Monday, April 10, 2017


Imagine, you come to the U.S. with a college education, from a family of 7 maids, and a father who was the president of the Bank of London in Managua.  Your mother's family would be the equivalent of a Mayflower family in the U.S.  Your family is well off and very connected.

You meet a U.S. American at a Pan Am Christmas party, and the direction of your life changes.  The U.S. is the land of plenty.  They fell in love, so she returned with daddy to the U.S.  She had sold her plane ticket daddy bought her to come by bus with her sister and niece.

Her sister continued by bus to meet up with her husband in NJ.  Daddy and mom drove to New Orleans to formally be married.  While in Houston daddy was asked to leave a restaurant because he was with a dark woman.  Mom was unaware this is how things were in the U.S.  It shaped her from that day forward.

Daddy spoke 5 languages, so they had no problem speaking Spanish.  But mom worked as hard as she could to learn English.  Upon arriving in NJ she was looked down upon.  She hated it. Her life was nothing like her privileged life in Nicaragua.

The oldest grew up with Spanish as his first language.  When she saw how he was treated in school that was the last day she spoke Spanish to her kids.  My Abuelita and Tia would get on her about it.  They spoke Spanish to us, but not mom.  She hated how she was treated and did not want us to face the same discrimination.  Well all we lost was being formally raised in a real bilingual home because after daddy died in 63' the discrimination came at us full force.

Imagine you have 7 children ages 2- 16 and moving from Utah to NY in 63' and having to change planes in Chicago.

 The insurance ran out soon, but not before she was able to buy a small house out on Long Island in an all Anglo community which did not welcome us.

Her college education in Nicaragua eventually helped her after the government recruited her and sent her to Hoftra University to learn to be a social worker for all of the incoming Puerto Ricans.  But that was only after a few years on government surplus food [no food stamps back then, but I will say the government cheese was the best. ]  She also got a few dollars in welfare.

And for the record, which is a policy I support, NY had a lien on the house for the welfare payments she received for 2 years until she finished her training as a social worker.  When she died and the house was sold, NY got their $10,000.

It was years later during a recession and the neighbors needed her help before many would even give her the time of day.  Some were very supportive from day one, especially the men trying to help her to raise 6 boys.

But even after everything she did, including forcing then Nassau County Medical Center to put signs in Spanish and English, the hearts of the ignorant remained.

My entire 4 years in high school 9-12, my guidance counselor never moved from his position I was to take the  track for technical training because Hispanics worked with  their hands.  Mom would not even speak Spanish with our Spanish teachers because of the stigma associated with being Hispanic. The school clearly had a problem with us.

My guidance counselor refused to help me look for colleges, scholarships or financial aid.  If I was not going to take the technical path as he demanded he was not going to help me.

Mom was hurt on graduation day.  She knew I did everything on my own.  She knew how hard I worked at school and my job to save for college.  So as my peers walked across the stage they would announce the college they were going to and if they had a scholarship.  My guidance counselor knew I had a full scholarship at UTEP.  When it was my turn, nothing.  Not a word about college or the scholarship.  My mother was denied the same pride as the other parents because of the color of her skin.

Not many Hispanic women could raise 7 kids on her own in the 60's while working part time and going to college.  She was strong.  But it was bigotry until the end which kept her from speaking Spanish to her children.

Happy 98th mom, and thanks for that enduring fortitude which lives in all 7 of your children.

1 comment:

Pat Ahumada said...

Happy birthday and God bless