I am both Mexican and Salvadoran. My father’s side of my family comes from Mexico while my mother’s side is from El Salvador. While my family comes from both of these countries they both hold a special place in my heart.
I’ve been exposed to a large part of my heritage thanks to my family by trying to keep traditions alive and especially by growing up in California. Food is one way that my heritage is kept alive. My family passes down recipes and typically the mother and daughter or grandmother and granddaughter share a bond through cooking. Some things that I have learned to cook from my grandmother is pozole, menudo, mole, and chilaquiles. These are traditional foods from my Mexican heritage.
Music and dance is also widely shared and one genre that I’ve heard my whole life blaring from my grandmother’s (from my father’s side) room was Cumbias and I have her to thank for my dancing skills.
From my Salvadoran heritage we have different traditions within my family for the holidays. On Thanksgiving instead of eating the traditional turkey we usually make pan con pavo which is just a turkey sub sandwich with cucumber, onions, mayo, mustard, watercress and radish. Every Christmas in order to open presents you must dance for everyone to see. So the typical image is a bunch of kids ranging from 3 to about 20 years old gather together and as soon as the music turns on we all have to start dancing until my grandmother (from my mother’s side) starts calling out people’s names to get their presents. Along with these traditions we also have food that we pass along such as pupusas, pan con pavo, and drinks like ensalada and kolashampan.
My heritage defines me and separates me because the experiences and traditions that were shown to me will never be taken from my family or me. Every experience I’ve had of my heritage has stayed with me and shaped me as a person and made me who I am. I remember every weekend going to Olvera Street in Los Angeles and my dad showing me some of the things he had as a kid and how much it meant to him. We would go out and watch the dances and tour the historic structures of El Pueblo de Los Angeles.
Those experiences with my dad and my whole family will never be erased. They have shaped me and I have come to appreciate my heritage and where I come from but they have also allowed me to appreciate what I have.