Today we wrap up Hispanic Heritage Month. America is sort of strange about these things. We celebrate diversity even while not being sure whether we agree if diversity or a melting pot works best.
I watched two documentaries on Latinos this month. One was The Latino List on HBO which interviewed some very interesting world changing Latinos. Here are a few of them and what they said that made me smile and take notice at their wisdom and understanding of a culture to whom I belong, and yet, don’t! It’s complicated.
You learn how to work for a good company. I wanted to own the good company.
I was doing investment clubs and I would take a $100 bill and pass it around and I would ask what does this mean to you? I heard every synonym of the word freedom, like options, choices.
Being Latino brings a lot of myths especially around money. That money is corruption. That money is for men. That it’s enough just to work. It’s not enough just to work. We didn’t come here to watch novellas, they’re great, we didn’t come here to listen to music or to watch sports. Why did we come to this country? We came here for money. There’s more Latinos in the United States than Canadians in Canada and the day we learn how this money system works is the day we get up and start taking credit for all the long hours that have put in.
There’s a great Latina making a difference. Retired Lieutenant Colonel Consuelo Kickbusch. She is the one for whom the title of this post is dedicated to. Así No Más is a term in Spanish which means “good enough”. The highest ranking Hispanic female in the combat support division of the United States Military she is wise, excels in her field, and loves her country and her people. She is such an inspiration to me!
Of my 10 brothers and sisters 8 of us are veterans. When I took command of my first platoon I realized that a large number of these amazing men, soldiers, did not have a high school diploma. So I went ahead and worked with the education department to bring someone into the barracks. Some of the classes were on Friday night, that doesn’t make you too popular.
When you come out of poverty you tend to want certain things. I wanted a car that actually moved. I thought that was very important. I wanted to live in a house made of bricks because that’s what the little pigs did in the books, and I wanted every credit card that spelled my name right. I thought that was success, you are taking care of yourself and you’re making enough money to take care of your family. I believe that is what my parents wanted most for me. I achieved all those things and I was the highest ranking Hispanic woman in combat support, but I felt that why should it only be me?
I’m the daughter of a maid. My mother cleaned toilets. She said, “hija do a job so well done that even when you’re not there your work will speak for you.” That is what I want out of the children that sit in classrooms today. Do your work , do it to the very best. Graduate with honors, cross that stage. 39 Rodriguez’, 50 Garcias I say fantastic! Let them practice Garcia 50 times during graduation. That is who we are. We don’t settle for that ‘así no más’, that it’s okay anyway.
Then there is José Hernandez who is Engineer and a Astronaut. He grew up in my neck of the woods. Working hard, he took his father’s word to heart and went for his dream.
When I worked in the fields with the family, we would arrive when it was still dark and the stars would be so clear and so numerous, then the sun would come out and reality would hit and we start working in the fields. My school mates always loved summer vacations our family kind of dreaded it because we knew it meant we would work seven days a week. At the end of a long day’s work, my dad, right before he put the key in the ignition he would turn around and he would tell us, “How do you kids feel”? We were tired, muddy, sweaty, and he would say, “Good, this is your future if you don’t study in school.”
Then there was another documentary I saw on HBO called Celebrity Habla.
Finally there is Lisa Quiroz. I related to her. She is a person who believes in service to her community, literacy and education. She is a corporate executive for Time Warner, the founding publisher for People en Español. Her grandmother was a great influence on her, as was mine. Her stories about her grandma made me smile without even realizing I was doing so. This quote was the one that struck me;
I’m brown, I’m half Mexican, I’m half Puerto Rican. I speak Spanish, I speak Spanglish, I speak English but I’m American, and that’s hard sometimes for people to understand.
I was so glad that I was able to see these mighty people and the difference they are making in America and the impact they have on their culture.