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Two Hearts, One Culture: Is Dating Within Your Race the Key to a Successful Relationship?

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The holidays have a way of putting a spotlight on one's love life. This year luckily (or unluckily) for me the attention has fallen on my sister and her new boyfriend, Ariel. I can recall as young girls my sister, Karla always said she would marry an Argentine soccer player -- turns out dreams do come true.

The probability of Karla actually ending up with a Latino seemed bleak after a series of serious relationships, all with gringos. That is, until she met Ariel, whom we all have agreed is the "one," as they say. The interesting ingredient this time around is their cultural connection. Could this be the key to their success as a couple?

Now of course there are other factors at play that make these two aisle-bound. A: Timing. Ariel and Karla share a desire for commitment and marriage at this stage in their lives. B: Compatibility. Culture aside these two have many common interests. C: Chemistry. Does that require an explanation?

While these factors bring these two together could sharing cultural traditions and similarities be the glue that keeps them together? Unlike in past relationships Karla can be more at ease knowing her partner Ariel doesn't bat an eye when he is served arroz con frijoles instead of candied yams for Thanksgiving. The familiar sound of the Spanish-speaking commentator screaming "GGGOOOOOLLL" fills her home just as it did when we were growing up. And perhaps most importantly she has a guaranteed partner in the preservation of her language and culture as they raise their family in the future.

Love has no guarantee however sharing a similar background does carry added benefits. After speaking with my guinea pigs/love birds I learned which factors are at play:

La Familia es Numero Uno

First and foremost, both definitively named similar family values as the #1 bonding benefit. The commitment and closeness each share with their family intensifies their bond as each partner earns points by cozying up to their respective families without extreme effort or complaint -- with each bond made theirs grows exponentially.

I personally experienced two serious relationships, both with gringos who were not close with their families. In fact, one lived on the opposite coast seeing them possibly one holiday a year. My weekly visits and necessity to celebrate every known holiday did seem to overwhelm my mate. I can recall one Mother's Day that reached Fools Rush In levels of discomfort. While my experience is certainly not true for all American families the familial ties do seem to be shorter amongst Latinos and immigrant families in general.

Habla Español

As much fun as it was to gossip about our boyfriends in Spanish as they sat at the very same table, it is even more fun to have someone get in on the action. Sure the language of love can be spoken by all -- that doesn't mean it'll get you through a dinner with my non-English speaking dad without an entire bottle of wine being consumed (solely by me) and perhaps a bit of disappointment at the end of the evening.

Meeting the parents is hard enough without having to climb the seemingly insurmountable obstacle of a parent who doesn't understand a word your boyfriend is saying. Ariel, the first Latino my sister or I have introduced, has eliminated this issue completely. Conversation flows freely putting us all at ease and off translator duties. Instead we listen to an incessant debate over the superiority of Maradona vs. Pele.

Latin Lovers Son Muy Cariñosos

One solid swirl around a salsa club dance floor and any woman could understand the appeal of a "latin lover." Everything from the language to their openly affectionate manner has a way of especially igniting a Latina's fire.

However the open affection does not just apply to the two of you in the relationship. You can expect to be hugged or touched when in the company of such passionate people. One of my ex's received a strong and (by his standards) excessively long hug from my mother and never got over it. I touched his father's arm once - I was reprimanded and also asked to refer to his parents as Dr. Joe and Dr. Jane, for seven years.

Of course the lack in similar cultural backgrounds cannot conclusively be the culprit in the demise of a relationship but it does seem to add the right spice. I think Ariel put it best when he said, "I believe that having similar backgrounds helps us to make our relationship stronger because it's not just a tango of two but a Latin dance of many."

In that case, can I get a caballero to the dance floor, por favor?!