Race-work, Race-love

Archive for March, 2011|Monthly archive page

Ecuadorian Love.

In Uncategorized on March 1, 2011 at 11:22 pm

c/o milenagalapagos.wordpress.com

Ecuadorian love.

Defined as love between two self-identified Ecuadorian people. Includes Ecuadorian-Americans as well. In fact, without the hyphenated American part, there wouldn’t be this love story.

As an Ecuadorian-American woman who grew up around non-Ecuadorians I instinctively knew that I might not date or marry someone who also identified as Ecuadorian. Many of the Ecuadorians I knew growing up were all  family members or very close friends of our family. I knew so few Ecuadorians growing up. Thus, the likelihood that I would meet and marry someone Ecuadorian was a little off my radar.

This does not mean that I did not think about it. And when I met Ecuadorian men, I did think about how comfortable my future would be without having to explain Ecuadorian cultural nuances. I wondered if I was lazy to think this way – thinking that life may be a bit easier to find a partner who is Ecuadorian?

Whether or not your love interest is of the same background, relationships take a lot of work – and in my experience, having a similar background didn’t make my relationships any easier. When you are a hyphenated American, sometimes these cultural nuances often ended at the hyphen. And the relationship “work” takes on a different meaning when your partner is not a race worker.

When I first met an Ecuadorian man who I actually looked forward to spending time with I thought, JACKPOT!!! My parents will adore him. He will adore my parents. His parents will adore me! We can play Julio Jaramillo whenever we want to and eat hornado all the time! Vacation in the Galapagos! Ecuadorian Love? Yippee!!! This. Was. It!

But the hyphen plays a huge role in my life. The hyphen represented many things for me. My interest in race and his disinterest in it came up. The fact that he was darker skinned and I was lighter skinned (I found out he preferred lighter-skinned women and I absolutely despised this about him) caused many arguments. The fact that he wanted a “typical Ecuadorian woman” definitely came up. I was really young when I met him and he was much older  – but you couldn’t tell me that I was going to cook or clean for any man. Because of this he said I wasn’t the “typical” Ecuadorian woman.

That’s right, I thought. Nope. Not your typical Ecuadorian woman. Not his typical Ecuadorian woman. My lack of all things Ecuadorian and his all too knowing about the kind of Ecuadorian woman he desired — we just could not get through.

Despite all of these issues, we learned so much from each other. He learned about being anti-racist, he said. I learned a lot about Ecuadorian history and literature – and we actually enjoyed the disagreements. But, the relationship didn’t last. Maybe it was our immaturity. Or maybe we just did not want to work on it. All these issues burst our little fantasy bubble. Popped by the hyphen.

After the relationship was over, I realized that I covered up my inability and unwillingness  to cook and clean by adopting a no-nonsense attitude that I thought was so American – independent – bringing home the bacon and NOT frying it up in a pan. And, in this awareness, I realized how much I resented my mother.

My mother is the perfect Ecuadorian wife and mother. Everyone loves her. She will sit and listen to you and provide advice ONLY when it is solicited. She cooks, cleans, makes sure her home and daughters are neat, and she will always look beautiful doing it. All things she did not teach me to be or do.

One day, my father and I were talking about how the lack of these skills affected me and my dating prospects. We talked and talked while my mother stayed quiet. Soon, the conversation turned into a “Mom-you-should-have-taught-us- how- to-do-X-Y-and-Z!!!”

After a couple of those outbursts, my mother looked at us and told us to shut up. In Spanish.

We were quiet. This doesn’t happen often.

She looked straight at me and said the following: “I did not teach you those things because I did not want any man to have any excuse to order you around and tell you what to do. I don’t want you or any of my daughters to be like me.”

In Spanish.


Gave me a whole new meaning to Ecuadorian love.

We spoke more about it. She heard my side. I heard hers. I opened up more about my previous relationships – something I never did with her. We discovered where we went wrong and where we went right. I understood my mother a little more that day and myself a little more, too.

Today, I actually enjoy cooking and cleaning for loved ones. But my mother taught me that these things are (or should be) choices. It is after all (she said), why she left her country, all that was familiar to her, for the U.S. where her daughters could have una oportunidad. And while there were definite fears of what being an Americana meant — love and independence were aspects of life she wanted for her daughters. She sacrificed so that I may live. She worked so that I wouldn’t have to. Her obligations became my options.

Today, my mother’s love, my mother’s Ecuadorian love, teaches me that being an Ecuadorian-American woman is anything but typical. Despite what I thought and was taught about Ecuadorian women – my mother – an Ecuadorian woman – disrupted all of that. She gave me my Ecuadorian love.

And there is nothing typical about that.

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