By Laura Feo-Fernandez
Being a gringa married to a Cuban, I am often met with comments like, “Oh, like Lucy and Ricky!” or “I bet your life is like ‘I Love Lucy.’” or the most annoying, “Lucy…you got some ’splaining to do!”
Okay. Two things: 1) our life is nothing like that and 2), is that all you know about Cuban (or Latino) culture?
There are a number of reasons our life is nothing like “I Love Lucy.” First of all, I’m pretty sure my husband would recognize me in a fake moustache. My husband also is not a rumba band leader and we don’t make a general habit of putting on musical revues.
We are musicians however — classical musicians — and pretty damned talented if I do say so myself. We both come from musical families: I am the daughter of opera singers and my husband’s father was quite the classical and flamenco guitarist. Alexis, mi esposo, is an incredibly talented pianist. No, he won’t play you a tumbao, no matter how nicely you ask, but he will knock your socks off with a Rachmaninoff or Prokofiev concerto. He also plays the best Malagueña you’ve ever heard. Ever. One of his greatest sources of pride as a Latino classical pianist is being able to play both European and Cuban classical music as well as the bomba he possesses.
I have adopted my husband’s culture con todo mi corazón. My empanaditas de pollo are loved by our Latino and gringo friends alike, and Alexis sings the praises of my ropa vieja. I have learned to dance salsa, picked up his Cuban accent and slang, and most of the music I listen to is in español. I have even chosen to research Latin American classical music for my doctoral dissertation. Ask me anything about Cuban history, Cuban music, Cuban food, anything. I probably know the answer. Just as I have adopted my husband’s culture, so too has Alexis adopted mine. He enjoys hamburgers, celebrating our holidays, and living in a single family home. He also has learned to put up with my crazy, loud family, which according to all the stereotypes, was something I was supposed to do.
It really doesn’t matter that I’m a gringa and my husband is cubanazo. It is truly the most wonderful bonus of our relationship. I have learned so much about a culture that I really knew nothing about before, but the most incredible thing is that despite my growing up in Idaho and his growing up in Havana, we share the same morals and values. The things his parents and grandparents told him and his sister are identical to the lessons and tidbits my brother and I received from ours. We both grew up in households with two working parents and both started our musical studies at around the same age. We are both passionate and fervent in our beliefs and we are both short-tempered. The list goes on.
The most beautiful thing? Being able to raise our son with the best of our cultural and familial traditions. One of our son’s first big boy foods was picadillo con papas and he loves grilled cheese sandwiches. He also has a love for music and already understands and speaks a little Spanish and English. Plus, he’s way cuter than Little Ricky.
Laura Feo-Fernandez is a graduate student in music performance. She lives in Memphis, TN with her husband, Alexis, and their young son. You can see Alexis perform the Malagueña by Cuban composer Ernesto Lecuona here.