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Reflections on the Life

Life in America, especially for Mexican immigrants, composes a lot of hardships. News about the cultural, economic, and political struggles of Mexicans living in America flood the media everyday. Reports on the abuses of American employers of their Mexican employees, the unfair justice system, racism in schools and workplace, harassment on the streets are just the few things familiar to most of us. 1 This paper looks into the challenges faced by Mexican Americans as seen through the experiences of my uncle, Pablo Alverez, who now works as an immigrant lawyer in Boston.

My conversation with him enlightened me with a lot of things regarding my own identity and the long path we must journey in order to bring about genuine social changes. My uncle, along with my father, moved to America from Mexico in 1974. Like probably all Mexicans, my uncle and father only had one intention for leaving Mexico: to live a quiet life free from any violence. However, their experiences at the beginning of their stay in America proved to be more difficult than they expected. Although they are educated and speak fluent English, they still had a hard time coping with many cultural hindrances.

My uncle recalls this incident on the street when an American lady refused to talk to him even though he was just asking for directions. It was perhaps, according to him, due to the fact that he looked somewhat “different. ” His English accent also was not that “Americanized” before so that could have also played a factor for him to be perceived as a stranger. But the more significant reason, according to him, could be attributed to the political views of the American government and popular media toward Mexicans. Their antagonistic attitudes towards Mexicans have shaped the minds of many Americans.

We cannot blame many Americans, my uncle clarifies, because they are also victims in some cases of circumstance and wrong information. Despite the apparent unwelcome treatment my father and uncle faced, they still tried hard to assimilate themselves into American society. After all, they have no choice since they have nowhere to go. He said that at first, the occasional taunts in public places and discriminating glances are much better compared to having a gun pointed at your face. As time went on, however, the painful process of acculturation started to sink in.

It is common for many Mexican immigrants to experience racial discrimination when trying to fit in American society. 3 My uncle and father were orphaned at an early age and their aunt was the one who brought them up. Her death in 1973 prodded them to live with their other Mexican relatives in America. My uncle and father both worked as a clean staff for a hotel. He says that it was the only job available for them that time so they had no choice but to take it. At work, some hotel guests would refuse to let their rooms serviced by them.

He couldn’t actually say if it was because of their American accent or appearance, but the point is that they had a hard time dealing with some guests. Soon after, the management started to act in a weird way towards them as well. Even the smallest mistakes that starters like them usually commit seemed like a big issues that could be a ground for termination. According to him, it was not actually the job that was difficult the people around them who were. That is why when a European guest tipped him for a job well done, my uncle felt that people can appreciate sometimes too.

I recall my childhood days with him and he would always encourage me to believe in myself and follow my dreams. He was really an inspiration because he would always see something positive in people even though the first impression is really negative. “People are more than themselves,” I remember him always say. After saving enough money, my father and uncle quite their jobs to study in college. While studying, they did some sideline jobs to help them make ends meet. The school loan didn’t seem to be enough so it was a blessing of some sort when both of them were granted scholarships due to good grades.

My father took business while my uncle took political science. It was in college where my dad met my mom whom he was said to describe as “one of the few enlightened Americans I have met early in my life. ” After my father’s death when I was 4 years old, my mother and uncle were luckily around to be my support system. My uncle would bring me out every weekend. That was his way perhaps of telling me that I am not alone even my father was already gone. According to my uncle, a turning point in his life was when a friend of his, also a Mexican, was unfairly accused of being a member of some group selling illegal drugs.

His friend was imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit. This lead my uncle to take up law in order to “give voice to those who are voiceless. ” The constant reports of discrimination against Mexican immigrants pushed my uncle to go through law so he could help at least his kindred living in America. In 1993, my uncle married an American he met at law school. However, they divorced fours year after due to cultural differences. He says that his failed marriage didn’t stop him to find for his true love. As if good fate were at his side, he re-married in 1999 to a Japanese American.

He says that love is sweeter the second time around and rightly so. Makiko, his wife, is really nice and our trip to Japan two years ago was one of the best experiences of my life. Like my uncle, Makiko had a hard time blending with American culture at first. This common ground perhaps made them feel at home with one another and become more understanding towards those who are different from them. At present, my uncle works as a lawyer specializing on immigration. My uncle describes his job as fulfilling since he is able to the help other people with their lives.

My uncle is always saddened by reports on abuses towards immigrants here in America. Regarding this issue, my uncle stresses that the real enemy here are not Americans per se but the exploitative policies the US government has. I agree with him on this point since I happen to know many non-immigrants who are opposed to the harsh treatment of the American government towards immigrants. After the chat with my uncle, I realized that the real problem is the current system we have that causes widespread violence, injustice and inequality.

To solve this problem, I am one with the uncle in advocating a culture of informed citizens who are critical of what is happening around them and who are brave enough to speak and fight for a much better world than what we have now.

Notes: 1. Daniel Dohan. (2003). The Price of Poverty: Money, Work, and Culture in the Mexican-American Barrio. : Berkeley: University of California Press, pp. 52. 2. Gary A. Greenfield and Don B. Kates, Jr. (May, 1975). “Mexican Americans, Racial Discrimination, and the Civil Rights Act of 1866. ” California Law Review, Vol. 63, No. 3 pp. 662-731

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