It’s Thanksgiving once again! And once again, I’ve gathered with my hodgepodge of family and family-like people for a Mexican Thanksgiving celebration.
This year is extra special, as my sister came to spend the holiday with us. It’s our first one together in over 20 years, and even though we’re in Mexico without all the original ingredients, I think we did a pretty good job at recreating some our mom’s old recipes.
My partner, my child, my best friend and a handful of fellow Mexican and foreigner friends joined us to make for a lovely meal that, hours later, I’m still stuffed from.
Though the roots of Thanksgiving are questionable at best, it’s still one of my favorite holidays, a time to celebrate our bountiful gifts and to bask in the glow of the people we’ve convinced to hang out with us, either once in a while or all of the time.
And though it’s a bit cliché, I like writing an annual “what I’m thankful for” article, the Mexico News Daily version, of course, with a focus on México lindo y querido.
- Family near and far. This month, I’ve been able to see more of my U.S. family than usual: I spent the first two weeks helping my dad move to another house, and this week, my sister came for both Thanksgiving and my daughter’s birthday — apparently eager to not miss out on a single potluck, my kid was born on Thanksgiving 2013). Mercifully, most of my family is still in Texas, so a three-hour plane ride will usually do it. I’m happy we can get to each other easily.I also recently celebrated two and a half years with my partner, who along with my daughter always makes this place feel like home. He’s been a good sport about all things Thanksgiving: sitting through a screening of “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles;” helping to prepare food and the house; and being present for hours and hours of food and conversation with more than 10 people even though he’s an extra-introverted introvert.
- Good local friends. Especially when you’re a first-generation immigrant, you have to get creative when it comes to forming a group of friends and family-like people around you. In Mexico, it’s all about the family. Though members of a family might not always like each other, they tend to be unflinchingly loyal, there for each other in ways they’re not accustomed to being for friends. So what happens when you don’t have your family here? Well, things can get a little lonely, especially if you’re a woman (I’ve seen many lone men be rather easily “adopted” into families. I have several theories, but not for this particular article). Part of the trick, I’ve found, is to find other “orphans” — Mexicans and foreigners alike who live far away from their own families. It’s a situation that few seem to understand unless they’ve gone through it themselves, so it’s important to find at least a few people you can count on. I have found these people and am so grateful to have done so!
- Chivalry and educación (manners). Being in the U.S. always makes me appreciate the politeness of Mexicans. It’s not that people back home aren’t, it’s just that Mexicans are so extreme in their politeness that they’re just really hard to beat.It’s not just about opening doors. If I’m seen struggling with something heavy, here someone will inevitably rush to help me. If someone sees you coming, they politely step aside, making sure you can pass by on the safer side. If I’ve gone to someone’s house, I’ll always be offered something to eat and drink. Extreme measures are taken to ensure my comfort, and the sweet way Mexicans say “in your house” when they’re talking about their house (everyone knows that phrase “mi casa es tu casa,” right?) melts my heart every time.
- Safety. I know this one probably seems like a strange point. And it’s true; Mexico’s record on safety is not stellar. So what is it that makes me feel safe here? My own city is crowded enough that there are usually at least a handful of people in any given space but rarely so crowded that people become one annoying lump, easy to ignore. While I, of course, take reasonable precautions, I also take comfort in the idea (perhaps erroneously, I’ll admit) that if something were to happen, the people around me would come to my aid. And as scary as narco boogeymen are, I’ve noticed myself feeling much more nervous in public in the U.S., knowing that any random doofus with a real or imagined vendetta or hero complex can be walking around with a semiautomatic weapon.
- Ease of movement. I don’t have a car. I want a car, but I don’t need a car the way I would were I living in the United States; the house I’m currently renting is close to downtown and to bus stops. I can walk most places I need to go and get a bus or a taxi to most others. While getting my kid to and from school can be a little inconvenient, for the most part, my movements aren’t restricted by not owning an expensive piece of machinery.
- A great place to raise my kid. Mexico — at least my little corner of it — has been good for my child — likely better than the U.S. would have been. As a whole, Mexicans like children, and they are welcomed and accommodated virtually everywhere. Kids and parents alike are mostly spared the exasperated sighs and dirty looks of strangers when children are not being literal angels — and let me tell you: it’s a relief.
This is, of course, a short list (articles can’t go on forever, but I certainly could fill up several pages more). Feel free to add more in the comments! And wherever you happened to be this week, I hope you’ve had a wonderful holiday.
Sarah DeVries is a writer and translator based in Xalapa, Veracruz. She can be reached through her website, sdevrieswritingandtranslating.com