and show your friends what all the fuss is about.

4.  Tropical Chipotle Cranberry Sauce

Pinterest

Many think that this Thanksgiving staple shouldn’t be messed with, but I can assure you that American Indians and English settlers didn’t eat cranberry sauce out of the can. That said, why not try something different and add some chipotle and pineapple to some fresh cranberries for sweet, sour, and spicy version.

5. Apple Chorizo Cornbread Stuffing

Pinterest

Thanks to all the Latino’s in the US, chorizo is making a strong showing in Thanksgiving dishes. If you’ve been asked to bring stuffing not cooked in the bird, make this savory cornbread chorizo stuffing. This recipe also calls for cumin, oregano, and cilantro to help round out the Latin flavors.

6. Abuelo’s Papas Con Chile or Mexican Mashed Potatoes

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These mashed potatoes use Velveeta, but people all over the internet swear by this recipe. If you were asked to bring the papas try this dish. Tell us how it went.

7. Empanadas de Camote

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This recipe combines sweet potato, bacon, and queso fresco. Hearty and filled filled with protein and iron, these empanadas are a lighter alternative to bringing masa heavy tamales. With pretty folded edges, these empanadas will look pretty on any Thanksgiving table.

8. Pan Amasado or Chilean Bread Rolls

Twitter

So you’ve been asked to bring some rolls, but you don’t want to just go to Safeway and grab whatever they have, why not make Pan Amasado? The recipe, only calls for nine every-day ingredients, including shortening, egg, and butter. Sabroso!

9. Blistered Peppers with Lime

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Blistered Padrón or shishito peppers topped with spicy sea salt are common now on menus in upscale restaurants all around the country. They are super easy to make too. Bring this to Thanksgiving at your adventurous family/friend eaters, as in the same batch, one pepper can be quite mild and the next one quite hot.

10. Puerto Rican Mofongo

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If you’re looking to bring a taste of the island to Thanksgiving make this traditional style mofongo. Made of plantains, garlic, and pork rinds, this dish is an adaptation of a West African slave dish by Taino Indians made with ingredients available on the island. A similar dish is made by Dominicans.

11. Vegan Potato Adobo Tamales

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If you’re a vegan attending a non-vegan Thanksgiving, make yourself these hearty tamales. This recipe will show you how to make both the vegan masa (made with coconut oil instead of lard) and the adobo potato filling. The recipe also calls for garlic, oregano, clove, cinnamon, and cumin. Tamales without masa are lower in calories and saturated fat.

12. Vegan Chile Rellenos

Pinterest

Okay, so many of the vegan recipes here are from the same person, Dora of Dora’s Table. This mujer, Dora, who was born and raised in México and to culinary school in New York, works extra hard to create vegan versions of traditional Mexican dishes, using traditional Mexican ingredients. Her Vegan Chile Rellenos use poblano chiles and vegan cheese. On her website, Dora warns that this recipe isn’t what she’d call healthy.

13. Empanadas de Argentina

Pinterest

If you’re looking to bring the taste of South America to Thanksgiving dinner, make these Argentinian Tamales. They are made with ground beef, bell pepper, and Latin-flavor spices. You’ll save time on the dough too because it’s made with store-bought puff pastry flour.