2: the handing down of information, beliefs, and customs by word of mouth or by example from one generation to another without written instruction
3: cultural continuity in social attitudes, customs, and institutions
4: characteristic manner, method, or style <in the best liberal tradition>
I understand the definition, but the concept of tradition is difficult for me because I often feel that I don't really have any. My family history with the US stretches back to the 1800’s, but this connection was through American colonization and my father was an immigrant. Because of this my connections to tradition are ... loose? frayed? disorganized? Complicated.
I’ve learned my latinx traditions second-hand, through the lens of an American-born child of a Peruvian father and a Puerto Rican mother who grew up in New York in a community where my family was 50% (if not 100%) of the hispanic community. I was raised bilingual and absorbed some tradition through language, but I had very little influence from society, my neighborhood, or community. When we would go visit my family in Peru and Puerto Rico, my family was welcoming and loving, but I was always different. I didn’t really understand many cultural references or slang. I didn’t know the popular music, the politics, or even how to go to church in Spanish. My family always traveled to see our extended families during the public school winter recess (alternating between Peru and Puerto Rico every year), so our family would be visiting during las navidades or pascuas.
I loved experiencing the holidays with my huge extended families. In Peru we kids would share a huge meal, drink chicha morada, play, and stay up until midnight on Christmas eve. When the clock struck 12, we’d all hug each other, one by one, (this would take a while), exchange gifts, and my aunts would bring out giant pots of hot chocolate which we would drink with paneton.
When I came back to school, I was usually dark brown from the beaches and time outside in a climate with opposite seasons. My school friends were wrapped in sweaters and told tales of snowball fights and midnight mass and family traditions. No one knew what chicha morada or a cuatro was. People were interested in and mostly accepting of my family’s experiences, but, it was clear that even at home, I was different.
My mom and her mom sewed and crocheted. My maternal grandmother, Abuela Vera, also used to make lace from thin cotton fabric. It was amazing to watch her snip threads and then tie the loose pieces into knots and make elaborate patterns. She made personalized handkerchiefs for her family. I still have mine and my mom has hers. Mine is very wrinkled so I'll post a picture when I've smoothed it out.
I knit or crochet daily and I sew reasonably well too, but I didn’t learn any of these skills from my family. My Peruvian father could sew up a body, but his learning to knit or crochet was definitely not encouraged when he was growing up or at any point in his life. (At this point I should probably explain that my dad was a surgeon and learned to sew people up in medical school.) In any case, he couldn’t teach me. My mom never learned my grandmother’s lace-making and while she enjoyed sewing, she wasn’t interested in crochet. Because I wasn’t around my extended family often enough to learn any of their talents and my immediate family couldn’t teach me, the rich fibre traditions of Peru and Puerto Rico were lost to me.
So here I am, someone who has multiple heritages that are rich in tradition, growing up in communities with different traditions, who really doesn’t have any of her own. Complicated.