Thanksgiving Day was a reunion of sorts for the Rodriguez family in Chicago. I really enjoyed getting together with my family as much as possible. As usually happens, this reunion was a last-minute get together that turned out better than if someone would have planned it for weeks.
I really had no plans for Thanksgiving Day since my sons would spend the day with their mother and her family. When we were married, many relatives came to our house for Thanksgiving dinner. But now, I never know what I’ll do for Thanksgiving until the last minute. I’m not really very good at planning too far in advance. Anyway, our family started the day with a memorial mass for three relatives who had died in the last six weeks: My cousin Shirley, my Aunt Marcela, and my Uncle Meño’s mother-in-law.
My Uncle Placido was coming in from Lubbock, Texas, where he is the bishop of the archdiocese and he would say mass for us. We all agreed to meet at St. John Fisher Church for the 9:00 am mass and then go our separate ways because everyone, presumably, already had Thanksgiving Day plans. Well, we stayed in the back of the church talking awhile and then we started taking pictures. Lately, we can’t take enough pictures of each other. I took extra pictures on my iPhone so I could add everyone to my directory, even though I had no immediate plans to call anyone.
Then, my brother Jerry suggested we go back to his house for coffee for an hour or two, but then we’d have to go because his wife was having dinner for her family in the afternoon and it was the first Thanksgiving without her father because he had died earlier this year. Whoever was available could come back at about 7:00 pm. Well, some of us stayed and never left. I won’t mention any names, but I could name all the people who came and stayed, and all the people who left at the appropriate time–because I was there until midnight. And I didn’t come alone either. I brought my father, my Aunt Conchita, and her son Peter. No one complained that there was extra company in the house, especially not the people who had overstayed their invitation. Uncle Placido showed us the 25th anniversary book for his archdiocese in Lubbock, Texas. Later, we looked at more pictures after we ate a huge dinner. Despite the fact that there were more people there for dinner than were invited, there was plenty of food for everyone. In fact, everyone was invited to take leftovers home. We all said good-bye and promised to see each other very soon. We shall see.
Over the years, I have had one identity crisis after another. The identity crisis recurs most often is the one in which I can’t decide if I should live in Chicago or Mexico because I’m not sure if I’m Mexican or American. Sometimes I feel as if I don’t belong here in the U.S. because I feel so Mexican and like a foreigner here. When I’m Mexico, I feel very comfortable there. Of course, that could be merely because I’m a guest there and the excitement and the newness of my being there hasn’t worn off yet. If I stayed much longer, everyone might not be as friendly toward me. I’ve mentioned to some of my friends that I was thinking of moving to Mexico and they immediately offered to help me pack! Wow! What friends!
I went to Mexico when I was 22 and I seriously considered staying there. But then I realized that I would have to get a job in order to support myself. But Mexicans don’t really want foreigners coming in and taking away their jobs. Besides, I didn’t really want to work a back-breaking job in Mexico when I already had a back-breaking job in Chicago. So I went back home to Chicago. However, I often daydreamed about living in Mexico.
Now, I am actually in a position where I can afford to move to Mexico since I have a small pension. I now have to work a job in order to live comfortably in Chicago, but I could live more than comfortably if I moved to Mexico. And I won’t have to work at all if I lived in Mexico. I could sit at home all day writing blog entry after blog entry. Wait, that’s what I’m doing now! But I have to teach in order to supplement my pension. In Mexico, I would always find something to keep me busy since they do have the Internet down there. And I wouldn’t be lonely because I have a lot of family in Mexico in several cities. Our family, both on my father’s and mother’s side, was very prolific. That’s why Rodriguez and Martinez are some of the most common Spanish last names in the world. So I wouldn’t be lonely. And even though I’m American, Mexicans–my family in particular–consider me Mexican, sort of. Since I’m American, everyone in Mexico was surprised that I spoke Spanish and ate tortillas. I’m glad that Mexicans thought of me as a Mexican, at least most of the time.
When I go back to Mexico in July, I’ll take another look at where I could possibly live in Mexico. I really love Celaya, Guanajuato, the home of my father’s family. It’s a fairly big city with a small-town feel to it. And, I have an uncle, two aunts, and fifteen cousins who live there! Plus, there’s a university in the city where I could possibly find a teaching position if I ever have the urge to teach again. That would be quite an adventure for me. So now I’m struggling to redefine myself and resolve my latest identity crisis. I’m sure that this time I’ll find myself. Or, maybe not.
Mexicans have the best sense of humor in the world. No one laughs more than a Mexican. They’re always joking around, and they are always laughing. Just watch them and see. Many people often ask me why I’m always laughing. I never actually have an answer because I don’t know why I’m always laughing. Sometimes, I laugh for no apparent reason, which makes it easy for me to find a seat on the train.
When I was in México, I noticed my cousin David Rodríguez laughed just as much as me and just as loud. My sons always complain that I laugh louder than everyone else in the theater whenever we see a movie. I can’t help it. My mother and I always told jokes and we weren’t afraid to laugh. My abuelita was also quite funny. Our whole family is always laughing. If you ever go to a Mexican party, you will hear continuous laughter. It’s just our nature. We lead simple uncomplicated lives and enjoy every moment of life. If we have a place to live, food to eat, and drink to drink, we’re happy as a tamal in a corn husk. And no matter what tragedy occurs in our lives, we’ll just laugh it off.
I’ve heard Mexicans tell how they lost their job, their house, their car, etc., and make everyone listening laugh while they told their sad tale. I admit it. I’ve laughed, too. My friend José was a carpenter who had once cut off his index finger with an electric saw. One day, I saw he had two fingers bandaged and I asked him what had happened. He told me how he was cutting wood with an electric band saw and his mind drifted a little. Right from the beginning he slipped into the typical Mexican joke-telling mode. “Remember how I told you how I cut off my index finger the last time,” José said, and I remembered how he had made me laugh then. “Well, this time, I cut off my index finger AND my middle finger!” He started laughing with his contagious laughter, and I couldn’t help but laugh, too. “¡Chingado! I did it again!” he said to me. “Then I couldn’t find my fingers right away because they went flying across the room!” I regret to say that we both laughed hysterically during his recounting of this catastrophe. Of course, he never did finish telling me the story because he was laughing too hard. But even in a crisis, a Mexican will find humor.
One difference I noticed when I entered México was that EVERYONE speaks Spanish–as opposed to Chicago where only half the people speak Spanish. México is like a totally different country!
I may be Mexican, but I’m not a real Mexican who grew up in México. When I checked into a hotel in Matehuala, I realized that my name, David Diego Rodriguez, even though it sounds Spanish, is really American. My name, if I were really, really a Mexican, would be David Diego Rodríguez Martínez. But so far, I’m blending in here in Mexico. Or at least, I’ve convinced myself that most people don’t really notice that I’m from America. I found this Internet Café in Celaya and it has accent marks and ñ just like a real Spanish keyboard!
Well, I have to go now. My time is up at the Internet Cafe. Hasta pronto.
I often tell my students that my surname is as common as Smith or Jones. I have known so many Rodriguezes and only about half of them were related to me. I have often been confused for other Rodriguezes as well. Part of the reason may be that there aren’t as many surnames in Spanish-speaking countries as in the U.S. (But don’t quote me on that!) So Hispanics have to stretch out fewer surnames among more people. I also have a common first name. I just looked up David Rodriguez in the Chicago phone book and there are 22 of us listed in the directory! And that doesn’t even include the David Rodriguezes who are unlisted, don’t have a phone, have a cell phone, are minors, or reside in jail! I even argued with my wife against naming my oldest son David for that very reason. That’s why I wanted to name him José.
USA Today (May 11, 2006) states that the 5 most common surnames among U.S. home buyers are Smith, Johnson, Rodriguez, Brown, and Garcia. Why are there so many Rodriguezes buying homes? I’m not really sure. But you see, Rodriguez is the Spanish equivalent of Smith! Even the Rodriguezes are keeping up with the Joneses.
Perhaps an analysis of the etymology of Rodriguez will help explain the popularity of Rodriguez. The surname Rodriguez comes from the combination Rodrigo, the name of the last Visigoth king in Spain, and -ez. The suffix -ez comes from the Visigoth word meaning “son of.” Therefore, Rodriguez means “son of Rodrigo.” All those Spanish surnames that end in -ez actualy mean something. Gonzalez is son of Gonzalo, Lopez is son of Lope, etc. So, is it possible that someone with the surname of Rodriguez may actually be descended from the noble family of the last Visigoth king Rodrigo of Spain? If so, that means that I may actually have the blood of Spanish nobility coursing through my veins! But I seem to have lost the main point of all this!