I recall as a child my family (maternal side) working so hard for/toward the “American Dream” and being so grateful for their better life.
Never demanding or feeling they were owed anything! I would always hear them discussing that the only path to improving our future; was through education, education, education. And that was drilled into all of us.
When my Abuelitos first arrived in Chicago in the early 1900’s they followed the crops and lived in boxcars with animals. My Abuelita Elena spoke about working in Indiana and Kansas. My Abuelito worked for awhile at Carnegie Steel. It was right after the Depression. They all suffered a lot in Chicago. Keep in mind, my Mama was born in Chicago in 1935.
They came to California in search of greener pastures, on Route 66.
Read, “The Grapes of Wrath Mexicano Style on a previous post to read my family’s history.
They arrived in California when my Mama was 13 years old. This was in the 40’s. I am second generation American.
My recent visit to Mexico has left me confused, bewildered and as if you had pulled my heart out and were chewing it slowly.
WHY? Because I have always adored Mexico. I was so proud of the rich Mexican history and culture.
I was so surprised to see how Mexico has changed and lost its identity.
I have never had a need to write about my Papa, but feel I must interweave him into this story.
The beautiful traditional regional dress is no more, and difficult to find.
The food is very Americanized.
English is prevalent everywhere.
The shocking contrast of a 17th century cathedral next to Dominos.
Music is in English.
Mass departure from the homeland has effectively created ghost towns.
The Wally-Worlds, Costco’s and K-Marts.
I’m sure the fact that we are neighbors has also had a huge impact.
Everyone seems to want to be American.
That’s fine if that’s what Mexico wants.
Most people who come to the United States are very content to be here and just happy to be working.
But, you always have those few rebels that have negative attitudes and resistance to America. And, those people who feel we should change to satisfy their needs. And, then others who feel they are owed by Americans and demand, as they reap all the benefits of living here.
But, forget the music, the food, the clothes the language. The most important part has been lost it’s Spirit, it’s Soul, it’s Corazon! I am disappointed to not be living the true Mexico. This is a “new” Mexico, un Mexico Falso!
And then I return home to Texas (El Norte) and hear more Spanish language and music than I did in Mexico!
I also understand the dilemma and plight of Mejicanos better than most.
My father crossed the border illegally, as his father had done.
About 1950, my Papa and Mama fell in love. My Mama “fixed my Papa’s papers.” We visited his homeland many times when I was a child. The woman who ironed our clothes in Guadalajara, later became his wife till his death.
My Abuelita, Pancha was not happy my Papa was here in the United States. She would tell him, “tu no tienes necesidad de estar allá.” “Regrésate y te ayudamos a poner tu panaderia.” “You don’t have a need to be in the United States.” “Return to Guadalajara, and we will help you set-up your bakery.”
My Abuelita did not think my Mama measured up since she was born here. Although, my Mama could match any native born Mexican woman’s cooking and house keeping abilities. If not better. She was a hard-working woman.
And then he would leave. He would return to Guadalajara.
And, then he would come back and work, and visit us, he would just stay enough time to impregnate my Mama.
Four children later, she had other pregnancies but miscarried. She finally got smart. Thank you Lord.
I was his first child born to first born father and first born mother. I knew I was always loved and “consentida.”
But, his irregular visits did not sustain us. I loved and adored him, at the age of 17, I left my Mama’s home and went away to college. I recognized his faults, weaknesses and understood the affects of his abandonment. I was angry! I felt he was selfish and I viewed him merely as a “sperm doner.”
In time………he never returned! In retrospect it was the best thing he could have done for us! We were able to start the healing process, it was very difficult for my Mama, but she persevered! She raised us all alone with her parent’s help. Unfortunately, we had no other way, but to be on government assistance for awhile. My Mama hated it and never wanted to depend on the government. I made a promise then, I would get an education and better my life so that I would never depend on a man or the government.
When I was 18 or 19, I went to visit him in Santa Barbara. He was living with a woman in Santa Barbara, her name was Gracie or Marcie, she also gave birth to his son. The little boy was about 3 or 4 at that time.
I have felt similar to a “war baby” at times. Although, my Papa was not in the military, and he never fought in any war! He came from another country and fought to get his “papers fixed,” mission accomplished!
Yo no fui huérfana de la guerra, pero de un padre que no mas no!
I confronted him as an adult woman; on why he had abandoned me/us when we most needed him? I made him aware of the problems I was experiencing because of his abandonment. I knew my father was an intelligent man. But, he was speechless. What could he say. A recognition and acknowledgement would have sufficed for me. But, he just couldn’t. You cannot play with human emotions (your children’s) that way and not be aware that there will be consequences and repercussions to all of your actions.
His only war was his internal war of his conscience. I found some consolation in making him aware of the pain he had caused. I needed to purge. He needed to own it, I was merely a pawn in his game of playing, scheming, conniving, and (possibly) had had ulterior motives from the beginning. I was a child. Heck! My Mama was a child, she was 15 years old when they met. She was 16 years old when she gave birth to me. And, my maternal grandparents were not as supportive and loving as parents I’ve seen nowadays. They basically felt my Mama had made her bed and she should lie on it! That’s just the way things were then.
I recall my last visit with him, over twenty years ago; when he boasted, “I have been a bad father and my hija y hijo [del otro lado] me vienen a visitar!” I would look at him and see through all that superficial pride. He knew I was very perceptive. I sensed he felt a tad sense of guilt, he just could never verbalize it, due to macho pride!
We also had different political views; when the subject of NAFTA came up. I have always felt we need less government interference. We need to empower people not enable them. As the Proverb says “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”
My father was never able to conform, acculturate nor assimilate to the American ways. Because, he was from an “old family” in Guadalajara and they owned a business. He was accustomed to a certain degree of lifestyle in Guadalajara; where you pay off the police (mordidas) if for example, you run a red light.
Here he did not know the language and of course he had the lowest of jobs. He moved irrigation pipes (water lines) in the fields, very backbreaking work. And, other times he and my Mama worked the fields.
I recall as a child if he had a bad day at work he would come home yelling at my Mama for nothing whatsoever. Scaring us to death. Just because he was filled with rage.
Much later I somewhat understood his frustration and some of that rage it wasn’t merely that he could not function in “El Norte.” There was a lot of racism, he did not speak English, he was cussed at and there were derogatory comments made toward him. It was hard times.
The other thing Mr. Wonderful did was change my birthright given last name. When he crossed over. He just felt it would be best to change his last name from Castorena to Rodriguez. I’m sure it was for legal reasons. All legal documentation was under the name Rodriguez. So his children born here are all Rodriguez.
Although, my heart tells me I am his First born daughter also making me First born grand-daughter. I also think what is a name? A mere label. Most importantly to me, I am a child of God. I release you in love Papa que descanses en paz.
I also say Adios Mexico, you are no more!
It took me awhile to understand that although I had been abandoned by my biological father. I had the gift of my Heavenly Father, my King. Life became much easier once I understood this.
I was also blessed with a strong amazing Mama, she was not perfect, but no one is? She was our father, our rock. Thank you Mama.
In retrospect, I could have titled this “Falso Papa” also!
Abrazos y Besos