Mexican-American interracial and interfaith marriage – how Kiesha and Jose beat life’s challenges and racists

in Couple Profile, Intercultural Marriage, Interfaith Marriage

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jose and kiesha interracial marriage aug2009 001If people judge your man as lazy and dirty mainly because of his race, how would you defend him? Would you recite to those racists all his educational attainments, work experiences and how he climbed the ladder to executive positions? Or would you rather choose the best way to hush them by letting your spouse’s skills and achievements speak for it?

The Offbeat Couple

Kiesha and Jose are one of your typical modern couple, an e-marriage that’s a product of an e-dating. They live in Kentucky. Being a full-time mom Kiesha takes care of their children Ruben Mateo and Marissa as well as their two dogs and two cats. They’ve been married for seven and a half years. Kiesha talks about the bliss of her interracial marriage and bi-cultural children at 30 Something & Still Finding My Way.

What makes your marriage offbeat?

My husband is Mexican and I’m Caucasian. I’m not sure about my background because I was never close to my Dad’s family and he died when I was 23. We were never close to my mom’s family either. Growing up it was just me, my mom, and my sister.

Jose is Catholic but was not a practicing catholic when we married. I grew up Protestant (Pentecostal). My mother was a preacher.

Jose always said he would go back to the church and I knew it would cause some problems. I was taught that Catholics were not Christians and they worshiped idols and Mary. I was adamant about never even stepping foot into a Catholic church. And our children, forget it, they were not going to be raised Catholic. I would not even discuss this with him. Boy, did I have a lot to learn as someone who was not married and then as a newlywed. The word COMPROMISE comes to mind.

What made you end up in an interracial/interfaith marriage? What was your motivation in deciding to marry someone of different culture and faith?

My husband and I met online 10 yrs ago, June 2000. It was the first time I met someone in person that I had met over the internet. We just clicked, talked for 4 or 5 hours almost every day.

He lived in Los Angeles, CA. and I lived in Kentucky. We met in person Dec 29, 2000. I was terrified to meet someone off the internet but my instincts told me he was the one really before we even met. I was too scared to go to CA so we met in Nebraska at his parent’s home. That was a little weird. But his family was wonderful.

In 2002 I moved to Los Angeles and lived with him for 2 years. He proposed on Thanksgiving Day, at Thanksgiving dinner. It was beautiful.

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Jose and Kiesha slicing their beautiful heart shaped wedding cake

Tell us about the wedding. Did your different religious and cultural background affect how you planned the wedding?

We started planning a Kentucky wedding for August 2004 because that was where my family was. We planned on including some of the traditional Latino customs.

But I got sick in July 2003 and was in the ER and they wouldn’t let Jose go back. After that he told me he didn’t want to lose anymore time not being my husband and said he wanted to get married ASAP. So we planned a wedding in 3 weeks in Las Vegas. I didn’t want the typical Vegas wedding because I didn’t want to have any regrets. So I bought a dress, he got a tux. We invited 15 of our closest friends. Our family was not able to make it but it wasn’t because they were against the wedding. His family didn’t have the money to fly out and my mom wasn’t physically able to fly.

He had three of his long time best friends as groomsmen and I had my best friend as my maid of honor. We got a huge suite and had a reception after the wedding. I ordered the most beautiful heart shaped wedding cake. It was the most perfect day. I would not change one single thing about that day.

What are your biggest challenges as an interracial couple and how do you solve them?

Honestly I don’t think we have faced many challenges as an interracial couple. I never really thought about it until we moved back to a small town in KY were racism is the norm. People think Mexicans are dirty and lazy here and it really burns me up. My husband has a Master’s degree and has worked as an Executive Director of Agencies in the past. So now I just let all that speak for itself and try not to be too defensive.

Are there any marital issues that come up due to different religious background? How do you address them?

Oh there have been so many issues, too many to address but I will cover the main ones. After our son was born and we moved to KY, Jose came back to the Catholic Church in 2005. I started going to church with him but I explained to the Pastor that I was not under any circumstance going to join the church and asked him to please not even talk to me about it. And he never did.

The biggest issue came in Nov. 2006 when we had our second child. Due to complications from a car accident when I was 16, I had a hard time carrying both of our children. I was on bed rest with our first for three months. The second pregnancy was even harder; I had lots of complications and was on bed rest most of the time. I had her 6 weeks early because I had to be put to sleep and have my gallbladder removed as well as a C-section.

The doctor advised me to not have anymore children. I was fine with that because we always talked about becoming foster parents and adopting older kids. I was a social worker for years before having my son.

So the doctor advised me before they did the C-sec to have my tubes tied. Well my husband had a huge problem with that because of the teachings of the Catholic Church. They don’t believe in birth control of any type except for the family planning
method.

We had our biggest arguments of our entire marriage over this issue. We went to the priest and talked to him. He said that in cases where the mother’s life could be at risk then the Catholic Church states it’s ok to use a form of birth control. I think it’s a touchy subject in the Catholic Church. Some Catholics agree with this and some do not. My husband was one who did not.

We finally settled on me having my tubes tied but my husband still had a problem with it right after. He went back and talked to the Priest a couple more times and he finally made peace with it because he saw how sick I was.

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Kiesha lets her husband's skills and achievements disprove the prejudice

Did you ever encounter people who frown upon interracial/interfaith marriage? How did you deal with them?

Well we have not had to deal with this as much as some interracial/interfaith couples have. But it has come up. My husband has gone to Pentecostal churches with me in the past and in one instance the preacher was telling a story about a man who was Catholic and told how he became a Christian.

Well, I had gone to the Catholic Church long enough to know that they are Christians. It didn’t really bother him but I was livid. I never wanted to go back to that church.

What are the benefits of an interracial or interfaith marriage?

I believe they enrich your life, that’s what my marriage has done. It has opened my eyes to different cultures and different faiths. It’s made me more open minded and has taught me how to compromise. It also is beneficial to our children; it has made them more acceptable of people who are different.

What compromises are required in order to make your marriage work?

Well the compromises related to the interfaith part of out marriage have been the biggest. It has gotten easier over the years. I have attended a Catholic church for the past 5 yrs. I started going because I saw that he was a better person, husband and father when he went to church. I realized that I might not agree with some of the beliefs (all the beliefs at first actually). But it was important to him and made him a better person.

We also have had to learn to communicate. In the Latino culture they do not express their feelings very much. Jose was brought up in a family they never expressed their love for each other even thought they loved each other very much. I was brought up in a family were my mom told my sister and I every single day, ended every goodbye and phone call with “I love you.”

That was very difficult for me to try to understand why he never expressed his feelings. But now I think he has learned or maybe that is a compromise
on his part. He tells me at least 10 times a day he loves me and he does the same with the kids.

Does cultural difference affect how you raise and discipline your children?

It does mostly when we visit his parents. They have a different way of raising children and sometimes we clash. I also don’t speak a lot of Spanish so the communication thing is very hard. But I love his parents so we work it out.

Jose and I pretty much agree on how to raise and discipline our kids. We worked this out before we were married. My parents were divorced when I was young and I was so scared of getting a divorce that before we were married I sat down with a notebook and we discussed everything, from how we would discipline our kids, to who would get up with them at night as babies, to how many times a week we each expected to be intimate. It made the start of our marriage so much easier because we knew what each other expected and we had a plan, a plan for our marriage and a plan for parenting.

Of which culture and religion do you raise your kids?

Both of my children were baptized Catholic. My oldest wasn’t baptized until he was 2 yrs old. I had to think long and hard about it. Jose never pressured me even though he wanted them baptized; he left it up to me.

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An early plan for marriage and parenting worked for us

I finally made the decision when I realized after going to the Catholic Church that there BASIC beliefs were not that different from what I was taught growing up. My son goes to a Catholic school and my daughter will be starting there in August. I continue to go to the Catholic Church and have come to accept most of their basic beliefs and practice them as well.

I decided that for me, I could not raise my children and teach them a certain faith if I did not believe it myself. It just felt hypocritical. But that is just me; I know a lot of couples who teach their kids both religions and it work out great.

There are still a few things I disagree with the Catholic Church on and I have told Jose I would not teach my children those things. He is very understanding.

What’s your favorite way of spending time together?

This may sound cheesy but any alone time that we have is wonderful; you don’t get a lot when you have kids. But we make sure we spend at least 15 min or more at night cuddling and talking about our day.

There’s usually a lot of laughing during that time. He is the funniest person I know and even after 10 yrs can make me laugh until I cry. We also love playing cards and riding bikes together.

What are your secrets in keeping the romance alive?

Flirting daily with your husband. Marriage is great and wonderful but it is work, hard work. I find myself daily trying to think of ways that would make him happy or his life easier and he does the same for me. To me that’s romantic.

After you’re married for a while you learn that romance is not just about chocolate, candles and flowers. It’s all about the little things, like leaving notes for him to find, making sure his favorite pajamas are clean, programming the coffee maker the night before.

Marriage is about putting each other first. Marriage is not always 50/50. Sometimes it may be 70/30 or 80/20. You go through different seasons in your marriage. The last two years of our marriage have been difficult.

Recently I lost my mother; she was the last living person that knew me from when I was a child. I lost my dad 11 yrs ago and my only sister 18 yrs ago. My mother’s death six months ago put me into a really deep depression. I’m now just coming out of it.

Jose has been my rock. He has also put more into it because I have been sick. I started having seizures and was in the hospital and then a wheel chair for a couple of months. I’m better now but there are times when I’m in bed for a week at a time and my husband takes on everything, the kids, housework and waiting on me. He never complains. Through all of this we still have managed to keep the romance alive. It’s hard but we know it’s worth it.

What advice would you give to those who are planning for or are new to an interracial/interfaith marriage?

Communicate about everything. Find out everything you can about his/her family, his beliefs and how he/she sees your marriage working in the future. Discuss the big issues. Talk about what faith you will raise your children. Talk about what the other one’s parents may expect from you. Make a plan, even write it down. Sounds silly but it has worked for us.
jose and kiesha's bi-cultural family

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