It is Hispanic Heritage Month in the United States and to celebrate our Latina sisters, we’ve interviewed a handful of participants for our Hispanic Voices Series to provide a platform to share while we learn a bit more about their background, family life and well… heritage.
For this special edition, we feature mother, Marcela Uribe Jennings with her daughter, Kiana Jennings.
Welcome, Marcela and Jennings from Worcester, MA!
What is your heritage/background?
Marcela: I am Latina, originally from Chile which really means we are Native American and a mix of other.
Kiana: Chilean and Black
Do you speak your families native language? If not, who is the first generation to not speak it, if you know?
Marcela: Yes I speak Spanish
Kiana: I would say I am about 65% fluent in Spanish. I am a lot better at understanding rather than speaking. Spanish is my mother’s first language and my sisters focus in school. Now that I am older I regret neglecting my mother’s daily (and what felt like relentless) attempts to practice with me.
When did your family immigrate to the United States?
Marcela: October 4, 1974
Do you still have family in Chile?
Marcela: Yes, lots of family still in Chile
The first generation that immigrated to the US in your family, are they still living?
Marcela: Yes, may parents
Did that generation openly discuss their reasons for coming here or dreams, aspirations etc?
Marcela: Yes, we left one year after the coup d”eta in Chile, where the elected president Allende was overthrown with the support of the USA/CIA and replaced under the dictator Agusto Pinochet.
Kiana: The overthrow of Allende in 1973 and the establishment of a military dictatorship led to a large exodus of Chileans including my family. Pinochet was determined to rid the country of divisive elements. My mother described the dangerous and frightening living conditions when Santiago (her home city) was under military control. My family migrated to Marlborough Massachusetts in hopes of a better life.
Storytelling the fabric of many ethnic cultures. Do you have stories that you have been told or tell that you cherish? (If you want to share, please do)
Marcela: Yes, of our family pride (orgullo), is embedded in storytelling. Starting with our grandparents and their struggles and their contributions to the nation. My great-grandfather was one of the founders of the most progressive and active movements of Chile the socialist party, our family home was frequently visited by iconic Chilean people such as Salvador Allende and Pablo Neruda.
Kiana: My Abuelitos lived in the outskirts of Santiago. When my Abuelita was ready to give birth to my mother, they took public transportation to get to the hospital. Once they arrived at the hospital they would not keep my Abuelita because she was not fully dilated due to the lack of capacity at public hospitals. It was late at night and there was no way of getting home, so my abuelito had to hitchhike and trade his watch for a ride home until my abuelita was actually ready to give birth. These are among some of the many stories that have been part of my upbringing detailing the tenacity of my abuelitos through their economic hardships.
My great-grandmother was a home-baker who sold empanadas and homemade bread. She would leave at the crack of dawn every morning to ride to the city and sell her goods. She raised four children as a single mother.
Do you have any family heirlooms, recipes etc. that you pass down through your family?
Marcela: Yes, some of my grandmom and mom jewelry
Kiana: Empanadas, Aji- Chilean hot sauce, Completos
What language was spoken in your home growing up?
Marcela: Spanish and English
Kiana: Mostly English
Kiana, did you find it difficult growing up here with a mom who wasn’t originally from here?
I wouldn’t use the word difficult. My experience was just more unique compared to my other classmates growing up. I went to a predominately white elementary school in Worcester Massachusetts. While everyone else had the traditional pb&j for lunch I had an aji sandwich or leftover empanadas. It took time to become appreciative of my cultural divergence, but now it’s what makes me most proud.
Marcela, as a mother, can you give an example or two of ways you have taught your children to be proud of their heritage?
Family first and most of all, family history and background, everyday food, music and language albeit Spanish being a language of the Colonist)
What is your take on the current administration and the outlook on immigration?Marcela: It is a disgrace to the rest of the World, lack of education and ignorant
Kiana: A complete disgrace. Frankly, it’s embarrassing.
Are there any organizations that you work with or donate money or time to that you would like to mention?
Marcela: Yes, I am a board member of several organizations.
Do you identify specifically to your heritage only (Puerto Rican, Mexican, South American, Cuban etc.) or do you identify as part of a Hispanic community and culture overall?
Marcela: All of the above South American, Chilean, Native American, however, I am not defined by one or the other since I know we share many influences included the African-Diaspora to which Chile has only recently begun to recognize and appreciate.
Kiana: I identify specifically with my heritage. Chilean culture is very different than other Hispanic cultures.
What worries you about Hispanic culture?
Kiana: Lack of representation, especially in government.
What are you most proud of?
Marcela: Family and family values, the pride that comes from our heritage.
Kiana: The “togetherness” of my family in Chile. It’s really refreshing to see my mom go back to her home country and its like she never left.
What makes you laugh/happy?
Marcela: I love music, I love my family and my daughters, I love going to Chile.
Marcela, first Hispanic woman that pops into your mind…
Author- Isabel Allende
Singer Miriam Hernández
Musician – Violeta Parra, Víctor Jara
Poet- Pablo Neruda
Activist – Salvador Allende, Cesar Cesar Chavez, Gladys Marin, Michell Bachelett
Chef – mothers and abuelitas
Teacher – Sidney Buxton (mentor)
Mother – Iberia Uribe
Sister – Kathy Uribe
Role Models – Salvador Allende, my father and mother, my grandmother
Kiana, first Hispanic woman that pops into your mind…
Author: Isabell AllendeLegislator: Sonia SotomayorSinger: Cardi BMusician: SelenaPoet: Gabriela MistralActress: Selena GomezActivist: Sylvia MendezChef: My AbuelitaTeacher: Cheyenne Jennings (my sister)Mother: Marcela Uribe-Jennings (my mom)Sister: Cheyenne JenningsDancer: Shakira