What Does our Mexican-American Hyphen Feel Like? - Sietefoods.com

May 10, 2021

Our Mexican-American hyphen, the culmination of our experiences of both our Mexican and American culture, is a big part of the Garza family’s identity. It informs their culture, values and traditions, which, in turn, is reflected in our Siete culture, values, and traditions. But we believe that the hyphen is nuanced. So, when prompted with the question, “What does our Mexican-American hyphen feel like,” it was only natural that each of the Garza’s had different answers, and different methods of answering:

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Aida Garza Siete Family Foods
Aida

Q: What does your Mexican-American hyphen feel like?
A: It feels like growing up in Texas, and visiting Mexico every summer. It’s growing up with a sense of pride in my heritage and in my family, the way my parents and grandparents taught me.

In more recent years, it’s contemplating ‘authenticity.’ For instance, as a Mexican-American in the CPG industry, it’s asking, “Why not make cookies, too?” I used to make them with my mom for Christmas, weddings, or other special occasions. Then, I would make them with my kids, trying—without success—to make them as good as my Mom’s. I really miss my Mom’s. That's why I was so delighted when we started producing Siete cookies!

It’s acknowledging the nuances of my experience of my Mexican-American culture. For instance, enchiladas and tostadas were more of a treat than a staple for our family. And, in my parents’ and grandparents’ home, we’d often use our tortilla as a utensil rather than as a “taco.”

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Becky Siete Family Foods
Becky


Q: What does your Mexican-American hyphen feel like?
A: My childhood memories growing up in Laredo, TX, where everywhere I looked, Mexican-American culture was all around me—the food, the music, the community, the language, and the traditions. I didn’t know that it was distinct from other places—I lived there until I was 18—but looking back, my memories of my hyphen feel strongly tied to my hometown of Laredo.

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Veronica Garza Siete Family Foods
Veronica

Q: What does your Mexican-American hyphen feel like?
A:

Between Jays Celeste De Luna
Between Jays
Celeste De Luna

Bicultural Tablesetting Rolando Briseño
Bicultural Table Setting
Rolando Briseño, 1952

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Linda Siete Family Foods
Linda

Q: What does your Mexican-American hyphen feel like?
A: “I’m watching my stories,” my Grandma Alicia used to say as she sat mixing the masa de harina with her bare hands and watching telenovelas on the television in her living room. I’d sit next to her, waiting for the masa to be ready, so that I could help shape it into little balls that would soon become heavenly homemade tortillas—the delicious tortillas that always paired perfectly with Grandma’s homemade frijoles refritos. I watched my grandma in the kitchen often, and as an adult while she was still with us, I often called her to ask her how she made certain things. “I don’t use measurements is what she would say.” A little of this and a little of that was how she explained her recipes.

I still make a lot of the foods she made for us growing up—simple, delicious and flavorful—picadillo, arroz, guisados, frijoles charros. I make these foods for my kids, hoping they’ll make them for their kids using a little bit of this and a little bit of that
 in honor of my Grandma Alicia, who I love and miss so much.

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Roberto Siete Family Foods
Rob

Q: What does your Mexican-American hyphen feel like? 
A: I’ll give a nod to Francisco X. Alarcon’s poem, Una Cebolla Feliz, which beautifully captures what the hyphen feels like to me.

Poemas Para Soñar Juntos Francisco X Alarcón
Francisco X. Alarcón Una Cebolla Feliz / One Happy Onion 

It’s such a deep and meaningful question. I reflect on my 42 years of hyphen experiences with fondness, humor, and appreciation. My Mexican-American hyphen feels like:

A Cheeky Greeting - I never got it right. In Laredo, a male and female greeted each other with a hug and what could be either an air cheek to cheek kiss, or an actual cheek to cheek kiss. We didn’t do that in my house. As much as we love each other, hugs between my siblings and I were awkward enough. Much like totally spazzing out and messing up a handshake, I fumbled through so many hug and cheek greetings during my time in Laredo. Because the hug and kiss greeting never made it to my muscle memory, I’ve been spared the awkwardness of accidentally messing up this greeting with new friends and family in the other places I’ve lived since Laredo.

Experiencing Albondigas for the First Time- Sometimes, I felt curious when I visited a friend and was offered a dish that we didn’t eat in my house, like pozole or menudo, pan dulce, flan. I recall a time in high school where I was at one of my friends' houses, and he offered me albondigas that his grandmother had made. He described what it was and I said, “oh, it’s a meatball?” He said, “no,” it wasn’t. In my house, that was my only frame of reference—a meatball that I ate in spaghetti (not a traditional Italian spaghetti, but whatever version of it my mom served us). Albondigas had different ingredients, a different preparation, and even a different way of being served; I had just never had them before.

Confusing Wasabi for Guacamole - “Why are my eyes, nose, and mouth burning? What did I just eat?” When I was in my thirties, I went to a sushi restaurant for the first time with a friend and his family in McAllen, TX. I ate a big glob of wasabi thinking it was guacamole.

Pride in Laredo Traditions
- Especially now that I have lived in other places, I get nostalgic about Laredo and my memories there. I love that we had carne asadas, or what others might call a “BBQ.” I love the unique Laredo accent, colloquialisms, mannerisms, and traditions.  It was my home in my formative years, and I am proud to call it my hometown, years later.

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Miguel Garza Siete Family Foods
Miguel

Q: What does your Mexican-American hyphen feel like? 
A: Holding the tension of being two things fully, yet neither independently. Living on the border, straddling both cultures with one foot firmly on each side, completing your unique existence and identity in a single stance. 

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In a word, we might offer that our hyphen feels like “perspective.” Understanding what albondigas aren’t by knowing what meatballs are; having a firm foot in two seemingly distinct cultures; cooking with ‘a little bit this and a bit little of that;’ growing up in Laredo and living in Austin. It feels like seeing our own experiences reflected in art we hang in our home and office, and in the memories of our childhood hometown. It’s embracing what is authentic to us, and welcoming what’s authentic to others. 

In the coming weeks, we will be sharing more stories of the Garza’s experiences of their Mexican-American hyphen, in hopes of inspiring you to share your own stories around the table.



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