Tag Archives: Mexican-Americans

You’re not the boss of me!

What values and virtues do we pass on to our children? Should they be proud of the “race”? Should they be proud of their “nationality”? Should they be exclusively one nationality or another? Should they be proud of their material success and wealth? I hope they value above all, family, culture and faith. Generosity and love are, I believe, the keys to happiness and abundance.

Ruben Navarette posted a recent missive from a reader who complained about Navertte identifying as Mexican-American.

“If, as you say, you are true blue then you would refer to yourself as just plain “American.” You, quote are a “Mexican-American” Yankee doodle etc.

My husband’s grandparents were born in Ireland. He calls himself American. Likewise my son-in-law whose 4 grandparents were born in Poland, calls himself American.

You say only one of your grandparents were born in Mexico, then why the hyphenate?”

Navarette, quoting his nine-year old daughter said,  because “You’re not the boss of me.” Just so. There was a time when a King would say: “you are my subject and you must follow the religious faith of the realm.” In America, things are different. And if you honor your mother and father and if they come from a culture and faith tradition you love it is very normal and reasonable to feel a close emotional tie to that other nation that “patria chica” -that “wee homeland of your heart.” Legally my forefathers were British subjects (all of them including the Irish in the family). But no one I have know had ever considered himself “British”. Technically a British person is a Welsh-speaking Briton. Some Scots were, in fact, descended from Welsh-speaking Britons. WIlliam Wallace was descended from Welsh-Speaking Britons. But my ancestral clans were not. They were Gaelic in identify with roots in the Gaeltacht of Ireland and Scotland. It is quite possible some of my ancestors were dual French nationals because some of my ancestors served in the French King’s bodyguards. In any case, it is very likely that at least some of my ancestors were Anglo-Normans or even Lochlanoch (Vikings). But those connections are so remote that they have little influence on my identity or character. But clan or tribal identity was strong. That feeling WAS as strong or stronger than any nationality. When my grandfather spoke of his “race and line” he was not speaking of the “White Race” (I never once heard him speak in such terms. He taught me there was only one race now and in the future -the human race). No, he was speaking of his ancestry as a member of Clan Munro and being also descended from Clan MacKenzie, Clan Fraser and Clan MacFarlane. He considered himself a Highlander (Gael) first and foremost though he was legally British and then legally, by choice an American.

I have relatives who are completely assimilated and never had any interest in the heritage, culture or religion of their grandparents. The way to get along is to go along. They are more English than the English and more Americans than any Americans. That’s fine if it makes them happy. I know a business associate of my father named “Hunter” who said he was “Anglo-Saxon”; my father was astonished to learn his brother was “Cacciatore” ; their family was Italian in origin. But that man hid his “Italian roots” (he was very fair-skinned) and married a WASP in the Episcopal Church. He didn’t even invite his Italian-speaking mother to the wedding. That was astonishing to me. But some people, then, were eager to get into the country club and the right private school and college. Today it would be different, I think. Of course, I chuckle at all this because I have been asked, hundreds of times, if I am Italian-American because my name ends in -o. I have been called “Mr Murro” many times. I have also been called “Monroy” many times as well. I never make a big deal if people mispronounce or misspell my name unless it has legal or financial consideration.

But some people ARE by their very nature, hypenated Americans. They might be dual nationals (many people in my family are dual nationals) For example, my wife and daughter in law and son in law have deep, deep cultural and language ties to Spain and Mexico. Spanish is an everyday language in our household. So almost everyone one in my family is Mexican-American or Hispanic-American (some have roots in Spain and Chile).

My own roots are Gaelic (Highland and Irish) and I am a hispanophile but have never claimed to be anything else but a Gael. Thanks to the miracle of the Internet and modern social media I can correspond to Scotland and listen to Scottish music and radio (in English, Scots or Gaelic) every day. And my hyphen came to me honestly because it was a significant part of my culture, identity, and language. I will always feel a close tie to the Highlands and Islands. My forefolk were Highlanders and Islanders for over 1000 years.

But my strongest identity is as a Christian in the Roman Catholic tradition. I have ancestors who were of the Protestant persuasion also, of course, (Free Church or Scottish Episcopal Church) but the basic tendency of my family was High Church. My parents were married in both the Anglican Communion and Roman Catholic Church for example and so were my father’s parents. Some of my maternal grandmother’s relatives were Church of Ireland (Anglicans). It was very common for Irish or Scottish soldiers serving in the British military in the 19th and early 20th century to fold into the Anglican Communion or have as we used to say “a Protestant trail.” For poor people it really didn’t make much difference. For people like the Duke of Wellington or Edmund Burke it DID make a difference because if they did not conform with the Anglican religion they could not inherit their property. Both were Irishmen, of course. Burke’s sisters and cousins were, I believe, all Roman Catholic. I was reading about Myles Keogh the other day and he came from a well-to-do Irish Catholic landowning family. He fought in the Papal Army and then later for the Union during the Civil War. He was famously killed at the Battle of Little BIghorn in 1876 with Custer and his horse Comanche was the only survivor of the battle. Some historians believe Keogh and two sergeants were among the very last survivors and died in a mini-last stand of their own and hence were some distance from the main body and therefore his wounded horse managed to survive the story. Myles Keogh was a Gael. His name is purely Gaelic. I am quite certain he considered himself a Gael and he probably was conversant in Gaelic. The evidence of course is indirect but he was fluent in Italian and one of the markers of a bilingual Gael is linguistic ability. Certainly his parents and grandparents were native speakers. It is only after 1845-1850 when entire populations were wiped out that Irish Gaelic went into a precipitous decline.

My cultural values were very close to my wife’s because we belong to the same civilization -Western Christendom.

Rome was always more important for us than London and it is easy for us as amphibious Gaels to live in the Spanish-speaking world and learn the language.

We are accepted as “honorary” Hispanics because we love the Hispanic culture and language. Hyphens are useful when they mean something. Sometimes they are almost meaningless.

We know “official” Hispanics who don’t know a word of Spanish and have very little connection to Spain or Mexico. We know “Native Americans” who don’t know a word of indigenous language but boast of being 1/8 or 1/16 Native American. Good for them.

A man’s roots are a man’s roots and a man’s culture is a man’s culture. I decided long ago that I was the last of my race.

I never had any interest, really, of dating women of my parent’s language and nationality. I encouraged our children to have interest in languages, generally speaking, but I made no direct effort to teach them Gaelic. Naturally, they picked up some words, some phrases some choruses. Nonetheless for me and for them The Gaeltacht is the past and a lost world. A distant world. There are abandoned villages and island from whence my people came but no one lives there now.

We survived the 20th century but lost our nationality and language. My grandparents came to this country with next to nothing carrying with them only a strong desire to work, to be free and to practice their religions traditions in private and freely without persecution or discrimination from the Bold State.

In a long journey some things have to be left behind.

We did retain our strong faith, the most important and enduring value IMHO. I am an American citizen and proud of that.

But that is no all I am nor is it all that my grandchildren and in-laws are.

It is only natural that people with such cultural and linguistic ties to Latin America will consider themselves “hyphenated” Americans. We are citizens of Mexico, Canada, Spain, Chile and the USA. All of us have connections by marriage or ancestry to Scotland and Ireland but as time goes by those ties are more and more remote. Perhaps our grandchildren and great-grandchildren will be so mixed that they will consider themselves Americans only or Mexicans only or Chileans only. Good for them. I only hope they are happy, free and have a strong faith and culture.

I believe America is their future but if they are happy and production I don’t care where they live or how they “self-identify”. I only pray is that carry as good citizens of the world and good people of faith. One of the great questions in life is whether or not there is (or isn’t) an eternal dimension to man (the human person). Of course, Jesus teaches that there is. I believe that each person has a soul, an immortal soul, a self-consciousness, a spirit. We are married in life to our soul but of course in death we depart this land of the living and then our souls and body part. The prime teachings of the Great Teacher are love, faith, hope, gentleness, forgiveness, humility, integrity. These virtues are the essential ones I hope we have imparted to our children (two of whom have married in the church). There are no realms that endure, goes an old Gaelic saying but the Kingdom of God. And this Kingdom of God is among us. This is the unity and wholeness I seek for myself and for my children and grandchildren. We have seen many Empires rise and fall . We have served the yoke of many kings and emperors. I know what it is to be the last of my race -I have always identified strongly with the Last of the Mohicans -a book that has Munros in it and Gaels. Once upon a times there were Gauls and Gaul, once upon a time there were Galatians and Galatia. Once upon a time we dwelled in Alba, the land of the Mountains White. Once upon a time we lived in Ferindonald. It is only a memory now and only the past. Omina exeunt in mysterium. All things vanish into mystery. But a part of that heritage lives in our strong desire to be free and to belong to Christendom.

No matter what country we make our home that will be, I am quite certain an important the most important part of our heritage. For we are descended from Gaels the oldest and truest Christians of the Northern people. “Dread God and respect his commandments. That is the whole duty of man.” That’s a philosophy of life worth teaching. That’s a tradition worth passing on. And ladies and gentleman it is a way of life open to all regardless of race or national origin. Race and nationality are nothing compared to this. They are just passing fancies in this mortal storm.

HYPHENATED americans and other realities

 How many times have I heard this nationalist comment “You should consider yourself an American first and foremost. Get rid of the hyphen!! ” And of course, if we speak another language besides English in public, sometimes we are told “to shut up and talk American!” , to which I reply, “excuse me, Sir, the language I speak to my wife and sister-in-law, in private conversation, is none of your business. What language would you expect I would speak to a guest in the USA from a Spanish-speaking country?” Of course, one cannot tell by the color of the skin or eyes the native language of a person. Spanish-speaking persons can be of any race and any religion. I daresay the same can be said of English-speakers as well. Very soon -if it is not a reality already- there will be more English-speakers of English as a second language than native English speakers.

If a hyphen has some significance it should be used. I don’t consider myself a Mexican-American for the simple reason I have no Mexican ancestry though I certainly am a hispanophile. But if my son-in-law considers himself a Mexican or Mexican-American that’s fine with me. He is a US citizen. I also consider myself an Anglophile but have never considered myself an Anglo-American though I would be proud if I had any English ancestors. English is a acquired language for us only becoming predominate in my family post the mid 20th century. I can never remember a time when I did not hear different languages in our home being spoken or sung. Both my father and mother were multilingual A hyphen is certainly more attractive than the ugly “Latinx” que no es ni chica ni limonada. If you honor your mother and father what is more natural than honoring their homeland? The hyphen, of course, could be temporary. It might last only one or two generations. People change their idea of nationality or religious faith over time through education, assimilation, and intermarriage. I am quite sure that if parts of my family emigrated to , let’s say, Australia, that they would, after a time consider themselves Australians. What would be more normal?

I could never hate the homelands of my parents, my wife, my in-laws and I am a citizen of the United States. My grandchildren are all Mexican-American. But we have an identity beyond that of our political nationality and the English tongue. We have my family traditions and our faith traditions. I decide what party I want to vote for and I decide what hyphens I put by my name. If I want to say that I am, above all, an Earthling, that is my choice. Could I not be a Mormon-American? Or Jewish-American? Or Catholic-American? Of course, I could. In each case the hyphen could be very meaningful.

I don’t expect my children and grandchildren to have much to do with the culture and language of their great-grandparents none of whom were native English-speakers. I only hope my children and grandchildren -all of whom are native Spanish-speakers by the way- are free, stay true to their faith tradition, work hard and stay economically secure.

Our family line is crossed with Old Mexico but also Spain, Panama, Canada, France and Chile. So what does that make us? We have been called Spanish Munros and Irish Munros by people in our own family because it says a truth about our cosmopolitan family. We are all Americans by choice because we love living in a free and stable land. I don’t tell my children how they should identify themselves.

What they feel is a natural feeling brought about by la convivencia and love. I grew up loving and identifying with the Scottish Highlands but no one ever told me to do so -quite the contrary. My parents encouraged us all to assimilate and become as American as possible. My grandfather always said, “Scotland? What a country? It is a good country to be FROM.” He had zero interest in EVER returning and he did not. He was an American by choice but by culture and accent remained Scottish-American his entire life. So rapid and total “americanization” is not always possible. We love baseball but also love football (soccer). We remained outside the American mainstream to some extent and live on the fringe of the English-speaking world. This can be seen in the music we like and in the cuisine we share (strongly Spanish/Italian and French). Neither I, nor my son nor my daughter nor my sister married a “normal” monolingual English-speaker. We retain ties, close ties, to communities of Non-English speakers. So in that sense our cosmopolitanism has made us amphibious.

Everyday of my life I hear and speak other languages other than English. I would calculate that 90% of phone conversations in our household are held in Spanish. Our children feel at home in English as well as Spanish but always have spoken Spanish to my wife and family. I myself have spent many months of my life -consecutive weeks and months almost an entire year-when I have never spoken or heard a single word of English though I recall I corresponded in English and of course read books and newspapers in English (even though most of the books and newspapers I read were not in English). I studied Portuguese in Portugal and Spanish literature in Spain. But the Casa Del Libro in Madrid had the complete Penguin library in English. So I read many English books (chiefly classics) when I lived in Spain. They were numerous, widely available and relatively inexpensive. Books in other languages were rare and expensive. So I read less in those languages. I have many bilingual books. I have always been fascinated by translations. Consider the Italian adage “traduttore, traditore”: a literal translation is “translator, traitor”. The pun is almost lost in English, though the meaning persists. (A similar solution can be given, however, in Hungarian, by saying a fordítás: ferdítés, which roughly translates as “translation is distortion”.) My father felt that poetry to be appreciated should be read in the original as much as possible. Chinese and Hebrew were a little too much for him but he read Greek, Latin, German, Italian, French, Spanish, Russian, Scots and Gaelic quite fluently. He had an immense French library and that was perhaps his best Romance language. But he studied and appreciated art songs and operas in the original tongue whenever possible. I have surpassed him in Portuguese and Spanish but not in German, Greek or Russian. But I am young yet (still learning).

Some what are we? Our roots make our family, in my opinion, Americanísma. Spanish is, in my opinion, an All-American language. It existed and thrived in America before English and will continue to thrive and survive and coexist with English. English is not Mohican or Apache or Irish and neither is Spanish. World languages, the languages of Empire will endure. They were made to endure.

It is good, wise and useful to speak the national languages of North America, which include French, Spanish and English. But that is a choice people make. People can choose to study computers and engineering or they can choose to do what is easy and that is to be monolingual. It seems a strange choice to me. I love languages. In fact, this summer I am studying another one. I correspond, regularly in three or four languages. People enjoy using their mother tongue and respond very positively.

We have chosen to prepare ourselves to coexist as Good Neighbors in a multicultural, multilingual world.

That’s a reality that is not going away. English is powerful, the language of the banks and the long-range guns but we are not going to live in a monolingual English-only world. It is not wise. It is not good business and it is not good diplomacy.

I have always known that English was not the best, nor the only nor the oldest language in the world. But I love and respect English. But I admit I have always had a soft spot for other languages as well and they are mine, too. When we married all they hymns were in Latin so all sides of the family could understand and appreciate them. We sang songs in English and translated them to Spanish. We sang songs in Spanish and translated them to English. We sang some of our own macaronic original songs.

Yes, we have always valued English as the lingua franca of the Commonwealth, and the USA. At one time the sine qua non for business and culture was to speak Latin, Greek or French. Those are former languages of Empire and still are highly influential as culture languages. But it is delightful, useful and fun to speak the languages of other communities.

This will be the hallmark of a new generation of Latin/Spanish Munros and Mendozas. Will they be Hispanic-Americans Mexican-Americans? Perhaps.

Anything but “Latinx” , a horrible expression. People say that is the new growth of a language but this Esperanto-like invention is, more likely la mortaja (the death shroud) of a language. Creating a patois may be a political choice but it is not a healthy linguistic choice. Made-up words and language are not natural.

But whatever my grandchildren and children decide will be their choice. I respect that. I pray they make good choices and happy choices. And I hope sincerely they will be proud of their ancient heritage and recognize that they are part of a great international melting pot -the United States of America. Yes, the melting pot bubbles on. That is a certainly we all need to accustom ourselves to if we haven’t already.