“To know who you are, you must know who you were. It is the seed of who you will become.”- Carlos Zerguera
I like this quote. I saw it on a friend’s Facebook page and did a little fact checking on the source. Carlos Zerguera is a Cuban, living in an area called Trinidad. Using what limited resources he has, Zerguera spends his days recording the history of this people. It got me thinking about who I am, and who I was.
I am a California native, born and raised in Los Angeles. But all of my grandparents are from different areas of Mexico. My paternal grandmother immigrated to the U.S. during the Mexican revolution, and my maternal grandparents came to the U.S. seeking economic opportunity. My mom and dad were the first generation born in the U.S., in Arizona, and Texas. My parents lived in Los Angeles when the city still had street cars, and you could ride from the heart of downtown LA to San Pedro. My parents raised me with an awareness of our culture and pride in our past. My dad would tell us folktales from Mexico and stories of his life in El Paso, Texas. My mother, beautiful and graceful, took me and my sister to her old neighborhood where my sister and I were taught folkorico, traditional Mexican folk dances. I loved the music, the folkorico dresses and the way I felt dancing to the music of my ancestors. I grew up proud to be an American of Mexican ancestry.
Two of my favorite books are Rain of Gold, by Victor Villasenor, and The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck. Rain of Gold is the story of two families who immigrated to the United States from Mexcio during the Mexican Revolution. When I first read it I felt part of it could be my story. I first read The Grapes of Wrath in high school. I loved the tragic but inspiring tale of Joad family’s emigrant journey from the dust bowl of Oaklahoma to the promised land of California. When I heard my grandmother talk about her time spent picking citrus in California and living in these shanty towns, I felt the Joad’s story could also be our story. My husband Juan believes I have a novel in me somewhere. When I hear the stories from my family I think that they are the ones who have a novel inside them.
As I started thinking about what I wanted to focus on in this blog, I discovered that this may be the perfect opportunity to begin to tell our story. One afternoon I went to visit my only living grandparent, my 97 year-old grandmother. My grandmother’s short term memory doesn’t help her when it comes to naming her 16 great-grandchildren, but her long term memory doesn’t fail when she recounts the stories of her youth in Williams, Arizona. In the coming posts on this page, I will be sharing her story, and the stories of my ancestors. I hope you will enjoy reading them. I know that I will enjoy telling them.