Article: In two worlds - The Puente Project in the News

Stories written by Ohlone College Puente students.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012—Reprinted from Tri-City Voice.

Introduction

Last year, Tri City Voice published stories of how Ohlone College Puente students' families came here, including dramatic tales of coyotes and desert walks. This year, the focus is on what it's like living here, balanced between two worlds, fulfilling their parents' dreams for better lives in the United States, working their way through college, and maintaining a unique identity of two cultures, two languages, and two families, one inside this country and the other in Central and/or South America. Some call this "Generation 1.5": U.S.-educated English-language learners, many of whom entered grade school without knowing any English only to become, within a few years, chief translators between Spanish-speaking homes and the surrounding English-speaking world. Counselor Brenda Reynoso and I share admiration for the journey they've made between countries and cultures.

—Richard Flynn, Ohlone College English Instructor

By Lorena Lepe

I am grateful to be a Mexican-American, yet I have to be more Mexican than the Mexicans and more American than the Americans. My father moved here legally at the age of 14 and went through every job from an ice cream man to working at Chuck E. Cheese. His one outlet was school, where he was always a great student who picked up the language quickly and got straight A's. He graduated from Cal State East Bay and never let us forget his struggles, and how hard we must work and study to do well in America.

He is more Americanized, speaks English more than Spanish, and has American dreams for us; while my mother, who was born here, taught us more of the Mexican traditions and encourages us to perfect our Spanish and remember the traditions so that our Mexican relatives won't think we're too white or too American to speak Spanish. My siblings and I are the only kids in the extended family who understand Spanish and can speak it; yet, we don't sound perfect and get yelled at when family from LA or San Diego visit and we don't speak well. We are pushed to be more Mexican, yet still take all the advantages of being U.S. citizens. Pulled one way and stretched the other, we learn to be two people, one for each parent.

By Veronica Guitron

The life of a Mexican American can be one of the greatest things, yet hardest. Growing up in America, with the twice-a-year visits to Mexico, here I am viewed as the "Mexican" girl in the class, never quite feeling accepted, people doubting my abilities and viewing me as inferior simply because of my race. In high school I felt this where most students were white or Asian, and I was the odd girl out. During group projects they assigned me the easiest, least important parts with no chance to prove my abilities.

In Mexico, I'm not viewed as Mexican. In their eyes, I'm American. Walking down the street of my mother's hometown, Ayutla, Jalisco, people stare at me as if I don't belong. In the stores they talk about me in Spanish, as if I didn't understand. The last time I visited, two years ago, I went to dinner with friends and everyone stared at me, the outsider. As a child, I spent half-a-year here and half-a-year there. I know I am never going to be accepted as Mexican in Mexico, or as an American in America. With being an American comes great schooling, great opportunities, Fourth of July, President's Day, and many more great meaningful days. Being Mexican comes with the most family-oriented background, awesome food, and a great work ethic. Yet two cultures are better than one; I love being both Mexican and American, and having both languages and cultures overpowers the feeling sometimes of being unwanted in both places.

By Elizabeth Paredes

I grew up with a completely Mexican family and only spoke Spanish until I started school. Learning English was really hard for me. It took years, yet by the end of the first grade, my parents expected me to know every single word in English. For everything my mom needed I had to translate for her, and at times I didn't know how to say what she wanted me to say. I felt like they wanted me to be a professor in a language that I had just started learning and never practiced outside school. It was just as confusing for me in the first grade at the parent teacher conference to see other kids' parents speaking English with the teacher, as it was to translate the teacher's remarks into Spanish when mother asked, "What did the teacher say?" I didn't know half of what the teacher said.

Later on, as a junior taking AP English and at the school's Open House, the Asian and white kids' parents spoke to the teachers as one college graduate would to another, while my mother beamed with an awkward pride, proud to be there with her daughter who was a strong student, and yet not sure how to act or what to say. Now, my English keeps gaining, and Spanish, while good, is getting a bit rusty.

By Jairo Hernandez

People come and go, but family is always there. Mexican culture really values "la familia," one of the few things one can depend on in this world. My Mexican-American parents have dedicated their strong efforts to provide a better life for us and encourage us to value what America offers and the opportunities education unleashes. This keeps me motivated not only to do well in school for myself, but also to honor my parents by not letting their wishes go to waste. I wish not to go through the same sacrifices of my parents, so I just keep on staying positive and seeing every obstacle as an opportunity.

Since family is such a huge aspect of the Hispanic culture, my parents have sacrificed greatly in not being able to see their family back home in over fifteen years. Often, my generation becomes the messenger or the bridge across the borderlines, and we are privileged to know our relatives in Mexico more than our own parents, who grew up with them. However, my parents believe education is well worth this sacrifice. We see other family members' in Guadalajara having their children dropping out of school to help support the family. My parents knew that even if we had all been born in Mexico, circumstances would eventually have pushed us to America, and we would have had even more struggles by delaying the move. My father, who had some college education in Mexico when he studied to become a priest, brought us to America and sacrificed his education. However difficult it is for my parents to be separated from their families, they have no doubts about the benefits of living here.

By Maria Ramirez

I have a foot in both worlds because I live here and in Mexico, enjoying Mexican parties on both sides of the border. Our parties are fun, with little kids running around and grownups laughing, banda, reggaeton, and corridos blaring from the stereo and my uncles and aunts dancing. We speak both English and Spanish at parties which often run from two all the way past midnight. Stateside, we only have 30 at the parties, but in Mexico there are another 40, separated by the border. The food is the best thing. Everyone gets full, but we still keep on eating posole, tacos, tamales, and enchiladas, and cakes and flan. The pi–ata for the little kids is full of candy. Parties in Mexico have louder music, and sometimes a band, and in Zamora, Michoacan, nobody tells us to turn down the music. Down there, the neighbors join us; up here, they wonder what's going on. My cousins and I serve as messengers, bringing news across the border from one party to the other, happy, at least, that the family is joined by tradition, if not in person.

By Alex Arteaga

My parents, born and raised in Mexico, are old-fashioned, hardworking, religious, family-orientated and Spanish-speaking Mexicans who came to the United States so my three older brothers and I could have a good life. We are lucky. I have cousins in Mexico, my age or younger, and instead of going to school they are working to help my aunts and uncles pay bills. I, on the other hand, am privileged to get an education and work at the same time. The only drawback is that my Spanish-speaking parents have expected me to be their English professor since I was about 8 years old.

I am an English-speaking American who eats big cheeseburgers at In-N-Out; I'm also Mexican in the heart. I grew up celebrating holidays like Easter (more like going to the park and finding chocolate eggs), Fourth of July, and Halloween; but I also grew up celebrating el Dia de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead), los Tres Reyes Magos (the Three Wise Kings), and Cinco de Mayo. My favorite Mexican holiday was when we cut the 'Rosca' (a sugary bread) for the Three Wise Kings, and saw who got the baby Jesus. In the middle of a big old-fashioned Mexican party, my mom and aunts would be gossiping and laughing while making tamales, ponche, posole and other great Mexican dishes. Loud Mexican music played in the back ground, with my tias (aunts) and tios (uncles) dancing, the little kids running around and the teenagers, texting and eating.

By Rudy Bonilla

I have at least 10 pair of shoes, and I thought everyone did, until, when I was a little boy, my grandfather Lito (short for abuelito) told me, how as a child growing up in San Salvador, the capital of El Salvador, there was much poverty in the inner city. Yet, everyone had love from their family and everyone loved soccer, or as we call it, futbol. It was part of the culture, part of the bond that everyone had. Kids would play from dawn until dusk.

One Christmas, his father gave the gift of having the only soccer ball in the neighborhood. Everyone wanted to be his friend. My Lito always had first pick of who would be on his team. For the most part his team would win. Half of the children had shoes and half did not. To make it even, everyone played barefoot. The rocks really hurt, and the shoeless poor children outran the rest. When nobody wanted to be on his team, he would take the ball and no one would play, but usually everyone shared the love of the game, feet stinging from running on rocks. My grandfather taught me to love soccer and all that comes with it: loyalty, dedication and hard work, and also, the gift of having good shoes.

By Luis Pacheco

My parents came to the United States willing to roll up their sleeves and work anywhere. Now, they wake up at 5 a.m. to go to work. My mom works at a cafeteria in Dublin preparing bagels, cleaning, and serving. In the morning my dad works as a gardener, and at night as a chef in an Italian restaurant, where he has worked for 18 years. Seeing them work hard makes me want to work harder at school and appreciate things more. We take nothing for granted. My parents have taught me, "la basura de uno es el Tesoro de otro" (one person's garbage is another's treasure). Once my mom's boss was throwing away an old stereo and asked if she wanted it. She brought it home, and I was surprised: it looked new. We dusted it off, and it has worked great since. In Mexico, you would never see abandoned bikes needing seats or wheels, like we have at every BART station, because there everything is used.

By Tyler Blanca

My dad taught me that it costs nothing to have fun. He told me how my grandfather, at the age of 10 in 1918, burned down the entire village in the Philippines simply by tying a banana leaf to cat's tail and lighting a match. It was fun watching the cat run around, jumping from bamboo roof to bamboo roof, and not as much fun when the village was gone, - smoking patch of ashes.

Born and raised in Salamanca, Philippines, he moved to the U.S. in 1926. He no longer set fires to villages, but he did inflame their hearts. For work he would play his guitar and sing Hawaiian music at weddings, family reunions and events all over the Bay Area. He never attended college, but raised six children with my Grandma, and worked well into his 80's.

My maternal grandparents were born in Santiago, Chile, and together moved to the United States around 1940. They jumped from job to job-washing dishes, working at the car wash, cleaning houses-struggling to make ends meet, while raising three daughters. None of my grandparents attended college or even thought it possible. Their history and hard work inspire me to make a life that is not so difficult or challenging, and maybe, one where I can retire before I'm 80, without causing too many fires.

Related Links at Ohlone College