My Abuela: Mariana Gonzalez

She was a typical Puerto Rican woman in so many ways that pain me to explain:

  1. She never went to school and was illiterate.
  2. She had ten children and raised them alone.
  3. She lived in Brooklyn, NY in her adult years.
  4. She was taught to serve men.
  5. She sacrificed her entire life for her children.

 

My grandmother was a warrior. A luchadora. She passed from pancreatic cancer when I was 11 and therefore I really don’t know much about her. I’ve been taught that she had a difficult life but she always kept a smile on her face. She believed that no matter how little you have, you always have a plate of rice and beans to give someone. That’s love.

As I transition back into NYC, the place my grandmother called home for so many years, I’ve decided that I have to collect her story. I will go back to her old apartment in Downtown Brooklyn and find neighbors who remember her. I’ll book a flight to Arecibo, Puerto Rico and learn about her island years, the years that shaped her beginnings. I will write her story because she deserves to have it known to the world.

 

I love you, Abuela.

 

 

Stay tuned…

 

 

Gabrielle G.

Dear America: My Father is White (And That’s Okay)

This weekend has been jam packed with hospital visits and emergency surgeries, but I finally have a few moments to sit and breathe.

For those of you who don’t know, I’m “biracial.” My mother is Afro-Puerto Rican and my father is German-American. In other words, my mother is brown and my dad is white. Their union created me, ethnically ambiguous me, and I enjoy looking so distinct. Although my mixed heritage has been difficult to embrace at times, mostly because of others’ reactions to me, I love who God made me to be. I’m blessed to not be stuck in one culture and one mindset. Because I’m mixed, I can easily move between many cultures and believe that this will help me win souls for Christ. 

While being different is fabulous, there are aspects of the mixed life that are annoying and, at times, disturbing: some people think I’m my father’s wife. Yes, some people see me, a brown-skinned, curly-haired 23-year old woman out with a white 57-year old man and assume that any relationship between us must be of a sexual and romantic nature. Are you vomiting yet?

Growing up, I instinctually knew that society would perceive us in this way and when I became a teenager, I would make it a point to call my father “dad” or refer to “mom” whenever we were out in public. My fear of being mislabeled was profound. As a little girl, no one thought that anything inappropriate was happening between my father and I; we were just father and daughter. But, as I grew older, I knew that doubts would arise.

I could see it in people’s eyes when my dad and I shopped for groceries. I could feel their judgement on my back when I would hug my dad in public.

“Who is this little brown girl?”

“Is she some mail order bride?”

“That’s disgusting.” 

This fear subsided for some time because I lived in New York, and people were liberal. It was not inconceivable for a white man to have a brown child in New York. However, moving to Georgia has shown me a different side of America. Here, I go out with my father with the constant fear that someone will assume that our relationship is not familial. The other day, we went to Walmart (I hate them, but my dad’s a sucker for a bargain), and at the checkout line, we engaged in our typical witty banter, much to the amusement of the beautiful and sweet African-American cashier. When my dad left the checkout line to wash his hands (he got chicken blood on them -__-), the cashier asked me my age.

“I’m 23.”

“Oh, wow! I was going to say 17!” she laughed.

“Yeah, that’s just because I have my glasses on.” I replied, smiling.

. . .

“Are y’all close?”, she asked.

I was taken aback. In what way was she asking this question? I hope she knows he’s my dad.

“Yeah, we are…he’s a good dad.” I answered. Good job, Gabby. Clarify the relationship.

“Really? Aw, thats great. It’s hard to find good dads these days.” she said, with a little sadness in her tone.

Amen, sister.

When my dad came back, the cashier remarked to him that I said he was a good father and he in turn commended me as a daughter.

We left the store and I couldn’t stop thinking about the woman who saw my father and I together and immediately knew what our relationship was. That is rare.

 

This feeling didn’t last long. The next day, my father was rushed to the ER with what he thought were heart attack symptoms (turns out it was a panic attack), and the EMT who arrived at our house referred to me as my father’s wife. My dad immediately corrected him and he apologized.

Blunders like that happen often, but I asked myself why does this happen so often to us? It’s clear that my dad is almost 60 and I’ve been mistaken for a teenager countless times. Does anyone seriously think we’re married? If so, why?

I believe there’s only one reason that some people don’t understand our relationship: my skin color. If I were completely white, no one would doubt that this almost 60-year old white man and white 23-year old girl were father and daughter. In fact, if the genders were switched, I highly doubt that anyone would assume an older white woman would be in a relationship with a young brown man. They would see him as her son, wouldn’t they? No one would question it. But, because I have brown skin and I’m a woman, suddenly the relationship is not clear. This should not be so.

We live in an era where people freely marry people of other cultures and have babies with them. These babies grow into young adults and then adults who must deal with society’s perception of them and their parents for their entire lives. It is so damaging to a mixed person to be perceived as so incredibly “other” that we must not be related. We must be some young bride. Some sugar baby. Isn’t that the picture they have in their heads?

I wish this would stop. A girl shouldn’t fear going in public with her father simply because she’s of a certain age and different skin tone than he is. So, yes my dad is white. He’s my dad and will always be my papa bear. I’ll hug him in public and let them think what they will. He’s my dad and that’s all that matters.

Restoring Distorted Family Legacies

If you ask me what my family has been known for throughout the generations, I could easily list several negative things: drug abuse, domestic violence, witchcraft, poverty, lack of education, etc.

We’re also known for our resilience. Many of us have served the US through military service. Most of the younger generation has dedicated their lives to serve The Lord. 

These positive aspects of my family’s legacy don’t really outweigh the negative aspects, especially when you consider the spiritual realm.

One of the more painful parts of my family’s legacy has been the involvement in witchcraft, or Santeria, as Latinos like to call it. Santeria is not considered witchcraft by many Latinos, rather it is viewed as the cultural expression of Latino Christianity. Yes, those who practice Santeria believe themselves to be Christian, most of the time. They pray to saints with candles (the ones you see at the botanicas on the street), they have statues of saints that they feed, give money to, or do some other type of ritual to. But, many of these people will tell you that they love Jesus and they do these rituals for good. This “religion” came from our African ancestors who were forced into Catholicism. Rather than give up their paganism, they simply molded the two together and worshipped their idols under the guise of Catholicism.

Readers, Santeria is NOT Christianity. Jesus tells us that we cannot mix light and dark. Light has no fellowship with darkness. (2 Cor. 6:14-17). Jesus repeatedly tells us in Scripture that He is the only way to God (John 14:6), and that He is the ONLY mediator (I Timothy 2:5). Scripture warns us in multiple passages against becoming involved in the occult and gives us examples of people who give up that life to follow Jesus. (Deut. 18:10-11, Lev. 19:31, Acts 16:16-18, Acts 19:19).

Santeria was the legacy of my family. It kept my Puerto Rican family in bondage for generations. The Lord in His tender lovingkindness looked upon my mother and chose her to be the one to break this generational sin. He did this by instructing her in His ways from her childhood and as a result, her mother (my abuela) came to faith as did I, also in my childhood.

Praise be to The Lord!

Since Santeria is witchcraft, we know that those who practice it are exposed to demonic activity and to possession by demons themselves. I have to wonder if the vicious cycles of drug abuse, domestic violence, molestation, poverty, and lack of education are all due to my family’s involvement with witchcraft. I’m inclined to believe that it’s the cause, because we know that The Lord brings restoration, peace, and comfort to our souls.

It’s tough for me to swallow this part of my family’s legacy. I wish it were not so, but then The Lord reminds me that He takes the most unlikely candidate and turns them into one of His fiercest and bravest soldiers. Although my family was bound in the past, the generations to come (should The Lord tarry), will not be bound by any of those generational sins and curses.

Who would have thought that the great-granddaughter of a woman who practiced Santeria would be a strong-minded, discerning, loyal follower of Jesus Christ? I thank God that He is restoring my family’s story through my mother and through my own life as well.

How does one restore their family’s legacy? Simple. Jesus! Give your life to Jesus and He breaks any generational sin and/or curse. He will restore what has been broken through His hand over your life.

 

Rest in His arms,

 

Gabrielle G.