Those Aztec Warriors were before my time. The Pancho Villas and Emiliano Zapatas también. Pa que digo que no si sí, as a much more contemporary heroine of my time would say, La India Maria. And that’s not to discount any of their contributions and sacrifices to and for my culture at all. Pero tampoco me voy hacer el que se las sabe toditas en cuanto a sus historias. I’ll be the first to admit there are plenty more things about their time and history that I could stand to learn.
That I probably should learn.
But the heroes and heroines of my time were otros. Most of them barely spoke a word of English. Almost all of them had studied no farther than the second grade. Some of them couldn’t read. A lot more of them were terrible at math like me. Y aún así they were all living the American dream. The one with the long hours and often illegal pay. Not because they didn’t have papers, although a good number of them didn’t, but because they were never paid minimum wage. They worked for less than it so why bother paying them any more than that? They were a humble people. Never too concerned about the latest trend or the fanciest pair of shoes they could buy their kids. They cared more about making sure their hard work would speak for them, volumes past what little broken English they could muster.
As if a scrubbed down toilet, a meticulously built fence, or an extra well manicured lawn, would tell the world how good and honest a people they actually were. The irony is that a lot of times it did. It was a badge of honor for people to recognize how good of a job they were doing even if they still would not pay them el mínimo.
“Your work is your reputation. ¿Si no te enseñas a trabajar qué vas hacer? You have to learn how to work hard, how to do as much as possible, para cuando se ofrezca…uno nunca sabe,” those we’re their constant reminders. It didn’t matter if it was my own parents, my uncles, my grandparents, the neighbors, or even the janitors at school, they all always made the same recommendations for getting ahead.
It was a different generation. A braver one. Of warriors luchistas, all be it in Chick-fil-A uniforms, janitor suits, botas de construcción, hard hats, and aprons. They believed in something. Had risked life and limb to achieve it. And were never above putting their pride aside for the benefit of a bigger picture. Their stories amazed me. Their sacrifices left me speechless. Their determination. Wow! Their determination. I wanted to be like them. To be that confident. To be that sure that things were always going to be okay. To trust in God as much as they did. No se preocupen, Dios siempre nos ayuda. And to never let anything get me down.
I’m sure they did. In fact, I know it. But no matter how bad things got, nothing ever broke them.
When our kids grow up will they see us the same way? Will they think back to the toughest parts of their childhoods and admire the way we persevered against all odds? Will they learn the same lessons we once did? Will they value hard work and honesty much more than money and the material? Even despite our age of everything made easy, gizmos and gadgets? It’s something worth aspiring to. I think.
lots of character values go down the drain these days and i too admire people who do what they think is right because they think it’s right…brave people
Es cierto Claudia, and the older I get the more I appreciate these characteristics and how they’ve always been present throughout my life. It makes me very grateful for them and the people that have made them so important to me as well 🙂
Preach it, brother.
they will if we allow them to see it in us….nice
Absolutely worth something aspiring to. I know Carlos thinks very much along these lines. He wants the boys to remember him as a hard worker who did everything he could to give them a better life than he had.
Maybe as a result of my middle class upbringing or due to the fact that I’m not the bread winner, I think about this a lot less than Carlos. (Or maybe it’s because I’m a female?) I want the boys to remember that I loved and nurtured them unconditionally.
In the end, it balances out. Carlos wants them to remember the blood, sweat and tears and I want them to remember the love, hugs and laughter. It’s all amor – just different kinds.
BTW – This part was especially beautiful, Juan: “They cared more about making sure their hard work would speak for them, volumes past what little broken English they could muster.
As if a scrubbed down toilet, a meticulously built fence, or an extra well manicured lawn, would tell the world how good and honest a people they actually were.”
Oye Traisy, don’t know either what the difference is there…but maybe it is the sexes, because I remember my mother was the same way. My father was much more about the blood, sweat and tears and I think they were both equally important. It really made huge difference in my life and I just hope I can do half the job they did!
wonderful post, and we can only hope that we will set those examles for our kids to follow.
Jennifer, it’s a big responsibility and one that I think is beginning to sink in for me. That is the scariest part, I think!
This is beautiful Juan; you always leave me wordless on Wednesdays. It feels like you´re talking about a whole other generation because sadly the idea of el “dinero facil” has slimed its way into kids´ minds these days, no?
Mi Abuelito once took some of my older cousins (about 10 niñas ages 16-19) to las Luchas Libres. He didn´t tell them where thy were going, he just asked them to be ready for a date with him. So there they were, all dolled up, muy perfumadas, and when they arrived to the coliseo they wanted to drop dead!
It was his way of teaching them humility, to value what they had and to learn to work hard for the things they wanted in life.
The whole story is hilarious (maybe another time!),but the point was that: never forget your roots and always remember that hard work will get you anywhere.
Gracias! Magnifico post!
Bastante razon tiene lo que comentas aqui…No se en que momento sucedio que lo material se volvio mas importante que lo que lleva uno en el corazon, pero uno siempre recuerda las lecciones fuertes que a veces se nos dan…presentadas por quienes nos quieren mas y solamente quieren lo mejor para nosotros! Bueno igual, es un problema de todos los tiempos. Gracias por compartir el relato de tu abuelo 🙂