Cultural courage is the key to love

I'm not one to write about the "success" of my 10 year marriage. I think as soon as you start flaunting what makes your relationship works, you jinx it, especially when you work in an industry like mine. Like everyone else's marriage,  mine is a constant work in progress. I've always said it's hard work, but when both of you are on the same page, it's not the worst job you've ever had.

This could have been a disaster, Steve was born and raised in Illinois in a Jewish household. I was born and raised in Puerto Rico in a Catholic household. When he met me, I worked at a Spanish station so he couldn't even understand what I did for a living.  By the time we started going out 14 years ago, I had built a life for myself where I was very comfortable navigating 2 cultures.  He didn't have one Hispanic friend. (plenty of Catholics, though)

But from the get go, Steve showed an interest in my culture that really made me fall in love with him. His curiosity was genuine, but never patronizing. He embraced the fact that I am often defined by a different culture than his. He never tried too hard to assimilate. He enjoys the food, the music, the language,  but as a bystander not as a "Puerto Rican wannabe". I'm sure there are plenty of times where he is bored out of his mind, especially when after 2 drinks, everyone forgets to speak English and he is lost in the translation.

After 14 years, this cultural tolerance still surprises me. We just went to a concert by Plena Libre, an Emmy nominated folkloric music group from the island.  The founder of the band Gary Nunez welcomed everyone, especially the non Spanish speakers: "Thank you for having the courage to come tonight." I don't want to misquote him, but he hit the nail on the head. He went on to explain that it takes cultural courage to go to a concert of music that you don't know, in a language you can't understand.

When the concert started, no one was dancing. "Let's dance," Steve said. He knows that I was dying to but was feeling kind of shy. Well, he got up:

"Remind me what to do."

And we danced the night away. Ay Mama!

 

 

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