Today I had a great conversation with friend about the characteristics that we inherit from our parents immigration journey. I talk about it in my book, Aventura, Amor y Tacos, about the idea that our parents needed courage, strength, and faith and much more to make it through the journey across the border. Sometimes we might not know the full details of this journey, but we understand the massive sacrifice they made and the treacherous journey they traveled. But we often don't give ourselves enough credit for inheriting those same traits. If we take a look at the perseverance, the grit, the courage and bravery that journey required we would look at our parents in awe, and we would see ourselves in the same light as we shine in their reflection. But the problem is that American society tries to dim the light of immigrants and their families— especially in a societal time like ours. How often do we live in the shadows just to get by—to avoid conflict?
The reality of it is that we don't give ourselves enough credit. If you look at this picture of my abuelos from back in the day, with my dad and tíos in the back of the guayin it paints a picture of the place my parents were born in. Dirt roads, humble homes made of adobe— that was the same guayin they used to bring barrels of water from the well because their home had no running water. You take a look at that humble beginning and see how my dad came to the United States where they are now homeowners, and then pass it on to us their children two of who are college graduates and all who have stable full-time jobs. Both my mom and dad were born and were raised in humble beginnings to then have children who managed to graduate from college and all who have become international travelers. All in one generation!
Let that sink in for a minute, all of that success between one generation and multiply that by all of your primos. Such a short time span demonstrates the power of one generation. Short enough where I can share stories with my abuela of my international travels and she can share stories of their humble beginnings that allow me to see just how great our intergenerational and international success has been. Take a second to let that sink in. And think about all the American families who only manage to maintain their families status quo in that same time span, where immigrant families manage to break not only ceilings but borders!
Part of me has always identified as first-generation, thinking that the success of my family lied solely on me and my generation. But I want to reframe that too intergenerational. Because my success is not only mine, if I take it back it started with both of my abuelos who came to America through the bracero program. Both of my abuelos spent time in different places in California from Oxnard to Stockton. I still remember the night my abuelo told me about seeing the Golden Gate Bridge. That bridge holds so much symbolism for me because I would visit it often when I was in college as a place of sanctuary and inspiration not knowing that my abuelo had visited too. Both of my abuelos planted the seed of opportunity in the United States when they both came to work, my dad continued nurturing that when he permanently migrated and earned his citizenship, and it is up to my generation to continue that legacy. But it didn't start with me, I wasn't the first, they were. And in order for us to continue shinning bright and carrying that legacy, we have to learn more about that history that brought us here and we ourselves have to step into that same light, that strength, courage, and faith that our parents and our abuelos carried with them.
What do you know about who was the first in your family? Have you dug deep in your history?