Monday, March 31, 2008

Lorenzo y el Chilango Dude (I)

My son Emiliano--who is the author of the beautiful T-Rex drawing above displayed--was born in Mexico City, but we moved to Madrid when he was four months old. Living in Texas since he was three plus years old, he speaks Spanish with a quirky, definition-defying accent and mixes Mexican Spanish with castellano, all tossed up with some Uruguayan español and, of course, tons of Anglicisms at the end of every-phrase.

However, every time you ask Emiliano where's he from, he takes his Bandera Mexicana out of who-knows-where to wave it in your face while he stands out and claims, full of pride: "de Méjico" (the 'X' heavily pronounced as sounds a rock when it scratches the pavement). Don't blame me, but his former Spanish teacher who, just like him, was born in Mexico City and taught Emiliano how to behave like a Niño Héroe.

Such undeterred patriotism wasn't enough to convince Emiliano he is a Chilango, though. For him, the official--some guys still think is unofficial--demonym for those luckily enough to be born in Ciudad de México sounds like an insult nonetheless.

Last Friday, having waken up in a particularly good mood, I cheered Emiliano with a "What's up, Chilango Dude?" when I picked him and his madrileño brother Guillermo up at school. He looked at me with his rolling-eyes attitude--he's about to turn seven, so he's already showing some attitude proclivity--and said:

--Don't call me Chilango Dude.
--¿Por qué no? Eres un Chilango Dude--respondí yo, fun-spirited.
--Yo no soy eso.
--A ver, ¿dónde naciste?
--En Méjico.
--En la ciudad de México, ¿verdad?
--Sí...--Emiliano looked at me as if trying to guess where I was coming.
--Bueno, los que nacen en la ciudad de México se llaman chilangos. Hasta hay una revista allá que se llama así (a good one, btw).
--No, se llaman mejicanos.
--Son chilangos. Por eso tú eres un Chilango Dude. Y Guille, que nació en Madrid, es madrileño.
--I'm not a Chilango Dude!--boy, was he already enojado--, y Guille es español.
--Whatever you say, Chilango Dude--remember when Charlie Brown got mad? Now you got the picture.

No matter how hard I tried to make him understand I was not joking--well, just a little bit--Emiliano didn't consent to embrace his inner Chilangoness. He didn't mind he loves to eat chilaquiles verdes, he treats himself to chile piquín-sprinkled popcorn and is able to sing some Cri-Cri songs a capella from beginning to end.

When you live in a place different from your hometown or that of your descendents, it is always funny and fascinating to see how your sons grow their own identities out of that outstanding mixture of background, origin, environment and temper.

Trying to impose an identity--your identity--over your kids is not just useless, but absurd. But it happens, though. I guess my sons will develop their own and, when the right time comes, Emiliano will embrace his chilanguería in his own particular way, just as Guillermo will embrace his inner madrileño--he's already got the chulería mood, for instance. It won't be the same as that of those chilangos and madrileños who've forever lived in Ciudad de México or Madrid, but it will be as authentic and unique.

'Cause I think we all are entitled to shape our identity not out of the place that we were born, but out of the places we belong to.

How about you? Freaked out at your immigrant child's identity crisis?

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