July 08, 2009

Independence Day

So, I'm riding in the car with my 15-year-old stepson on Independence Day this past weekend. It occurs to me that I have forgotten to put out our flag at the house. So, I say as much. My stepson responds jokingly, "Oh, which flag is that?" I say, "Well, the USA flag". Then, in a moment of matching his joking manner, I add, "I could put out the Guatemalan flag, but our Independence Day is September 15, so that wouldn't make much sense."

Hmmm. "Our"? It kind of came out of my mouth and then struck me as interesting. It wasn't lost on my stepson, either. He actually got kind of irritated. "OUR???", he stated loudly. "Aren't you an American citizen? What's with the "our"?"

Which was food for thought. I wasn't sure exactly why I'd said that. I don't recall this coming up before so I didn't have a good answer for him. He was visibly distressed by this. I still don't have an answer, but it seemed like a good thing to mention on here. What do other adoptees from Guatemala consider themselves to be? Only Americans? Guatemalan Americans? I've always felt that I was both, but this is the first time I think I actually voiced such an opinion.

Just something to think about. :-)

Posted by meredith at July 8, 2009 09:21 AM

I have always thought of my son as a Guatemalan Itialian American. I am proud of my Itialian heritage I was born in America. I want him to be proud of Guatemala and his heritage.

Posted by: rv at July 8, 2009 04:05 PM

Our son is just 2, so doesn't have a position on this issue yet. But, I hope that he will feel that he is both--Guatemalan (by birth) and American (since he lives here). We are going to keep up his Guatemalan citizenship, so he will be a citizen of both countries. I don't see any problem with feeling both. My husband was born in US but also has Canadian citizenship, through his mother. He feels like he is Canadian in background and still an American by birth.

Posted by: sjbj at July 8, 2009 04:42 PM

We celebrate both Independence Days in our home and fly the respective flags on their days. For Guatemalan Independence Day, we buy some Gallo beer and order out from Pollo Campero with friends and play the Guatemalan national anthem. We want our son to be proud of all of who he is -- American, Guatemalan, Irish, and Jewish.

Posted by: Lee at July 9, 2009 01:02 PM

Lee, that is a great way to celebrate. I'm going to steal your idea :)

best, Cheryl

Posted by: cheryl at July 10, 2009 06:15 PM

Our son is 3 now and I want him to not forget where he came from. We actually do the story Jack and the Beanstalk and when the Giant speaks he "smells the blood of a Gutatemalan". Our son loves it and we he thinks his parents are plain since they are JUST Americans. We celebrate both holidays as well, but would love to be able to find Gallo beer. We have been looking for it for 2 years. :) Oh, thank you for sharing your views. They are valuable to us.

Posted by: Stephanie at July 12, 2009 03:40 AM

my now-teenaged Guatemalan-adoptee children regard themselves as Guatemalan-American - and we *do* display the Guatemalan flag on September 15th! :-) They have been raised to be proud of their Guatemalan heritage - though we live in an area where Guatemalans are often not well-regarded, due to immigration/education/race issues.


Posted by: Lisa at July 14, 2009 07:08 PM

In Texas, "Gallo" is sold as "Famosa" beer. Hope that helps. Haven't adopted but LOVE Guatemalan culture. Beautiful, have gone the last three years.

Posted by: alicia at July 22, 2009 05:34 AM

I think we often try to put things in nicely wrapped categories. But all these experiences make up who we are and I don't think words can always sum them up! I was not born in Guatemala, but I find myself having a certain pocessive feeling for Guatemala. I do have a heartstring connection! As well, my daughter tells others that she is Guatemalan or Maya. To me, she is just amazing!

Posted by: Kelly (guatadopt) at July 26, 2009 06:16 PM

Folks, I have a sibling who adopted from Guatemala 5 years ago and she is grappling with the whole USA/Guatemala identity thing. Here's my take as an outsider. #1, You are the reason your child is not living in Guatemala. Presumably you, and the birth parents, and the US and Guatemala governments all agreed that your child should not live in Guatemala and should live in the USA. #2, your child is a US citizen, not Guatemalan. #3, the thing your child wants most I'm sure is to fit in, feel normal, which they are, and not to be constantly told they are different than other American kids. All American kids have a non-American heritage if you go back far enough, your kid is no different. #3, Guatemala is a corrupt, poor, racist, and corrupt, poor and racist country, period. #4, If you keep pushing this 'Guatemalan heritage' thing long enough, you should be prepared to accompany your child back to their heritage, Guatemala, and to meet their birth parents. Why not?, it's their heritage, and their heritage is their birth parents. Their heritage is not the country of Guatemala, not the cute restaurants there, not the Marriott in Antigua, not Lake Atittlan, it's their birth parents, tios, tia, grandparents... that's their heritage. All of these are tough issues for sure, and I'm an outsider, but I know one thing, I'm glad that my parents treated me like an American, which I proudly am.

Posted by: Bobby S at October 1, 2009 02:20 AM

Meredith -
So glad you are back with us! I missed your posts. Our daughter has come home since your last post (Feb.08) and time has flown for me as well. I was always upset with those cranky and opinionated posters - just ignore them and keep giving us great stories about your special family!

Posted by: mom of 2 at October 15, 2009 08:49 AM

Bear with me folks...but I think this bit of anecdotal evidence is worthwhile. And, thanks for letting me share.

Well, I have pondered this for many years myself. I am 28 years old, and was adopted from Guatemala as an infant. I have to say that cultural and ethnic identity is a personal journey for each adopted person.

There have been times where I wanted to embrace my biological ethnicity, and there have been times when I am perfectly comfortable to be apathetic about it. There have been times when I needed to embrace my ethnicity, and there have been times when I have shunned my ethnicity. This is a part of the journey - and everyone's journey is their own, not to be ridiculed or manipulated.

My first book: "Why Was I Adopted by Jamie Lee Curtis." My parents always begged me to to travel with them to Guatemala for years. My parents relocated our family from Northern Minnesota to Santa Clarita, just outside of L.A., in part so that I could experience a wider spectrum of ethnicity and culture more closely resembling my own biological roots. However, even with that, I wasn't ready to approach things, until I was around 16. My family never made me feel ashamed, nor did we celebrate my ethnicity - but we all always respected/loved my biological mother, Guatemala, adoption, and me.

Just remember to always take cues from your child. Not every child responds positively to a celebration of their biological culture - and that's okay - I personally would not have; but always make sure that the love, respect and dialogue is open for them to pick up and explore whenever they want to.

For instance:
My parents, from my birth, always set aside a "travel trust." I could have used it whenever I wanted to, with or without them. I ended up waiting until I was 16 to go with my father, mother and brother. We even went to the orphanage (relocated) that I stayed in as an infant. I then went back to Guatemala when I was 18, after high school, to live for a month, by myself, and attend language school in Sevilla - I also went to Costa Rica for a month. It was awesome. And, when I get married, at least part of my honeymoon will be spent there.

My point: I was not ready for my exploration and eventually acceptance of my biological culture and ethnicity until later in life; so also remember that patience and subtlety can also be recommended.

Please know that I respect everyone's approach on this forum. Everyone here seems to be trying to figure out how to be the best possible parent they can be. Thank you! I wish every child in the world had that same benefit.

Posted by: Ramon J at December 18, 2009 07:02 PM

Meredith and/or Ramon,

It's been a long time. I'm sure everyone would love if you could post again.

Posted by: John at May 4, 2010 05:32 PM

Ramon - I absolutely love your post. (and several others on here). I am an adoptee as well and agree with every thing Ramon said. Parents really need to be ready to take ques. I was adopted as an infant from an orphanage too. I have a brother who was adopted- but not internationally. I grew up in s. Mn, my parents Never pushed my birth heritage on me, & I don't think I would gave liked it. They were there to support me. My brother has never looked into his background, I explored through grade school always picking guatemala as a report topics. I consider myself scandinavian....but also accept where I came from I just don't showcase it.

side note: I don't know how often people look back at this but there were a couple of you noting you were from an orphange (relocated 10-15 yrs ago) and I'm kind of curious which one, knowing there weren't many back then; Is it still in existence or did this "halt" & govt changes force it to close? - that's what happened to my orph. Which it's a shame to see it happen to those who thrived by honest adoption processes.

Posted by: Megan at March 15, 2011 03:42 AM