By SweSwe Aye | Myanmar Gazette
Moe Kalaya Aye – born in Burma – and Miguel Galaviz – born in Mexico – live in Fontana, San Bernardino with their four children. They are counting down the days until their 19th wedding anniversary in May 2023. “Love is the only medium to negotiate the bumps and obstacles between us and make things smooth,” the Galaviz couple said.
Moe migrated to California in 1991 when she was 16. Like her parents, she is a devout Buddhist. Miguel has been in the U.S. longer. The two met when they worked together at Hometown Buffet. At the time, Moe was a single mother with a seven-year-old daughter and a two-year-old son. Her ex-husband, also a Burmese immigrant, had left the family and now lives in Burma.
“When we got married, Miguel drove the kids to and from school every day. He was so kind to them. He potty trained my son who thought Miguel was his biological father until he was seven,” Moe recalls.
When Moe decided to marry Miguel, her parents worried about their different cultures and religions. Burmese tradition requires the groom’s parents to ask permission from the bride’s parents before the marriage. Miguel had no family members in the U.S. so met with Moe’s parents himself. He impressed them. “Both my parents said he is so nice and smart,” Moe recalled.
The Galaviz couple had two kids later – a daughter who is 15 and a son who is 13. The four siblings love and take care of each other. Moe’s eldest son – now 21 – used to be a chaperone for his half-sister when she would hang out with her friends.
To solve challenges and problems, the Galaviz couple say they rely on two principles. The first is communication. “Nothing should be hidden from each other – we can’t overcome any kind of challenge in the family unless we communicate,” Moe said.
The second is “mutual respect.” “No kid in the family is superior or inferior from the others, no matter if they are biological sons or daughters, or older or younger. We love and care for every kid equally,” said Moe. “Equity is the strong foundation to build love in the family.”
To deal with stress which is everywhere for everybody, “we try to be an oasis for each other. We avoid expecting too much from each other. Expectations can lead to stress, and that kind of stress can fertilize hate,” Moe said.
As the family grew in size, Moe became a loan officer and Miguel became a realtor. The couple believes that education is key to helping stop hate. “When a person is educated, his thinking ability grows, and it is easier to counteract misinformation and bias,” Moe says. Their 28 year old daughter is now studying in Cal-State Fullerton to become a physician assistant; the 21-year-old son is studying to become an X-ray technician.
When Moe attends religious celebrations in Buddhist temples, Miguel joins her and is warmly welcomed. Miguel agreed to go with Moe to a Buddhist retreat camp for a week. Moe is willing to praise the Lord at Christian religious events with Miguel.
The Galaviz couple teach their kids to stay away from hate. “Hate is like a highly contagious virus,” says Moe. “I always remind my two elder kids not to have negative thoughts about their biological father who now lives in Burma. I used to tell them good things about him and avoid being angry and sad after he left.” The family visited Burma in 2019 and Moe took her two eldest kids to meet their dad. Miguel loved the beautiful scenery and ancient temples.
As inter-racial hate crimes have increased, Moe warns against letting hate spread by negative vibes from social media. “Hate doesn’t care for time and distance. It can spread across thousands of miles within a second.”
She cites her own experience. When the Burmese military carried out a coup in February 2021, peaceful protestors were brutally killed and tortured. Moe’s 67-year-old mother was heartbroken when she saw live videos, photos and comments on Facebook. She stopped eating and sleeping well. She would start her days with tears. She became weaker and expired two months later.
“Life is short. We don’t have much time to enjoy love and peace. Love yourself and spread it to others. Get started today,” Miguel added.
This article is part of the Love Across Colorlines series, a collaboration of 20+ ethnic media outlets looking at interracial marriage in California at a time of rising hate. Visit Love Across Colorlines to see more in the series.