Friday, April 5, 2013
Migration and Adaptation.
The Sanchez and Aguiar families were of North African make up living in the Canary Islands. As undesirables in the eyes of the Spanish they like many others ended up in the Caribbean. Settling in Puerto Rico family legend says that my mother's grandmother was Taino. My father's side visibly appears to be African (A DNA test showed little information from subsaharan African. In fact the test also showed no Taino though a tiny portion came back with the results reading deeper testing unknown area). From Puerto Rico the two families traveled to Brooklyn, New York. My parents were born in Brooklyn, where they met and married. An increasingly dangerous drug filled place my parents moved from Brooklyn living in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Queens, California, and eventually Florida.
I was born in Pennsylvania near Philadelphia and raised in Florida. We occasionally returned to the north to visit relatives. After a divorce and a second marriage I belonged to a family of eight.
By the time I was in high school I had moved at least fifteen times (It was not at all surprising when the above mentioned DNA test turned up Gypsy heritage in the mix) The big move from Puerto Rico what kind of mark did that leave on my family? My grandmother never stopped talking about Puerto Rico and on here deathbed all she seemed to want was the traditional island dish pigeon peas with rice. She never really stopped being Puerto Rican. My parents however, loved the Beatles, Hollywood movies and gave us all Anglo friendly Biblical names. James, Jeffrey, and Jonathan when my grandmothers were Conception and Gracia. Grandfather's were equally Hispanic by name weighing in with Juan and Julio.
It may seem a silly point but these choices to leave New York, to try and create a better life away from drugs and gangs, to name your kids Jon instead of Juan, they start a process. Overwhelmingly people today lament assimilation as a negative culturally biased form of oppression. From the stand point of wealthy, educated, professional people the idea of loosing your culture is abhorrent but to a struggling immigrant loosing your culture might mean survival.
I have lived in three countries and speak German having married a Swiss national. It is perhaps the migratory nature of my family that has allowed me to adapt and survive in two different cultures. English is my mother tongue but German has a special place in heart as do many aspects of Swiss or larger European culture. Again what some might view as a negative I see as natural. I lived in a German speaking country I learned the language while there. My wife would never quite feel at home unless I learned her home cooking and language. So the process I have gone through has made me rethink what my relatives must have gone through leaving North Africa, leaving Spain, leaving Puerto Rico and finally leaving New York.