After one trip to New York, at just 15 years old, I got a taste of the energy the big city had to offer. I was addicted and had my mind set on becoming a transplant. Three short years later, young and naive, New York City became a reality for me. I packed my bags, said goodbye to home, and jetted off to school.
Sixteen years later, I’m still here. I have a great job, beautiful family, and a network of friends, but New York just isn’t home for me. I find myself longing for warm days that smell like orange blossoms, the best Mexican food, and the Latino soul. Should these experiences just be kept to myself? No. I think I have a greater desire for my children to experience their other half, the Mexican half.
In a city that is referenced as a “melting pot” where millions of people from all over the world live together in a geographically small area and flow with the unwritten rules of being a “New Yorker,” I pursue the taste of home so my kids understand where they come from.
I have found myself searching Yelp and the web for “authentic” Mexican cuisine. As a family, we try a restaurant and if we like the food, we return for the real test. Barriga llena, corazón contento, a full stomach, happy heart, is the driving force. Upon return, we see if they remember who we are. This is the real test in NYC because anyone who is not a native New Yorker is looking for a taste of home. We tend to remember one another, whether it’s over drinks or carne asada, each of us wants home for a moment.
Believe it or not, I’ve even chased down mariachis with the family on the subway. Yes, I was the rider who was staring and stalking. I just can’t help it. After growing up hearing “Volver, Volver” by Vicente Fernandez at every party, wedding, and funeral; sometimes you just need to hear the song to bring you back down to earth.
Most recently, a $12 haircut got my son and I a taste of home. If you know Latino barber shops, then you will know that on the weekends they are packed. The wait can be a couple of hours, depending what time you go. I was in Harlem and had the option of three barbershops to choose from on one block. By luck, I stepped into the shop with a short line and scissors flowing in rhythm with the sweet sound of Mexican music. My son hopped on the chair, I sat back and closed my eyes. Soon I was transported back home to a late Saturday afternoon with the light of day ticking away, the smell of tacos frying, and the endless chatter.
Every “little taste of home” is a chance to expose my children to their Mexican heritage. It’s another opportunity to encourage my children to embrace who they are and be proud of their roots so that the culture lives on from generation to generation.