My abulieta, Avelina, was born in Mexico on a rural farm. She was the eldest child and was only able to complete second grade before she had to help work to support the rest of the family.
Despite not being able to go to school she knew an education was important. She would borrow school books from her sisters and do their homework. She didn’t let circumstance keep her from educating herself. She legally moved to the United States with her husband and had my mother and tia (aunt). She separated from her husband and ended up raising the family as a single mother. To provide the best education for her girls possible my abulieta sent them to a top private Catholic boarding school in Mexico. She paid for the education by working in a turkey slaughterhouse seven days a week. My abulieta is only 5’ 2’’ and was responsible for taking the slaughtered turkeys (many weighing over twenty-five pounds), hanging them up, and plucking all the feathers off of them. She told me how tired she would be but the thought of my mother and tia in school motivated her to get to work before the sun came up each day and to not leave until well after the sun went down.
To save the tuition needed every month she ate homemade tortillas, rice, and beans every day and didn’t spend on any unnecessary items. Her love for her daughters and her daily sacrifices, the largest which was not being able to see her daughters on a daily basis, resulted in my mother and tia receiving an amazing education that included college.
Having the value of education instilled in her my mother as well as my father put education before anything else when I was growing up. I was the little girl who had to have a pre-spelling test every Thursday evening to ensure I would get a good grade on my spelling test in school that took place every Friday morning. If I missed a word I had to write it five times. If I missed it again I had to write it ten times. As a result I never missed words on my spelling tests but more importantly I learned the value of working hard, self-correcting, and applying what I learned/ corrected. In addition to support with school work my parents encouraged me to develop my own curiosity. They did so by taking us to the library every week (even when both my parents were working) where I had to check out three books on any topic I wanted. I had to read the books and provide a little oral book report the next week.
My parents and abuelitas taught my brothers and I that hard work and education are the keys to personal growth and success.
My father says, “You can walk out of work and someone could have stolen your car. You can walk home and your house could have burned down. But, knowledge is the one thing that can never be taken from you and with it you can do anything.”
“You can walk out of work and someone could have stolen your car. You can walk home and your house could have burned down. But, knowledge is the one thing that can never be taken from you and with it you can do anything.”
I ended up earning college credits when I was in high school. In fact, I went into college with sophomore standing and scholarships. The portion of my schooling that was not paid for was split between my parents and I. While in school I worked as a behavioral therapist with children with autism and as a teacher’s assistant at a school for at-risk youth. Nothing was given to me. I out performed others to get into college and earn scholarships. My parents instilled my work ethic. They taught me the value of education and helped me grow a curiosity for the world. Just as my abuelita made sacrifices so my mother and tia could have a better life so did my parents.
I look at what is going on in the world today. I read the headlines about disenfranchised white America. That they voted for Trump because they have been forgotten. That opportunities have been taken from them. So they have turned to hate. They have turned into bullies that seek to create fear and oppression and they are teaching children to do the same.
I call BS.
The first inherent privilege they have, that I don’t have, is being white. The second privilege they have that my grandmother had, my parents have, and I have, is a country that breeds opportunity if you are willing to work for it.
Rather than buckle down and work harder their energy has been turned to finding a scapegoat. That is laziness.
Mexicans are not robbing white America of opportunity. We are working breaking our backs in many jobs no one else will do so that we can create opportunity for ourselves and our families. Often the environments we work in take advantage of us. But we work anyways because we know the value of hard work.
I watched the video of white children chanting “build a wall” while Latino children cried and the white teacher did nothing. To all Spanish speaking children, my fellow Mexican-American’s, and my fellow Latino-American’s, DO NOT be afraid and DO NOT show fear in the face of ignorance. When confronted with hate show your talents, show your strengths, be happy, and live your best life!
The words and actions that come at you are sad. I have experienced hatred. I have been bullied. I know the words and actions come from fear. In the face of that fear be courageous, be the best version of yourself. Don’t allow yourself to be bullied but do not engage the hate. It comes from a place that cannot be fought with words. Examples and actions will leave a much longer lasting impact and give you a more meaningful life in the process.
If someone says or does something hateful have pity on them for they were not afforded the privilege of learning empathy or compassion. Have pity on them because they do not see the world as round. Feel sad for them because they didn’t learn how-to question rather they accept what is dictated to them.
Now is the time for us to show-up. Now is the time for us to be present. Now is the time for us to be our best selves. To be the best father, mother, student, friend, colleague, lawyer, dishwasher, teacher, policeman, etc. that you can be. No one can take away who we are. No one can take away where we come from. No one can diminish our accomplishments.
I come from a long line of strong, smart, loving, hardworking, and contributing Mexicans and Mexican-Americans. I am proud of my Mexican heritage. I am proud to be an American.
We (the Mexican and Latino community) have and will always continue to find a way to create the lives of love, happiness, and opportunity we want for our families, friends, and communities. The world will continue. The only thing constant in this world and life is change. We experience this very abruptly now. We have a choice as to how we react to the change in our environments and the negativity. I will not be afraid. I will not be intimidated. I will not hide. I choose to live my best life. A life of love, compassion, creation, and contribution. I encourage my fellow Mexican-American’s, Latinos, and other minorities to show-up now more than ever. Let us choose to support one another in showing our talents, our strengths, our hard work, our accomplishments, our heritage, our compassion, our empathy, and our knowledge that progress comes from diversity not homogeneity
Do not hide or be fearful. Set aside time to celebrate. Host a community celebration. Have a family picnic. Create art and music. Show the rich culture that we come from and the contributions we have made and continue to make daily.
There will be no fast solution to the changes happening in our society. But we can choose how we react. Let us all choose to show-up! Let us choose to be present! Let us choose to be kind! Let us respond to the hate and choose to live our best lives!