My Job by Eric Dimas

As I open my eyes on an early Monday morning, the first thing I hear is my dad say, “Wake up!” It was early in the morning and, to be honest, I felt like I was still asleep. It was my first morning of work, and even though I was tired, I was glad that I was going to win some money.  When we got to the construction site, I thought, “Wow”. For the very first time I learned what sheetrock was, and how it all comes together. Two other workers were there that day too, Jose and Pedro. They showed me a little bit of how to put the sheetrock, but their explanations weren’t that clear for me. My dad’s explanation to put the sheets was better for me, but only because he got mad at me every time I did something wrong. After that, I tried not to make another mistake. The sheets were too heavy for me, but two years into the job, I have no problems carrying them and setting them in place. My dad also taught me how to tape and float, which is way easier.

For me, this is not the only job I know how to do. I also know how to do brick repair like my uncle. My uncle Lucio, has taught me well to do the job and today I have about two years with this job being a second job when he needs me. These two jobs have been good to me and helpful too as I have learn new ways to work inside a house, and also outside with the brick work. Learning about these jobs is easy, but the hazards that we are exposed to, and the low pay, can affect us in a bad way.

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I asked my dad how long he has been working on this job and he told me, “I have been working on this for about fifteen years now, putting sheetrock and doing tape and float, at first it was hard but once you get the hang, it will be super easy”. On hot days this job will kill you but luckily sometimes we are inside the fresh ac. When it’s cold your hands will suffer but once you start working your body will get warmed. In sheetrock, tape and float, I’ve heard from my dad that there has been people who have been badly injured or have messed up the job by ruining cables or other items. That’s when I asked if he has ever been injured or had an accident with cables or other important items at different jobs, he replied, “Luckily no, but I have been close to being injured, and this can mean that I have to be more careful when I do this. For electrical cables or other items in the work site, I haven’t gotten in any problems with the cables or electrical boxes, I can just make cutouts on the sheetrock.”

Brick repair jobs are not as easy as I thought they might be at first. By being under the hot sun in summer and in the cold during the winter, we can often get sick – obviously not a good thing. These two years though, I have managed to work through this since I don’t like working at restaurants or other places.

I have also asked my uncle how long he has been doing this job and he replied, “I have been doing this job for about 10 years, ever since I came from Mexico”. He likes his job and he would not change it, he said that this job has given him all he wanted. In the Brick Repair job, when it’s my turn to help my uncle, we would go to different places around the city. It’s good seeing the city and working with my feels good. Another question that I asked him was that when he first started working on this, was the job hard? He looked at me and said to me, “No, not really, I’m a fast learner, and this job to me was easy the first time I tried it”. Some bosses at job sites can be very cheap or maybe not want to give you a good pay, this is can be in both sheetrock and brick repair jobs. “When I first started working in the brick repair job, my first boss did not pay me good, he treated me bad too, and I didn’t really like it, but once I learned, I knew that he wasn’t paying well so I left”. My uncle told me this while we were working, and he didn’t seem happy about it.

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Another good worker for me in the sheetrock job is my cousin Noe. He hasn’t been for long doing this job with me and my dad, he only has 8 years of experience. Its good working with him and when my dad has another job he has to take care of, me and my cousin go to another job my dad has for us. At first I thought this job was hard for him, taping and floating as well, but I decided to ask him if this job was hard when he started, he replied, “No not to me, the sheets for me aren’t heavy and once I got the hang of this, I’m a master at doing this job”. My cousin has also adapted well in this country, he came to this country when he was just one year old, and he went to school here, but dropped out in 9th grade. Although he has not been working with us for a long time, his old boss wasn’t all that good with him. The old boss always gave him a low pay, and he didn’t let him have any days off. This is one reason why he came to work with me and my dad which is good. His English has helped my dad in this job too when I didn’t work with them, and it has helped us grow in the business.

This job consists of nothing but hard work, waking up early and not being scared of the hot sun. Putting sheetrock into the walls is easy, all I have to do is just help my dad hold them up and then putting nails and screws on the sheets. Doing tape and float after hanging the sheetrock is what I find a little difficult. Taping and floating is when you put ‘soquete’ mud or quickset in the walls so it can all be ready to paint, and it is harder than it sounds. When I started learning this, it was hard, but my dad would always scream at me and tell me exactly how to do it to keep the bosses happy. Depending on the job, this doesn’t take us a long time to finish, especially now that we only do remodeling. The tools for this aren’t that heavy; basically just some tape to put in between the openings of the sheets, a mud pan and some knifes to put the mud in the walls. Now that I know how to do this job well, it is really easy for me.

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On my first brick repair job with my uncle, it was hard for me too, just like sheetrock was, but once I got the hang of it, it became a breeze. The tools used for this job are a special spoon and some cement to put the bricks, but sometimes you will need a big sledge hammer to tear some old brick from a wall. The only thing I don’t like about working in this is that it is always hot outside. Those hot summer days under the sun kill me, but all you need is a cold water bottle next to you. If you are asking yourself if we need uniform for these jobs, no we don’t. All you really need for brick repair is a long sleeve shirt and some working boots. My uncle in this job is not a really a type of boss that is demanding, he does his job good and had patience with me when I first started working with him.

Like I said earlier, my uncle likes this job and he wouldn’t change it for anything. He says, “When you love to do something, you find unlimited ways to be able to do what it is that you love to do”. When a job seems hard to us, he always finds a way to do and finish the job. That is why he has been successful and has never backed down from a job, with a lot of hard work and dedication.

At both jobs, you’ll find mostly Hispanics at work. On the sheetrock job, I have mostly met Mexicans who work with my dad or that tell me they also do the job. On the other side, the brick work seems to be mostly people out of Central America. In both cases, the people who work here come to the United States for a better life, and to me, that is inspiring. They either take care of their families or send money to their home countries. Although it can be rough too, because there are times when people have to leave the country because they are immigrants, or when they get very low pay because they are immigrants. I also think that thanks to one of these people who came to the United States, are why we have a lot of work. Why? Because one guy who came from Guatemala named Martin, gave the idea to my dad to put a sign of what he does on the Yellow pages. These Yellow Pages, is where people can put their own information so they can jobs or so people can look at their restaurants. This has helped my dad and uncle a lot and hopefully in the future it can help them even more.

My uncle and like I said earlier my cousin Noe, both came from another country, Mexico. It has been somewhat good for both of them coming to the United States, and for now they are well stable here. I’ve asked them once if they are happy here and if they are okay with what they have done in life. Both said yes, even though it hasn’t been an easy road and they have been mistreated or gotten low pay, it has all been worth it. To be honest, if my cousin and uncle would have stayed in Mexico, who knows what they would have done in life and thankfully they are here.

On my job people also travel to different cities in case there is no work in Houston. That was the case about eight years ago, for my dad. He had to travel to Virginia because there was a big hospital ready to be worked on. My dad told me he didn’t like it there, he said it was lonely to be over there and that he and his assistant had to work in a little town that felt sad. My dad also had to go to Tennessee to work there for some time. He has told me that we moved over there back when I was born and that there was a lot of good work there. “We lived in a small house there, and it was me, your mom, you, and your cousin. We worked every day, all day — there were no breaks and almost all the jobs we got were huge jobs for new houses”. I have asked my uncle if he has ever had to move to another place for this job, but he has told me no, that he has always been stable here, but that there have been times there was no work at all.

It has been a long road from when I first started to work at these two jobs. I have learned many new things because of them. I have also seen bad things such as immigrants being mistreated, workers being underpaid, and people who get injured and don’t have health insurance. There are also fire hazards that are present when an electrical cable is nailed.

Some people want change, but unfortunately some can’t say anything because they are not from here, and don’t speak English or are afraid of deportation. In the future, I plan to do my best to resolve these issues by opening my own construction company, where I will treat people with respect and kindness. My cousin and uncle came to this country to change their lives, and thanks to my dad, they have accomplished that. I will also try to help them, as well as any other people who will want to work with me in construction. I am in college to earn a degree in Business Administration so that I can one day help those people who need it the most. It will be hard, but it will also definitely be worth it. I will open a company for something that I like to do, and for the people that I care about. Because of that, in the end, all those hot days and cold winter mornings will have all been worth it.

My Job by Eric Dimas

Escape to Shamrocks by Alyssa Orozco

The 45 minute drive through Houston traffic to Shamrocks, the Irish pub I where I work, seems to be the most relaxing part of my day at times. When life gets stressful, working in such a welcoming place seems to be the perfect fix after such a long day. This may not be your average person’s idea of a typical job, but after a long day of school and being a mother to two young boys who are filled with energy, working in this pub with coworkers who are more like family is the perfect escape from my everyday routine. I get to experience new and exciting things everyday working with great people while I can provide for my family at the same time.

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I love when I drive up to work and the parking lot is still empty, and the only cars there are my coworkers. That means we get some time to talk before the rush starts. When I walk into the dark pub I’m usually greeted by Siri with another funny story about her oldest son. I feel like we can relate with each other so well, both being mothers to young boys with crazy schedules. We always end up caught up in conversation, exchanging stories of our days and making dates to get together with our kids when we realize we should be getting ready for work. Arthur, our manager, likes us to get to work right away even if were early for our shift, so we take our conversations straight to the break room to get ready. Its takes us a while to get “work ready” so it’s good that we always arrive early. He would probably love it if we came to work wearing our kilts already, but we wouldn’t be caught outside of work wearing them. In public we would probably get so many weird stares wearing our kilts but at work its necessary to wear for our uniform to be complete and we fit the look of working in an Irish pub.

Once we’re all ready, with our hair and makeup done, it’s time to get to work. The bartenders start setting up the bar for the night, making sure the beer tubs are fully stocked with ice and beer, the glasses are clean, and the margarita machine is turned on. And the waitresses get the floor and tables ready, all the menus must be clean and wiped down, the ice bin full, and there has to be plenty of silverware rolled. Meanwhile, the cooks, Victor and Jaime, are also getting ready for the night, they have to start prepping the food. While they prep one of us girls always try and convince them to make us something to eat. Since it’s an all-female staff that’s always pretty easy. We also use the excuse that we need energy for the rest of the night so we must have something to eat. We put in all kinds of crazy orders, but they always end up making us the same thing, a plate of Cajun lemon pepper buffalo wings. At least they put our favorite sauce and make them extra crispy just how we like. We all have to do our part to make sure the pub is perfect in order to have a good night, it’s really a team effort. Slowly the crowd starts to come in.

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Our first guest is almost always Ms. Michelle. She’s at Shamrocks so much she has a special glass just for herself that she leaves at the bar. She’s also friends with our owner, and a business owner herself, so she’s always there with a new client on a lunch date, or just working on her laptop enjoying her glass of chardonnay. When she’s sitting at the bar it’s never quiet, even though she’s a very successful woman that doesn’t stop her from being loud and sometimes crazy after a few glasses of wine. There’s never a dull moment with Ms. Michelle around. Even when she comes in alone she has no problem making friends with our other customers, telling them all kinds of crazy erotic stories. With her being so comfortable with herself it makes all our other guests feel the same way and once the liquor starts flowing everybody is talking to everybody and the music slowly begins to take control of the night.

Our Saturday nights are always the busiest. First we get a dinner rush which usually consists of families enjoying dinner or guys just getting off of work wanting an ice cold beer. The dinner rush is always pretty calm and quiet with the juke box playing whatever the guest want. Sometimes they can get upset when we’re short staffed and it’s a really busy night.  But when it gets really busy our guests aren’t the only ones who get upset the cooks do also. Victor, our cook, always reminds us to tell our customers not to order the Shepherd’s pie. That’s his least favorite thing to prepare, but staff telling the customers not to order a certain item doesn’t look good, and I’m sure our manager Arthur wouldn’t like that. When they choose to order it the cooks and I always bump heads. And once in a while we have guests that send food back because it wasn’t prepared how they like, Victor gets so upset with that also. Especially when they send back a steak to be cooked longer. We can both agree on our steaks being cooked medium rare, but we always have some customers that are disgusted with any pink in their steak and would prefer it cooked well done, or dry, like Victor and I call it.

After the dinner rush, our DJ sets up and we get the party crowd. The music is so loud at this point, you can barely hear each other without yelling, but the whole staff has practically mastered reading lips so it’s not an issue for us, our guests are having a great time laughing, dancing, and of course drinking. Couples start making out in front of everybody, and the quiet lady who first appeared very shy and reserved is now the best one on the dance floor. As long as the guest are having a good time the staff is also.  Then the attitudes come out. We always have at least one guest that has an issue with how long the food takes. I think it’s because the alcohol. When they order food almost five minutes later they complain about how long it’s taking but I don’t think most of them realize it’s only been five minutes. Working with customers that can sometimes be rude is part of the job and is something that the rest of the staff and I always expect. But we all work together to make sure they don’t get too crazy. Some guests try and drink more than they should by alternating between the bartenders and waitresses to try and get the most drinks or shots possible.

We can usually tell when somebody is becoming too intoxicated so it doesn’t become a big issue, and we also have our security Dorian to help with situations like that. When I asked him how he would handle that situation he said it’s usually easy for him because it’s his job to keep an eye on customers who start to act differently. He also said since he’s usually one of the biggest guys in the bar most guests don’t have a problem leaving if he asks them to leave. Also, the staff getting along so well with each other helps a lot too on crazy nights. We work in sync to attend to every single guest making sure they have the best experience possible and keep coming back while making sure they don’t get to drunk. When that happens they don’t notice what they’re doing because they’re so intoxicated and when it’s time to pay the tab some people forget to tip. Or worse, they can become so drunk that they won’t be able to drive themselves home.

We can always tell which ones are the most drunk by the way they act. Their dancing becomes offbeat or sometimes drinks begin to spill. That’s when we must let each other know not to serve that guest anymore or make sure their friends don’t sneak them any drinks. Either we give them water or offer them some chips to sober up. Usually the most drunken guests are with friends that help them home so it’s never became a big issue.

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By the end of the night, I’m so exhausted and sometimes question how relaxing the job is, but when I hear the DJ announce last call, I feel a sudden sense of relief and have another burst of energy. At this point, the crowd knows it’s their last chance to order something to drink before we close for the night. Instead of rushing to serve them I’m rushing to close out all my tabs and clean up.

The lights turn on, and all there is in sight are empty beer bottles, dirty plates, and glasses all over the empty tables and the crowd slowly making its way towards the exit. We all hurry up and wipe all the tables and push the chairs back in place. And once again make sure the beer is stocked, glasses clean, and silverware rolled, making it look like nobody was ever there at all. After everything is clean, we all sit down at the empty bar to count our tips and of course tip out the bartenders, bus boy and bar back. We laugh and exchange stories about our different customers throughout the night. The whole staff smells like alcohol and were more than ready to go home and shower but we still can’t help to talk, more like laugh at our crazy nights. Leaving work, we always feel satisfied knowing we all worked together and the night turned out to be a good one and we always leave ready to come back again.

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Escape to Shamrocks by Alyssa Orozco

Taco Trucks of Houston: Taking a Bite Out of Social Injustice by Youssef Martinez

Long ago, I was a red-faced little boy who had just arrived in the United States from Mexico. I was flushed with culture-shock, and I missed my mother and her cooking with all my heart. I longed for home, and most of all, I longed to be seated with my family at the dinner table, eating the wonderful food that my mother used to prepare for me. In America, my father tried his best to mimic her cooking, but he could not prepare anything that did not come in a box, despite his very admirable efforts. I had arrived in a small, Midwestern town that had very few Mexicans, and I spoke no English at all. For months, I had no friends, and desperately lacked the food that reminded me of home.

After a year of searching for authentic Latin American food, like my mother used to make, I had still found nothing but Taco-Bells and other Americanized spinoffs of Mexican food. It all tasted the same- fake and mass-produced. It is no surprise to any Latin American that ground beef in most dishes is unthinkable, as is the use of flour tortillas or American cheese slices. That is not Mexican food, and it bears no resemblance to what Latin Americans grow up eating. I was a very homesick child; unhappy, lonely, and desperately hungry for the cuisine of my homeland, I slowly grew more and more disillusioned with my new ‘home’.

I met and interviewed a man named Byron, who, although an adult, feels just as homesick as I did when I was barely a child. I outgrew homesickness because I transitioned into American culture, having learned to speak English through grade school, and having made friends. However, he has not outgrown homesickness because, due to his inability to speak English, he is limited to only live on the fringes of society, mostly in isolation or with other immigrants. He is originally from Ecuador, and only speaks his native tongue. He has few friends, and lives a thousand miles away from his family and his beloved ranch.

I asked him why he remains in America, rather than taking his savings and returning to Ecuador. He explained that he deeply misses his eight children and his wife, but added, “We all have people we miss. We all have people that we can’t see. That’s life. That’s always been life. And you know what? No matter what you do, that’s always going to be life. So, I do what I should. They have a house; you know? They aren’t renting, and my daughter is in a good school. This little taco-stand paid for it. I own two of these, but I run this one. Anyhow, my daughter, she’s in a great college there, and she might come on a visa here. This is what it’s all for. I could go back but I’d run out of money in five years or less. No, you should put your priorities in the right order. Is it about you, or about your kids and your wife?”

Byron told me that he has almost nothing that reminds him of home. Most Hispanics he encounters are not even from Ecuador, and therefore, even in his own community, he has few prospective friends. However, he added that his restaurant brings him a bit of home every time that he opens shop. Because Latin cuisine varies greatly from region to region, often to the point of having little resemblance from one place to the next, Byron makes his own food, in his own way. Because of his sole command over the design of his cuisine, he, and other homesick immigrants from provinces neighboring his own, always find a taste of home at his taco stand.

This type of location-based cooking can be a real help to homesick immigrants, as it once was to me. After all, Latin Americans are not just from Latin America. They are each from individual countries, states, provinces, and towns, each with a unique style of cooking, and with a very distinct cuisine. Long after I had already given up on finding the food that I pined for, I encountered a restaurant which was owned by a man from my homeland, and therefore produced the very distinct cuisine which I grew up loving, (and which I was unable to locate at more mainstream establishments).

This happened when, one day, my father and I pulled into the parking lot of an auto-parts store. I sat in the care while my father went in. At that time, we had no A.C. in our vehicle, so the window was rolled down to permit a breeze to flow through. I leaned back in my chair and closed my eyes. Suddenly, I smelled something wonderful. I knew what it was, but I refused to get my hopes up until I was sure. The aroma became unmistakable; herbs and spices infused with an earthy odor, the fragrance of fresh, healthy beef being seared to a fatty crisp, the bursting aromas of freshly sliced lime and radishes, and the lingering scent of grilled baby-onions. The smells of my homeland were now here, in America! I was ecstatic.

I lunged forward and looked to my right. There I saw a large, white, box-truck, which was so old and scuffed-up that I immediately assumed it was in the parking lot because it had broken down there. Suddenly, a little window slid open and a man with a white hat and a white apron leaned out of the window and yelled something. Another man stopped the conversation he was having and quickly walked over and grabbed a little white bag from the window sill. He opened it, and did not even move a step away before he began to eat. There, half-wrapped in tinfoil, I saw some of the food from my childhood; black beans with jalapenos and crumbling cheese, beside a bed of rice and fried plantains with cream. There were also a couple of tacos, made with real corn tortillas and beef chunks. This man also had other, much more complex Latin dishes available like rice-stuffed egg-battered peppers, and a dish made from chocolate and almond-cream, poured over chicken, as well as a hearty Mexican stew made of beef and various delicious vegetables. I could smell it all, and I was overjoyed.

I had never paid attention to a taco truck before, and in all honesty, I didn’t know what they were. So, this man struck me as being quite interesting. He was not wearing a uniform with a name tag. His truck did not have a company logo, or a brand of any kind, anywhere. He did not seem to be part of some large corporation or chain. In fact, he looked just like many of my neighbors in Mexico. I determined that he was just a normal person, and that he had made this wonderful little business all on his own. I felt proud of him, though I did not even know him.

When my father came out of the store, I rattled off about what I had seen and a look came over his face as if to say, “Oh yeah, the taco-trucks… Why didn’t I think of that?” My father had no cash on him, so he knew that he would not be able to buy anything for me to eat at that time, until we went home and got more money. He took me to the window to ask the man inside at what time he would close. Because my father is of Irish descent, he has white skin and blue eyes, so the man in the truck replied in broken English, “I close ten minutes. Maybe twenty. When the sun is gone.”

To the man’s surprise, my father began to speak Spanish and a friendly conversation ensued. I listened and learned, and in overhearing their conversation, I became fascinated by the man’s story. He had left his wife behind, and was only able to send for her after working many years. He told us that he had become tired of working physically exhausting jobs for someone else, and so he saved his money and started his own business. He explained that he had never had enough money for his family, despite working many, many hours. He had much to say on the willingness of some employers to abuse illegal immigrants, as well as those immigrants’ unwillingness (or inability and lack of options, as I see it) to defend themselves.

I listened as they spoke, concerned, as I was at that time a young immigrant myself, and I wondered if that type of mistreatment would be all that awaited me. However, I was also eager to find out if I would finally get to eat the some of the food from my childhood that was sizzling just a few feet away from me. Finally, I interrupted and asked if there would be enough time to get cash to pay the man for a plate of food. My father explained that it would be impossible to do, for there was simply not enough time to go home and return. Though I knew it was true, I was saddened.

We said our goodbyes, promising to come back tomorrow to buy everything on the menu, and then turned to leave. As I began to waddle away, I heard a rustling noise, and then I heard the man say, “Mijo, aqi.”, (which means “Here, son.”). I turned and found the man stretching his arm out past the little window of his truck. He handed me something warm that had been hurriedly wrapped in a piece of foil. I opened it and beheld in my grasp, for the first time in a year, a little piece of home. It was reminiscent of my childhood, of my earliest memories; of my friends, of my mother’s cooking, and even of my mother herself. I was impressionable and very young at the time, and I am told by my father that I ate the first taco through tiny sobs. I don’t recall, but it is certainly possible.

At that time, it meant so much to me. But of course, you may think, “It’s just a taco! What baby would cry over a taco?” This was less about the food and more about what it represented to me, especially as a child. Not only had I finally found my homeland’s cuisine (1,000 miles away from home), but I had also met a man who had the same background as I had, and who was very kind and enthusiastic, as well as hopeful about all immigrants’ place in American society.

However, what he told me about the limitations placed on immigrants by society, as well as about their inability (or unwillingness, as he saw it) to respond accordingly, rings true to this day. Although stereotypical, it is true to say that immigrant Hispanic men are usually seen working in backbreaking construction trades such as concrete work, drywall installation, or exposed to the elements doing lawn care, or some similar trade labor. The women fare no better, generally employed as babysitters, housekeepers, or maids, (as my own mother is). What choice do most of them have?

Consider also that Hispanic culture places a huge emphasis on the importance of food, which can easily become neglected in the rush of American life. This loss of tradition leads to a deterioration of the Hispanic immigrant’s cultural identity. Personally, I can recall nothing in my childhood which received more time and attention than did cooking, and I can recall no happier, more affectionate moments in my youth than those spent sitting around the dinner table with my parents, with a plate of food before me. Immigrants often find that one of the things that they miss the most about home is the cuisine that they grew up eating, but have left behind.

Therefore, life in America can often be very disillusioning for Hispanic immigrants in two key ways; immigrants find that they work long hours for very low pay at unfulfilling jobs, as well as that they have been torn from the cuisine that embodies the spirit of their homeland and the culture of their people, which they cherish so deeply.

However, despite some people’s misfortune, those who have fought for their citizenship and won have managed to make some tremendous moves in the right direction. Not all Hispanic immigrants have been prevented from progressing; hungry for a taste of home and disappointed with their career prospects, some Hispanic immigrants have found the solution to both problems in a single entrepreneurial leap of faith. Known to most as the iconic ‘taco truck’, mobile food catering businesses are accessible, realistic business opportunities which allow immigrants of all walks of life to express themselves and their culture through the culinary arts, as well as to forge a new career path for themselves; one that brims with opportunities and the prospect of financial independence. I will discuss the beneficial nature of these businesses in a moment, but let’s first look at some of the negative effects of Hispanic immigrants’ lack of employment options, as well as the potential causes of this.

Why should so many Hispanic persons be gardeners, gas station clerks, or maids, or be employed in some other entry-level positions? It is a profoundly harmful thing to the Hispanic immigrant community for there to be so few career options available to them. To be clear, there is nothing wrong, in the least, with being a maid or a gardener, or a gas station clerk, if one has chosen to lead that life. However, if Latinos simply choose these cookie-cutter careers because they are unable to acquire anything else, perhaps due to a serious language barrier, or discrimination, then there is something profoundly wrong taking place. It is no secret that immigrants face a major language barrier, but a lesser known difficulty is that foreign education rarely stacks up to that of American universities, which reduces many educated immigrants to positions normally reserved for non-educated citizens. The joke about a janitor who used to be a surgeon in ‘his land’ is not far out. Hispanic immigrants are disenfranchised from the start, stuck with the ‘left over’ careers that everyone else has passed up. Therefore, there is very little diversity in career options for Hispanic immigrants.

Naturally, this leads to stereotypes, labels and clichés, to abound. For example, many Hispanic immigrants have casually turned a blind eye to such offensive clichés as that of Family Guy’s ‘Mexican Maid’ character, which depicts an elderly Hispanic woman who speaks only broken English and is presented as being incapable of doing anything other than house chores. Stereotypes like these have been ruthlessly hammered into American culture, and have themselves been accepted by many Hispanic immigrants, who awkwardly blush, chuckle or look away when confronted with such caricatures. They do not know what to say: in the land of liberty, they are the unfortunate punchline to a joke that they do not even understand.

Furthermore, the condition of the Hispanic immigrant community has deteriorated from these unresolved issues. Over the course of decades, on a national scale, Hispanic immigrants’ acceptance of such cultural stereotypes has resulted in a community of immigrant workers which is arguably the most oppressed, belittled, and disenfranchised of all the working classes found in America. Despite the lack of recourse on the part of most, some immigrants have become discontented, and have instead chosen to humbly, but sternly, stand up in the face of these insults.

They are the diamond in the rough; a widespread group of immigrants who have chosen to empower themselves through their entrepreneurial skills. They have done this by starting small businesses, the most interesting of these being taco trucks. Admittedly, these tiny establishments seem unsuspecting, dull, and unimpressive, in nearly every regard. Profits for taco truck owners are mediocre at best and the work is barely different than fast-food. The owners occasionally slave over a hot stove for hours, and are often over-worked during peak rushes such as breakfast and lunch. Often, the trucks themselves are hideous, with chipping, peeling paint, and exposed metal patches, worn and rusted. Honestly, looking from every angle on the outside, a taco truck can quickly seem to be nothing more than a failed attempt at a ‘real’ restaurant.

The unimpressive, superficial appearance of a taco truck is deeply misleading. When one is on the inside of the truck and looking out, it is an entirely different view; it is a wonderful one because the person working inside is engaged in an artful act of escape from hard labor. The very existence of a taco truck means that whomever is inside has successfully escaped from the life-draining drudgery of twelve-hour shifts in the sun, swinging a hammer or digging a ditch. Whomever is inside the truck is no longer subjected to the will of a cruel, (sometimes racist), boss, or to the stresses of facing an impossible workload.

These small businesses give back greatly to their community and provide fulfillment to their owners. They provide homesick immigrants with the dishes that they know and love, thereby encouraging and edifying them on their journey. They foster conversations friendly, meaningful dialogues, and new friendships. The owners themselves find that rather than being stifled in their cultural identities, they are empowered to be artistic, and expressive of themselves and of their cultures in many creative ways. Rather than slowly watching their heritage and traditions dissolve into a fast-paced life filled with countless hours of unfulfilling work, they can develop themselves and their identities more than ever. For example, they may suddenly choose to add a festively decorated fruit drink to the menu for the holidays, or perfect a new dish that catches on and brings in revenue.

These small establishments also pose big challenges to the socioeconomic molds of what immigrants are expected to adhere to. Opening a taco truck (or any other immigrant owned business) is something of an act of confidence in one’s own value and worth as a person. It is like telling your boss that you value yourself, and your family, too much to needlessly endure hardships at work for chump change. It is a bet on yourself, but it is wonderfully rewarding when it works out because it means new opportunities for entire families.

These views are confirmed by a man whom I interviewed named Jairo, who is a taco-truck owner in Spring, Texas. Jairo used to work at a dead-end job at a factory, and before that, in construction. He saved his money and eventually bought a trailer, which he converted into a taco stand. I found my eye drawn to his stand because of the way in which it was plastered with goofy, comical stickers and tropical décor. As he prepared my fried plantains, I was allowed inside to ask him about his work. Everything inside his truck was perfectly in order. There were no stains, spills, or bits of garbage. He decorated the inside just like the outside; Hawaiian-themed. It seemed to be a well-ran operation, and he took great pride in it. There was an atmosphere of calmness, although Jairo himself exuded a positive, cheerful attitude. He prepared a plate of fried plantains with Mexican cream for me as we talked.

I asked him how he felt about being a taco truck owner, and whether he cooked with passion or if he did it just for money. He replied in Spanish, “Son, of course I’m very passionate about my food. You see the smiley face sticker on the window?” He leaned out and wrapped his arm around the glass to point at an enormous, yellow, smiling face sticker and said, “That’s a man who wants to be here. That sticker doesn’t have to be there. But, food is everything, and if you can make your living with food? It’s much nicer that way. If I didn’t earn money, I couldn’t afford to do what I love. It’s great. I mean, when I was a kid, I was fat! No toys, no playing, no nothing. I just wanted to be in the kitchen with Mama, and we’d cook all day. She showed me how to cook. Dinner was the best part of the day. I grew up cooking and being around food. Some people, they don’t have that. They have money and other stuff; I think that’s fine. But they don’t have that connection to food.”

After listening to my father tell me about what the man in the white hat said, as well as listening to Byron, it was Jairo’s words that most impressed me. When I asked Jairo how he felt about his business, he said, “It’s everything I push for. I mean, I know it’s a small, little business. There’s thousands of them. It’s nothing to a high-roller. It’s only just a little taco-truck, but it’s my taco-truck. I keep what I make, and it goes to my family. It doesn’t go up the ladder to make some rich guy richer. It’s for my children. It’s actually for us.

He later stressed to me that making it to America is only half of the battle, and that if you let your passions and your entrepreneurial spirit mingle, and add some hard work, you can achieve many worthwhile things. He also told me about a documentary that recently came out about a man who practices brain surgery at John Hopkins. He attended higher schooling for something like twenty-one years, but was at first only an illegal immigrant who spoke no English and had no real prospects in America. Of course, there is a great difference between starting a taco-truck business and becoming a brain surgeon, but there are immigrants who have done both. I am thoroughly convinced that taco trucks are a step in the right direction for the Hispanic immigrant community to break free from unwarranted stereotypes and unjust socioeconomic boundaries. Also, the move up in society that Latin American immigrants experience by becoming business owners (rather than being perpetual employees) empowers and encourages them to be bolder, and to stand for themselves and their place in the world.

For example, in David Staff’s article, “Culinary Workers Build Taco Truck ‘Wall’ Outside Trump Hotel in Las Vegas”, a band of taco truck owners are seen taking a stand for themselves outside of a hotel owned by a man who has been openly critical of the Latin American immigrant community. Staff shows us that these Latin American workers are not content with the way in which things are moving politically in this country, as well as personally for their community of workers. They are irate over Donald Trump’s repeated threats to build a wall, as well as the Trump Tower’s management’s unwillingness to recognize these workers as having a unionized status. The article shows us a community of upset Hispanic business owners who have found that Trump’s comments “were offensive” (Staff 1). It also brings to light “an ongoing battle between the hotel’s management and the Culinary Workers Union, which represents roughly 500… culinary employees” (Staff 1). The article expounds upon these worker’s willingness to fight back in protest of Trump’s racism and to “make light of his promise to build a wall spanning the length of the southern border” (Staff 1).

However, there are other obstacles that require action, not just a voice. For example, in California, unjust legislation has been passed which has adversely affected the growth of the taco truck community. In Steven Greenhut’s essay, “California Takes a Bite Out of Taco Trucks”, we find yet another threat to the taco truck community. A tax agency called the Board of Equalization has been found to be “targeting and mistreating” (Greenhut 1) taco truck owners. This is being done through deceptive maneuvers involving unfair tax estimates, which are grossly unrealistic. The agency is “desperate for cash, and state officials are concocting unrealistic estimates of food sales and employing heavy handed tactics” (Greenhut 1). Essentially, the BOE is taking advantage of a disadvantaged small-business community which has, despite the BOE’s claims, always had a solid record of “paying an acceptable amount” (Greenhut 1). It should also be known that these workers and Greenhut are not defending the idea that they should be spared of taxation: on the contrary, Greenhut states that he is “not arguing that small businesses shouldn’t pay their fair share of taxes or comply with reasonable rules, but it’s a sad day when the state government treats them like criminals–or like a piggybank” (Greenhut 1).

As though beginning their lives in American society as the lowest of the low -the most disenfranchised of all American communities- were not enough, these underprivileged immigrants must now also weather a social and political storm that is centered around racism, fear-mongering, and the abuse of the poor by the wealthy.

Despite this, the Latin American community, specifically its immigrant population, has refused to back down and be bulldozed by racism, unfair taxation, or any other type of opposition that they face. These immigrants choose not to succumb to the stereotypes and demands laid out for them by certain members of society.

Instead, they continue to endeavor towards a better life in which they are self-sufficient, and able to do more for themselves and their families. I am happy to share in this often-over-looked community, because they have made something meaningful out of very little.

As I work through college, myself an immigrant, I find that I am impressed by their work ethic, and I often doubt that I would do what they have done to succeed.

For some immigrants, the promised land is never reached. Yet, others do arrive, but unfortunately settle, and work their lives away, hour by hour. Only a few, however, make it to America safely and then choose to give it one more push, to take ten more steps, and to make a wonderful life out of only opposition. In this way, my community has formed a brighter future where only hardship, and an all-all-too predictable future of conformity, once awaited us.

(This essay was a Stayton award winner in Fall 2016).

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Works Cited

David, Staff. “Culinary Workers Build Taco Truck ‘Wall’ Outside Trump Hotel in Las Vegas.”

Christian Science Monitor, vol. 12, no. 1, October 2016, pp. 1-2. Academic Search

Complete, doi: 10. 1007/s10903 015-7103-0

Greenhut, Steven. “California Takes a Bite Out of Taco Trucks.” Human Events, vol. 68, no. 27,

October 2016, pp. 1-3. Academic Search Complete, doi: 10. 1003/s20701-011-3203-0

Taco Trucks of Houston: Taking a Bite Out of Social Injustice by Youssef Martinez

Not A Lost People: the indigenous people of Mexico by Evelin Arredondo

Deep in the center of Mexico lies the vibrant city of Guanajuato where the people invite you in with a warm smile and a lively welcoming. Beyond Salamanca, Mexico lies the Cuatro de Altamira rancho. You can tell on the drive into the ranch that the people don’t have much and many make a living off of agriculture, but despite the humble surroundings there’s a spirit in the air that makes you feel so free. Kids run up the Cerro to reach La tiendita de Maria that rests at the peak of the enormous hill in order to buy candy and fried chips with salsa and spices. You hear the horses’ hooves clack on the dirt road and you can’t help but to turn around and face the men coming back from La Sequia. Exhaustion decorates their bodies and their sombreros help shield their faces from the setting sun. The cattle are rounded back onto the fields with the help of El Capitan- our trusty dog. Uncle Sol opens the green gates for the cattle and horses while the working men make their way into the adobe kitchen. My abuelita gives them hearty servings of chicken flautas with fresh queso, salsa roja and of course, a cold glass bottle of Coca-Cola. 

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This essay continues from my personal journal to interviews and provides a brief glimpse into the anger that the indigenous people of Mexico hold. Their pain was apparent during the interviews I conducted via Skype, Facebook Messenger, and over the phone. They go into depth about the horrific and overlooked genocide of their people, struggles within the community, and their fight to keep the wick on their culture burning.

© Gabriel Saldana – Indigenous Mexicans

I contacted Cuetlachtli, a family friend, to enlighten us on a few topics. My first question to him was about the fiery debate on what to call the millions of Mexican people that reside in North American lands. “Hispanic” or “Latino/a” is commonly used, but to the surprise of many people… both terms are incorrect. Well, those two terms aren’t actually incorrect if you’re speaking in regards to Europeans. Latinos are people from southern Europe and the term Hispanic is used to describe people or things from Spain. According to the indigenous communities, the correct term for our people is Nican Tlaca. Nican Tlaca is a word from Nahuatl language that means “we the people here”. It’s wrong for indigenous people to be wrongfully addressed as Europeans because we’re not. The terms “Hispanic” and “Latino/a” are umbrella terms that erase hundreds of cultures and languages. Cuetlachtli proceeded to scold me for using the word “North America” during my interview because “I should know better”. Anahuac would be the appropriate term to use when addressing the land from “Canada” all the way down to “South America” and “Alaska”; Other indigenous communities, primarily the ones in the “United States” refer to “North America” as Turtle Island.

The topic of proper terms spiraled into a conversation about the Spanish language. Spanish is Mexico’s national language and pretty much everyone in Mexico can speak it fluently. However, the language wasn’t introduced into Mexico until 1519 when the Spanish Conquistadors led by Hernan Cortes invaded Mexican land. The language didn’t catch on immediately; It wasn’t until the next century when the transition into the Spanish language started happening. Oddly enough, a lot of Spanish words are similar to Nahuatl words. For example, avocado in Spanish is aguacate and avocado in Nahuatl is ahuacatl. You pronounce them the same way, but they’re written differently. Despite colonization, there are still 62 indigenous languages that are alive and thriving.

Eighty-eight percent of people in Mexico identify with Roman Catholicism; Majority of people with Mexican descent have found a way to practice Catholicism while incorporating indigenous beliefs like Dia De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead). However, many people in indigenous communities reject the religion because of the genocide it ensued. They view Catholicism as a part of colonialism. Christianity has been a catalyst to humanity’s greatest atrocities. They see this religion as an accomplice in the genocide of 95% of our people. Catholic practitioners demonize these people because they choose not to worship a God, that in their experience, has been nothing but cruel to them. I could sense the anger and pain in Nezahualcoyotl’s voice. I asked if violence was the key to dealing with the oppressors and to my surprise he shook his head “no”. He explained that if we introduce violence to people lacking Nican Tlaca knowledge then they will fight without knowing the reason for their rightful anger.

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This indigenous community advocates peaceful re-education of us Nican Tlaca and of other people, including Europeans. They preach about the importance of consuming our cultural foods only. One of the mothers, her name is Ocelotl, says that cooking a pot of beans from scratch is a small revolutionary act. She warned us about the health dangers that result from adopting the traditional American diet and then she proceeds to boast about the 102-year-old lady that lives up the hill to prove her point. The traditional diet of Mexicans living in poverty consists of fresh vegetables and fruit grown in their own land, pulque (a beverage that comes from the maguey plant), homemade corn tortillas, beans, and grains. The most favored dish among their community are the tamales, but my personal favorite is the simple, staple dish of refried beans with red salsa and flour tortillas.
FLAUTAS (ROLLED TORTILLAS WITH CHICKEN INSIDE), RICE, BEANS, ENCHILADAS

In “A New Mexican Nationalism? Indigenous Rights, Constitutional Reform And The Conflicting Meanings of Multiculturalism” by Guillermo De La Peña, when the invaders arrived in Mexico, they saw the opportunity to create an identity for themselves. “The creoles had become parasitic” (De La Peña 280) because they stole land and created an enslavement system. Our Mexican ancestors were allowed to live on the land, but only if they worked on it. If there was a woman in the family, the master/owner would rape her in order to “purify the race”. The people with mixed blood would soon be known as Mestizos. The mixed lineage, destruction of our history, and the forceful ownership of our land was the start of centuries of poverty, exclusion, and oppression for indigenous people. Those struggles made it difficult for them to “provide a solid basis for national identity” (De La Peña 280), thus resulting in the exclusion of wealth, education, healthcare, and opportunity. The Mestizo population quickly became the majority and took the lead in building what is now Mexico.

The Spanish invasion imposed new standards for native people. Majority of the people shown in Mexican media have fair skin and European features because Mexico favors lighter skin as a result of colonization. They know that fair skin equates to status, wealth, and access to quality education. I never noticed the resentment towards my siblings and I from my cousin until my trip last year when I witnessed her getting treated poorly by the same sales associate that was kind to me. This interview was the perfect opportunity to bring up that event. I asked her how she felt about the people with lighter skin in our community. My cousin expressed her frustration about us not being completely capable of understanding the pain of being indigenous because we will never have to experience the same level of discrimination that she does. I reflected on what she said and I actually started to notice the differences between us. I’m capable of obtaining more opportunities for the advancement of my education and career compared to her. Colorism has created a huge wealth gap in Mexico. The higher you climb up the wealth ladder, the fairer the skin gets. Mexico will never be the progressive country it can be if we don’t change the inequality that has been imposed on non-white indigenous people.

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A white-passing child chosen to be in a celebration instead of a child with indigenous features

This particular indigenous community has radical views and has often called themselves extremists. Their goal is to enlighten the people of Mexico and people of Mexican heritage and reclaim Anahuac. Our ancestors had thriving civilizations without the help of the Europeans. We had remarkable accomplishments in astrology, architecture, literature, engineering, medicine, art, and writing then they invaded and burned down all of our efforts. Our once rich and thriving cities were left in rubble and ruins then they proceeded to force our ancestors to assimilate and stripped them of their culture. Indigenous communities have the highest substance abuse and suicide rates in America. The Unites States has a holiday that honors the day when colonizers came to Anahuac. Christopher Columbus is idolized instead of being shown for who he really was- a murderer, rapist, and thief. Some progressive states have changed Columbus day to Indigenous People Day and that’s the kind of change that fuels indigenous people to keep fighting for the acknowledgment of their history. The lack of respect for Natives is still apparent in this day and age. In fact, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe from North Dakota, members of other tribes, and activists have started the largest Native American protest of this era. The United States government is taking control of Native lands and forcing members to allow the construction of oil pipelines. Oil, gold, and riches are the things drove the Conquistadors to murder and steal from our ancestors and this feels like history is repeating itself.

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over 100 police officers armed with military equipment trying to remove peaceful protestors

Texas, California, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Colorado, and Wyoming were a part of Mexico up until the 1848 treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. This treaty ended the Mexican war and gave the people living in the area the option to become citizens of the United States or move to Mexico. Almost all decided to stay because this was their homeland, so the treaty stated that they would receive all the rights of American citizens. However, the U.S. started bringing white settlers into the newly acquired land and the original inhabitants soon became second-class citizens. On the other hand, the people who moved to Mexico because of the treaty had to return to their homelands in the U.S. because a revolution was happening in Mexico. Organizations like LULAC came up with strategies to help the returning Mexican people assimilate to Anglo culture. The exploitation of our people, the violence, the racism, the alarming rates of dead Chicano veterans, the lack of educational resources, and the lack of political representation ignited the Chicano Movement. According to “The Chicano Movement: Paths to Power” by Jose Angel Gutierrez, the movement was started by the children of the first Mexican-Americans. Chicanos didn’t want to assimilate because they feared losing their already deteriorating culture. They were proud of their indigenous roots. The land Mexico lost to the U.S. was unofficially renamed Aztlan by Chicanos as a way to give it back its Aztec identity. Change occurred due to the brilliant strategies implemented by the Chicano Movement. They revolted, held protests and demonstrations, started becoming more politically involved, and they built alliances between other minority movements. The movement created one of the largest protest in United States history. The word Chicano gives Mexican-American people an identity. Chicano means knowing you’re a Mestizo and you have blood of the Conquistadors and blood of the Aztecs running through your veins. It gives a home to people like me- people who don’t fully belong in indigenous tribes and are rejected by their white peers. People like me aren’t from here or there.

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I interviewed my Chicana friend and a member of the Brown Berets ( an organization in California that was prominent in the Chicano Movement). My friend’s name is Melanie, she’s Mexican and Salvadoran. I asked her to tell me what the Chicano Movement meant to her. She said “that the movement fights for people of Mexican descent to get equal access/equal opportunities and contributes to the erasure of negative stereotypes”. All first generation children are aware or the hardships endured by their parents she feels that as a first generation woman she has to “deal with the consequences that has historically made it impossible for our people to succeed”.  We all have our reasons for supporting the movement, so I asked her what her reasons were. She said that she wants “justice for all who deserve it”. She plans on becoming an immigration lawyer because “our sociopathic government purposely instills fear in people”. She believes that “nothing will change without a revolution”. We also started talking about the phrase “If you kick immigrants out, who will work the fields?” People of all ethnicities have said this in one form or another- even our own people. Statements like these are regressive because it normalizes the notion that all Mexicans/South Americans are only good for cheap labor. I wanted a deeper insight on the movement, so I contacted a Brown Berets member on Facebook. I asked her how did the emergence of this movement affect Mexican-Americans in terms of identity. She gave me the most through paragraph in the world, but a couple of sentences stood out to me the most. She explained that our people were without a unifying central cause. We are made to feel foreigners in our land despite having our presence here prior to Anglo American colonialism. She said that “it was only as Chicanos that we busted doors open”. I questioned her about the creation of the word “Chicana/o” and “Xicana/o”. She told me that “it derived from the word Mesheeca”. Mesheeca was the way our ancestors pronounced Mexico. The letter “x” makes the “sh” sound in Nahuatl language, so some people spell Chicano with an “X” to be more authentic.

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The brown berets

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Brown berets practicing second amendment right

Brown berets in formation

The Mexica Movement is a liberation movement that has recently started in southern California by Olin Tezcatlipoca. I couldn’t get an interview with him, but I managed to interview Naui, a supporter of this movement. I asked him why we couldn’t just get over the past and conform to the new way of life. He sternly replied that the “European criminal invasions, killings, massacres, and outright ethnocide that killed 95% of our population can’t be swept under the carpet.” I then proceeded to ask him if he thought that the actions of the invaders from centuries ago still has a negative effect in our community. He made it clear to me that the massacre of our people allowed for the theft of our wealth of resources which is what unjustifiably enriched Europeans on our continent. Our people live in poverty while the recipients of colonization live a life that appears to be filled with privilege.

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The idea to completely decolonize your lifestyle and your way of thinking seems far-fetched, but to these people it feels like an obligation to plant seeds of truth in the mind of anyone willing to listen and learn the true history. They feel that they have to think drastic thoughts and take drastic actions in order to achieve the change they envision. Nezahualcoyotl says that we are all one people separated by imaginary borders. They want to stop being treated like foreigners on their own land. The ignorance of our people is a deep scar. We’re blind to our own identity because we’ve never been taught our true history in school. They teach us the oppressor’s history and make us idolize them. They make us feel love for America, but are quick to tell us we don’t belong here.

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                                          The white-washing of indigenous people

Works Cited

De la Peña, Guillermo. “A New Mexican Nationalism? Indigenous Rights, Constitutional Reform And The Conflicting Meanings of Multiculturalism” Nations & Nationalism, 12.2, 2006, pp. 279-302. Academic Search Complete, lscsproxy.lonestar.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=ip,cpid&custid=s1088435&db=a9h&AN=20287355&site=ehost-live

Gutiérrez, José Ángel. “The Chicano Movement: Paths To Power.” Social Studies, 102.1, 2011, pp.25-32. Academic Search Complete, lscsproxy.lonestar.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=ip,cpid&custid=s1088435&db=a9h&AN=56851754&site=ehost-live

Not A Lost People: the indigenous people of Mexico by Evelin Arredondo

The Fishermen of Bonacca by Doris Dugall

The warm summer breeze arrived in the Island of Guanaja in Honduras Central America, while my sister Reina, wife of a fisherman, packed her husband bags to make sure he won’t forget important items needed at sea: pills, batteries, flashlight, 20 changes of clothes basically shorts and t-shirts, toothpaste and a warm blanket among other items.  Reina Rosa, a resident, says, “Wives play an important role in being the ones packing their husband bags, because they know which are the items they will need since at sea there is no hospital or grocery store to buy anything”; the only panorama for these men for the next 6 months will be ocean and sky, along with sunrises and sunsets”. Wives make sure their men leave fully equipped because if there is an infection, fever or stomachache, they will have medication to fight when sick.

Fishing season in the Island of Guanaja has begun and most of the men, between the ages of 17 and 55 from the Mangrove and Savannah Bight communities in this small Island off the coast of Honduras, Central America, are ready to depart in order to provide for their families. It’s a bitter sweet moment for all, but that is the only way of life they have known for over a century. Even though their families will be left home alone for half a year, once they return they will have made enough money to stay home for the following six months and try to catch up the time lost while they were at sea. I called my childhood friend Richard Hurlston, he mentioned how excited he was when he graduated from high school at age 18. “I couldn’t believe I was ready to begin my life at sea, because I knew that soon after I would be marrying my girlfriend Janice.”

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Lobster season is open and a boat is departing filled with lobster trap boxes

The way these fishermen catch lobster is by trapping them into these wooden boxes, Reginald Dixon states that the first time he went on a fishing trip at age 18, “I was vomiting for a couple of days because I couldn’t tolerate the strong and almost unbearable odor of dry cow’s skin (hide).” These small boats are loaded with huge amounts of cow’s skin because it’s used as bait to trap lobster. These crustaceans have a certain attraction to this special scent and once they smell it they enter the box and become trapped.

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The traps are filled with cow skin in order to attract lobsters

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Cowhide (skin)

This is not life for everyone. They did not choose this destiny, but it’s what their ancestors have done and the legacy they left: catch fish in order to provide for their families. They have extremely long working hours as their day begins at 3am when they have breakfast; then at around 10am they eat lunch and finally at 4pm they end their hard working day with dinner, to then head to their bunk beds because as soon as the sun sets they need to say goodnight and get enough rest to then wake up the following day at 3am to continue with the very same routine day after day, week after week for the next 180 days. The bad weather will be the only reason to have a day off work. They continuously monitor the weather in order to move north, south, east or west in case a storm approaches their location.

As soon as the young boys in my community graduate from high school, they know what awaits them: A life half lived at sea, catching shrimp and lobster. They initiate their training in the middle of the ocean, in the small kitchen area in order to become cooks, where there are a couple of small tables that are built within the boat, stuck to the fiber glass floor in order to prevent them from moving and keep them steady. The sink is quite large and next to it sits their new best friend, the one they will have at the beginning of this journey to become fishermen: The Stove, which is covered with iron around the top in order to prevent the pots to samba dance with the waves.

The first couple of weeks at sea most of these young boys become sea-sick, they usually throw up because at moments the ocean waves are rough and the winds are too strong; but this is a natural reaction for a beginner and soon they will get used to the ocean’s split personality.  Later on, as the weeks pass by, they accept their destiny and fall in love with the ocean and what they were meant to do for the rest of their existence. A young fisherman called Jimmy Jackson said, “The first lesson in this journey (to become cook) is possibly the most difficult job at sea and could be the most rewarding after the Captain off course.”

It is not an easy task because they need to be the first ones to wake up to begin work long before the sun rises and they are the last one to go to their bunk beds and get rest after a long day of work. The cooks need to have breakfast prepared when the rest of the crew is up at 3am. There has to be coffee, fried beans, scrambled egg, sausage and bread when the nine or more crew men along with the captain are up. It’s a never ending job because when breakfast is over, all men head to the platform of the boat to begin work, the cook needs to clean up the plastic dishes and pots used ad immediately begin to prepare lunch.

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Liberty Belle boat leaving loaded with wooden trap boxes to catch plenty of lobster.

One of the most appreciated rewards for these fishermen is the time of trade, which happens when several boats meet at sea in the middle of the ocean. The captains of all boats are always in constant contact with each other over the radio and organize to meet when they are catching lobster or shrimp near their peers.  Once they meet, they chat, joke and also exchange soft drinks, beers, cookies or any other supply with the fruit that the ocean gives birth to: Seafood. This is a way of earning extra money because when these fishermen return home they can sell lobster or shrimp and make more money. When they meet at sea, it’s also a good opportunity to receive a box of goods from home; I remember when my brother in law sent home some seafood or mail to my sister Reina, who was so happy to receive his mail. Gone to sea for six months does not mean the seafood will reach port in six months. There are also special ships that go to meet with the rest of the boats in order to load them with fuel, water, food, medicine and mail from home; at the same time the crew members in these boats have the opportunity send their product home.

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Most fishermen become very attached to this way of life that they have fallen in love with it and do not long to work in land. “I love the breathtaking and beautiful scenery of the sunrises and sunsets I have the opportunity to just watch every single day.” Captain Bryd Rosa; he adds how little he feels in the middle of the immense ocean and he thanks God for protecting them because living and working at sea it’s a constant danger, as the weather can change and they have no place to run and hide in that immensity. But they constantly monitor the weather through the radio, because there are specific radio frequencies that are destined for this purpose.

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Daughter calling her daddy on the radio.

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Captain Bryd Rosa trying to establish contact with his family

While these hardworking men are gone, their families are left with relatives that live nearby and the church has become their main support.  Life for the wives is not as easy as we think; children miss their dad on special occasions, birthdays and holidays like Christmas time, also during school presentations because they can’t be with them and congratulate or give a hug when they receive awards. My sister Reina Dugall-Rosa said that when raising her girls, she somehow felt as if she were a single mother, because her husband wasn’t home to see the girls first steps or listen to their first words; she alone had to deal when they had a midnight fever. When the girls were little, their daddy arrived after 6 months and they did not recognize him and cried thinking he was a complete stranger. Later when the girls grew, and started to talk, she tried to make them talk on the radio every day, at least a few words in order to create a bond that the distance did not allow, the radio communications somehow helped.

dugall814 feet long Great White Shark caught, they will let dry under the sun in order to obtain 10 gallons of oil that is good for bronchial diseases. Capt. Bryd Rosa (red shorts).

The men in my community are away from home for such long periods of time but thanks to the high band frequency radio signal, they are communicating with family on a daily basis and can hear the voice of their loved ones and learn what’s happening back home. Every fishing boat has a personal radio frequency known by all in the community in order to contact them; each family (house) is always on standby in the same radio frequency as the boat where the spouse or relative is working at. They all have secret radio frequencies to transfer to and speak privately with their relatives or spouse at sea. Since the communication on these high frequency radios is not continuous or same as a telephone conversation; when you talk you have to press a button in order for the other end to receive your voice; so, to begin contact you must enter the frequency for example 8216.0, and call the boat name, for example,  ‘Lady Champ’, and you must repeat the name of the boat you are calling up to 3 times and you must say your home radio name also (Little Jem) then you must say ‘over’; once you have said ‘over’, it means you are ready to receive their response.

Both radios have a unique name to know who is calling which boat, or what boat is calling your home. Example: Little Jem, Little Jem, Little Jem- Lady Champ! This means someone at home is calling the boat Lady Champ. The communication is real time same as on the telephone, but, when you speak you must hold the button. One must speak short sentences and need repeat them twice and then say ‘over’, when you said ‘over.’ That’s the signal that the other end can start to speak, so you will stop pressing the button in order to hear what they are saying or receive their message. There is no arguing over the radio (laugh), means both sides can’t speak at the same time.

The children’s point of view is somehow painful. I spoke to Bridgette Gabriela, a fisherman’s daughter. She’s just 15 years of age and lives with anger because her father is gone away from home for too long. “He’s never home for my birthday or school recitals.” This is heartbreaking because it is really affecting her emotions, “I hate my dad’s work.”  This is very sad because her father job has a tremendous impact in her life, there is money but there is also a lack of quality and quantity time between father and daughter.  She also mentioned that her mother tries to please her buying all she wants. Her mother never says no to her and she, as young as 15 is aware that her mother should sometimes say no to her. By talking to Bridgette, I noticed that even though she has all the material items she wants, there is more she needs than just a latest cellphone model, IPad, IPod or modern clothing; children need both parents love and affection. Bridgette added that instead of having money, she would rather to have her father home all year round.

“I know I can talk everything with my mother, but sometimes I want my dad advice too” adds Bridgette. She dreams of being able to eat lunch with her dad every day; It’s painful to hear a teenager speak this way but she really misses her father and wishes he was home all year round. Life is not easy for these children, but the rest of the family try their best to fill the father’s gap.

The only bridge of communication are the high frequency radios because technology has not arrived to these small boats in the form of internet.  Most of these boats have a satellite telephone, because the captain has bought it in case of any emergency; it is only used for emergency purposes and not on a daily basis because the connection is too expensive. “Somedays when the rain is too heavy and the wind is blowing too strong, we lose radio signal and we are left with the satellite phone signal; but it’s used only for emergencies” Captain Carlos Cruz… “I know that during hurricane season my family is worried for us but we always get to contact them and let them know we are all right. He is aware that having this lifestyle and job is hard for him and his family, especially my girls; but he does it to make more money and give them a better life. “I want my girls to have a good education.” added Cruz.

Life at sea is not easy for newlywed that many wives have decided to go for 6 months with their husband; this is an opportunity only for the Captain’s wife because they are the only one to have a private cabin, a small air conditioning unit and private DVD player. ‘A lady at sea is too complicated’ said Reina Rosa because all day when her husband is working she remained in the small cabin; he would check on her every hour but it’s quite boring to be in a small room all day and not able to walk. The only items in the room is a bunkbed, a night table, a small television, a DVD player and small shower. She did it for love as a newlywed even though it’s not easy for all the reasons: food not good, you cannot shower every day it is extremely boring but love made her tolerate this instead of being 6 months alone. She did this for about 3 years until she became pregnant and had to stay home to raise her first child.

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My sister Reina and her husband Bryd Rosa married in 1992

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The Rosa-Dugall Family portraits.

The houses in my community are usually wooden and have stairs to go to the second floor; they have big windows and stairs; all are fully equipped with big stoves and fans and modern refrigerators. We have washing machines, but no dryers, so we hang the clothes in the corridor so the wind can dry them off. All of the houses are built close and have big yards where the children can ride their bikes and have their own swing. They use small boats to transport themselves to the main Cay when they need go to the bank or buy groceries. Life is peaceful and at moments it seems it has been frozen in time. There are now few cars in town. There is no movie theater, no dance place, only schools, church and grocery stores.

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Panoramic view of Mangrove Bight, a fishermen community in the Island of Guanaja, Honduras.

Most of the people in my community are of the 7th Day Adventist religion. They follow certain strict laws from the bible’s Old Testament: no makeup, no jewelry, rest on Saturdays, no alcohol, no smoking, they don’t consume pork meat, and certain seafood like shrimp, conch and lobster. On Fridays when the sun sets, they stop any kind of work and all businesses are closed because for them its officially Saturday and they must worship God. They reopen the small shops and resume work when the sun sets on Saturdays because once the sun has set its already Sunday for them. This community is very united and a special bond is created between the women because their husbands are all at sea during the same time of the year and they all return home at the same time to spend quality time with their families. When fishing season is closed and they return home, there is a big celebration to honor the men that risk their lives at sea in order to build a better future for their families.

The Fishermen of Bonacca by Doris Dugall

The Ndamukong’s Family Mungaka Language Practices and the Shame of Practicing This Culture in Houston by Fritz Doh Ndamukong

“Mu’n ye e` eke`e nji leh e` ntum’aa buy eh ntee ye` a` k’am ngangmia`a.” He who doesn’t know his identity is like a tree without roots. This is what our father always reminded us throughout our childhood.

The Ndamukong family comes from the Chamba ethnic groups of the North West Region of Cameroon-Africa where ethnicity played an important role in language and class distinction. The structure was a polygamous family made up of couples from different ethnic backgrounds. My father’s family, the Ndamukong family, is from the Chamba ethnic group speaking Mungaka language, while one of the wives (our step-mother) is from Tikar ethnic group speaking the Ngemba language. In Cameroon, one’s identity is easily perceived through language and ethnicity both at tribal (ethnic) and linguistic levels. At tribal levels, people are identified through ethnic groups such as Bamileke, Tikars, Shuwas, Bantus and the Chamba, to which the Ndamukong family belong.

The Chamba is composed of six ethnic groups; Bali Kumat, Bali-Gham,Bali Khontan,Bali-Gasho,Bali-Gansin and Bali Nyonga speaking the Mungaka, which Ndamukong family practice and are proud of speaking. It is also the language of Gloria Anzaldua. At linguistic levels, identity is seen through acronyms such as Anglophone and Francophone. These linguistic and ethnical variations stem from the country’s colonial master Britain and France that did partition the country during the era of colonization. Geography and history thus have an impact on Ndamukong’s family language practices.

cameroon-map

Figure 1 Cameroon Map showing the geographic location of the Chamba ethnic group-Nord Ouest (Family Archive). As such, the people of Houston should be able to learn and appreciate the existence of multiculturalism within the community. Thus, the music coming from a someone’s car, a person dress code or language should not be question, subdue by others or under look simply because it doesn’t sound American as explained by Gloria Anzaldua in “How to Tame a Wild Tongue” but rather should be treated as gifted sociolinguists as explained by Nelson Flores because Houston stands to benefits from it in the globalize world.

Figure 2 my sister Florence (middle), Beltine (left); Fritz and Claude (right) (Fritz Archive)

Gloria Anzaldua in “How to Tame a Wild Tongue” talks about American ethnicity and is preoccupied with the existence of many borders between nations and ethnicity. That’s why she talks about being hurt if one talks badly about her language. Since language and ethnicity are commonly used in identifying a person, Anzaldua is therefore very concerned about ethnic division, especially in U.S. where people are made to feel ashamed of their own tongues. There existed a sense of shame at being caught listening to our music. Today in America people are made to feel ashamed of their ethnicity like the Hispanics, African Americans and American Muslims. The Ndamukong family sometimes also feel ashamed of speaking the Mungaka language or exercising their ethnic practices. For example, during Kehmia graduation in Dallas in May 2016, we had a party during which a Mungaka music title “Nahsala” by Bobgala Didier was being played for us to dance. Some of us felt ashamed dancing it because of the negative comments that were made by some of our invitee from different ethnic groups who felt uncomfortable with the music because of the language used and the genre of the music. They were looking for American music. I also feel ashamed listening to our Mungaka music. My African American co-worker I gave ride to after work shamed the music I was playing in my car because it was not American. I did not blame her, but rather the system of education she received. This educational system made my co-worker not to see any other different music as being good but rather view only American music as being the only music worth playing in a car in America. She failed to see the existence of multiculturalism in Houston which I tried to teach her by exercising my ethnic practices through music. I did continue playing the music which shows Ndamukong family exercising ethnicity, a reflection of Houston multiculturalism.

The Ndamukong’s Family Mungaka Language Practices and the Shame of Practicing This Culture in Houston by Fritz Doh Ndamukong

America’s Sweetheart by Leticia Vasquez

1920 was the year women were granted the right to vote. Years later in 1931, Jackie Mitchell became one of the first female pitchers in MLB, and struck out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in April of that year. In 1968 Shirley Chisholm became the first African-American women elected to Congress.  Fast-forward to June 1983. Sally Ride became the first American woman to fly in space when the space shuttle Challenger launched on mission STS-7. 1987 Aretha Franklin was the first women to be inducted into the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame. In February of 1993 Janet Reno was nominated as the first female Attorney General by President at the time Bill Clinton. This year in 2016, Hilary Clinton won the Democratic Party Presidential nomination. Everyday women are pushing boundaries and creating new social norms for tomorrow’s women. Although women have more power in the workforce today, there are still social expectations and a glass ceiling that guide and limit the idea of what it means to be a woman in America today.

In families, men are usually looked at as the leader, and women are more of the supporters of the men. It’s more common today to see equal decisions between the head female and male of the household, but it isn’t always accepted. Bambi Moore is a writer for Revive Our Hearts website, and has an entry comparing today’s women and Pilgrim women. Moore states, “As soon as we stop thinking with temporal minds, we will begin to do great and courageous acts such as the women of 1620 (Moore page 4). As great as that sounds I don’t want to live like it’s 1620. Family may have been number one at that time, but I still believe family is still key in life today. Janis Prince Inniss, writer for Everyday Sociology Blog posted in 2007 about Mary Kay’s empire that reflects how women can balance family and work. Inniss states, “In Western cultures, girls are often socialized to be communicative, family focused, to play nice, and to focus on relationships. Therefore, with women as the target employees (and consumers), it is no surprise that Mary Kay emphasizes the flexible nature of this “at home job” that allows women to focus on family ahead of their job” (Inniss paragraph 5). So, we don’t necessarily have to go back to 1620 to focus on our family.

Naturally women are nurturers. It’s almost as if it was programmed into their brains the day they were born. Unfortunately, men don’t see any power in nurturing, and other women see a nurturing woman as a form of weakness and vulnerability. Lindy West, a blogger for Jezebel, has a hilarious but very true entry about how vulnerable women are when it comes to chick-flicks. On the tenth anniversary of The Notebook ‘s release date West finally decided to watch the film, and see what everyone was talking about (West 2). She addresses in her own words, “This is a movie made for women by a man” (West 4). There is nothing wrong with men making chick flicks, but it does bother me knowing they their target audience is specifically women. Do men think a damsel in distress meeting this big and tall many-man, and taking her away from all her problems is what every woman wants in life?

Inniss talks about Mary Kay being a door-to-door cosmetic line catering to women, by women, because why would a woman want to buy makeup from a man? Inniss concludes in her post, “The current President and Chief Executive Officer, as well as the current Executive Chairman of Mary Kay, Inc. are men; yet they appear to be able to keep the pink corporate culture going” (Inniss paragraph 2 and 9). Once again, let’s leave it to a man to make something that caters to an all-female audience. It’s as if men are going back in time, and erasing women ever having important roles.

As women continue to have bigger achievements, women having too much power still isn’t accepted in society. Before the men took over Mary Kay, Inniss talks a little about Kay Ash and how she built this cosmetic empire that we all know of today. Inniss describes Ash’s story: “She ran her company like a woman” and calls it “pink corporate culture” (Inniss paragraph 3). If men took over the company after Ash’s passing I don’t believe she ran it like a “woman”. If we agree with Inniss’s statement of the way Ash ran her Mary Kay, then could that make the men that took over Mary Kay less masculine? The answer is “no”, because men taking over corporations will always show power in today’s society.

Another blogger for Everyday Sociology named Sally Raskoff posted a review about the show Dancing with the Stars called “Dancing with Gender Norms”. Raskoff then starts talking about one episode and states, “Jennifer Grey (an actress) was chastised for being out of control and showing too much power while Rick Fox (an athlete) was complimented for showing a lot of power” (Raskoff paragraph 9). How can women showing too much power be a bad thing? Of course, two of the three judges are men, but why is women having power not accepted? Could that one female judge change the two male judges’ minds? Some may think women having power isn’t “sexy” or only men can have power because they are bigger in size compared to women. If you go back to the beginning for Raskoff’s entry she says, “Masculine men are supposed to be powerful and in charge while feminine women are supportive (of men) and a passive yet sexy” (Raskoff paragraph 2). This is the glass ceiling that society has placed on women in the past, and still places on women today. How are we ever going to tell our daughters they can be president one day, but only if they don’t show any power at all, and they are sexy?

Raskoff continues to tell the harsh truth of how the judges on Dancing with the Stars can be. If a woman doesn’t have an hourglass figure (hips and bust larger than the smaller waist), they do not often make it into the finals. No one wants to explain that system to their daughter, but it’s the harsh reality of what people want to see on TV. Knowing what you know society accepts today would you like to have a chance to explain that to a younger you? Nsovo Mayimele is 26 years old and a writer for Notey.com, and had a very interesting post recently. Mayimele wrote a letter to her 15-year-old self about entering womanhood. Mayimele says, “Looking back to when I was young, there are certain things I wish someone could have told me, lessons that I should have learned a lot earlier.” In her letter to herself she states “you are beautiful”, “the world owes you nothing”, “marriage isn’t everything”, “life is a journey not a destination”, and to “run your own race.” We all wish we could go back in time, and change the way we did something. Even though we can’t go back in time we can still tell our daughters, nieces, and friends and neighbors this advice. How are women ever going to progress in this world if we can’t encourage another woman?

One day America will have a woman president, and women will have equal pay, and run companies on their own, and society will accept it as an everyday norm. We will never see that day if we live with this cookie cutter expectation of what society wants a woman to be. We shouldn’t go back in time, because women today are pushing limits, and setting new standards for women of tomorrow. When you hear the words, “America’s sweetheart” you automatically think of a female, and pink, and bows in a little girl’s hair, that can sing and dance. You don’t see power in America’s sweetheart, because she is so sweet and innocent, and everyone loves her. We don’t see her as president of the United Sates, but the first lady. Society as a whole created this image of America’s sweetheart. We should all take Mayimele’s letter, and give that advice for out next generation of women. We should encourage that little girl’s dream of becoming the first female president. If she wants to play baseball like her father, let’s find a custom helmet to fit that big pink bow she wants to wear while playing baseball. If she wants to own her own company one day, then let’s encourage her at her lemonade stand.  If she wants to become a pilot on the first all-female crew going to space, then let’s get a season pass to NASA for her. Women are creating a new female norm every day, and society needs to find a way to work with this change, and not stop this change from happening.

Works Cited

Inniss, Janis Prince. “Pink Cadillacs: Femininity Redefines Corporate Culture.” EverydaySociologyBlog, 6 Sept. 2007, http://www.everydaysociologyblog.com/2007/09/pink-cadillacs-.html. Accessed 7 Nov. 2016.

Mayimele, Nsovo. “A Letter to the 15-Year-Old Me.” Notey, 12 Sept. 2016, http://www.notey.com/@girlsglobe_unofficial/external/12046877/a-letter-to-the-15-year-old-me.html. Accessed 7 Nov. 2016.

Moore, Bambi. “How Today’s Women Differ From Our Pilgrim Foremothers.” ReviveOurHearts, 25 Nov. 2015, https://www.reviveourhearts.com/true-woman/blog/how-todays-women-differ-our-pilgrim-foremothers/. Accessed 9 Nov. 2016.

Raskoff, Sally “Dancing with Gender Norms.” EverydaySociologyBlog, 11 Nov. 2010, http://www.everydaysociologyblog.com/2010/11/dancing-with-gender-norms.html. Accessed 7 Nov. 2016.

West, Lindy “I Just Watched The Notebook and Am Here to Ruin It for All of You.” Jezebel, 2 July 2014, http://jezebel.com/i-just-watched-the-notebook-and-am-here-to-ruin-it-for-1598415652. Accessed 7 Nov. 2016.

America’s Sweetheart by Leticia Vasquez