Saturday, April 18, 2009

A World of Culture in My Backyard

You don't realize how much your culture means to you until you enter another culture. When I lived in Texas, I hated it. This is not typical for Texans either. Most Texans are extremely proud to be a Texan, but I thought the weather was awful and my city of San Antonio was extremely boring. Then I moved to Missouri.

Don't get me wrong, I love Missouri, but coming here made me realize how unique San Antonio culture is. In San Antonio, there is real Mexican food. In San Antonio, there are traditions that no one else has. I used to hate hearing Spanish spoken in the grocery stores, but after being in Columbia, Missouri for nearly nine months, I savor the few moments when I hear a student pass by who is speaking Spanish. 

Last weekend, I went to the outskirts of St. Louis for Easter. My roommate's mom is a youth minister, and so we helped with the Easter egg hunt that they were putting on at their church. As she was explaining the schedule to the parents, she told them she had a surprise for them. 
"This year, we have something new," she said. "They are called cascarones. Cascarones are egg shells that have been hollowed out and filled with confetti. What you do is you take the egg and crack it over someone's head."

At this point, I was so confused. Why was she explaining what a cascarone was to these parents as though they had never heard of it before? As it turned out, they hadn't. As I went out to the parking lot later to prepare the cascarones for the children, the parents were talking excitedly about the confetti eggs. "Have you ever seen these before?" one parent asked to another.

Then it hit me. Other parts of the United States don't use cascarones on Easter. In San Antonio, every year at my great-aunt's house, all the cousins would get cascarones to crack on our relatives' heads. To me, Easter was not Easter without cascarones, and no one in my family is Hispanic. But the Spanish culture had influenced us although we didn't realize it.

At that moment, with the Missouri parents awing over the cascarones in the parking lot of a St. Louis suburban church, I finally felt proud to be a San Antonian. Suddenly, I fell in love with my culture.

How is it that all those years, I missed it. I missed the privilege it was to live in a place where two cultures collided to form a beautiful mosaic. Perhaps it was because our lives were still quite separate. I went to a upper class private school that had less than ten Hispanics in the high school of 400. Although I constantly heard Spanish spoken around me, I know little more than hola and adios. Maybe it was the racism of my peers that I heard every day like, "Why can't they just speak English if they are going to come to our country." For a long time, I agreed with this. It took me a long time to understand how difficult it was for an immigrant to learn a new language. It took me a long time to realize that almost every single one of those immigrants was braver and stronger than I could ever be.

But now that I have discovered the beauty of my culture, I am going to embrace it this summer. This summer will probably be the longest time I ever spend at home again, and I don't want it to go to waste. If only others can learn from my mistake and embrace their culture sooner instead of wanting to run away to another so quickly, I can't help but think our home would be a place.


Passionate Park said...

Me too

This summer would be the longest days in my hometown before I graduated.

I miss the Korea cutlure which I was inherited.

I miss the people whom I ever met in Korea.

It was good to read

The Journey said...

What a wonderful and enlightening blog post, Gretchan. It was great to see you open your heart and share a new appreciation for hometown culture. This happened to me as well -- long ago. Have a great summer. A proud follower of your blog ... Ken