Yucatecan kids in U.S. use time off to explore roots

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Luis Lara and Ena Medina ride back home from the grocery store in a bicycle cart. Photo: Dallas Morning News via Heart of Mexico

Hoctún, Yucatán — A Yucatecan family living in Texas illustrates a wider trend in which parents send their children to Mexico to connect them to their culture. 

The Dallas Morning News met with Juanita Tun, who noticed the many changes in her two sons after they returned from Yucatán: “Their Spanish improved and it was important for them to trace their familial roots.”

The 43-year-old restaurant cook added, “They also got away from their phones. … It was time well spent.” 

“We’re seeing more Americans connect with their Mexican relatives, and that’s important and necessary for both sides,” said Pedro Lewin Fischer, an author and immigration expert at the INAH in Mérida. “Anything that helps promote mutual understanding, sensitivity and communication helps Mexico and the United States.” 

For Tun, perhaps the best thing was the limited Wi-Fi at her brother Luis’ home in Hoctún, about 45 km east of the capital. That weaned them off their smartphone habits.

“They were able to experience life as it’s meant to be lived,” she said. “Walking the town, seeing nature, being around animals, being part of life and not glued to a phone device. It was important for my sons to get away from technology and see things they can’t do in an urban place like Dallas, or in an apartment.” 

During the summer visit, a photojournalist followed the boys as they mingled with their uncle Luis Tun, who raises pigs and other livestock; his wife, Cynthia Medina; and their daughter, Ena Guadalupe Tun Medina. 

“The best part of having my cousins here was to show them our traditions, our way of life, how and why we do things like we do” said Ena. “Even if they may find it boring, I don’t care. I want to share these moments with them. I want to spend time with them, that they see how we live in this house. I want them to know how blessed we are to live in the country I love, Mexico. … I want them to see that Mexico is beautiful.” 

Luis said the best part was learning more about his Catholic roots, meeting family, hanging out with his cousin and improving his Spanish. The most challenging part was letting go of his smartphone.  

This Dallas Morning News story was produced as part of the Heart of Mexico narrative storytelling project with the University of North Texas and UADY.

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