So the patriotic month of September is upon us again. It always strikes me how important these celebrations are - for the whole month flags are everywhere and images of the heroes of independence are instantly recognisable. For this week's flag ceremony, one kindergarten class dressed up as various heroes of Mexican independence (they looked so adorable in early 19th century costumes!) Children are brought up with patriotism flowing through their veins, or so it seems.
I am the only outsider here; my daughter is half-British and half-Mexican, although I wonder if her Mexican side is stronger, since she is growing up in Mexico and has so far never been to the UK.
Here are a few ways - some significant, some less so - in which Emma already shows her "Mexicanness"...
|Emma this time last year in her Mexican dress and with her Mexican doll.|
1. First, Emma has a Mexican birth certificate, of course, since she was born right here in Mexico. So that makes it official.
2. Like all Mexican girls, Emma has her ears pierced. However, we were at odds with the standard practice of getting baby girls' ears pierced almost immediately after they're born as we hadn't got around to buying her earrings at that point. We went back to the hospital and had her ears pierced when she was a month old. I didn't get mine done till I was 21!
3. She is at the stage when she's saying her first words - some in English, some in Spanish; so far, so bilingual. Among her first words are a couple of fruits; "ba" for banana and "pa" for papaya. I don't think many British toddlers have the word papaya in their vocabulary!
4. What does she want to listen to on her grandma's CD player? "Ki-ki" of course... In other words, Cri-Cri, "the Singing Cricket", a true Mexican institution, who composed and performed songs for children in the days before TV and is still very popular.
5. The other day as we sat splashing our feet in the pool, I couldn't help noticing how tanned Emma's little legs were compared to my pale and pasty legs! It's all this exposure to the sun, despite using high-factor sunblock. This is something parents in Britain have to worry about only occasionally and when they go on holiday abroad; here I need to think about it most days.
And the future: these things are still to come, but I can be pretty sure they will come...
6. Waking up early- Students in Mexico usually have to get up very early as schools start between 7 and 8 in the morning.
7. Eating chilli powder straight from the container- even preschoolers. Maybe especially preschoolers! The chilli powder is actually for sprinkling on your fruit, but I see so many little kids just eating it on its own. Sweets with chilli are also really popular here as is a sweet chilli sauce called chamoy.
8. Learning the national anthem and singing it every flag ceremony, saluting the flag and maybe even marching in the honour guard with the Mexican flag. In most schools I think this happens once a week. Even in kindergarten - imagine how cute three- and four-year-olds look marching in the honour guard!
9. Spending three years in kindergarten then starting primary school at 6 years old. In fact, only two years of kindergarten are compulsory. Secondary school then starts at 12 years old for three years, then high school for another three years.
10. Getting presents from Santa at Christmas, then more presents from the Three Kings on January 6th. Lucky! This is what happens when traditions from two cultures merge, or maybe it's a symptom of globalisation. All I know is that I'm going to be saving up all year for the Christmas holidays!
After writing this list, I'm starting to wonder what I can do to encourage Emma's British side - if I had to make a similar list, I don't think I'd be able to think of more than a couple of things. Will she be English in name only, without really feeling any sense of belonging to the culture? So that's a challenge for another post: "10 ways I can make my daughter more British!" Any suggestions?