Both of my parents were born in Mexico and at a very young age they entered the work force. We all know that getting an education in Mexico can be hard if you are not part of the elite group. But times are definitely changing. I do see many young people in Mexico getting the opportunity for higher education these days.
I remember when I was a kid and old enough to stay home alone and watch my 2 siblings (well not really alone because family always lived in our back house), I would have so much fun. My dad would go to work at 3:30 pm and my mom wouldn’t be home till 6ish. 3 hours of bliss!
My dad was a very strict man. He thought our school homework wasn’t enough. He said the education system wasn’t as good as all the other countries and we were behind everyone else. So he would give us homework on top of our school homework. I remember having to learn my multiplications in 1st grade, and the US map, Mexican map, and South American map in 3rd grade. In 5th grade I had to learn the European map . Not just the states but the capitals. Not only that, but I also had to read in Spanish for a period of time and then read it back to him the next day with out error. I learned to quickly memorize things using my short term memory. So please don’t ask me any of this information now. LOL Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, Chile Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay… LOL I still remember. Anyway, that was the ugly part about staying alone. I guess it taught me responsibility because if I didn’t have my stuff memorized by the next day I would get a butt whoopin con la chancla! Actually, I wish it was the chancla.
The bliss came when we would eat whatever we wanted, watch as much tv as we wanted, and played with our neighbors as much as we wanted. 3 hours seemed like a very long time in those days. I remember taking sandwich bread and packing on the ice cream. Anyone else ever do that? My mom had gazillions of purses and they all had tons of change. Those purses were everywhere. I would stick my hand in them and it was like Christmas morning. I would either ride my bike to the panaderia or send my brother to go bring us a stash of junk food (Now & Later of all flavors, chocolate, chile saladitos, and chips). This was almost a daily ritual. The other activity was T.V. Oooooooh I loved watching cartoons! I was willing to get a beating from not memorizing my states just to watch T.V. until my dad caught on. So he did something about it. He would take and hide the T.V. wire. It taught me how to be sneaky and get away with it. LOL I would find that wire and enjoy my usual shows. Until one day he wondered why the T.V. was hot to the touch without a wire. Ooops! Got caught! He stopped taking the wire off and would just disconnect it and coil it in different directions and pass it through different things. I figured out that it was boobie trapped. Because of that, I developed a photographic memory. LOL I still managed to watch it.
It’s obvious that my parents wanted a better life for me, for us. They wanted to make sure that our future wouldn’t be as hard for us as it was for them. They still managed to instill in us a work ethic and a drive to do more than is expected. I always tried my best even thought most of the times it wasn’t enough. Not sure if it was for fear or because somewhere along those lines, their speeches, advice and example worked on me. But both my brother and I have managed to make something of this life. It’s not easy being a kid from immigrant parents. There is so much we have to go through to succeed but because of their hard work, dedication and drive to make a better future for us, our struggle has been lessened.
So, Mexican-Americans, Chicanos, Latinos, Hispanics: Do your parents (ancestors) a favor, honor them with how you live. Make something of yourself. Stop wasting time feeling sorry for yourself or blaming others for where you are at today. Don’t let their struggle be in vain. Don’t let their fight for you be wasted. Make them proud. I doubt they did it just for themselves. If not, then do it for you and your generations to come.
Me on the left. 😉