Photo and story by ∞Sergio Lopez
Growing up in a latino family, breakfast consisted of beans, rice, huevitos, tortillas and a tall, cold glass of coke. There was no running away from learning to speak Spanish, it was the only language my grandparents and immediate family spoke and in which I was surrounded. I lived with my grandparents for many years and speaking English to them was not going to cut it. There was also no running away from the chancla: when I heard, “Sergio Alejandro Lopez Juuuuniorrr!” I knew instantly that I did something wrong or was getting accused of doing something wrong.
As a child, everywhere I went I would identify myself simply as Mexican. However, living in San Diego, Tijuana was a short fifteen minute drive and we had family over there. At least once a month we’d visit them for a party or a small get together, but crossing the border was the most exciting part of the trip. Churros, candy, ice cream, it was a kids heaven! However waiting in line sucked, I was very impatient and begin asking questions: “Why do we have to wait three hours to get back home? Why are we not moving? What’s a birth certificate?” That is when I learned that being able to cross the border and come back was a privilege.
I was living in two worlds. One day I was Mexican and the next I was American. My grandparents on my mother’s side were born and raised in Guadalajara, Jalisco. At the age of twenty four with four kids, my grandparents crossed without papers into the United States in search of the “American Dream”—a hope every immigrant seeks in order to pursue a better life. Having family members in Bakersfield, no money and not knowing anyone in San Diego that could help them out, their only objective was to get their kids into the States safely—they would figure the rest out as they went.
My father was born in Benjamin Hill, Sonora. Two week’s later, my grandma, on my dad’s side, took two long bus rides from Sonora to Tijuana with no husband by her side. All she was carrying was the clothes on her back and a beat up nike shoe box. Inside the shoebox was my my grandmother’s first born child, my dad. Upon arriving in Tijuana, my grandma met up with family members that introduced her to a “coyote” that would smuggle her into San Diego. Once in San Diego she was all alone with a new born, searching for family to whom she has never spoken.
Both my parents became permanent residents and thats what granted me to be born here in the United States as a citizen. No border or “wall” can stop someone with a desire for a better life. My grandparents are living proof: both arrived in the United States without the proper documentation, with kids, and little to nothing in their pockets. Their intentions were not to smuggle drugs into the U.S., or seek to cause trouble— a racist stereotype in which many immigrants of color are branded. With everything going on in the news and current politics, this whole “build the wall” thing is getting out of hand. According to an article, “A Look at Trump’s Most Outrageous Comments About Mexicans” written by Adam Edelman in the New York Daily News, Adam quotes some of trumps comments, this being one of them:
“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems to us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
This drives me insane that the President of the United States speaks so vulgarly and has no filter.
People like my grandfather Ruben Adan, work in giant fields for little to no pay, or work in factories owned by companies outside of Mexico—companies that get away with cheap labor and providing poor working conditions. As soon as my grandpa learned to use a shovel, he began to work in the agave fields of Tequila, Jalisco. Not because he wanted to, but because the family he came from was poor and lacked sufficient income. His father was an alcoholic and could barely keep him self together—someone had to be the man of the house. Meanwhile, his mother would stay at home and take care of his younger siblings, cook and clean.
He vowed at such a young age that he was going to make it to the U.S. one day and start a family, find a job, and earn decent pay to afford to buy a nice house. In order for a dream to come true, actions need to be taken. Being undocumented in a country that’s foreign, one’s dreams are already much harder to accomplish.
All my grandfather could bring to the table was his experience in the fields. He soon found a job working in a grape vineyard and saved every last penny. He saved enough to rent a small room for his four kids and wife. This was not the dream he pictured, but he never lost hope.
One story my grandfather told me that really hit hard was when he finally had enough money to take out my grandma and the kids. I was waiting to hear a name of a restaurant or disneyland, but the response I got: “Fuimos al McDonalds, y cada quien se comio dos hamburguesas, unas papas franceses y un cono de vanilla.” My grandpa made enough to take his family to McDonalds and this meant the world to him!
Hearing stories similar to this have definitely given me a unique perspective on how to live life. I take the little things into consideration and value everything I do have, because others might not be able to afford the things I used to take for granted.With these stories in mind, I am proud to say my grandparents are immigrants, I am proud to say I am a Chicano.
Last March, I was given the opportunity to visit my grandfather’s family in Guadalajara and stay for a couple of days to do some sight seeing and watch some baseball. Guadalajara is home to hundreds of agave fields and famous tequilas. Also, it is home to the mariachi, amazing food, and beautiful women, but that is not the point. The point I am trying to make is that Guadalajara is beautiful! At least from a tourist point of view.
However, throughout my visit and week there, I passed by the fields my grandfather worked, and visited several haciendas and tequileras. I stayed in this tiny, beat up, one story crammed house where my grandfather’s sister lived. Forty minutes away from the Luxurious airport and downtown Guadalajara. His sister lived in a small pueblo by the name of Tonalá, and everyone in the pueblo lived in similar houses—old and falling apart, but they never seemed upset. Everyone knew of each other and loved each other as if they were one big family.
For forty years my grandfather’s brothers have worked in the fields, living in the same pueblo, but live together as a family. I gained much respect for my grandfather, not only for him but for his family. They never made it to the U.S. but they managed to make ends meet. When I was there they asked questions like: “How is it in California? Have you met anyone famous? How are my grandparents?” Man, when all these questiones were coming at me, all I could think was, why didn’t you guys ever leave Guadalajara? Maybe they tried. Maybe they did. Maybe they just didn’t have enough resources.
On my last day before I had to head back home, I was given the chance to tour the Hacienda de San Jose, Herradura Tequilera. I work at a restaurant and have a fascination with tequila, so this opportunity was something I really enjoyed.
Midway through the tour, we finally got out of the hacienda and headed into the agave fields where workers are shaving away at agaves and getting to the core. The tour guide called one of the workers over and asked him to demonstrate how to properly do it, and what exactly he is doing.
Everyone took pictures and walked away, but not me. I stayed behind because all I could think of was my grandfather. This is what my grandfather did for many years before he left to the U.S.. I stood there for a long while after and spoke this elderly man.
His name was Jesus Santiago, he has been working for Herradura for the past 25 years and according to him, has no plans on leaving. I asked and his response was, “Tengo cuatro hijos, no se leer o escribir bien, y dos de mis hijos están en el colegio. No puedo parar de trabajar porque tengo billes, y la verdad no se ser nada mas menos que trabajar en campo.” The guy was 43 years old but appeared much older, working full day shifts, breaking his back to maintain a family and put two kids through college. He doesn’t have a savings account, a 401k or anything along those lines. Whatever he is making is probably a little more than other workers that work in the fields throughout Guadalajara, but that’s only because he’s employed by a bigger company and is now a majordomo.
These are the kind of men and women that dream of coming to the United States to make minimum wage. They don’t know what to expect upon arrival, but anything is better than the low pay they make in Mexico. They seek opportunities and ways to better their lives. After speaking to Jesus, I could not stop comparing his story to my grandfather’s. My grandfather probably would have been working his life away in the same agave fields to this very day.
Later that night, I was scrolling through my social media and came across an article written by the San Diego Union-Tribune, “American ‘Spring Breakers’ Chant ‘Build That Wall!’ On Cancun Cruise Ship.”
American spring breakers, in Cancun, piggishly chanting “build that wall!” is nothing new, but it is amplified by rhetoric of the President. Of course these spring breakers were drinking and intoxicated, but the ignorant chant they were ranting is completely absurd! However the cute little margaritas they were drinking contain tequila, tequila that is made in Mexico, sailing through Mexican waters.
Workers like Jesus slave away on hundred acres of agave fields to make the tequila in their cups. Mexican workers on the other side of the wall make margaritas possible. For spring breakers to chant their absurdities and not take into consideration of where they are, blows my mind.
My grandfather is an example of a hard working immigrant that succeeded at living the American dream. I am their dream. Jesus is an example a hard working Mexican that wishes he could cross into the U.S. legally, but can’t because the process to obtain citizenship is way to expensive, takes way to long, and is a challenge for one who can’t read and write properly.
Saying that Mexicans are rapists is as true as saying ever American is a baby killer. We are people. Some live in countries dominated by the United States causing them to search for a better life, such as my grandfather, and some are born on one side of a line that give them a blind privilege to shout hateful ignorant remarks.