My family is from Germany and also Ireland. Some are from Scotland. Part of my family has been here since the Revolutionary War. I was excited to find out that one of my forebears many years ago was Samuel Adams. My father’s side is both German and Irish. I’m not quite sure when the German side of the family got here. They’ve been here since the 1800’s. My great-grandfather on my mom’s side was a stowaway on a ship when he was thirteen years old. They settled in Cincinnati, Ohio which is a German enclave. My mom’s family spoke German in the home but they never taught her. My father’s family came from Western Pennsylvania, then came over to Ohio.
My father’s side of the family was a bit of a rowdy group, shall we say. For my mom’s family, the most important element of their ethnic heritage was their Catholicism. They were very involved in the church, and that had a lot of meaning in their lives. We didn’t have a lot of ethnic traditions, we had religious traditions. As for myself, I grew up in Phoenix, been there since I was two. So the culture I identify with is not necessarily ethnic, it’s more regional. It’s Southwest.
It has a large influence from Mexico. It’s the U.S. Southwest now but it would be the Midwest if it were from Mexico originally. Where I grew up, in Phoenix, there was a community that was just finding itself. There was fast growth, people were coming in from everywhere and it seemed to be a real open place where people were just accepted for who they were.
My family is from Scotland, Ireland, and we have a Native American and Spanish side. My parents met in New Mexico. My early childhood was in New Mexico and then I moved to Phoenix like Mark did when I was six and I grew up there. Phoenix was this vibrant new city in so many ways. People came and started a new life, and my family did the same thing. My father had ambitions that he felt he couldn’t fulfill in Albuquerque. It seemed to be a place where people could really thrive in the 1950’s and 1960’s.
Our family is Catholic in New Mexico. We make biscochitos and enchilada casseroles and red chili for every holiday. On my father’s side, we are a big family. My grandparents had twelve kids. We have like sixty first cousins. There’s always something happening in our family with that many people. The church that my great-great-grandfather built is in the Sandy Mountains on the backside of Albuquerque. He built it for his wife who was Catholiceven though he wasn’t.
He is the one who came over from Scotland. About ten years ago the town did a renovation on the church, they were digging up the yard and found some gravestones that were my great-great-grandfather’s and his wife and baby. My great-great-grandfather’s stone was outside of the church yard and hers was on the inside because she was Catholic and he wasn’t, even though he built the church. They eventually had a big ceremony, and they got him inside. So now when you go there, there is a plaque with his headstone commemorating him. I connect most with the Spanish side of my family, they were from Spain. I think some of them chose to speak Castilian Spanish instead of Mexican because it gave them better standing in the community. My grandmother was pure Irish but she spoke fluent Spanish. They never taught their children Spanish; it wasn’t considered a good thing at the time.