My name is Lucia and I am myself bicultural. I was born to an American mother and an Italian father and spent my childhood moving between countries. I was raised bilingual, and I suppose I learned at a young age to straddle two cultures, two points of view, to shape shift and fit in with where ever I found myself, all the while knowing that in either place, my friends and community on both sides of the world never quite knew the totality of who I was (except my two siblings).
Fast forward to me at age 21. I had spent a few years traveling the world, mainly Latin America where I visited Cuba, Belize, Costa Rica, Mexico. While taking (and hating) a language study course in San Jose, Costa Rica, I decided I needed a break and – on a whim – headed to Panama.
There I set foot on the little island of Bastimentos in the Caribbean sea and fell in love at first sight, literally, with Renato (aka Steve! I know – it’s funny!). I believe in pheromones, because cellularly I just knew he was it.
Steve himself is also a product of mixed heritage. He has an Afro-Caribbean father, of Jamaican descent, and his mother is Guaymi Indian. (Guaymi are an indigenous group from the Western provinces of Panama). We now have three beautiful children.
Our family had to contend with rigid immigration laws post-9/11 to finally re-locate to the US, where we settled in Colorado. My children draw themselves as brown, and I have noticed they naturally gravitate towards other children of color or multicultural families when given the chance – their favorite children/friends are from an American-Brazilian union. Unfortunately, besides Hispanics our area in Colorado is not very diverse, which is why it is so critical for us to “get back home” to Panama, where my children can see themselves reflected and connect with their roots.
We visit Panama yearly and stay for a couple of months in the little green home on 12 foot stilts that we built there. There, our children visit with their grandpa and grandma and 18 cousins, eat tropical fruit, and play in the ocean. We plan on doing a “gap year” soon, so the kids can fully immerse in the other half of their culture, but for now our yearly visits are enough to keep them connected.
In Panama, where the people are so diverse as it is, others gladly offer their opinions on who looks like who, approve that the kids got “good hair,” or sometimes tease that I like “Black men.” It’s all jovial and in good humor though, and I don’t mind it. In the U.S. I am often asked, “What nationality are your babies?” and, when we are out and about together, we are often told our family is “beautiful.” Truthfully, besides curiosity and stares, we have never encountered any obvious negativity in either country.
Our family incorporates aspects of our different backgrounds simply by the way we live. I cook like a mad woman, just as I was brought up to do, and it’s a very Mediterranean diet, although I recognize my husband’s food homesickness. Some days when we are eating friend plantains and tinned sardines, boiled yucca I can get at the Mexican markets, or fried hot dogs, I wonder what people would make of us!
Aspects of our culture and upbringing permeate our parenting, our speech, and our beliefs. Sometimes it is a difficult merging. My husband grew up free on a little island with no cars. He believes in minimalism as far as toys and possessions, but feels strongly comfortable in and connected with nature. He is at his best when he can take our children outside. We have had our differences in parenting, too. He was raised with 7 siblings and a single mother who physically disciplined them; I was not.
We merge like any two partners merge, learning to navigate our differences, make allowances and stand our ground. Mostly I feel immensely blessed and enriched by what my family stands for, love truly crossing borders, a blend of races and cultures.
I am a blogger and mama crafter, and can be found at Lucia Francis. (Be sure to check out Lucia’s blog. It is chock full of crafty inspirations and some downright gorgeous photography!)