“He’d say, “Make sure you learn from my life because everything me and your mother do is to make sure you have a better life than what we had.” I always think about that, how my life is really an opportunity that my parents started.”
My mom is from Nigeria, she came to the United States when she was sixteen. My dad is from Poland. My mom will sometimes tell me about the witchcraft culture that is in Africa. She’s passed on a very strong religious background to me as well. And she passed down a little bit about the food — she used make fish stew or okra stew. We would always eat plantains and fufu. I’ve benefited from my parent’s marriage because they come from two different heritages; they’ve had to learn to work together. I think the best thing they’ve taught me is to keep a sense of humor.
My heritage is Mexican and Czechoslovakian but truth be told I know a lot more about my Mexican heritage than I do my Czech heritage. Maybe it has to do with the fact that my mom arrived when she was nineteen. My grandma came from Mexico to be with me when I was growing up, and I was raised by my aunt and my grandma. They were like my mothers. Being around Mexican women like that, you pick up the language. The Mexican culture is all about respect. I don’t think a lot of people know that. Mexicans are actually very formal and respectful, especially within family and in the way we treat our elders.
The lessons I’ve learned from my parents? My mother tells me to question everything. I don’t know if that’s necessarily a Mexican thing but I do think it has to do with being able to move between different worlds. That’s what my mom said and I know this is a gift that I am mixed. I appear white but I also have a very strong understanding and appreciation of where I come, where my family comes from. I can move between different groups of people and be able to adapt to different social situations in a way many people can’t.
Just because my Czech heritage is less known doesn’t mean that my father hasn’t passed down solid working class values from his side of the family. He’s really always gone out of his way to improve our condition. He’d say, “Make sure you learn from my life because everything me and your mother do is to make sure you have a better life than what we had.” I always think about that, how my life is really an opportunity that my parents started.