Sunday, May 4, 2008

happy cinco de mayo!

in mexico, cinco de mayo is the day commemorating the victory of the mexican army against the french at the battle of puebla on may 5, 1862. in the united states, the 5th of may has become a holiday to celebrate all things mexican: the food, the music, the people and yes, the margaritas... for me, the day is a reminder to stop and pay tribute to my latino heritage.

my father, the second oldest of nine children, came to this country from a small town in jalisco, mexico in the early 1960's. my mother, a third-generation migrant farm worker born in gilroy, california spent her younger years traveling back and forth between california and mexico following the crops with her family. my parents married in 1965 and together they were determined to build a family in the land of opportunity. life was not without its challenges. my father was deported after only a few days of marriage leaving my poor young mother to track him down in tijuana at his sister's home, with no address and only a vague recollection of its whereabouts. there were many challenges ahead, but none to large.

my father worked as a busboy and in car washes early on. and it amazes me to think, given our country's current economic situation, that my parents were able to own their own home after only a few years. my father was always a traditional man and insisted my mother stay home with my brother and me while he worked, often two jobs. we spoke only spanish at home since my father did not want us to pick up his broken english. (gracias, papá.) my mother was a seamstress and did a bit of sewing work from home, but mostly focused on giving us the benefit of her traditional home-cooked meals, peaceful disposition, natural talent and amazing creativity (sewing, embroidery, knitting, crocheting, quilting, gardening, and even macramĂ© in the 70's). my father spent most of his career working as a cook, but still managed to send his children to private schools—and later college and went on to own his own business, homes and new cars, and live a modest yet comfortable life.

today, my parents continue to offer
my half mexican/half italian children the same richness of our mexican culture and traditions that i hold dear while keeping pace with modern America: my father is an avid collector of mexican stamps and is hooked on ebay (buying and selling) and my eco-conscious mom just started composting! my parents will retire this year...a well-deserved break from a long life of hard work. i admire my parents greatly and am thankful for their gifts of work-ethic, creativity and determination. and while natural humility still often clouds my parents' perspectives, i can only hope that they will one day realize how truly accomplished their lives have been. i know i am definitely feeling that mexican pride right about now.

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