06 March, 2013
Life History Interview
There are many different cultures, and all intriguing in different ways. When given this task, I initially thought of who I could interview. Who differed from me, and how did their experiences differ from mine. A few people came to mind, I have met many different individuals over the course of my life so far, and many of them would be great to interview. I thought of who I could ask questions to, who would be comfortable with the interview, and with whom I could have a face to face interview. After much analysis a decision was made to interview my co-worker. He is one who I could interview, then later ask more questions pertaining to his culture, and background.
Orlando, my co-worker, is of Hispanic origin. In fact, Orlando is from Mexico. Naturally this has allowed him to be exposed to a different life than me. I chose to interview him primarily because of where he is from and his primary language; both differ from my background. He was born in Guadalajara Jalisco Mexico, as a result his primary language is Spanish. These two reasons are what sparked an interest in interviewing Orlando.
Though many of the topics discussed in the interview were different from my experiences, there was a great deal of similarity. When I asked him about food, it was as if I had given a boy the present he had always wanted. Orlando is regularly a person who has no problem showing his emotions, but when we talked about the food, and especially in his family he became elated. I myself come from a family of many chefs, so to me this was quite intriguing. There were two dishes in particular that he was enamored about; Birria, which is a dish involving lamb or goat, and Tortas Ahogadas, which as he state is “literally ‘drowned tortas’ or sub sandwiches.”.
The wonderful opportunity that food gives, as happened in our conversation, is that it always transitions conversation into family or has ties to family in some way. With Orlando, food and family mixed and meshed throughout the discussion. He comes from a family of five, and very much so enjoys talking about them. When it was time for dinner his father would typically take his place at the head of the dinner table, and everyone else would take their usual spots around the table. Even today, despite him being older and moved away, when the family gathers there is a similar orientation to how dinner and other meals are conducted. As for me, this was relatable. My father typically takes the head position of the table as well, and the rest of my family takes our usual spots.
As Orlando talked about his family and food in his culture, it made me more interested in making some of the food he had described. His passion for family was also very impressive, especially with the physical distance that has come between him and many of his family members over the past few years. It has always been a part of my upbringing to stay close to family, so that is probably why I noticed this part of the conversation so intensely. I did enjoy learning that family is a strong factor in his life.
While we talked about the importance family and food, I took the opportunity to ask him about communication, and some aspects of communication in his culture. As I expected, the main language spoken with him and his family is Spanish. I asked him about what shows respect in communication, and he did talk about the importance of maintaining eye contact. Orlando stated that there are a few times when eye contact isn’t as common in his family, but that is typically in an argument, or a disagreement of some sort. I have always felt that eye contact is important as well. I have noticed from many of the Hispanics that I have had contact with typically maintain eye contact throughout the conversation. This helped reaffirm my thoughts that Hispanics typically have strong vocal and physical communication skills.
He, like me, has moved many times in his life. However, Orlando has lived in different places than I have, with the exception of northern Utah. As a result this has brought about many different life experiences, and outlooks on life. To him it is important to focus on one thing at a time. We talked about education, he wants to pursue higher education but he doesn’t think he can be active in both work and school simultaneously. I was raised in a family where it is not an option to think you can do one or the other, you must do both. For me, when someone is of college age and they aren’t in school and working, I typically view this not working hard enough. We talked about how in his family it is common to just jump into work, and spend the rest of your life working a job that doesn’t require high levels of training or education. Whereas in my family, I have engineers, people in medicine, attorneys, and a few chefs. It is expected to continue dutiful study even after completion of formal education.
We discussed the various types of work, and expectations, then we discussed entertainment, especially that of dance and music. He primarily referred to the music as Latin music. Orlando said there was always much music, and dancing in Mexico. He talked about how many people in Mexico are always listening to music, and gatherings of people often have much dancing happening. He then compared it to here in Utah. There isn’t as much dancing happening, but there still is a fair amount of music, just not usually playing as loud as Mexico.
He has enjoyed Utah so far he said, but he does miss his family at times. Orlando doesn’t practice the main religion here, so sometimes he feels a bit different or out of place. Often he will ask me questions about the mainstream religion of Utah, why people do what they do, or why they believe the way they do.
Overall, this interview with Orlando was educational. I learned more about him as a person than I would have to say I learned about his culture in general. He has had many unique experiences that have shaped his life, and made him the way he is. I have learned from him that family must be even closer when money is tight, and that even when you do not have an abundance of funds, you can still find plenty of ingredients to make great food. This assignment helped further support my thought that all people are different, and no two people are alike. It has always been a joy of mine to simply get to know people.
Oddly enough this assignment didn’t really challenge any assumptions I had made. I had assumptions that close knit families are common among Hispanics, and this helped support that assumption. Culturally, what we talked about was similar to what I have talked about with many other Hispanics. There are personal differences each time, as each person is an individual, but culturally it was similar. I was a little surprised about his personal passion for food. That was great to learn. Orlando seems to have a great outlook on life, and I enjoyed the opportunity to get to know him a little better.
Evaluation and Reflection of Assignment
This was a great assignment. I really enjoyed the opportunity I was given to learn more about my friend Orlando. Since this article he has moved out of state, and this gave me an opportunity to learn more about his character, and his family. I was able to learn and grow more as a person because of this assignment. I felt that by talking with Orlando I was able to relate to him better. He had many similarities to me, and I was able to connect with him more on a personal level as opposed to the only business relationship we had prior. I felt that despite his many uncertainties in life, career, family, and friends, he still has a great outlook on life.
I learned from this experience that Orlando has had many great experiences within the United States. He has had a wonderful opportunity to still hold onto his heritage, and find a job that pays decently despite him not being part of the privileged group. The impact of this assignment was that it helped me learn more about others, and that they have different life experiences, and different out looks on life. It helped me to more understand why people do what they do, and why people of different areas of the world have different traditions and customs. However, I do not feel that this assignment challenged any of my previous assumptions about the Hispanic culture, I have had the experience of working with many Hispanics in my life, and as a result I have learned more about the general culture. I also was not surprised too much by anything in particular, I was excited about the fact that Orlando was interested in food, but I wasn’t really surprised.