How My Honduran Spouse Helped Me Honor My Blackness
You know, I never really thought my Blackness. I mean, it is one thing that is with me wherever I go. It is immutable. I have always been proud of my cultural heritage as far as I knew it. Most of my cultural identity was largely influenced by family traditions and our oral history. At some point you realize that part of being Black is to not to know things about your ancestors. That mystery has fueled my curiosity and dives into the family lines and the African diaspora as a whole. I thought that I was as connected to my culture as I could be. Little did I know how marrying a Latino would prove me wrong.
My husband and I will celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary in April and it only occurred to me now how our cultural differences really impact me personally. Ha! I thought I would write about him as a part of our anniversary celebrations, but this is really about me!
When we met, he didn’t really speak English. My Spanish was better than his English and even it was pretty basic (like present tense and limited past and future tenses so making plans was tricky). We met in an Afro-Caribbean after-hours night club. Naturally. Dancing is my language. Not that I am an exceptional dancer in any way, but I have rhythm and musicality; it’s joyful and I can argue that it did the trick! The same goes for him, although he certainly thinks he leans towards the exceptional!
Obviously, enough was said and understood. We married the next year and we welcomed our youngest daughter as we both had one when married. Together, we intentionally tackled each culture clash as a way to communicate, share, and learn. Thank goodness. It has been good times and tough times, but we have been happy. The other day, while making plans to celebrate our anniversary, I asked him if he remembered how his friends felt when we got married. He laughed and said there were quite a few that did not think we would make it two years because I wasn’t from Honduras. Back then I immediately thought they were crazy to feel that way. Like, I am American. That is an asset in and of itself. I am the catch here. This time, I laughed too. Because it was funny to me that I had ever thought I was a catch simply because I was American.
I thought that me being an American was what every non-American in this country wanted to be. Needless to say, that just isn’t the case for everyone. If I know 50 of my husband’s Honduran friends here in the US who have become coupled since we did, there are only two that I can think of whose partner is American. And one is truly a Honduran-American. I did not even know she could speak English for at least three years. Assimilation is not the ultimate goal. AT ALL. In a word, he is proud of his culture and being married to me has not dented his cultural identity at all.
Over the years, I have researched and learned more about my cultural heritage but more about what it means to me. Assimilation is such a big concept for Black people like me–those are American and have been for generations but still have yet to realize the full experience of that American-ness. For me, he modeled how to live a full, meaningful life with a cultural identity that is not the dominant culture.
Now, I am American and proud as anyone. But it has become increasingly difficult to reconcile how Blacks are treated in this country-our native land. It has prompted me to really embrace those cultural traditions and connections. It has provided a way for me to expand my family and friends and lovingly protects those shared experiences that make being Black so special to me.
Creating and Maintaining Cultural Connections
Here are the four things that I did and still do to create and strengthen my cultural identity! They are things that my husband has always done and I can see why!
- Socialize with those who share and/or respect your culture. This is self-explanatory and really important for sharing and expressing yourself. If you are of different cultures, this allows you to explain or ask questions in a way that will foster understanding and build affinity without judgment.
- Practice cultural rituals. These can be centered on faith practices or can be fun. Right off the top of my head, I think of “Soul Train” style dance lines at reunions or family gatherings as a fun ritual in Black culture. One thing that my mom always did was burn our hair when cleaning the combs and brushes. Everyone in my family does it. I was surprised to learn how many other families, especially those with hoodoo or conjuring traditions. Even my husband, who is of the African diaspora as well, could recall the women in his family doing this.
- Eat your cultural foods. We can most likely agree that food can be foundational to our relationships. We gather because of feed, with food, and around food. We can connect to and through those special recipes passed down several generations or enjoy those foods in restaurants that celebrate our culture and share it with all people. I love learning about the foodways of my culture and ancestors.
- Stay tapped into through literature and music. The internet reigns supreme! There are so many resources that are now at our fingertips. My husband starts his day every day with news from Honduras. I have followed his lead by staying connected with magazines, books, and of course music of the culture-past and present. I am not a big TV watcher but documentaries are always being made and thanks to my husband, I have watched Afro-Latin programs from around the world. I have truly marveled at the influence of the African diaspora across the globe.
Standing firm in our individuality and our cultures has contributed to our being together. It is funny. We have not lost ourselves in our marriage, which honestly has kept us from likely being bored or worse, becoming resentful. Ten years in, we are still learning nuances of ourselves and each other and while sometimes there are a few sparks (I cannot help being more hot-tempered than him) they lose heat quickly and we both seek out common ground. I have given up holding him to my American sense of punctuality. He has stopped describing things with vague words like a few in English because it doesn’t mean the same contextually in Spanish.
Thankfully, love and respect are languages we are both able to understand and it is used liberally in our home!