Mexico, November 18, 2002
The Gringo Cousin Adventures
|This morning, I woke up early in my cousin's home and went for a run through his suburban El Paso, Texas neighborhood, where new homes are sprouting from the raw desert scrub, like cacti flowers after a hard desert rain.
I went running up the hill, past all the big houses, right into the scrub, dodging cacti, spiky agave, and the occasional ankle-twisting rock. On my way, I pondered what to me is an odd American twist on new homes: the size of 'burb houses are increasing while the size of the lot is shrinking (or at least staying constant).
The result are oversize houses, with rooms that are rarely used and windows facing neighbors closer than many DC townhouses. With the lack of space-induced privacy, people keep their shades drawn and avoid the postage-sized yards, leading me to believe we're heading back into caves again. Granted, these are well appointed caves, but the lack of natural light, especially the clear sweet light of the humidity free desert surprises me.
Luckily, I'm seeing quite a few non-caves these days, as I'm out here to commune with my father's family for a week before one of my many cousins gets married in Mexico on Saturday. So far I've met up with five cousins, but that only represents one third of the first cousins from two sisters that live in the El Paso-Juarez-Chihuahua line.
Last night I sat down with Patricio, the cousin I'm staying with, and figured out our family tree to the second cousin level. His mom, Sophia, who is my father's sister, had eleven kids, and once you add in the ten spouses and their twenty-plus kids, you can understand why I needed the spreadsheet to keep them all straight in my head.
It doesn't help that I last wandered through when I was thirteen, so many of these relatives are completely unknown to me outside family gossip and Christmas photos. In fact, at a party last night, I only knew I was related to someone when they gave me a big hug.
I've come out here to change all that. I really want to reconnect with this side of my family, for they are a wonderful and loving group who accepts me completely, even if I am the token Gringo Cousin, the only cousin who isn't perfectly bilingual in the Mexican-American border culture.
I'm learning the ropes fast though, finding out fun facts like the strong Catholic presence in their lives and oddly, a lack of Thanksgiving celebrations, even among my American citizen cousins. Now if I could just get them to stop staring at me shocked when I tell them that while I'm fluent in English, Russian, and Bullshitese, 'Yo no hablo espanol'.