SPECIAL ISSUE: CONNECTING GENERATIONS
Student at St. Bernard High School
Read this carefully. There are things you need to know about where you come from:
It’s not a place to be ashamed of—in fact, it’s probably the first place people think of when committing a crime. But the people there—they greet you like family and they even try to give the beautiful people flowers. There’s open space so you can run through the land without any worries of falling down.
And sometimes when you fall, it never seems to hurt because there are always people around who will help you and care for you after your falling. The people who stand by you when you’re at your worst, you shall call them your family, because those are the people who will always love you even when you can’t love yourself or when you feel unloved. You’ll know what love and hate looks like when you eat out or at home in different places around the world. This place that my own grandmother told me about is a place where she found love and bliss and even though she had to leave, it was not because it had mistreated her; it was because she found a better land of opportunity to be mistreated in. This new place that she had never been to was the most interesting land that her people before her had ever discovered, it was her land of opportunity and she was determined to work as hard as her ancestors had.
It’s amazing how far we had come and if you didn’t know, your grandmother, my mother, was a very strong girl and she actually crossed over the border pretending to be a boy. She was only three years old, and one of her aunts had a son. That part of the family had their papers; therefore, they were allowed to enter and exit out of both countries. When my mother’s aunt came to visit one weekend, my grandmother knew that this was the best time to finally be free of the most incredible, beautiful, warm, safe place that she had ever known. So, she crossed the border three months pregnant against my grandfather’s will, while my mother crossed the border pretending to be her aunt’s son. She had to cut her hair and dress as if she were a boy. Back in their time, the male was the more dominant one and, well, that’s exactly who Grandpa Javier was.
He crossed over first to the United States and forbid Grandma Lola from coming with him—he wanted her to stay home with the kids, but the true reason wasn’t because of male dominancy, it was because he knew that at some point he’d have to come back home to a place that he could never forget and to a woman that he was madly in love with. And even now, when he has no woman that he wants to go home to, every year on June 24th, he desires to go to this church in his hometown where he asks for forgiveness and blessings to the Virgen de San Juan. The Virgen de San Juan was this little girl in his town who played with the little boys and girls years prior to his birth. Legend says that this little girl had no family, she was a lost child as they called her, and every night when her friends would go home to their parents, the townsfolk would take her to the church they soon named after her. Where you come from is a place where we never leave anyone behind; our people will never disown you for what you have or whom you are. This little girl had no one in the world and still there were people around to cheer her up even when she didn’t give off the impression that she was sad and alone.
My great-grandfather was given away to his godparents because after his mother died of childbirth, his father decided he no longer could take care of him and the rest of his brothers and sisters. So, he gave all his children away to families who he knew would give them the love that he felt he could never give. And this wasn’t a strange thing that he had done, because these people weren’t strangers at all, they were family, we all were. Both my mother and grandfather till this day swore that when they retired they would go back home and live the rest of their days in the place where they didn’t have the chance to grow up in. My mother always told me that the reason why most immigrants, who receive their papers, don’t come back to their homeland after retirement is that most of them fall ill. And most of the medications they need to survive are either not available or they’re too expensive to buy.
“Ignorance” is just beyond the words that one shares in today’s debates regarding where we come from. This place has more helping hands than you could ever imagine, and if we haven’t overpopulated the world, the love we have for one another is overpopulated. We’re not a place where it’s all about the greenbacks—in fact we’re all about nature and the true meaning of what life really means to the people and animals and insects of our society. Our skin is not pale white—in fact, it’s toasted a beautiful bronze brown because of the hot beaming sun. Our red blood seems to determine our culture and the richness of wellbeing we have in our hearts and minds as we wake up every day. We never let the snakes of the world give us their poison, instead as the eagles of this world, we bite it out of them before even giving them the chance to hurt us or anyone else, even if we have to sacrifice the things that we love the most. So, keep your head up and never forget whom you are and where you’ve come from. No matter what, you and the rest of us are the green, white, and red flag with the eagle killing the snake with his bear teeth.
Your Grandmother Rosalinda
Dear Mang (Big Brother) Franco,
Let me start by thanking you’re body alone. I’m sorry for all the bad and horrible things and people you’ve seen in this world. In life, I’ve learned that everyone is entitled to their own suffering. Some more than others, but through this rite of passage, I’ve learned that it only makes you stronger. I, too, was sent to a “monkey house.” In fact, I’m living in one right now. I’ve grown to love everyone in it because it seems like that’s all there’s left to give. All we have left is forgiveness. Forgiveness itself is the only thing that keeps this world sane, but it’s forgetting that makes the body insane.
Dear Lola (Lola) Beverly,
Though your words were few, I admire the encouragement that you give off to not only your grandchild, but to the rest of us. I don’t come from a poor family, but my elders have taught me the same traits that I’ve read from you today. I hope that you know that you are what you’ve always wanted to be in your future. I hope you realize that you are now free because freedom isn’t something that can be given to you, but it’s something that you’ve obtained.
Dear Lola Cleotilde,
I’ve never felt the way that you have. I’ve never gone a day without someone telling me that they love me or that I should always tried my hardest. But I too have natural knowledge, and I also thank God for that. I hope that this too never happens again, and I also hope that you now remain with the people who say I love you and goodnight.
Dear Penaredondo Family,
Tita (Auntie) Ivonne, in my household I’ve been taught the same things that you’d like to teach your grandchildren. I come from a family that doesn’t kick out their children once they turn 18, too; in fact, we never get kicked out. Instead, they prefer that we kick ourselves out. I guess they want us to gain responsibility on our own instead of being dependent on someone else. I mean it’s definitely not a bad thing; I appreciate all they’ve taught me. Manang (Big Sister) Angela, I know you don’t know me, but I come from only one place I feel comfortable calling home. When I read your letter to your granddaughter, I got emotional at first… Because somehow through your words, I saw my family’s past. My great-grandparents used to live under a mango tree. To them, that mango tree was also as big as a house—at that time, it was their house. They also used to live by this river as long as your grandmother’s veins. They still, to this day, don’t complain because of everything they’ve gone through together. They think of it as a blessing to have lived under that sweet-smelling mango tree. I hope you enjoy the rice paddies, and the sound of mosquitos buzzing. I hope you’ve found your home and enjoy living in it.