My mom came to the U.S. with a sixth grade education. As a teenager, she got a job at a lamp manufacturing company in El Monte, California. It was there where she met my father. He, too, arrived from Mexico in his teens. They did not speak English.
Both my parents, through their own experiences, quickly realized the importance of education, as it pertained to success in America. My mother enrolled in adult school and learned English. I remember being with my father as he dropped her off and picked her up after class. We made fun of her accent, but she took it all in stride and never stopped learning. She took various exams and earned the licenses necessary to work as a secretary. She began her first real American job with the Los Angeles Unified School District Office on Soto St, near El Sereno, and as soon as she could, she helped her three younger siblings get jobs with the same district. Two of her brothers still drive buses for the LAUHSD. This is what family does.
My mom worked in the district’s Transportation Department, in charge of making sure the school bus schedules were properly coordinated and executed. She was excellent at her job, and after thirty-plus years, she retired. She owns a beautiful house and a nice car. She has some money put away, but more importantly, she is incredibly healthy and vibrant. She has always been one of my most important role models.
My father enrolled in high school, graduated, then joined the U.S. Army and fought in the Vietnam and Korean Wars. He learned to cuss and smoke weed in the Army, but he also learned how to be warrior. Upon his return from combat, he enrolled in college abd earned an A.A. Degree from East L.A. City College, and much later, after retirement, he earned a Bachelor’s Degree from Cal State University San Marcos. For over thirty-years, he worked as a machinist for Chevron, and later as a plant operator for Southern California Edison. He was a true blue-collar man, but he was also a Renaissance man. He taught me to fish, hunt, fix cars, and to persevere, all the things he had learned.
After nearly twenty-years of marriage, my parents divorced. I was eighteen. My brother was fifteen, and my sister was twelve. Nevertheless, throughout their lives, my parents provided for everything my sibling and I needed, and looking back, I know it was not easy.
I have memories of my mom paying for our groceries with color-coded Food Stamps. I pitched in, too. I remember finding packets of tortillas in a trash can our neighbor left behind after he moved and bringing them home to surprise my mom. We got a lot of hand-me-downs from cousins and friends, too. There was no room for pride then. We weren’t in a position to be choosers.
But yes, my parents provided. These two lovely, caring, old-school immigrants, complete with their Mexican values and their Mexican souls provided my sister with a private school education and a Bachelor’s Degree. Like my mother, Erica purchased a beautiful home on her own. She bought herself a nice car, and now, along with her magnificent husband, are raising my beautiful niece Sigrid.
My brother, also with the help of our parents, graduated from Cal State University Monterey Bay. He is a teacher and athletic director at a local high school. He is a successful coach, and he is active in the goings on of his school and community.
As for me, my parents helped get me through school, too. In fact, everything I have in life comes from my immigrant parents. My life could be much different had they not had the opportunity to prove their worth to this county, to contribute immensely to the fabric of this county, all while adopting American values, American norms, and the American way of life.
This country is currently home to millions of immigrants, all eager to prove their worth and to contribute greatly to the continued greatness of this country. All they know is work and perseverance. All they need is a chance. A chance to put their kids through school. A chance to earn college degrees. A chance to coach and change the lives of youth in their communities. A chance to provide leadership and to show the world that they are invaluable to America and everything she stands for. A chance to find peace and happiness in difficult times.
Green cards provided some mobility, but it was their gaining American citizenship that truly made them feel a part of America–American!
America is an immigrant nation. Do not allow anyone tell you different. The very paper containing the words that govern this country comes from immigrant labor. In fact, it would be impossible to drive one mile without pointing at something that was not created by immigrant hands. Long live the Immigrant! Arriba La Raza! Arriba los Estados Unidos, amigos!