A few years ago, I ran into the sister of my childhood friend (a guy who I briefly thought was my cousin, but I was confused) shortly after his wedding, where I was a groomsman, but he doesn’t have children yet, and…
Let me start over.
As I mentioned in a previous post, Hispanics are more likely than many Americans to back up the phrase “family values” with something approximating an actual valuation of family. This is in contrast to the way the term is usually employed, which is as political code for “I don’t like gays.” As I also mentioned in that post, there are positive and negative aspects to the Hispanic prioritization of family.
For starters, Latinos tend to have more kids, although the rate has started to decline and line up with other ethnic groups in America. Still, Hispanics are well-known, even stereotyped, for having bigger families than most Americans. This tendency to be awash in newborns has been brought up in debates about illegal immigration, studies covering teen pregnancy, and news reports regarding America’s changing demographics.
But are Latinos actually more obsessed with children than other subsets of our culture? Or is the higher birthrate just a fluke of statistics? I can only speak from personal experience. As such, I offer the following anecdotal, completely unscientific evidence.
Some time ago, I was at an ATM when a woman tapped me on the shoulder. Let’s call her Monica. When I was a kid, I was friends with her brother, a guy I’ll call Nelson. They were related, through their father’s marriage, to some of my cousins (see my post on “Cousin #1”). Using child logic, I figured that made us family. They were Puerto Rican, so we certainly looked related.
The last time I had seen either of them was at Nelson’s wedding, about a year previously. To my surprise, Nelson had asked me to stand up at the ceremony, which was odd in that we had barely seen each other since adolescence. He was clearly feeling nostalgic and/or needed another guy to even out the bridesmaid count.
In any case, after the reception, I immediately lost contact with him again. So I was surprised when Monica approached me.
I asked her how Nelson was doing in his new marriage, and a dark frown crossed Monica’s face. I expected her to say that they had separated or the wedding had bankrupted them or they had both gotten into heavy drugs. At the very least, I thought she would say they had gone on a cross-country bank-robbing spree (as young lovers are prone to do).
But Monica just shook her head and said, “Well, no children yet.”
I waited for her to go on, but this was the extent of her update. The status of their marriage could be summarized in this one statement, and this single sentence was also the reason that Monica looked so dour.
There were no children yet.
The guy had been married a year. But so far, he had not knocked up his wife, and this caused his family extreme agitation.
I could not relate to this, so I just nodded in sympathy as if Monica had said, “They were lost at sea.” Our conversation ended, and I walked away, wondering if I would ever see them again or if Nelson was – even at that moment – impregnating his wife in accordance with all good and proper Hispanic social mores. I still don’t know if he ever punched it through.
There are myriad reasons why the Latino drive to reproduce seems to outpace that of the general population. Perhaps I will address the cultural, religious, and sociological reasons for this in a future post.
But for now, I’ll just mention that I don’t have any kids.