I don’t have to reach far to find my “Out of Place” ancestor. In fact, I have two — my parents:
My father, Fernando, was born in San Luis Potosí (Mexico). He was a long-haired “hippie” drummer obsessed with music. He had to leave everything he knew because of the repression closing in on him. In his late teens, he joined his aunt Petra Almendárez García in Chicago. There, they were in the company of other Potosinos (people from San Luis Potosí) in their neighborhood, La Villita (the village), on the city’s South Side. He let his freak flag fly as a member of several bands playing different genres of music. His radical individuality has made a profound impact on me.
In the late 1970s, Dad’s band Impacto Tropical played at a Chicago club called Sala Imperial. There, he met a young woman who was in the audience. That was my mother, Victoria. Her background was mainly Eastern European. Mom was born and raised in Chicago. She was also fiercely independent and determined to live on her terms. After dating for a while, she moved in with my dad and Petra.
After two years together, I was on the way. Because of love, Mom decided to leave all she knew behind at age nineteen. She decided to go to San Luis Potosí and spent a few years there, where she gave birth to me. I am still impressed by her bravery because she had never been to another country before.
Mom stood out in Mexico for her looks alone. People called her la güera (the white woman) because of her fair skin and features. She worked hard to learn Spanish beyond what she was taught in high school. She learned to communicate and even helped my dad’s siblings with English. She learned all about Mexican cooking and can cook with the best. And she did this without an ex-pat community. Even though San Luis Potosí is the capital, it is not a tourist attraction or resort town.
Sometime in 1983, mom returned with me to Chicago. We lived with my grandma, aunt, and uncles. My dad later joined us; we were now together — two Potosinos and a Chicagoan. With my parents working, I was usually left in my grandma’s care. She taught me English when I arrived since I only knew Spanish words.
Thirty years after I arrived in Chicago, I unexpectedly found myself ready to leave. I now understood and appreciated some profound things about my parents. Because of love, I decided to move to Barcelona (Spain). I hadn’t crossed the ocean before, and the culture shock forced me to grow substantially. I was hardwired for this kind of adventure. This migration had been done before in my family tree. We had unique experiences, but my ancestors prepared me.