I invite you on a hunt…. It will help you understand where I’m coming from. Find the 1992 yearbook and look for my picture.
When people see me they cant tell what I am. This will be my fourth year as a full time teacher and never has a new student guessed correctly, despite my last name.
‘Chavez? What are you Ms.? Mexican?’ Yes, you could think that. Hopefully you have learned about Cesar Chavez and remembered he was a Mexican-American Activist and made that connection. But No, I’m not Mexican.
‘I know! Asian Ms. You’re Chinese or Filipino!’ I get that also, because of my almond shaped eyes but No, I’m not Asian. Usually by this time they give up and I give in – hint – when I speak Spanish that’s when you can discover exactly what I am.
My parents were from the Caribbean and South America and met here after having moved from their countries. I was then born here in New York City, making me a first generation American. I actually returned to live in the same neighborhood I grew up in, very close to City College, where I also went to school. The truth is that even though both of my parents are Latino, both of their countries are so different. They speak Spanish differently, eat different foods, keep different traditions and even have different types of music.
I know I have mentioned my grandmother. She was the one that raised me since I was two, due to my mothers passing, her daughter. This meant that I had to spend most of my young life between my maternal grandmother and my dads family. This was when I discovered the differences between them. And tried my best to adapt and comport myself when in the presence of either family.
While one family was loud the other was quiet and calmer, especially the women. ‘Young ladies aren’t loud’, my dads mom use to say. This today makes me laugh, not only because I don’t share that belief but because I, the loudest one in my family, is named after her! My grandmother Rosa is probably turning in her grave.
The family I grew up in comes from an island in the Caribbean, with vivacious music, warm friendly vociferous people, vibrant colors and rich foods made mostly from vegetables, tubers and meats when island countries are mostly known for eating seafood.
My fathers family on the other hand is more reserved; I would describe them as more conservative in their ways of thinking. The music I heard in his mothers house was more somber, with lyrics that sang of heartache. They weren’t the warmest of individuals but they did stress the importance of being cordial and gracious. Although their country is located in South America, their small town was on the coast, therefore almost everything on the menu was seafood.
The loss of my mother prompted my grandmother to feed me all of the time as a little girl. She somehow felt guilty and today I understand, but at the time it created really bad eating habits. Today I am paying for those habits and I want to share the lessons learned with you in the hopes that you not make the same mistakes.
What I learned:
- That there is a direct connection between your physical health and your mental health – healthy bodies=healthy minds
- Eat healthy and abundantly in the morning to keep your body going longer throughout the day
- Choose foods that are grown from the earth not from a factory – banana, apple YES – potato chips, soda NO
- The types of foods and drinks you consume affect your hair, nails and skin – the natural vitamins and minerals found in these foods help in their aspect and growth
- Deficiency in certain vitamins and minerals can contribute to memory loss, lack of concentration, anemia, fatigue and in some cases depression (Consult your pediatrician)
- All of the choices you make now when you are younger will affect you in the future
- When you eat well you FEEL great!
- To sum it up – What you put in your body is ultimately what you will get in return, treat it right
I know it can be hard sometimes to follow these rules but its easier to start now than when you are older. One piece of advice that might help – Start slow, with little changes. Exchange the bag of chips for an apple or pear; drink the low-fat milk instead of the whole milk in the cafeteria; drink MORE water (great for the skin)
So how did I survive my families, you might ask? I juggled my senses between two cultures from infancy, that are so disparate even if Latinos are considered all alike. I walk away with all of the positive. I relearned to cook and feed myself in a more healthy way and I move more, walk more, take the stairs if all I have is one or two flights, maybe three. Being active also helps your body and mind.
From my grandmothers family I take away the lively music of her island and dance every chance I get. I create the fish dishes from my fathers town for my cousins. I remind myself that I come from joyous people despite their poverty and laugh as loud as I can regardless of my paternal grandmothers warning. For her I behave like a lady, always walk straight and suck in my stomach, and only in her memory, sometimes I’m not so loud.
Do: EAT HEALTHILY
Do: MAKE WISER CHOICES WHEN EATING
Do: MOVE MORE, BE PHYSICALLY ACTIVE
Do: WALK AWAY WITH THE POSITIVE OF EVERY EXPERIENCE