One-Hundred Years of Mireles/What is a Mexican American?/Y La Hija del Nopal y Maíz

Mi Abuelito, Higinio Mireles in Chicago
1928, cool hat Abuelo

December 7, 2018

I recently came across this quote by Steve Jobs…..I find captivating. “The most powerful person in the world is the storyteller. The storyteller sets the vision, values, and agenda of an entire generation that is to come.” 

Mi Abuelito, Higinio Mireles, no, this is not a typo. We were Mireles not Morales (which is most common) I have always loved the uniqueness of Mi Familia’s last name. He was born on January 12, 1900. One day he went out to work his “tierra” and walked away from his rancho, “El Rancho or Cerro Picudo” in Cuaramaro, Guanajuato. Los hermanos de mi Abuelito eran Margarito y Ausencion. Abandoning his wife and daughters to work the railroads in Chicago, he was 18 years old. I can try to scrutinize what would cause Mi Abuelito to execute such a move, but without getting all psycho-analytical. He must have been desperate. Obviously he had given this much thought. But, I don’t wish to focus nor dwell on this! My heart and history tell me things must have been desperate for him to take such desperate measures.
Many years later, I recall, I was young and a daugther from Mexico came to visit him. Mi Familia has been in the United States 100 years. In the scope of our countries history we are infants, but it’s very important to me. He passed away on March of 1987. I envision and feel Mi Ante-Pasados self-determination in my blood. Mis  Abuelitos were fuerte, Mi Mama era fuerte. They were all hard-working driven people. I come from stock of the “nopal and maíz.”There is an expression in Mexico that says: “… más mexicano que los nopales” which means  more Mexican than nopales (Mexican cacti) to refer to something or someone truly representative of Mexico or Mexican tradition. 

It was very important to Mi Abuelita Elena that we know where we came from. She would say we had a nopal on our forehead, “con el nopal en la frente.”

Con el Nopal en La Frente Courtesy of Ceramic Artist Susan Shelton 

Recently, a friend became a citizen and was called a Mexican American, which got me to thinking. If he is considered a Mexican American and was born in Mexico. And, I was born here and am also labeled a Mexican American! Frankly, my brain is short circuiting, I don’t understand this, especially when we Americans are so into labels! I would like to be a unifying agent, but I think there must be a better descriptor, label or category.

Kinda ironic, as she (Mi Abuelita) expounded in her perfect English that we needed to know our history and roots. I am of Mexican ancestry and proud of my roots. But, first and foremost I am an American. 
You do not have to re-write a new definition or a new label for me! The “new” American, a “new” Mexican, a “hyphenated” American, a resident, naturalized, and the list goes on and on, etc.

He is a naturalized Mexican, kinda different, I would say. 

I was born here.

“Beginning around the 1890s, new industries in the U.S. Southwest-especially mining and agriculture-attracted Mexican migrant laborers. The Mexican Revolution (1910-1920) then increased the flow: war refugees and political exiles fled to the United States to escape the violence. Mexicans also left rural areas in search of stability and employment. As a result, Mexican migration to the United States rose sharply. The number of legal migrants grew from around 20,000 migrants per year during the 1910s to about 50,000 – 100,000 migrants per year during the 1920s.”Courtesy of Center for Immigration Studies 
Many Mexicans were deported during the Great Depression. I’m not sure how Mis Abuelito’s escaped being deported. I’d like to think they were blessed, but on second thought, I recall their traumatic stories of how they suffered during the Great Depression. I also recall Mi Abuelita sharing she and other families lived in boxcars amongst the animals. They did not have food to eat. Mi Mama use to talk about using rationing booklets and standing in long long lines for food (which most of the time ran out).
I wonder if it ever entered their minds to return to Mexico. But, somehow Mis Abuelito’s endured the Great Depression in Chicago. My Abuelito, Higinio worked in the railroads and later worked at Carnegie Steel. I recall Mi Abuelita, Elena had a relative (an uncle or cousin) who was killed “brincando el traque” or jumping the tracks. I know my Mama lived on Baltimore Street, her cousin Laura ‘s familia lived on Mackinaw Street, just a few blocks away from each other. They shopped at a grocery store named La Colorada Market. I know Mi Mama use to share that she would occasionally sell clothes hangers so she could earn a few pennies to buy a favorite treat, a pretzel.  I also know Mi Mama was terrified of Blacks. I was very curious as to where this fear stemmed from. She told me that as a child she would get robbed and beat up by some black children in her neighborhood. It made me happy when later on in her life, she developed a relationship with a neighbor, Mrs. Williams, who was Black. Mrs. Williams taught Mi Mama how to make the best pot roast. We all still use this same recipe. 

Mis Abuelitos left Chicago on January 29, 1947, a Wednesday. Eight days later they arrived in Visalia, California. (Read Las Uvas de Furia (The Grapes of Wrath) Mexican Style) on my blog to read more, dated January 29, 2014

This date was engrained in Mi Mama’s brain since it was her birthday a few days later, after they arrived in California from Chicago. 

“I adore Mexico” is an understatement! I am wildly in love with it; but allow me to clarify. I only want to “visit” Mi Familia de mi Papá, shop, eat, participate in the flavor of music, dance and celebrations. But, I could  never live there? I use to think I could. But, I can’t! I love my country and all of the comforts and luxuries of living in the USA. Perhaps, I am spoiled; I know I am! I like the ease of pushing buttons on my washer and dryer. I like knowing that I will have hot water whenever I want to take a shower or water to flush my toilet, which can be questionable in Mexico. I don’t like that Mexico doesn’t have regulations against smog and pollution. I don’t like to see lakes contaminated with sewer and baby diapers floating on them, like I saw in Lake Chápala. I realize we have many problems here, also. But, I  prefer these problems to the ones Mexico suffers. And, as it appears many Mexicans also would prefer to be here than in Mexico!


Links to Similar Posts:
Le Chuparron La Sangre, El Corazon, El Alma, El Espíritu a Mexico September 13, 2017
Mi Papá, Falso Mexico y “El Norte” September 6, 2017

My Aunt Lupe at J. N. Thorp School, my Mama also attended school here, can you find Aunt Lupe?

J. N. Thorp School in Chicago took picture on  2017 visit

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I am perpetually creative, and my eyes “feel” art everywhere. Who am I, I am an open book. I believe that sharing “from the heart” with one another is what connects us, heals us, and inspires us! My love for my Lord, family, friends, cooking, crafting, gardening/nature, vintage, sewing and different cultures; these passions and too many more to list, have moved my hand to paper, thus, Abrazos y Besos. In addition to a nudge by my baby sister, Dudies. My last name is Hug which means Abrazo in Spanish, hence the name of my blog: “Abrazos y Besos” translating to “Hugs & Kisses.” I will focus on our personal life journey with Mi Corazon (Augie Hug) sprinkled with love, spice and fun. Please tune in. Philippians 4:13 New King James Version (NKJV) 13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

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