Regina Rangel-Sanchez: A Cross-Cultural Life

Childhood photo of Regina and family. Photo owned by: Regina Rangel-Sanchez.

By Aidan Loughran

Regina Rangel-Sanchez is a U.S. citizen of Mexican heritage. I recently conducted an interview with her to learn more about her life and her culture. While her cultural background may be confusing to some, I found it intriguing. She shared many parts of her life with me, that I now want to share with you.

Regina Rangel-Sanchez. (Image courtesy Regina Rangel-Sanchez)

Regina Rangel-Sanchez was born in Omaha, Neb. in 1970, where her father was stationed with the Army Corps of Engineers at the time. As soon as she told me this, I immediately connected her to being a Military Brat. Typically, these children are exposed to many different cultures at a young age, which can then create a unique subculture and cultural identity. Throughout the interview, I learned more about her life and how this upbringing may have affected it.

In my interview I asked Rangel-Sanchez many questions in which she responded with thorough and thoughtful answers.

1. Is there a specific culture that you identify with more than another?

“I identify with my Mexican heritage more so than my European. My father is 1st-generation Mexican-American. My mother is of Czechoslovakian and Jewish ancestry. I am the oldest of four children and the only girl.”

She also talked about the fact that two of her siblings look predominately Latino, and two look more like her mother’s side of the family. She brought up the irony in how the two, including herself, who look more Latino pursued a more cultural path than the other two. She said that even their personality traits favor her father’s side, while the other two siblings have personality traits like her mother’s side of the family.

2. If so, what cultures have you been immersed in throughout your life and why do you identify most with your Mexican Heritage?

Childhood photo of Regina and family. (Image courtesy Regina Rangel-Sanchez)

“For as long as I can remember, I felt inexplicably drawn to my Mexican heritage. I loved my Spanish name. I loved the music, the colors, the food, the beauty of the people. Something beyond words connected my interest and my soul to my roots. I didn’t feel any sense of that at all with my mother’s side of the family. My memories of love and acceptance came from my extended Mexican relatives. I felt like I belonged.”

3. What in your life has gotten you to where you are today? Does it have to do with where you are from, how you were raised, or who you surround yourself with?

“My faith and my inherited work ethic have and continue to propel me. I have zero attraction to the material trappings of our world. I feel most at home when I visit Mexico where people still live very humbly and simply.

“Growing up, I didn’t have access to many people or resources to enjoy my Mexican heritage. So, my experiences came from moments with extended family and friends. I tend to surround myself with genuine people. I greatly appreciate people whom work hard and find the quiet inner reward by that type of work ethic.”

4Would you change anything about your life or where you come from? If so, why?

Enchiladas made by Regina Rangel-Sanchez. (Image courtesy Regina Rangel-Sanchez)

“When I was in my 20’s and 30’s, I probably could have provided a litany of items that I wished were different. But now . . . I realize that every moment made me who I am. I see the personal benefit to my journey of having one foot in one cultural experience and one foot in the other. Both sides [Mexican-American and European] have brought me beautiful friendships and connections.”

5. What is your favorite thing to tell people about your culture?

“I became a chef at the age of forty. One of my avenues to reconnect with my ancestry has been through food. I love sharing the food of my culture with people. I love teaching them that the beauty of Mexican food is far different than what they may have experienced in the United States.”

Not only is Regina Rangel-Sanchez a Military brat, but she is also a cross-cultural kid. Because of her upbringing involving both of her parents’ cultures, and the cultures of Omaha and Rapid City, she has grown to be a diverse, well-rounded, and strong woman. As stated in the interview, she identifies with her Mexican heritage because of the sense of belonging it provided to her that she carries with her every day of her life.

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