Like many Jewish Americans, much of my family fled Europe between the two World Wars in order to escape the oppression they faced in Central Europe. One of my grandmother’s brothers emigrated from Belarus to Moscow. Many fled to the United States. However, those that were unable to enter the United States due to restrictive immigration laws, ended up in Mexico (on my mother’s side) and Uruguay and Argentina (on my father’s side). Those that did not flee Central Europe perished in the Holocaust.
My Mexican family, the Tachnas, eventually settled in Los Mochis and became farmers in the rich agricultural land of the El Fuerte valley. Seeking to stay connected to their American family, they sent their daughter Nitschi, to live with my mother’s family in Detroit for 2 years in the 1940s to learn English and keep the family connection alive. A few years later, in the 1950s, my mother’s family made the long difficult drive from Detroit to Mexico City to attend Nitschi’s wedding to Simon.
I first met my Mexican cousins in 1971, when my family travelled to Mexico City to attend Nitschi & Simon’s daughter Susy’s wedding. The Los Mochis branch of my Mexican family also travelled there and my eyes were opened to my beautiful Mexican family and the legacy of diaspora immigration. I have many fond memories of that trip, which was by far the biggest trip my family ever took.
A few years later, my cousin Miky came to live with my family in Detroit and attend 9th grade with me to keep that family connection alive and to learn English. Our house was small, but we crammed three teenage boys into one bedroom who became like brothers during that year. Ironically, as this recent picture shows, we even look like brothers.
I made my first trip to Los Mochis on my own in 1981 and have returned to this loving part of my family many times. In 2007, Miky and his wife Alma (of partial Japanese descent) sent their son, Miguel to live with us and attend 8th grade to connect the next generation of our family and so Miguel could learn English. Miguel is now our second son and like a brother to our own son, Josh.
Miky & Alma’s daughter, and Miguel’s older sister, Alina got married to Mike Eng (of partial Chinese descent) this past Saturday, and my wife Sheryl, son Josh and I made the long trip to Los Mochis, to celebrate. Joining the celebration were other cousins from Mexico City, Monterrey (Mexico), California and Israel, making this a true diaspora reunion of the Tachna family.
As our nation, and indeed much of the world, continues to struggle with immigration laws, my own family’s immigration story is framed by the legacy of restrictive American immigration laws. Though we have succeeded in working hard to keep our family together despite the great distances, many family members have been lost to the winds of history. My first cousin Robert Tachna, has done significant research in trying to piece the Tachna family genealogy together on a web site.
Where our family’s future will go is up to each member of our family. I know that I will continue to maintain the close ties that I have worked so hard to forge over the past 43 years of my life. I look forward to the next opportunity to see my Mexican family, perhaps at the next wedding celebration, as this is yet one more way that I build community through family.