Rarely do I talk about politics, controversial topics or about government affairs. But it’s Fourth of July weekend and I have a huge desire to share with you my perspective. It’s a rare one. In fact, my views may shock you because of who I am or who you think I am.
I am the daughter of two immigrants. I grew up in poverty. I have my fair share of memories in the east coast and south. I started working at the age of 13. I am a female business owner in the Midwest. I am a Christian. I have a daughter that is half Hispanic, half Anglo-American. I am married to man who is white as Wonderbread. I speak Spanish. I taught English As A Second Language to legal and illegal immigrants, as well as refugees, for seven years. And at this point, you probably see where this is going. But do you really?
Let’s start at the beginning…
My mother is from Ecuador and my father is from Chile. They both moved to the United States for a better life, met in the lovely state of New Jersey in the 70’s and the rest is history. I came as a surprise and their plans quickly changed. My mother was going to school and going to work. She eventually had to drop out of college to help support our family and my father worked incredibly hard to keep us afloat. My memories of New Jersey are fond ones. They are nostalgic in a sense because they had a huge part in shaping me to become who I am today.
We lived in a one bedroom apartment and all slept on a pull out couch. The winters were harsh and we often had to walk in the bitter cold to get anywhere. I watched my parents work continuously to make a living. I think they went without a lot to give me everything that I needed. In fact, I watched my mom eat popcorn for dinner many nights while my father was away working. After several harsh winters, they decided to move south where the land was cheaper and work was easier to come by.
Life in Texas was bigger. Everything in Texas is.
Moving to Texas was a breath of fresh air in some ways and more difficult in others. The weather is much easier when you have to make do with one car, except when the summers hit of course. Driving in a car without air-conditioning is like putting a hair dryer to your face. We moved to a neighborhood that was considered one of the poorest parts of Dallas, but it was still a vast improvement to Jersey City. My father worked two jobs, while my mother stayed home with me. He worked so hard and slept so little.
We quickly moved upward and settled into a much nicer part of Dallas. We had a chicken coup when chicken coups weren’t cool or trending. I ate eggs or chicken DAILY. (I am basically a vegan now. Figure that one out. Ha!) And although we were in a better part of Dallas, we still lived in what felt like a wooden shack. We were so proud of our little home, though. We were no longer living in apartments or in a crime ridden neighborhood. (My father had his car robbed in front of our apartment within a week of buying it in NJ, and my mother was robbed in front of our previous home in Dallas.) Proud may be an understatement.
Yet, there were still hardships. I had suddenly moved into a neighborhood that was predominantly white. This was a huge culture shock for me. My parents wanted to move there because the education was top notch. My mother started working at a daycare center for a private school down the street from us. We would walk to her work, and I attended school there for free. Looking back, I saw how strategic my parents were attempting to be. They wanted to give me the best education possible and did everything to make that happen with very little.
My parents became citizens, and my father soon enrolled in the military. He also continued to work two jobs and started going to a community college. I watched him work all day and go to school at night. We would often wait up for him late at night to come home. My mother started working a full-time job at an insurance company, although I knew that what she really wanted to do was stay at home with my sister and me. I watched my father continue to work hard, serve his country and earn three college degrees. My mother worked hard to keep the family going and bring in a decent income for our family.
My family lives in Dallas still. They own the home of their dreams. My father is retired from the US Navy but still works as an accountant for an esteemed company. My mother is now a supervisor at the insurance company she started with so many years ago. My sister and I are college graduates.
All these experiences truly shaped my perspective on immigration, my race and this country. Here is what I learned…
My parents taught me that this country was one of the most magical places on earth. They taught us that if we worked hard, we could accomplish anything we set our minds to. They never allowed us to feel like victims. We were not allowed to feel as though we were treated differently because of the color of our skin or our gender. I am not saying that I have never experienced racism or that I had no more challenges as a daughter of immigrants, but we were never allowed to use that as an excuse. They stressed that we were American. American made. American born. American through and through.
With my father being in the military, we learned a deeper appreciation of this country and our freedoms in it. I am proud of our country. I identify as an American before I identify myself by my cultural upbringing or genetics. I see the value in coming into this country legally and gaining the trust of those who live here because people have given their lives to make this country what it is today.
I never want a handout or preferential treatment because of the color of my skin, my gender or my poverty background. I want to work for it! I want to make my parents as proud of me as I am of them. That is the American way! I have often been called “scrappy,” but I don’t mind. I may be little, but I am a fighter and value working for what I have.
I leave you with this… Nothing is worth having without hard work. We work hard as a stationery company to bring you the best product possible. Sometimes we work around the clock. Sometimes we have to delay our vacations or our own wants. However, we know that everything good comes from above, and we have learned the value of the American Dream.
We pray that America is home of the free, land of the brave. We pray for government officials. We pray for the safety of our military. And we pray that we never lose sight of how wonderful the United States truly is.
As we venture into creating stationery for retail shops, our goal will be to provide as many American made products as possible. We want to be a company that stands for American values and the workforce that drives them.
We would love to hear from you. How do you see America? How have your personal experiences helped you FLOURISH in life?