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How a Mexican mother navigated raising mixed-race children in the U.S.

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Time now for StoryCorps. Luz Kenyon grew up in Mexico City in the mid-1980s. Then she took a trip to New York, fell in love with a stranger on the corner of 42nd Street and never went home. She told her daughter, Anna Paloma, about this unexpected start to their family.

LUZ KENYON: I always thought that I was going to be an independent woman and I wasn't going to get married, and I wasn't going to have any children. And then, in the middle of Manhattan, I see this uniform guy. He was African American. He was very tall. And he was a traffic agent. He spoke to me first and I fell under his spell.

ANNA PALOMA: (Laughter).

KENYON: I married your father.

PALOMA: What was it raising mixed kids?

KENYON: The only problem I had was like, how am I going to brush their hair?

(LAUGHTER)

PALOMA: Oh, yeah.

KENYON: But that was solved by the day care teachers. When I would come to the day care to pick you up, your hair was done.

PALOMA: Yeah.

KENYON: Like, poor Ms. Luz. She don't know what she's doing.

(LAUGHTER)

PALOMA: That's so special because motherhood is not a solo journey.

KENYON: Well, I had women to rely on. Your grandmother would take the baby from me and tell me, go take a shower. Go take a nap.

PALOMA: Yeah.

KENYON: Also, your abuela, Lucha, came from Mexico. And I remember Abuela Lucha was sitting. And she looks, let's say, Caucasian. And you put your hand against her leg, and then I saw you crying. I asked you, why are you crying, Anna? And you told me you wanted to be white like your grandmother because nobody likes Black people.

PALOMA: Yeah, and I was what?

KENYON: Four.

PALOMA: Four, yeah.

KENYON: Abuela Lucha, she didn't speak any English...

PALOMA: Yeah.

KENYON: ...But she understood. Well, we just loved on you. And we assured you there was nothing wrong with you, that you were beautiful just exactly how you were.

PALOMA: I am different, and that is special. I didn't always feel that way. But I just - I think about how rare it is to have a family that is so loving. And when we go to Mexico, I don't feel different at all. I don't speak the language, so I might not understand what's going on 75% of the time, but I know I belong. I'm like, I'm going to get my love tank filled up.

(LAUGHTER)

PALOMA: I can't replicate it anywhere. You know, you and I both are willing to let life happen to us and then take from it the shiny pieces. We move aside that dust and that debris, and we find the joy.

KENYON: My little Palomita.

PALOMA: (Laughter).

KENYON: Te quiero mucho.

PALOMA: Te quiero mas.

FADEL: Luz Kenyon with her daughter, Anna Paloma Williams, at StoryCorps in Atlanta. Their story is archived at the Library of Congress.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Jo Corona