by Guest Contributor Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez, originally published at Write.Live.Repeat
This photo shows my mother on her wedding day. That’s her, in the middle. Her sister “Sis” is on the left, her sister Janis on the right.
Notice how the sisters exchange a strange look across my nervous, uncertain mom (who was 24 at the time). Knowing my aunts, and the family narrative, I have a feeling I know what that smirk was about. It was a smirk of superiority, for my mother had chosen to marry a short Cuban man who spoke little English – while the sisters themselves had both already married conservative white men.
At holiday gatherings, my mother’s family – which self-identified as “anglo” – often made derogatory comments about “Mexicans,” that being the only group they could readily find to lump my father (and his children) into.
When I was in my teens, my mother’s paternal aunt Gladys researched the Conant family tree (my mother’s maiden name is Conant) and discovered, among other things, that my mom’s father’s grandmother’s maiden name was Marquez, and that she hailed from Anton Chico, New Mexico. Her family, Gladys assured us all, could trace its roots directly to Spain in the 1500s, with a land-grant from the King. She was, in other words, royalty. “She was from the Northern part of Spain,” I often heard my grandmother (who married into the Conant family) say, following up with “they’re blonde-headed up that way.”
Well, this week I began researching our family tree myself, for a memoir I’m working on. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that Barbarita Marquez (listed as “Marcus” on her death certificate in California, ha!) was not exactly as Spanish as the Conants have wanted us all to believe. Read the Post Erasing the Mexicans