Every other year, I host a casual cocktail party to coincide with the opening ceremonies of the Olympics. I provide a liquor imported from the host city (Ouzo 12 from Athens, last time around) and ask my guests to bring a snack that represents their heritage. Every time, people reply, “But I’m a mutt.” Listen, kids. We’re all mutts. If you just moved here yesterday from Brazil, chances are that you have a grandparent or great-grandparent from Portugal. Even if your entire family never moved from one small town, the geo-political borders aren’t stagnant.
As an example: My great-grandmother Anna (née Aniela) came to the U.S. from a now-nonexistent territory called Galicia, in what was at that time northern Austria, but was previously under Polish rule. Her entry in the ship’s manifest from Ellis Island reads as follows:
Nationality (Country of which citizen or subject.): Austria
Race or People: Polish
Galicia was, at different times, politically allied with Poland, Lithuania, Austria, Hungary, Germany, and Russia (in no particular order). You all knew that “Poland” disappeared entirely for a while, right? Right?
What country are you from? It’s all just words. Borders don’t define you.
(Dedicated to my friend Drewseph on the eve of his European travels)