Celebrating Heritage as a Family defines heritage as "something that comes or belongs to one by reason of birth; an inherited lot or portion: a heritage of poverty and suffering; a national heritage of honor, pride, and courage."

During a recent family event we were catching up with my husband's side of the family. There was so much to talk about! Conversations were flowing about our families, jobs, the high cost of living, and of course politics.  Obviously, this being an election year, my husband's cousin shares with us that during the last election, his daughter came home one day, and blurts out, "I don't know what the big deal is with Obama winning the presidency!" This coming from his 17 yr. old daughter who is Black. Of course he was in shock!  Heck, I was in shock when I heard what he just said! Had she not realized that he was the 1st Black man to become president, and that this was a historic event! Is this what happens when you raise your child oblivious to his/her heritage?

However, in order to better understand her statement, we need to look into her own background, and where she was raised.  Her parents are Black from the South, who moved to Chicago when she was a young child. They live in the upper scale suburbs, and she went to a predominantly all White school.  So the question here is, should had she been raised in a predominantly Black community would her outcome on Barack Obama winning the presidency had been different? How about her parent's involvement in teaching her about her own heritage?

I don't want to pass judgement on how she was raised, however as the mother of a multiracial child, I'm constantly  reading, researching and looking for ways to teach my son where he comes from.  I can only speak by experience of what I'm doing and passing along to my son about his own unique heritage. I have expressed before how adamant I am about embracing your heritage, and culture. Living in the South has proven to be a challenge to instill in my son pride and a sense of belonging of his Latino heritage since it's not as "present" as his Black one. He's living day to day this Black Southern heritage, the food, the culture, and his primary language English.   So how do I teach him about his own heritage? At 4 yrs. old I can only speak to him in simple terms so he can understand, and we do things together as a family to celebrate his heritage: 

  • I've started by creating a heritage board for our son. This board helps him understand visually where he comes from.
  • As the sole Spanish speaking parent at home, I strive to talk to him in Spanish. Though, I do confess it's a daily struggle, and I've faced many challenges that I shared before in a previous post.  
  • Being the multicultural familia that we are, we celebrate El Día de Los Tres Reyes Magos. We have a super long holiday in our home.  Kicking off with Thanksgiving during November all the way through January 6 when we celebrate Three Kings Day!     
Getting ready for Los Tres Reyes Magos
  • Fostering his relationship with his extended family, and creating new memories has been easy since we travel to Puerto Rico every other year, and the year that we don't travel we always have his Abuela or his Titi Gladys with the familia come over to visit.  He knows who is his extended family, including the ones that do not live in Puerto Rico. Our relatives living in the states have come to visit us, or we have gone to visit them.  His extended family is very much "present" in his life, through out the year they send him letters, and/or packages to keep in touch with him.  (We have used video chat, but not as often as we should). 
Playing the tambourine with his Great grandma in Puerto Rico
  • Although, a little hard (because of the difficulty of finding the ingredients locally) is introducing little one to Latin cooking.  He loves soul food, but is having a hard time assimilating his palate to Latin cuisine. It's a treat when we receive from Puerto Rico: guineos verdes (green bananas), papaya (tropical fruit), gandules (pigeon peas) and/or ajies dulces (sweet peppers) so we can whip up a Latin dish.  I often make a delish flan which is now our "go" to dessert for parties, and gatherings. 
Ajíes dulces from Puerto Rico delivered home via US Mail. 
Guineos verdes from Puerto Rico delivered home via US Mail. 

Yummy delish flan. 
Lechosa (Papaya) Tropical fruit from Puerto Rico delivered home via US Mail. 
  • Reading to him bilingual or Spanish books is a fun way to learn about his heritage. Little one loves the book about the Coquíes, On this Beautiful Island, Atariba & Niguayona: A Story from the Taino People of Puerto Rico, Mi isla y yo/My Island and I: La naturaleza de Puerto Rico/The Nature of Puerto Rico, and most importantly books celebrating diversity, and multiculturalism. 

    One of little one's favorite books. 

His heritage is his identity, and I pray that teaching our little one of where he comes from will help him embrace his individuality.   Creating a sense of pride, of belonging, and knowing where he comes from will promote his character growth, and enable him to defend himself against prejudice and racism. Where he lives will not solely determine his identity, but so will his parent's contribution on passing on his heritage.  :)

How do you teach your children about their heritage? Would love to know! Please share, like and/or comment. ¡Gracias!

This post has been featured at Worldwide Culture Swap's January Culture Swapper.