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Both of my parents left Oaxaca in their early teenage years and began working long hours in Los Angeles, as a cook and a maid.The work ethic was passed down generations; from the cornfields in Oaxaca, to the restaurants in Los Angeles, to the classroom, which helped me thrive both in school and work.
I knew all too well the symptoms of bottling up my emotions — the bitter taste of salt in each drop of sweat, losing myself in the background music and the muscle aches were nothing new to me. I got the usual looks from people fresh out of bars or parties, either because of the stench of a hard night’s work on my clothes or because I was muttering to myself while feverishly flipping flashcards on a bus in the middle of the night. I was used to those too, and they were nothing more than another set of speed bumps in the way of achieving my goals.
I was tired of seeing childhood friends flashing gang signs, relatives glued to the beer bottle or my dad coming home late at night with burn scars from work.
Something had to change and I knew it fell to me to initiate that change.
Fortunately, I also knew I had dedication, desire and grit in my blood.
” I could make little sense of the broken English that spat from his mouth but his scrunched-up face spoke a universal language.
It was a Friday night in Little Tokyo, and while families were eating five-star meals in the front dining room, a 14-year-old boy was in the back washing their dishes.
I peered into our bedroom where my brothers and cousins were lost in their blissful dreams.
Watching my siblings snore and breathe slowly sparked a yawn that cued the rest of my body’s delayed exhaustion. Not many 17-year-old girls know how to solder two copper pipes together or light the pilot light on a water heater.
My grandfather was part of the first wave of Mexican immigrants that settled in Los Angeles.
He returned home to a small village in rural Oaxaca, with his savings and tales of the land of opportunity.