ImagePhoto: Edy Toribio-Sanzo

In early March 2012, I was invited to a birthday celebration. From the very beginning, the woman in the red shirt in front of me, Ivonne, peppered me with questions that I welcomed. She had worked in India and had left her native Mexico to live in my hometown, so she understood my passion for crossing borders. I explained that I was born in an Italian-American family, studied in France, and married a Dominican.

Raquel,the “sister” in blue to the right of Ivonne, wrote a blog entry calling us the “all-hermanas (sisters)” and praising the group for its cultural and professional diversity. What baffled me was when another woman in a cross-cultural marriage (the one who is practically hidden in the back) asked me a plethora of questions (“plethora” does imply too much of something that is bad for you), yet I had to find out from one of the other party guests that her husband was Peruvian. Why was she so reluctant to reveal this fact? Why did she not invite me into the sisterhood? Did she think I already knew? I doubt it.

My stepson has a friend who is married to a vibrant blonde with whom he has two children. I see her at community events occasionally, and she never opens her mouth to utter two syllables about what it is like to be married to a Dominican and to have beautiful, multicultural children. Perhaps I should be the one to initiate the conversation.

Finally, for years I have known someone closer to my own age whose Mexican husband passed away years ago. How could I possibly start any sort of discussion without stirring up painful memories? Still, the fact that we chose husbands from the Latino community makes us members of a very special sisterhood, and her reserved attitude toward me is quite disconcerting. Is she caught off-guard because I chose to be fluent in Spanish, while she clings to her culture of origin like a lifeline?

Sometimes I wonder if the “Sisterhood of the Border-Crossers” exists only in my mind.