Who we are as a community lies in large with our shared cultural journey that defines who we were, who we are and who we can become. Who we were is the story of our ancestors. Who we are today is defined in by how we begin as first generation immigrants, first generation citizens, or next generation Latino Americans.
Our stories are unique, but share many common threads. My family story begins with my Dad who was a first generation citizen and my Mom who was a first generation immigrant. They lived in Mexico working for a French owned copper mine where my Dad labored as a minor and my Mom in the company town store where they met and later married. They came to America when my Dad was drafted by the U.S. Army where he served with distinction at a Coastal Artillery Battalion in Santa Clara, California.
By the end of the war my parents settled in Colton, Calif., where they worked, raised a family and bought a home. My parents provided for our family, paid their taxes, voted as Democrats for Kennedy, and years later as Evangelicals for Reagan. My Dad became a member of the Laborers Union, and my Mom through night school became a U.S. Citizen. My parents were active members of the First Assembly of God in Colton, where I worked next to my Dad, hammer in hand, helping to build the new Sanctuary. My Dad although not a business man, was asked to join the churches business men’s group because of his work for the church.
My parents worked long hard hours while raising a family, putting us through school and teaching us by example the value of honesty, hard work, and faith in God. All this by two people who started their lives not knowing a word of English, and barely a third grade education in Mexico. They succeeded out of necessity, but also because of community. They were helped along by other Latinos in Colton, in other words they succeeded as part of a community that helped others along the way just as my parents did for others who came after them.
Within the household, many of the complex issues such as filing taxes, applying for home loans, dealing with medical insurance, and such were often done with the help of my older siblings acting as interpreters. I think it’s fair to say that back then that was how you “Googled it” two generations before the internet.
The point is they figured it out. My parents may have lacked a formal education, but they learned through life experiences. My Mom read her Bible every day and could quote scripture and verse to answer any question.
My family’s story is, with a few changes here and there, the story of most Latino Family’s in Cathedral City, or any American city. This family story rings true with relatives, friends, neighbors and people throughout the community working as laborers, service & hospitality, retail, education, medical, technical, design & engineering as well as business owners at all levels, their stories all have this common thread of truth.
That common thread of truth that matters most even now, is that just as in those generations past we need leaders throughout the community at all levels who help and to inspire others to succeed. For Latinos and people of all ethnicities, all faiths and all social identities to succeed in life, you have to foster a community culture that inspires people to pursue their dreams and aspire to become more than they ever might’ve imagined.
Be proud of who you are, own who you are and never allow others to limit your aspirations in life. Consider the story of one young Latino who with limited financial means found a way to go to college, become a medical physician and now our Congressional Representative. Thank you Congressman Raul Ruiz for your service, your dedication and your inspiration to us all.
- Latino family: Shutterstock
- Latino Family Buying Home: Shutterstock