Exciting news in #mybigfatmexicanlife… we just returned from the reunion trip of a lifetime, our first family vacation to Mexico to visit Jorge’s family! And I suppose I can’t leave out the small detail that we are now on the last pages of the saga that has been the immigration process. After more than two years, we are happy to put this book on the shelf for good (well, we’re almost there.)
After a week in Juarez for immigration processes and two weeks in Veracruz with family, you can imagine I returned with blog fodder. I am looking forward to sharing my stories of overcrowded jalopies, a Wisconsin girl coping with 100+ degree heat, the Mexican art of waiting in line, trying to be charming in my broken Spanish, all our animal encounters, did I mention the heat (and lack of air conditioning), and the fun and not-so-fun cultural differences that I picked up on during the journey.
But for today, the reunion 15 years in the making…
In the five years I’ve known Jorge, I have daily agonized over the long separation from his family and home. I remember the night I met him out at BYO Studio in Bayview for a salsa night. Apart from dancing, we spent the night talking, a lot about his family and home in Mexico. He told me about his mom and dad, his siblings, the land, the lifestyle in Mexico which allowed him many a daytrip fishing with friends and family, and the monkeys that lived in the trees, who would inevitably get irritated by their presence and throw caca their way. I remember my response, too, “You have to go visit your mom! She hasn’t seen you in so long!” I didn’t realize then what a loaded statement that was or just how naive I was about immigration in the U.S.
As I got to know Jorge over the years, I fell in love with so many things about him. His ability to dream, his stubbornness, I mean work ethic ;), that allow him to make his dreams a reality, his dedication and loyalty that allow him to forge true relationships, his generosity, his curiosity. The bachata moves didn’t hurt any either! But there was always something missing, a piece of him I could never quite reach. Now I know why. I got to see that piece of him when we arrived in Casas Viejas.
Getting there was no easy feat. Already in Ciudad Juarez, we hopped 2 planes to get down to Minatitlan. There we met Gabi, our brother-in-law. He is the husband of Jorge’s sister (the one and only sister) Brenda. He graciously picked us up at the airport and generously drove us the two hours on bumpy roads back to Casas Viejas, in scorching midday sun and without air conditioning. For me, this was a head-first dive into Mexico heat — better to learn from the very beginning, I guess! So much for looking nice when I finally got to meet the in-laws!
With a tear-filled abrazote (embrace) with his mom, you could feel the relief. Each new greeting, a wider smile. Suddenly, my husband, who always has seemed to be weighed down by projects he wanted to get done, people he wanted to please, burdens he had to bear, let his shoulders relax and his characteristic furled brow unfurl. Sitting outside under the bamboo, thatched roof outdoor cocina (kitchen), chatting with his family, he looked at home and at peace. I think the weight of wondering and worrying about the people and house and land and farm finally lifted when he saw that his years of hard work in the U.S. had created a life for his family that he had only imagined. It was all really there. His mom was there to be doting abuela (grandma) to miss Camila. His dad was there for late night chats and future planning. The big, beautiful purple house (one of only 3 two-story houses in town) was really a home. The land he bought with the arroyo (stream) running through it was a family favorite, private beach and picnic area, and it came with it’s own family of monkeys! The cows and steers were fat and happy grazing on the land. It was all there – everything he had worked for.
And now he was there too. **Sigh**
After meeting his family and seeing, no living!, his culture for a couple of weeks, I now understand Jorge in a different way. I know where his love for animals came from. His dad has that same gentle spirit that endears animals to him. I see why he nevers wants to be indoors. No one spends much time indoors in his town – they even have outdoor kitchens! I see why he thinks caldo de pollo (chicken soup) cures hangovers and every other ailment. It’s the wisdom the elders pass down to the next generation of borrachos 🙂 I see why he bristles at my obsessive beliefs about littering and taking responsibility for our land. It’s a different cultural mindset in Latin America, and they don’t have very advance systems for dealing with garbage. Luckily, he is more on my side of the equation than many in the region. I see why he parents the way he does. I see why he likes to camp so much. I understand little things about him in new ways that make me understand him so much better.
I will never forget this reunion. WE will never forget this reunion. A reunion of family. A reunion of one man with his home. Though after 15 years, inevitably you leave questioning, “Where is home?”
Watch for blogs in the next few weeks about my specific experiences and takeaways. I feel like #mybigfatmexicanlife ratcheted up a notch after all this. So much to share!