I felt annoyed when she said it.
Boston — a young white woman I had just met — tried to tell me how I was related to my relatives.
“No,” she said. “She’s not your niece. She’s your second cousin.”
Boston was talking about Desiree.
Desiree is my cousin Patty’s daughter.
So here’s the connection:
Papá Chepe and Mamá Toni have 8 kids. The first is my Madrina Chilo. The sixth is my mom, Luz.
Eventually, Madrina Chilo and my mom got married and began their own families. Madrina Chilo has four children, Bibi, Patty, Tony and Gonzalo. About 10 years later, my mom and dad started their own family. They copied my Madrina Chilo and Padrino José and have two boys and two girls. I’m one of those kids.
So, that makes me first cousins with Bibi, Patty, Tony and Gonzalo, right? Simple enough.
Now, when my Madrina Chilo’s kids started getting married and having families of their own, I was told by my aunts and Mamá Toni (grandmother) that Patty and Gonzalo’s kids were my nieces and nephews.
Okay. I believed them. I had no reason to doubt them. I was only 6 years old or so when Gonzalo’s first daughter was born. Since then, many other cousins have started families. Their kids have never called me tía Cindy even if they’re informed that I’m their aunt and not their cousin.
Now, back to Boston.
Back when I tried to explain the connection between Desiree and I, Boston insisted that Desiree and I were second cousins. Huh?
My second cousins were the children of my mom and dad’s first cousins. Sure, Boston had annoyed me, but I just brushed it off until I recounted the exchange with X. He had a similar experience.
Las Preguntas: The whole thing got me wondering if Mexicans (or raza in general) see family relationships and labels differently than white people. Who is a second cousin? Who can be called a niece or a nephew?
Photo: Anthony’s (cousin Tony’s son) first birthday party, April 2005.