March 2017 – Story #5

I am Mexican-American and in today’s terminology Hispanic. I was born in the United States, California to be exact, in the white neighborhood of Redondo Beach, in 1947. I happen to be dark and tall. Both of my deceased parents were Mexican immigrants. My mother was very short and very light complexioned. My father was as tall and as dark as I am. I was born into a Mexican family of nine children, all born in the United States. In my birth family, there was an array of colors and it was not an issue in our home, but it was definitely an issue in the white neighborhood that I was born into. Growing up I certainly was subjected to my share of brown issues verses white issues. This is simply background information to better understand the experience that follows.

My wife and I were married in 1975. She is a Canadian born white woman by presentation who had lived for several years in Brazil. On her maternal side, her family is British, and on her paternal side, her family is Peigan Indian, part of the Blackfoot Nation, from the Peigan Reserve in southern Alberta. Many of her family continue to live on the reserve today and in fact her cousin is the present chief of the Peigan.
I had been living in Mexico for 2 1/2 years and when I returned home we met and married. Neither of our families had much economically speaking and when we were first married we were a hard-working couple. After five years of marriage we had our first child, a girl. After nearly another five years we adopted a Hispanic baby girl through a private adoption opportunity. Much to our surprise, and 7 months after the adoption, we were blessed with the birth of our third daughter.
Approximately three years after the birth of our last daughter we wanted to adopt again but were hesitant. We had previously tried to adopt through Los Angeles County Children’s Services and had not been happy with our experience. However, we did fill out a new application and submitted the paper work to the adoption authorities. Once again, the paper work was literally delayed for months, but we continued to follow up. Meanwhile we went to Tijuana and Ensenada, Mexico seeking out a child but we discovered the process was long and difficult to bring a child legally from Mexico to the United States. We worked several avenues simultaneously and after getting very insistent with Children Services, they finally came out for a home visit and interview.

The adoption caseworker very quickly went through the paper work, i.e. the home study, education, finances, and backgrounds etc. At this time in or lives, my wife and I were both university educated, living in an exclusive area of Redondo Beach and financially comfortable. We thought there would be no problem. However, very quickly the issues of race and color surfaced. The question rotated around how we felt about me being dark brown and my wife being white. I showed her a family picture on the wall of my parents and brothers and sisters and our array of coloring. She asked where I was from and I stated that I was born in the United States. However, she wanted to know where my parents were from and their racial makeup. I stated that my father was from Mexico, but ethnically he was Apache and Tarhumara and that my mother was also from Mexico, of mixed Indian and Spanish heritage but very light skinned. She then asked about my wife. I told her that my wife’s family were from the Peigan Reserve, in southern Alberta and England. Well, she wanted to know how all this could possibly work with mix blooded children and the effects upon them of having a brown father and a white mother. In summary, she stated that she would take the information back to her department but not to expect a positive outcome because she would not recommend us as a potential adoptive family.

Our emotions ranged from outrage to disappointment. This was 1987. In spite of all of the advances in civil rights, there were still professionals with closed minds. My wife and I counseled one with another and we decided to move the issue forward. We would do the following:
We wrote a letter to the Governor of California and to the head of Los Angeles County Children’s Services. Within a month, we were contacted by Children’s Services. They had a little 7-year-old female available for adoption. We had a new Hispanic caseworker who came out to our home to interview and to observe. She did recommend us as prospective parents. Within a reasonable amount of time we had the privilege of adopting a little Hispanic female who had been in the system since she was three years old. Color and gender etc, were nonissues for us. I might add that she recently graduated from USC with an MSW.

Having a large family was always a goal of my wife and I. We have seven children, 4 birth children and 3 adopted. We are an array of colors, from very white to dark brown. We have never let color or race stand in the way of education or our progression. In our family, there are seven bachelor degrees, eight masters degrees and more on the way. As a family we believe that color, gender, age, economics, and what others may think or perceive at best may be a hindrance, but are never to be seen as impossible to overcome.