Directly translated from English to Spanish the word Canela means cinnamon. The word Ajena is a little more complicated to define. Its definition depends on the context and tone in which it is used. It is also important to remember that in translation from one language to another there are some words that, at times, cannot be directly translated as the words loose meaning or have a meaning that can only be understood in the language of its origin. However, the word Ajena is not at all that dramatic. It simply has several different meanings. Ajena can mean: foreign, alien, unaffiliated, unconnected. It can even be used as a word to give possession to someone else or other people. Put together the two words combine to define what I can only explain as an idiomatic expression for “a different kind of person”. Directly translated I would say it means “a foreign cinnamon” as if the cinnamon is still cinnamon, but perhaps from a different tree, a different terrain, a different country or even a different world.
It may be easy to understand the importance of the word Ajena in my two word junction, but it may not be so easy to understand the significance of the word Canela. What is cinnamon good for, other than to arouse our senses with its aroma and flavor?
Growing up I was more often than not told I looked more French or “white” than I looked Mexican. The stereotyping and racism I encountered that stemmed from other people’s perception of my light skinned, curve-less appearance was profoundly more comical to me than oppressing. To make my life more complicated for myself the Spanish I spoke was more Spanglish than Spanish and my following of the Mexican male hierarchy traditions were more rebellious in nature than submissive. I was different too in other ways I did not realize until I was much older.
Despite it all, it was cinnamon that tied me to my mother. No matter how different I was, I was without a doubt my mother’s daughter. My memories of us drinking a couple of cups of cinnamon tea, snacking on her Mexican sugar cookies, while she recited stories of her childhood put me there in that place that no one could ever take away from me, doubt of me or ridicule me for. That was my identity. That was my home.
In my world cinnamon is a spice, a color, a flavor, an aroma that represents all of us who stand different even in places where we “belong”, perhaps because of how we belong. Cinnamon represents those of us who are part of a group, but don’t always fit in just quite right. We struggle to assimilate and yet we cherish and love so many things about our cultures, our traditions, our religions, our languages, our country, our family, our friends. We don’t conform to the entirety of the norm of the group, but we appreciate what it gives us, the memories, the foundation, the morals, and what it empowers us with. We absorb it, take with us the best of those norms and leave behind the rest. We are stubborn. We question everything and rebel even when its better for us not to, but it isn’t because we want to be different or because we like making trouble. We just need to take it all in. We need to process it. We need to understand the purpose of it all and then decide if it is right for us as is or find a way to make it better, stronger, even give it more flavor.
In the past Canela Ajena was a title of a poem I wrote about my mother; it was a word I used to describe my mother’s essence and how her essence affected me, formed me, because she too was a different kind of person, cinnamon. However, when I really think about it, the words Canela Ajena began way before I wrote that poem. It began years before, jumbled and unorganized in my mind. I don’t recall exactly when, but it was there in my head finding itself. It was giving itself form and meaning; summoning up words for how I had always felt among my siblings, my family, my friends. my classmates, strangers.
Don’t be fooled by the pictures or title. Despite the spice, this blog wont be a cooking blog, though it may contain recipes from time to time. This wont be a place where I disclose all my personal ventures through journal entries, though you may learn a little about me here and there in an entry or two, just to be different. I will not bombard you with my poetic writings and creative art though it is tempting. I may post a poem or two. Over all this blog will be holistic, but of course not in the traditional sense, just a little bit of everything.