Liz Alarcón: Hey Pulso fam, it’s Liz here. Since we recorded this episode about Maria and I sharing our mom and future mom plans for our kids. I actually became a mom. My daughter, Eva came into the world a little earlier than expected, and it’s been a revolution of all sorts in our house ever since. Our days are now filled with so much love, endless diaper changes, tears of joy and of overwhelm, and many sleepless nights where my husband and I reflect on how we wanna raise Ava now that she’s here. So this conversation with Maribel has definitely been replaying in my head now that I can actually visualize what it would look like to raise Eva with Latino pride, into practice. To all the moms, dads, and caregivers out there, I hope this gives you some ideas to implement with your own families. Take a listen.
Maribel Quezada Smith: What, what have been your latest thoughts on what kind of mom you want to be?
Liz Alarcón: Ah, well, I of course start with my grandma, you know. As I’m thinking about my own journey I’m like, what did my grandma do? And then what did my mom do that I love and don’t love? And I remember Maribel, growing up here in south Florida, my grandma thankfully, was able to spend a lot of time with us. And boy was her influence felt. I had to iron my t-shirts every day before going to middle and high school. Nada de usar cholas, so flip-flops like open toed shoes, could not leave the house with that on. And of course, no puede faltar my grandmother straightening my very curly hair to go to school because how could you present yourself in public at 12 years old with your curly, natural hair? So those are, those are really strong, vivid memories that I have of, of how my grandma would just pass on that Venezuelaness to me in school.
Maribel Quezada Smith: Oh man. That’s interesting because you mentioned 12 and that’s such a key age for me when I moved to the United States. So that is, right? We have that coincidence. And I feel like that was such a critical age for me, because it was in that moment of trying to figure out who you are. And moving here at that age, I was obviously very Mexican, but I think that transition really had a big effect on me because I felt like I had to actually suppress my Latinidad during that time, because I was in school with a bunch of kids who didn’t look like me, didn’t sound like me. But my parents at home really wanted us to keep our values or, you know, some of our same traditions and things. So I, you know, I had similar things where like, I would have thought tortas for lunch and my friends would be like, what is that on your what’s that bread with green stuff? Cause my mom would put avocado in my tortas or, or I would have, um, you know, the scenario where somebody would ask me to sleep over. And my, my parents would be like, absolutely no. Did you ever have that? Your parents let you go on sleepovers?
Liz Alarcón: Oh, my gosh, a hundred percent no, was the answer. I can also relate to that of like, having that stringent upbringing where it’s like a lot of those American traditions of like sleeping over or being at people’s houses where a definite no, but then I got to pass on some things to, you know, to be honest, I don’t know if I’m going to let my daughter sleep over anywhere.
Maribel Quezada Smith: I was. Okay. So let’s see. I was wondering the same thing. Cause I feel like I’ve been thinking about that too. Like, do I really want my son sleeping over at some strange person’s house? I mean, obviously I would never, it would never be a stranger, but when you’re a parent, I think it really does shift that mindset.
Liz Alarcón: It does. I remember being so upset where my girlfriends would be having, like, doing super fun things and watching all these movies and doing their makeup together. And thank God in that period I didn’t have social media. So I felt like I could have FOMO. I didn’t see what they were doing, but I would hear about it on Monday and I definitely feel left out. But if I think of of Eva, our daughter sleeping over someone’s house? Like I get goosebumps. I’m like, no, I don’t know these people. Maybe at like their best friend’s house. I was allowed to sleep at my best friend’s house who happened to live in my own neighborhood and our moms were friends. So there was that one house might even, and she was also Venezuelan. And so, you know, it was, it was too close to home where it was like the ultimate confianza. She had been vetted in all the ways, but no one else.
Maribel Quezada Smith: Well, I never, when we moved to the United States, I was never allowed to go on sleep overs ever. And I would always be like, why, why? And my parents would just say, we’ll pick you up. Go hang out and when it’s time to go to bed, you know, whether it’s 11 o’clock at night or midnight, we’ll come get you. Like, what’s the big deal? They’re just sleeping. But it was like this, I always felt like I was missing out and I never really understood why they didn’t want me to go.
Liz Alarcón: Yeah. And now you think about it and there’s all these like horror stories of what happens after dark. And there’s that saying of like, nada bueno pasa despues de doce. Nothing good happens after midnight, you know, like you start getting into that mindset. And you mentioned another thing that I definitely felt growing up, which was curfews. My curfew was always earlier than all the rest of my friends. Even through high school, being a senior in high school where I had my own car, I had to be home by like 12. Everyone else’s curfew was like 2:00 AM.
Maribel Quezada Smith: Oh, Yeah, no. same. I was never, I would never be coming home after midnight in high school. Are you kidding me? No, no, not under my parents’ roof. And that’s the thing, but you know, what’s funny even after college, so I want to wait to college and then came back to live with my parents for a year. And in that year I still had to ask permission.
Liz Alarcón: No.
Maribel Quezada Smith: They wanted me to ask them for permission to go places. And I still had to come home at a decent time. I was by then I was coming home at two o’clock in the morning, but I had to come home and I had to ask and I was so mad.
Liz Alarcón: I bet you, they weren’t calling you when you were in college though, to see what time you got back to the dorm.
Maribel Quezada Smith: Well, actually the first few, the first few weeks I was in college, my mom did call me and she’d be like, I noticed you did an answer your phone when I called you. It was like 11 o’clock at night. Yes, mom. I know.
Liz Alarcón: I know it’s so funny. And I, and I, uh, I appreciate all of those, those moments now of just how, how different it must’ve been for our parents to, to raise us in this context. I can totally see their perspective of this vast grand huge like city life. Um, and you have just so little control yeah of, of how your kids are growing up. I get why it was hard for them to let go to let us stay out longer to, to kind of be a little bit more free. I don’t know if you feel the same.
Maribel Quezada Smith: I understand some of the reasoning behind their decisions, but I have to say that there are some things from their parenting style that I’m definitely not planning to keep in my style, while there are others that I do want to keep. And I don’t know if you’ve, if you’ve really thought about what you want to keep from your childhood.
Liz Alarcón: Ay, so many things many way to, well, my husband and I talk about this a lot and I think after hopefully doing everything we can to make sure that Eva is a healthy well adjusted human being, the second thing that’s most important for us is for her to conserve her Latina identity. And so I do think about this a lot. And I think about what, what does it mean for us to do that with now a person who would be second generation american and will be one more generation removed from, uh, my husband’s Colombian upbringing and my family’s Venezuelan heritage. And so one of the things that we have intentionally done to try to keep that cultural life is stay here in Miami. So we used to live in DC and we loved our time there, but being in south Florida, it’s a majority Latino city. Everyone speaks Spanish before they speak to you in English and her friends in class will be bilingual. Um, those are, those are serious considerations that we thought about before planning a family, because we really want to do as much as we can to at least have her grow up in an environment that is doing the most to keep that identity alive.
Maribel Quezada Smith: Oh, my God. Yeah. Keeping the identity alive is huge for us. But see the difference is I married a black man from Kentucky. So we have,
Liz Alarcón: BI cultural or try cultural, even many different mixes of cultures.
Maribel Quezada Smith: My son has been, um, a variety of cultures and he is like, yeah, that’s a struggle for me sometimes because he’s learning Spanish. I only speak to him in Spanish. And that was a thing that I said from the get go, I was like, I will only be speaking to my son or kids, so we have anymore in Spanish and I’ve done that. But here’s the thing he will, he will start to reply now that he’s starting to say some words, he’ll reply in English. So I’ll say like, que color es ese? You know, what color is that? And I’ll be pointing at at morado and he’ll say purple.
Liz Alarcón: Oh, I feel that Maribel. That was me. That was me growing up. And I had so many temper tantrums when my parents would force me to speak Spanish. And I always share this story because the reason I’m bilingual fully is because of the tyranny in my home to speak Spanish. And what I would do was get the silent treatment if I didn’t answer them in Spanish. So I would do the same thing as Rency. I would answer back in English. And if I didn’t say the word in Spanish, my parents just would ignore me. I’m not suggesting that you all approach this tactic. It was very harsh. Um, but I, but I totally get the struggle because it’s a lot of discipline to, to be able to make sure to pass on the language. And I know that that’s something that we’ve talked about as well. We also plan to only speak Spanish at home, but we know it’s going to be tough because if they’re in school, speaking English con los amiguitos, they’re going to want to speak English as well. So it’s tough to, to deal with that when their life outside of the home is in English.
Maribel Quezada Smith: I mean, at least your husband speaks Spanish. Mine doesn’t. He says some words, he does try, but he’s not fluent and he’s definitely not bilingual. So it’s hard. And he told me the other day, he was like, why isn’t he speaking more Spanish? I said, this, this is all your fault. Okay. Let’s just get it out in the open when he grows up and he has to go to spend a semester abroad so that he can really get immersed in the language and actually start to speak the language better. That’s going to be on you. It’s all you.
Liz Alarcón: I love that share that responsibility Maribel. And thankfully language is not the only way to keep our traditions alive. So I’m curious, what are the things are you doing at home or things that you want to conserve, um, about your Latino identity?
Maribel Quezada Smith: We kept both last names. So we gave him two last names is what I mean. So he, he has both my last name and my husband’s last name. And that is super important for me. And it was from the beginning because I made him too. And I don’t understand why kids in America only keep one last name like that is perplexing to me for the life of me that I’m like, why do people only give one last name to their kids? Maybe it’s because of simplicity. Come on to me, it’s like, that’s so unfair. And it goes into the whole like maiden name thing, and like women dropping their names and things like that. Like, I am very much against dropping my name as Well, I did not, uh, give my name up. Um, I did add my husband’s, but I just don’t understand it. So I wanted to make sure that he had both last names.
Liz Alarcón: Well, there is another thing we have in common because we gave Ava short name, uh, precisely so that she could have both of our last names. And we plan to hyphenate because I feel the same way as you. I didn’t, um, change my last name when we got married, but uh, besides wanting to make sure that both of our last names were, were included when we named her, another consideration we had with her first name too, was a name that sounded good in English, good in Spanish, that you can say in both languages. Eva is Eva is Eva besides the, the the Catholic meaning of the name that really does also mean something for us. It was a consideration too right? To be able to, to have that name translate much, much like your experience. So there’s a lot in a name and I’m, I’m glad that we’re both thinking about it because it really does matter.
Maribel Quezada Smith: Yeah, absolutely. But what about the food? Like, do you think that you’ll be serving her the same kind of food that you grew up with and the same ingredients? Or are you going to have like a mixed bag of.
Liz Alarcón: Yeah, food. One of my favorite topics, one of my favorite activities, Maribel is to eat. I think about food probably 90% of my day. So I think about this a lot, and I know we talk about food quite a bit here on the, on the, Pulso podcast, because it’s such an important part of our culture. I am, you know, I think we’ll, we’ll definitely have a, a mix might not be as carb or fat heavy as the meals that I had growing up. But I will say that as a person who loves to cook, which I really, really do, I focus the things that I’ve learned on mastering Venezuelan and Colombian dishes over other cuisines that I might enjoy. So I love Thai food, for example. Um, and instead of maybe focusing on a Thai recipe, when I’m you know, being curious and exploring at home, I’ll focus on some of the dishes that my husband’s grandmother would make, or some dishes that my grandma makes only once a year so that I can pass those dishes on. Cause it is really important to me that she craves those foods, you know, and that at home she can associate that we are Colombian and Venezuelen and, and that our foods matter. And you can eat everything from all over the world, but, but home, we really do want her to associate it with, with our foods. So I definitely prioritize that. How about you?
Maribel Quezada Smith: Yeah, the taste. I think it’s so important to allow them to taste those ingredients. Like I have given him tacos, chorizo so like not a lot of chorizo, cause it’s a little spicy and right now his spice tolerance is very low. So I have to be careful.
Liz Alarcón: Oh, we need to work on that. We need to work on.
Maribel Quezada Smith: Yeah, I know. But he’s doing really well. Like I give him frijoles, tortillas, quesadillas. Like all of that, he will eat. I feel like in all of our cuisines, we have a variety of foods. In Mexico we have different vegetable dishes and, you know, the grain dishes and all kinds of things that do include fiber and healthier carbs. It’s not all cheese and, and sour cream, as some people would think in, in the U S so I think that’s also really important, for him to explore the deep culinary roots of our culture. It’s not just what’s presented in the United States to you. It’s actually deeper than that. And there are more complex dishes available to you that are even healthier.
Liz Alarcón: Totally. Totally. Totally. There’s just so, so much to explore within our communities. And that takes me to another dynamic that I want to talk about of things that I know I want to keep, which is being exposed to growing up with extended family. I don’t know how that looked like for you when you moved to the U S but in my case, I would go to Venezuela every summer until I was 15, spend four months there with my aunts and uncles and grandmas by myself. And as I mentioned, my grandma would spend quite a bit of time with us, but it was really beautiful to grow up in a village. You know, we often say it takes a village, but it’s difficult to recreate that village here in the U S. And so something that I want to try to replicate as much as possible is for Eva to grow up with other really close relationships that are just not her mom and her dad. And, you know, if we have other kids, her siblings, right. How, how do you feel about?
Maribel Quezada Smith: I totally agree. It’s the same thing. When I grew up in Mexico, we had a huge, we have a huge family. So I spent summers with all my cousins and aunts and uncles. And I don’t want, I don’t want Rency to grow up without a village. So what I’m doing, because it’s not always possible to send your kid for the summer somewhere. And I have to say like, I don’t necessarily want to send him away all the time. I would like to also go with him. Um, so in the times where maybe we can’t do it, I’m trying to build a village for him here as well, with Latino kids and Latino families and also black families. Cause like I mentioned, my kid is black and he’s Mexican as well. So I want him to grow up with both cultures and we’re building the village here with the friendships and people who have kids of the similar age and who understand that that’s important as well. And I think that’s something that’s coming back. I’m hoping that it’s making a comeback, the village mentality of raising a kid where like your neighbors and your friends, everybody kind of chips in and you get together more often.
Liz Alarcón: And you speak to, to that challenge and opportunity that millennial moms have to, to just recreate our own traditions while we keep the same Maribel, right? It’s a dance between keeping what we like keeping the essence of what we like, but transforming it into our new realities and creating our new sense of family where, where it makes sense for us. I think that that’s also valid and it doesn’t all look the same, and it might look good on paper to your point. But then in actuality, what does your everyday look like and how are you able to balance your needs as a mom here in the U S taking all the good of American society, while also keeping all the things we love from our upbringing?
Maribel Quezada Smith: Because the thing is, like you said before, not everything from our upbringing is wonderful and we don’t necessarily want to keep all of the things. So how do we balance that? And that’s the trick. That’s going to be the struggle for me. Like how do I celebrate what I have, what I brought up, what I was brought up in, while being able to get over the traumas and the things that I did not enjoy. Well, not necessarily enjoy, but like the things that did not help me be a better person or harm me in some way. The generational trauma that we built up in our cultures, because there’s so much like, can you think of something right now that you’re like, I am not bringing that into my child’s life?
Liz Alarcón: Ooh.
Maribel Quezada Smith: Because I know I have a view.
Liz Alarcón: So much therapy. I will say. So much therapy to process it. All that definitely helps. And yes, absolutely. I mean, my husband and I talk about this all the time. One of the things that we definitely don’t want to pass down is that machismo culture. Sometimes my family will come over and they still cede the head of the table to my husband, who is 40 years younger than them, because he is the man of the house. And I quickly stopped that in its tracks. So those are small examples of just that, that culture of, of special deference to the father or to the men in the family. No, aqui todos somos iguales. Here, we all contribute. We all share in the responsibilities of the home. Uh, and of course, respect for our elders. And for people who came before us is, is paramount. And I love parts of that from our culture, but, but that machismo, um, of expecting the woman to do and be it all and, and just a special treatment to the men of the family. We are not passing that down.
Maribel Quezada Smith: Raising a son, that’s super tricky. It is so ingrained in our culture, the machismo, the sexism is so ingrained in our culture that I am like trying very consciously to be like, hey, It’s okay to cry. It’s okay. To be vulnerable. It’s okay to like all the colors. I dress my son in all the colors. I don’t care. And I’ve had people say things before. Which is insane to me, but I’ve had people say like, oh, oh, he’s a boy, but you know, he’s, he’s wearing pink. So? You know, like things like that, I am trying really hard, but it’s so tough because society makes it really hard. I was just in Mexico I was there for my cousin’s wedding. Why did every single one of my family members ask me where I left my. Like they don’t know I’m married, you know, a married, right. You know, he has a dad. Where do you think I left him with his dad? And they were all like, Ooh, no way.
Liz Alarcón: Wow, Maribel. Te lo creo. Te lo creo because with me, it’s been a lot of the, is Julian, my husband going to let you dry while you’re pregnant? Are you going to go alone to this activity? And it’s like, hey, you all, I’m, I’m pregnant. I’m not sick. I feel great. We’re being careful. I do not need a chaperone for nine months. It’s going to be fine. So I can already feel some of those fears that are passed on. And so I think, yeah, the machismo culture, the expectation that we have on women and just, yeah, some of those fears. Can you think of other fears that you definitely don’t want to pass on that you grew up with?
Maribel Quezada Smith: I definitely don’t want to beat my child. I don’t want to bring violence into the home. That’s been a huge topic of discussion because here’s the thing. For some reason la palita and la chancla, or whatever you want to call it, whatever it was at your house, the belt, that was like a cultural pride to some people. And that’s how people, you know, grow up to be good humans. No, not in my book. I definitely got the palita and the belt.
Liz Alarcón: Me too.
Maribel Quezada Smith: And let me tell you, none of that helped me be more respectful towards my parents. The only thing it did was drive a wedge between me and my parents. So I was, I was afraid of them. I was scared of them. I didn’t feel like I could talk to them or even trust them with some of my life issues or questions. And that to me is sad. So, yeah, that’s definitely something that we are really trying to be conscious about. And I don’t want to bring, I don’t want to pass that on.
Liz Alarcón: I think there’s also a tendency to sweep some of these things under the rug and to pretend like we don’t have any issues. And there’s a big lack of transparency and a lot of these conversations, which is something else I don’t want to pass down. It is sometimes tough to openly talk about these conversations. Even some of my elder family members, or even some of uncles and aunts and people who are closer to my age are kind of resistant to acknowledging the truth about how we grew up. Right? It’s not all bad. We have so many beautiful things to celebrate, but I know in my family it’s very triggering and sometimes very tough to air out these grievances even still.
Maribel Quezada Smith: Yeah. It’s like people want to pretend like certain things didn’t happen. I mean, here’s, here’s the scary part. I’ve had a lot of conversations with Latina friends in the U S of like the creepy uncle.
Liz Alarcón: Mhmm.
Maribel Quezada Smith: Right? Like that creepy family member who like, felt them up in some way or did something weird and they never talked about it. And it never really got discussed and never dealt with. That to me is heartbreaking. And it’s almost like, oh yeah, yeah. I had one of those everybody like seems to share something like that.
Liz Alarcón: Hashtag me too, in both senses Maribel. I did too. And that’s a me too moment, right? When you think about it. You’re so right. So many of us have those experiences. I hadn’t even thought of that, but that’s where that lack of transparency. And like, if you see something say something like you can tell us anything, no matter who it is. And I want that confianza, which is my favorite word in Spanish. And for those of you all listening, who don’t speak Spanish confianza is this word of like, instant trust and comfortability that you feel with someone. That is what I hope that Eva feels in her home, always regardless of who it’s about or who it’s from, even if it’s from us, right? And, and not all of us grew up with that confianza with our parents or with our family.
Maribel Quezada Smith: No. And that’s the thing, like I didn’t have that because I was scared of them. So I didn’t feel like I could talk to them about certain things. Boundaries need to be set, but there’s A very big difference between boundaries and fear. Boundaries are not the same thing as violence boundaries are not the same thing as fear. So I feel like people often get that twisted and especially in our call. And I don’t want to pass that down.
Liz Alarcón: A hundred percent Maribel. Well, we agree on, on so many things. I feel so much more at ease, knowing that I am not the only one thinking about this and that there are moms like you who have already been experiencing this in real life, as my husband and I think about what our future with is going to look like. And I know so many of the people listening now to this episode can relate because it’s a real tension. It’s real what we feel. It’s also real that feeling that we have of wanting to honor our culture, our ancestors, our family, the beauty and vibrancy of being Latinos here, there, back home, in the US, and anywhere. And “yes and” which is my favorite phrase. Like we can adopt new traditions, we can leave lo que no nos sirve, and bring with us what’s also useful to make sure that we pass on our culture to our kids.
Maribel Quezada Smith: Kudos to you for thinking about this ahead of time, but I’m telling you, it is a journey my friend. We’re going to be on this ride forever Liz so strap in, girlfriend. I’ll be right there with you.
Liz Alarcón: I was going to say, Maribel. At least we’re in it together and we’re gonna make it through. We’re gonna make it through.