By Yasmin Hoffmann
My father immigrated to the US from Iran during the Revolution to study at the university. During his schooling, he met my mother (a Mexican-American) and soon after they married. Growing up in a multi-cultural household, I felt drawn to both sides of my heritage and was incredibly fortunate to have both incorporated in my upbringing. My parents wanted me to identify with my Iranian side, so I grew up with the food, customs, and culture. We celebrated Norooz every spring, hosted large dinner parties, and enrolled in Persian classes. My mother learned how to cook Persian food―ghormeh sabzi, ashe reshte, fesenjoon, and perfectly crisp tahdiq. Growing up in a small town, I often was asked, “What are you?” I always felt confused on how to answer. Human? Iranian? Mexican? No one really knew where “I-Ran was,” and I felt proud explaining where it was located on a map.
I first visited Iran with my mother at the age of 2 in 1985 during the Iran-Iraq war. My mother remembers bombs going off and my innocent, child-like voice crying out, “Mommy, bomb, bomb.” As an adult, I had the opportunity to travel to Persepolis, Isfahan, Shiraz, Tehran, and Ardekan among others. I dipped my toes in the Caspian Sea, traveled the roads of the Alborz mountains, marveled at the architecture, worshipped in mosques, and stopped on road sides to have impromptu picnics by the creeks. These sites and cities were no longer just places my father described with love―I finally understood. We visited friends and family members―beautifully decorated homes and lavish meals. I quickly picked up the unspoken rule of turning down second offerings at least twice before accepting the third time. The people were hospitable and welcoming, despite my embarrassingly limited Farsi skills.
As the election of 2016 unfolded, I wept for my father and the people in the Middle East. As luck would have it, my father had traveled back home to Tehran for my grandfather’s funeral. The day he was to arrive back in the United States was the day the travel ban was issued. He landed at JFK airport amongst protestors while my family anxiously awaited to hear news if he would be allowed back in (despite being an American citizen, we still have dual citizenship with Iran). My heart broke that my Iranian family would not receive visas to visit and that they were lumped into a “terrorist” category. I vowed to not allow the distorted image the media portrayed of Iranians affect me or cause our stateside family to hide their heritage.
I had my first child in November 2017 with my German-Polish husband, and I find myself in the same position as my parents. Before I changed my last name, I was adamant to my husband that our children bear my father’s name through their middle name. I will continue to pass on Baba Bozorg’s love for his country to my children as he did for me and continue our family traditions.