This narrative essay is to be 6 pages/1500 words. If a very open ended assignement to be produced from two interviews. First essay I've written in many years! Need help!Thanks, Deanna
In 1995, a Minister along with his wife and five children emigrated from Guatemala City, Guatemala. Mrs. Moran agreed to share their story and culture with me for my ethnographic project. Mrs. Moran does not speak English, which would be my first and only real complication with these interviews. Her youngest son, Luis, age 23 would be our translator. Through informal interviews at her home we explored topics that addressed the struggles these traditional parents have experienced in raising one American and five Guatemalan born children. The process of enculturation, religion, and education in both Guatemala and the United States are just a few issues that can create concern and stress among immigrated youth and parents.
Upon arriving for my first visit with Mrs. Moran I noticed that most of the décor in her home seemed to be of Victorian nature. Cherry coffee table and dinning set, mauve pink floral couches and rug, lace doilies and silk floral arrangements to match the sofa. As the tour continued passed the bedrooms and into the kitchen I saw very similar décor. The dishes were of the same mauve pink floral style found on the sofa set. This concerned me slightly as I expected a hint of traditional culture to be reflected in the décor of the home, the same as I would any other home. As she finished preparing tea, her son Luis and I began reviewing the purpose of the interview and project. During this time as Mrs. Moran moved around the kitchen opening and closing doors and drawers it was then I saw traditional foods and products that I had expected. This put my concerns to rest.
After settling down with tea at the dining table, Mrs. Moran began to speak about the major differences of raising young children in Guatemala and the United States. She felt one of the biggest differences she experienced herself was during the nine months of pregnancy. In Guatemala they gather as a family and friends to enjoy their time together, but there is no formal party like in the United States. She described all the baby items received for her first child born in the United States. Strollers, carrying packs, diaper bags, bottle warmers, clothes, clothes, and more clothes. For her first and only child born in the United States she received more clothes than she felt needed or even necessary for her first five children all together. The stroller she never used, in Guatemala she always carried her babies, never pushed them around in a cart. Here in the United States she feels more time and money is put into what unnecssary items the baby needs, whereas, in Guatemala more concern is paid toward enjoying the pregnancy and caring for the mother.
With her first five children in Guatemala she feels they benefited much more from the surrounding culture. Spanish is spoken everywhere. Christian values are shared in church, school, and the community. Not only did her children make friends, but the parents then became friends, and sometimes were even considered family shortly after.
Here in America with her youngest, Karen, she has found this to be very different. Prior to Kindgarten Karen spoke only Spanish in the home, watched very little TV and ask for very little. Her best friends were made at church and also spoke Spanish. Karen's parents had few worries about her interaction with children from church. While her first five children grew in America she felt more comfort as they had a strong foundation from early childhood in Guatemala, as well as, strength in numbers. Mrs. Moran worries more for Karen now in fourth grade. The youngest and raised more like an only child, she feels Karen has more of an American outlook on things as a child. She also finds it hard to socialize her as they worry about Karen's safety playing outside and visiting over at a friend's house. Mrs. Moran feels that most American parents are not concerned with making friends with the parents of their children's playmates.
At school Karen has made many friends outside the Guatemalan culture she is being raised in. Her parents notice things they did not see with their first five children. Sometimes Karen chooses to speak English to her parents, no against any rules, but her parents know the older children speak Spanish in the home as a sign of respect to their parents. They also see her influenced by trends and fashion more than the previous five. Mrs. Moran believes it is the Guatemalan foundation and the strength of the first five growing up together in the United States that has helped them have a stronger bond with their culture. They work much harder to provide Karen with a sense of her culture.
At this point in the conversation Mrs. Moran moved to the topic of education. As parents their hope was to provide the five older children an opportunity for a better education. As she held her sons hand he translated her thoughts on how some of the five older children may have received a better education in Guatemala. She prefers the education process in Guatemala where at the end of high school graduation is completed in a vocational trade. Then moving on to college is a normal course and much easier to access. Her oldest daughter and son did not move onto college, and my translator, her youngest son did not finish high school. As parents, they felt the impact of many more distractions and not having the reinforcement of their culture and community had a huge affect on the education of the five older children. She explained difference of the financial burden the family has encountered in two of the children moving on to college in the United States. Her nephews in Guatemala did not have to work and search as hard to find financial help in attending college right after high school. Mrs. Moran hopes that the older five children will be able to help Karen financially with college when her time comes as she and her husband help them.
Luis then shared his thoughts on education in Guatemala and in the United States. He feels that if they had finished high school in Guatemala his brothers and sisters would have all moved on to college, and in turn found more successful and enjoyable careers. He feels that in Guatemala education is viewed by both the parent and the student as a privilege verses an entitlement as in the United States. He reflected back on his memory of elementary class in Guatemala, the class sizes extremely small and a great sense of community among his fellow students. After chatting with his mother he relays that she feels the same. They explain the difficulty in transitioning from small to large classes, Spanish to English speaking only, and then loosing that sense of community.
They move on to tell me about finding that lost sense of community in their church. Mrs. Moran explains how she felt very relieved for her five older children when they finally found a Spanish speaking church to call home. Their father soon took a pastor position with the church which continues to help them all stay connected with the religion introduced to them at a young age. She says this gathering place has allowed them to share religion and culture with a community that comes from a similar background. It seems that continuing to have the family deeply rooted in the church prior to Karen's birth was a great foundation to passing on their religious beliefs to her and the greatest opportunity they have outside to home to provide her with a regular sense of community and culture they felt in Guatemala.
Two of the older Moran children found spouses within the church. The oldest daughter married a Spanish speaking man from Mexico and now has two infant children. The oldest son married an American born wife that does not speak Spanish. Mrs. Moran tells how she felt very connected with her oldest daughter and son in-law during and after the pregnancy of her first two grandchildren. Much of that experience felt very much like her own back in Guatemala with her mother, mother in-law, and sisters. As Luis holds his mother's hand, he begins to translate her feelings in regards to her oldest son and his wife. Mrs. Moran's eyes start to swell up just a bit as Luis talks. She understands it's not the same here in American culture. The mother in-law is not always as involved. Her hope was to have a greater part in their lives as married couple, as well as, when they began to grow their own family. Since his marriage just over two years ago, Luis explains how as time goes by his brother becomes more and more removed from family traditions and events. They understood when he went to the English speaking service at the church, but hoped that in time she would attend the Spanish service across the hall. Luis explains how now with the birth of their child he sees more and more that it is less likely his brother will pass on much of the Guatemalan culture to his children.
Several times during my interviews with Mrs. Moran and Luis I thought their experiences and challenges sounded very similar to present and past friends of mine from difference cultures. Additional research on passing culture to the next generation within first generation immigrant families would be an interesting path to continue this project down. Family, education, community, and religion in both Guatemala and the United States have played important roles in the evolution of this family over the past 10 years. Both parents and children have struggled to keep their Guatemalan culture while knowing and accepting its evolutions.