Different Language ~ Getting to Know You ~ 52 Ancestors Week #46

I usually write about my ancestors, as I have gone as far as I can with my husbands Hispanic lines. I have told all of the stories I have gathered, so I consider myself finished with his ancestry. You may ask “Why”? Well, it is because of the language barrier.

My husband was raised by parents who are of Mexican and Native American descent. My father-in-law was born in the United States, however his Grandfather was born in Mexico. My mother-in-law was born in Mexico. Her Grandmother was born in the Arizona Territory, so when it became a State, she became an automatic citizen. Neither of them could speak English. When my in-laws got married and started having children, my mother-in-law learned to speak English. My husbands’ parents never taught any of their 8 children to speak Spanish.


Church in Caborca. Me and my in-laws standing in front.

When I joined the family 34 years ago, I encountered several awkward moments. Two months after my husband and I got married, his parents invited us to go to visit one of his aunts’ house in Caborca, Mexico. I had been to Mexico several times before, but only to border towns in Arizona and California. I was a little nervous about going deeper into the country, mainly because of stories my mother-in-law had told me. For me it was really like stepping into another world! I felt out of place because I couldn’t speak the language, and I couldn’t read the signs.

On our last night we were there, my in-laws and the Aunt and Uncle went out to eat, leaving my husband and I alone with 6 of the 12 adult cousins. We sat on the couches just staring at each other. My husband knew a little Spanish but not enough to comprehend what they were saying. They knew even less English. We all laughed as we tried to figure out what each other were saying. Finally, one of the cousins stood up and rubbed her stomach, put her fingers to her mouth like she was putting food in her mouth, and then she said, “Mooooo”. She then pointed at the door. I thought my husband say going to die laughing as he told me, they wanted to go eat. He said “Comida?” which means food. She smiled, and proudly said, “Follow me” while walking toward the door.

Over the years, we have spent many hours at my husbands’ Grandparents house or at his aunts and uncles houses. We always felt like the odd man out. My husband did try to learn more Spanish, but never enough to understand more than maybe 40% of any conversation.I never tried to learn it because to be honest, I often massacre English, so what would I do to a foreign language? Also, it is such a precise dialect that you could insult someone just by using the wrong greeting (I have done this) or by referring to a person with the wrong noun. However, I can now sit in a room and listen to conversations and understand most of what is being said.


Jose Maria Garcia Torres


Getting back to the above comment about the language barrier and my husbands family history. Since most of his ancestors had lived in Mexico, all of their documents are in Spanish, so it makes it difficult to verify documents. Also, because of the way children are named it makes it nearly impossible to be confident in the research. There are, in just 3 generation over 23 Jose Marias’ in my husbands maternal line. So for now, the difference of the language has won!

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.

4 thoughts on “Different Language ~ Getting to Know You ~ 52 Ancestors Week #46

  1. And another connection! I also married a hispanic man, 30 years ago for me. He does speak spanish though so when we have gone to Mexico or are around older relatives at least I can get a translation! I have tried to learn the language but I, like you, have enough trouble with english and my brain just won’t accept much more! Having grown up in East Los Angeles where most of the hispanic kids I went to school with were also not taught spanish, I didn’t have much exposure except for all the curse words 😊.

      1. Oh yes, there was no spanish allowed on our elementary school campus. My best friend Liz was hispanic and she never did learn much spanish although her grandmother only spoke spanish. Different times!

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