Four black adults and one child picking cotton (photo: Louise Boyle)

It’s kind of hard to determine what a background is for me, and this week I was really confused. I am from the south. I have cajun and Jewish and native ancestors. I can’t actually tell what makes me what I am.

We were sharecroppers and we were landowners and my parents were both orphans.

When I saw people cheering for execution, at the teabagger debates, I didn’t think those were my sort. Then I started thinking about it.  I have southern roots, and they were slave owners. I have some really distinguished Costa Rican forebears, and so were they. Long, long ago and far, far away, did my ancestors kill people for their own gain? I don’t think I can deny that.

This makes me think that I am not right to feel better than anyone else.  My folks took me out in the fields so that I would know what it was like to pick cotton, too.

Sorry, I know that by now you are groaning. What a pain, it was Saturday morning, and I wanted a pleasant chat.

Well, I never promised you a rose garden.

I like to think there is something I inherited, something in my jeans/genes, that explains something about me.I am part cajun, and I like that lot.  My mother grew up in the area around Homer, LA, and was ashamed to  be what she referred to as ‘part french’. The cajuns were called ‘labalabas’ – which if you speak any French, you recognize as saying ‘down there’.  (la bas = down there)

I am descended also from native tribes, and somewhere I am aware that our mothers were the inheritors of their own land, and that they had several families. The women took husbands at will. When western culture took over, that was deemed shameful.  I will leave it at that.

My own immediate clan or family was from a Spanish group. Like many New World Spanish, my family rejected their Jewish descent. They converted to Catholicism in the Inquisition and became part of the Conquistadores. My grandfather-in-law was ambassador plenipotentiary to the U.S. from Costa Rica. The children of that family never even learned to speak Spanish. What an immense amount was lost there. Perhaps the shame was part of it.

These are many and varied traditions. I want to be proud of my own persona. But something back in my past made me what I am.

Do you have a tradition that really interests you, and makes you glad to be part of it?  I’m working on it.

I do like who I am, and I hope you also are glad for what you are, too.

[Picture courtesy of kheel center at]

Ruth Calvo

Ruth Calvo

I've blogged at The Seminal for about two years, was at cabdrollery for around three. I live in N.TX., worked for Sen.Yarborough of TX after graduation from Wellesley, went on to receive award in playwriting, served on MD Arts Council after award, then managed a few campaigns in MD and served as assistant to a member of the MD House for several years, have worked in legal offices and written for magazines, now am retired but addicted to politics, and join gladly in promoting liberals and liberal policies.