Monday, July 16, 2012
The Newest Mexicans
Last friday we woke up at 5 a.m. and drive to Seattle for our 8 o'clock appointment at the Mexican consulate to get Hope and Paloma their Mexican citizenship. It is a fairly long and annoying process, but my guess is less so than getting American citizenship for a child born abroad to an American father and a Mexican mother. I'm not even sure that the U.S. grants such children automatic citizenship.
Mexico requires the same documentation here that it requires in Mexico to issue a birth certificate: both parents must be present at the correct office, and they must bring two witnesses who will swear that the children actually belong to the parents. Parents must provide their own birth certificates and witnesses their identification, all with multiple copies.
Our witnesses were a friend of Homero's named Juan and his wife, Carla. Juan and Homero have worked together at the Seattle garage for years now, and are good friends. You have to be good friends with someone to ask them to get up early and spend four or five hours hanging around in a stuffy little waiting room with you. It wasn't until Juan was actually signing his name on the form, however, that Homero suddenly realized that according to longstanding tradition, he and Juan were now officially compadres, and Carla and I were now comadres.
Homero felt a little embarrassed, because also according to tradition he ought to have asked Juan more formally if he would like to become his compadre, but as it turned out, Juan was delighted. Now our families are related in a way, and have serious obligations to each other. For example, when Juan wants to get his daughter her Mexican citizenship, it will be our turn to get up early and hang around in a stuffy waiting room for hours.
Afterwards, we all went down the street to Mama's Mexican kitchen and had a big old enchilada feast.
Accomplishing this task is a big deal. It means that Hope and Paloma can be enrolled in school and that they will have access to Mexico's national health system. In the future, should they choose to, they can attend Mexican Universities, where tuition is a small fraction of what it is here. Due to Mexico's socialized educational system, Homero's mother, a woman raising five children alone who had only a seventh grade education, was able to put four of them through university, and her children are now physicians and engineers.
I feel that dual citizenship is one of the greatest gifts I can give my children (or really, that their father can give them). This upcoming year will give them fluency in the language and culture of their new country, and strengthen the ties to their Mexican family. I don't really know if it is possible to be "bi-cultural" in the way that one can be bilingual, but certainly I want my kids to have the opportunity to find out.