Bilingual is Better

 a recipe to obtaining dual citizenship

I am, by no means, a great cook. Sure I may evoke some smiles from friends when I bring out my almost-famous “Tracy-lotes,” complete with butter, queso cotija and chili powder sprinkled on top. My suegros from Mexico are always gracious at Thanksgiving when I serve up one of my new creations that I pick up from one of my social media platforms. And my co-workers at last year’s holiday party kindly made room for my arroz con leche, which somehow ended up tasting like crunchy burnt marshmallows.

However, when it came to obtaining dual citizenship for our 1-year-old, I somehow managed to find the perfect mix of patience, planning and positivity.  I admit, it didn’t happen overnight – the process simmered for well over a year, which, in my estimation is the reason we got so many compliments in the end.

Take me, a green-eyed Chicagoan of Irish heritage, and one of the self-proclaimed gringas más latinas you will ever meet. Add my husband, Guillermo, a permanent resident of the U.S., who was born and raised in Northern Mexico and has maintained his Mexican citizenship. Toss in my dream of having our son, Elijah, become a dual citizen of the U.S. and Mexico, and you’ve got a fun recipe on your hands.

It all started in December 2011, when I thought maybe we could just drive down on any given day to the Consulate General of Mexico, flash our social security cards, our passports, and a sonrisa, and in turn, be given dual citizenship for Elijah. Wishful thinking.

My husband and I  conducted our proper research, and found on the Consulate’s website, that claro, there was a whole list of requisites to becoming a Mexican citizen if living in the United States, and an appointment must be made in advance. While some may grunt at the task of collecting piles of paperwork, I embrace these types of challenges and set out that month to start picking up everything from extra copies of our marriage license, to all three of our birth certificates, to a list of Elijah’s immunizations from his doctor’s office. Thanks to a trip to London we had taken last fall when he was just 6 months, Elijah even had a passport ready to present along with ours. The final ingredient we needed was to round up two citizens from Mexico to serve as our witnesses.

Thankfully, for every ounce of determination I have, there are two ounces of patience, which I certainly utilized, as it took a year for my husband and I, and our two witnesses, to find a date that worked for us all. Somehow, as they say, life seemed to get in the way — with my husband and I owning a marketing consultancy together, my cuñada working a full-time job with a husband and two boys of her own, and my suegra always on the move between babysitting and volunteering at her church, we decided that the best date to make the appointment would be just after Christmas last year, when traffic — on the streets, and hopefully at the Consulate — would be at a minimum.

When scheduling the appointment with the Consulate in mid-December, I made sure to grab a bilingual co-worker of mine, por si las dudas. My Spanish is more than comprehensible; however, as it relates to legal terms, it never hurts to have some back-up. I was beaming when I found out they had an 8:30 a.m. appointment on Dec. 27. After they provided me with a very long confirmation number, and repeated the list of requisites I had already gathered, I waited in anticipation for a hopefully snow-free day… and for my witnesses to actually arrive on time. On a good day, we each live approximately 45 minutes from the city, so the trip has been known to take upwards of two hours.

Thanks to the patience, planning and positivity mentioned earlier, the appointment itself was simply delightful. We arrived on time, we presented our documents, we signed a few papers, and we were even told to go enjoy a coffee and breakfast at the Mexican restaurant next door while the team at the Consulate contacted Mexico and got authorization on our paperwork.

We laughed over chilaquiles, huevos rancheros and café con leche, with Elijah running up and down the nearly vacant restaurant in his Chicharito uniform from the Mexico National Team. A blissful snow had begun while we ate, after which we walked back to the Consulate to wait a bit longer for our names to be called, and fresh copies of our son’s new Mexican birth certificate to be handed over to us.

The truth is, with or without dual citizenship, Elijah will always enjoy the benefits of living in a bicultural family. He’ll enjoy tamales and turkey, La Araña Eensy Weensy and The Itsy Bitsy Spider, El Raton Vaquero and Tom and Jerry, just to name a few examples. However, if you are looking to give your child the same benefits of dual-citizenship that we gave our son, be sure to conduct proper research for your area, come equipped with a lot of patience and determination…oh, and make sure your little one(s) try to keep it quiet the day of the appointment at the Consulate offices — let’s just say we’re glad the security guards didn’t give Elijah his first chanclaso after running around in such excitement!

Raised in Chicago and of Irish heritage, Tracy Galindo is fluent in Spanish with a career spanning more than 10 years  working closely with the Hispanic community, including Univision Radio, the Mexico Tourism Board, and the Ethnic Marketing Desks for grocers Jewel-Osco and Albertsons. In a matter of 13 months, Tracy married into a Mexican family, started her own marketing firm, and became a mom. When she’s not helping companies skyrocket their sales, Tracy and her husband, Guillermo, channel their energy toward volunteering traveling, and raising their toddler to be bilingual and bicultural.

{Images courtesy of Tracy Galindo}

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