View Full Version : Chicano-American family customs? Also naming?

06-20-2014, 03:47 PM
I hope that "Chicano" is the right term.

In my story, the antagonist comes from a mixed family, her father is white and mother Chicana-American/Mexican-American. While she and her brother are fairly Americanised I want to show a little bit of the culture so that people don't mistake them for 100% white bread. She invites the protagonist over for dinner with her family (mother, father and maternal grandmother). Are there any kind of customs that a mixed Mexican/American family would likely keep? What kind of food might they serve, including dessert?

Sort of in line with this, I was trying to figure out how the surname system would work when it's an interracial marriage. The mother's name is Clara Rivera Alvarez (hoping Clara is an acceptable first name) and the father is Marc Richards. Since they're a gender-equal kind of couple I thought that they could just keep their respective surnames (or do you think they should hyphenate it as Rivera-Richards?). I was going to have it that the antagonist's brother is <his name> Richards while she is <her name> Rivera, would that be okay or does it sound funny and should be <her name> Rivera Alvarez?

I just don't want to stuff it all up somehow and have people yelling at me that I have made a huge error in representing Chicano culture/traditions and have greatly disrespected it. It's a small part of the whole story but I'd like to get it right so it's clear that everyone isn't white or whitewashed.

Siri Kirpal
06-20-2014, 11:46 PM
Sat Nam! (literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

I'm not up on Mexican naming habits and wouldn't want to extrapolate.

We did have Mexican neighbors when I was growing up, I did (still do) have a close Chicano friend, and was raised in San Diego. So, on food, our neighbors made tamales for Christmas and gave some as gifts to us (we gave them shortbread). Other standard Mexican fare (enchiladas, tortillas, etc) would be good too. Desserts are less sweet than typical American desserts tend to be. Mexican wedding cakes (typically made for engagement parties) are actually eggless cookies, made from ground nuts and covered with confectioners sugar. They're very rich. Other desserts are sopapillas (I think I spelled that right), which are a puffy, fried bread filled with honey. We used to go into Tijuana and pick up the most chewy, wonderful dinner rolls imaginable.

Hope that helps. Real Chicanas/Chicanos may be by with better and more thorough info.


Siri Kirpal

Debbie V
06-24-2014, 02:33 AM
I suggest googling mexican chefs and looking for blogs. These often give a good sense of traditions.

Name options will depend on how egalitarian they are and on what they want for the children. Some couples prefer to keep things more American while others want to ensure some heritage is passed. Also, how the names are used may evolve over time. The hyphenated name could be used at first, but because it is unwieldy, be dropped later. She might also not take his name at all for professional reasons. Sorry I can't help more.

06-24-2014, 06:43 AM
By coincidence I'm looking for similar information on current Chicano culture, not so much with respect to cuisine, but patterns and prevalence of the culture, in southern California, the other border states, and elsewhere in the country.

I think Chicanos have the same naming customs as Mexicans for the most part, with an admixture of the occasional Americanism. Mexican nickname patterns are distinctive, but easy enough to look up online with the obvious search terms. In southern California if not elsewhere, Chicanos employ some words and usages not otherwise found in Mexican Spanish -- you can look these up under the name Caló.

You may want to look up the history of the Chicano movement in the US, along with terms like Aztlán. It depends how politically aware the family was during the late 20th century how much this will show up in your characters' beliefs and attitudes.

I have the impression, possibly not quite right, that around the US many Americans of Mexican descent will now likely call themselves Latinos which is to say any Spanish speakers of North, Central, or South American but not Spanish origin, and only some will call themselves Chicanos. Many seem to be sensitive about the term "hispanic" because that includes Spaniards. Is that all true?

06-24-2014, 07:04 AM
I teach in a school that is 65% Hispanic. My Mexican American students eat Ranch dressing on tamales and tacos. It drives their more traditional parents crazy. Most prefer flour tortillas rather than the more traditional corn. The parents think corn tortillas are the only REAL tortillas but the kids won't eat them. Flour tortillas are comida tejana--Tex Mex. They drink Fanta instead of other sodas. My kid's parents are pretty strict about table manners. This spring one of my students told me about eating with a friend and his family. The friend and his brother were belching at the table. Cristiano said that his father would knock him out of his chair for doing that. He wondered why white kids got by with being disrespectful at the table. I explained that the boys he was talking about are being raised by grandparents and are fairly spoiled but he said his father doesn't want him to eat like a white kid. I told him my dad would have knocked any of us out of our shoes for belching at the table. It was true and I felt like I had to stand up for Gringo table manners. Another point of friction is the usted form of address. The kids should use it to grandparents, older aunts and uncles, even with parents in some families. It is hard to learn and not the way we talk in the USA, so the kids don't learn to use it and then a grandparent comes to visit, the kids have to address them formally, they don't and the parents are embarrassed. --s6

Siri Kirpal
06-24-2014, 10:11 PM
Sat Nam! (Literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

Yes, Latino/Latina seems to be preferred to Chicano/Chicana these days.


Siri Kirpal