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I Married A Gringo

If you’re like me, love is [and should be] color blind, but I admit, there are fringe benefits when Latinos marry Latinos. Cultural nuance is understood, it feels comfortable, and it feels like family. Who wouldn’t want that?

Before I married the gringo love of my life, I was engaged to a Puerto Rican/Spaniard Eñye I had met while we both attended Boston University.

I loved him with all of my heart, but honestly, I think I was more in love with his mamá! His mother was the most phenomenal cook. I can still remember her sancocho, her habichuelas, and this stew that she made with calabasa that to this day I wish I’d written down it was so good.

I adored her and loved how she reminded me more of my Puerto Rican titi’s than any negative idea of a future mother-in-law. She was patient with my Spanglish and accepted me for the ever-ambitious 20-something Latina I was at the time.

His father, although a nice person, was less than enthusiastic about me. I learned that he had sent my mom a letter explaining how he could not give his blessing to our marriage because he didn’t think I would be a good [Latina] homemaker and that perhaps I had a little too much ambition outside of the home. Really?!?

Although I’m grateful for finding love at such a young age, I feel like a dodged a bullet by not marrying my first Latino love.

As the years passed, many of my childhood friends married and had kids and I couldn’t help but wonder if I had made a mistake. Should I have married my college Eñye? Why couldn’t I be a “better Latina” and marry early and into my culture? It seemed so much easier and perhaps in many respects it probably would have been, but it was just not my time.

In the six years that followed, I dated a few different types of men. An “older man”, a Cuban (suavecito) poet, a Dutch pilot working on his Visa and an African American guy who grew up in Colorado. And then I met my husband, who I affectionately refer to as the #gringocowboy.

“The heart wants what the heart wants” and I fell head over heels in love with my gringo.

As I sit here writing this blog post, I can honestly say that I’ve never once thought of our relationship as a cultural compromise and nor have I ever felt like I was missing out on something. I grew to love his family like they were people (and not gringos) and realized that although the worlds we grew up in were vastly different, rural Oklahoma and the suburbs of New York City, in many ways they were also very much the same.

Surprisingly, many of the Latina Eñyes I’ve interviewed for the film married gringos too. Irene Vilar, an author, environmental activist and granddaughter of famous Puerto Rican activist Lolita Lebrón said it best, when she said “When I met my current [gringo] husband, it was through that connection … the way he touched my most internal wound that allowed my heart to open up and go beyond those prejudices.”

As I heard her say that, I wondered if we might have that in common and I looked for ways that my #gringocowboy had connected with me.

From the very beginning, my gringo husband was so interested in my world. He wanted to know me and he was interested albeit skeptical of the world I experienced as a Latina. It didn’t take long for him to see the bias and to notice the differences in the contrasting worlds I vacillated between.

He fell in love with both sides (and the middle) of that intersection and has always been a sensitive ear listening to my angst. He is my champion, my encourager and my rock. He posts my content to mostly crickets on his Facebook feed and he is not deterred.

He loves my mother’s flan, he’ll steal platanos maduros off my plate when I’m not watching and he practically inhaled a tembleque a friend made for us for Christmas.

He’s a wonderful father and loves that our daughters are half Puerto Rican. He loves for me to cook for him and I do that with love almost every night of the week. Not because I’m a “good Latina wife” (okay, maybe a little) but because I love him and that’s one way that I show it. #lovelanguage

While saying “I married a gringo” out loud highlights the “difference” between us, I honestly can say I don’t feel this “difference” in our day to day lives. But for the record, I did marry a gringo and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  1. Michael Jonsson says:

    I like to married a Latino

  2. Denise says:

    That is SO sweet Mariella! Thank you for sharing your story. It’s one of life’s blessings to find our one true love. So happy to hear that you found yours. : )

  3. Mariella K says:

    What a beautiful story. I married the love of my life (Sam, he is from Wyoming), a year after I moved to the United States, and even though I had been already engaged once to a Latino back in Peru, I never felt the connection that, after 20 years, I still feel with my husband. I am what I am because of him; he pushed me to explore other career options, encouraged me not to settle, and I am better because of his constant support. I can be my own person with him without compromising my identity, which was a lot different when I used to date Hispanic guys back in my country, you couldn’t be too loud, or couldn’t have too many male friends, or couldn’t go out alone with your friends, it was exhausting. We only dated for three months, but we knew we didn’t want to be apart from each other. After 20 years, we still like to hang out with each other even if it is to go to the store or sitting next to each other; we still hold hands and tell each other “I love you,” I always reply “I love you more,” it might sound playful or funny, but I do love this man a lot.

  4. Denise says:

    OK that is just adorable. I love reading how much you love her and her culture and her family. I felt similarly about wanting my kids to be 100% Latino but the heart wants what it wants. Ultimately my gringo cowboy was exactly who I needed at the time and 15 years later he’s even more perfect for me now and also an amazing father. I think the most important thing is your demonstrated commitment to passing down the culture because that’s ultimately the biggest concern and it sounds to me like you are doing a terrific job!

  5. Keith Frost says:

    Thank you for your honesty and your personal experience. My perspective is a little different as I am the white male and I am very excited to be engaged to marry and start a family with the love of my life, a beautiful, educated, family oriented Latina that is fluent in Spanish and very proud of her culture and her beauty is impossible to put in words. I truly love her and I know there’s more than physical attraction but I know how lucky I am to be with be with her and she is, muy sexy una fantasia de senualidad y clase la acompana. Marlene es mi Princcesa Latina y una diosa.

    Needless to say I would do anything to make her happy and spend my life with her, to get married and have a family. I had no problem at all dating, getting engaged, and soon to marry and have kids together. I fell immediately in love with her and I have worked hard and succeeded in life so I have a lot to offer and I always had high standards, I was only interested in finding love, marriage and a future with a Latina. I am very blessed and so excited.

    My family has no problems at all and really like my fiancé. I didn’t date much but when I did she was a Latina so they know. Well at first her family was a little stand off and she told me they even questioned her about it and they don’t understand why she would want to be with a white guy. I am learning Spanish, I spoil her and always attend their family gatherings and they have learned to accept me more.

    My biggest concern after dating for awhile and getting serious we talked about having a family or I did and when talking about kids she let me know she was worried what they would like since she always pictured her kids being 100% Latino. I was a little hurt or more scared because I definitely want kids with her. I told her a pictured my kids looking mostly Hispanic with her hair, eyes, and skin and we will teach them Spanish early and I will make sure they keep Latin coulter.
    I would be crushed if it fell through but I am confident we are in love and she will come around the more the she can visualize a family together.

  6. Denise says:

    What a beautiful story of acceptance. I did a similar thing with my maiden name. I made it my legal middle name bc I was afraid of losing my identity (even if just in part) if I only took his name and didn’t incorporate mine somehow. And of course, he was totally ok with it. Again something that I’m sure would have made to be a much bigger deal in the reverse. If you are not already a member of our Facebook community I hope you’ll join us there. ; )

  7. Allison Lopez-Galtman says:

    Thank you for sharing your story about your marriage. I too married a gringo….I tried dating Latino men. However, many that I met were intimidated that I had my college and Masters Degree…meeting my husband felt like a glove. He accepted me just the way I am…a proud Latina woman who was born in El Salvador and raised in Brooklyn, NY since the age of 8….our families just accepted each of us in their world…one thing I did ask of my husband was that when we got Married I would hyphenate my last name as it’s my Latino pride and did not want to lose that…I am also a social worker and work with the Latino community in nyc so having Lopez would help them remember my name…

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