Real Life Story
How This Same-Sex, Inter-Racial Couple Celebrates Their Love
For Monica and Nikki, taking ownership of their Mexican and Indian cultures was central to their love story.
In many ways, being out and proud can be considered a rebellious act to begin with – going against established conventions, against the tenets of polite and conservative society and one’s own “culture,” too. The most common portrayals of queer love in films, usually anchored in conservative settings, show how queerness is analogous to societal ostracism and can turn one into an outsider overnight.
When Nikki Barua, a 48-year-old from India, and Monica Marquez, a 49-year-old from Mexico, got together, they were both determined to not concede ground as far as their culture was concerned. Being queer didn’t have to mean isolation from their roots.
“Both of us are very proud of our heritage because we are a product of our culture and we live it fully, even the religious aspect of it,” said Barua. “When it comes to any culture, we believe it’s the responsibility of the people in that culture to evolve it; it’s the people who make their culture richer and better.”
The duo’s story started on a rather unconventional note. In June 2016, Marquez was involved in a business event where Barua was to be a keynote speaker. Even though it wasn’t love at first sight, they hit it off early when they started communicating about the event.
“It wasn’t until our friends saw us together that we officially started dating. They pointed out to us that we were clearly in love because we were clearly finishing each other’s sentences,” said Marquez. “We started dating in July 2016 and got engaged exactly a year later in late June 2017 and married in 2018.”
The engagement was as magical as it could get — the official proposal was formulated as a surprise for Marquez. When she stepped into their home, she found a mariachi band playing with confetti flying in the air. Their wedding went even a step further with Hindu rituals amped with Mexican fanfare. Was this a conscious decision to blend the two?
“Before we started talking about marriage, I took Monica to meet my parents and my extended family in Mumbai,” said Barua. ”They all loved her and it helped that she, wore a saree, could even sing Bollywood songs because she had been practising them and, according to my family, looked super Indian,” said Barua.
They initially wanted an intimate civil wedding ceremony but both their families were not too pleased about being robbed of a huge celebration. After all, the list of guests from the Indian and Mexican sides was endless – cousins, aunts and uncles, their children, and other assorted family members from all over. The celebrations had to be grand.
But it was a long, arduous road getting the families to truly accept and partake in these celebrations. Marquez hails from a family with conservative values. Barua’s family, too, was hesitant at first. Even a year before their wedding, the couple realised that their families were still getting comfortable around the idea of their daughters being queer, let alone having a gay wedding.
“I came out to my parents in 2004 and they were never comfortable with my sexuality because my mother thought it goes against Indian culture and was sinful,” said Barua. “She thought she had failed as a parent, and my queerness was almost like a curse for her. I gave them grace and patience for years. But we all still stuck to it, and that slowly chipped away at the walls between us.”
The turning point was the meeting of the two families. They could finally see each other as humans and not as labels.
“My mother took her time to accept my sexuality and told me that she will talk to my dad because being the machismo man, he would probably say the wrong things,” said Marquez. “It took time but they were proud of me and accepted me. My mother was fearful of how the world would treat me because she had only seen the ugly side of it in Mexico.”
When Barua and Marquez decided to have a traditional wedding, it was primarily an ode to all these years of patience from their families that took their time to enter their queer, colourful worlds – but enter they did.
“Monica’s family had macho cowboys from West Texas who you’d think would not want to be associated with such a wedding but there they were in kurtas and pyjamas, dancing to bhangra,” said Barua. “It was a five-day wedding with Indian rituals and the Mexican counterpart for each of those rituals such as the Mexican version of graha pravesh (a Hindu ceremony performed on the occasion of an individual's first time entering their new home).”
Marquez’ nonagenarian grandmother, who had never stepped foot outside her hometown of Odesa in Texas, hopped onto an Amtrak to celebrate their wedding in Los Angeles. The food was a blend of all things Indian and Mexican.
Today, the interior of the couple’s home features ornate Indian architectural details with Mexican colours. On a daily basis, the food on the dinner table is an innovative blend of the two cultures – where enchiladas are cooked in the desi style and Indian curries are tossed with Mexican curries.
“Instead of looking at culture and tradition as outdated and things that need to be shed to move on, we did the opposite and said that our authentic self is actually rooted in our cultures,” said Barua. “We just have to bring our culture along and expand and create space for all of us. Why leave that circle because you’re afraid of not being accepted?”
Source: Arman Khan, VICE.
Did you like this story?