By: Ramiro Funez
A few days ago, I rested on my living room couch and enjoyed one of my favorite childhood films: Selena. The 1997 film, based on the Tejano musical performer and businesswoman, follows her childhood and subsequent claim to fame. The movie also focuses on cultural issues facing many Tejanos of Mexican descent.
As I began watching the film for the first time in years, I began picking up on details that I would have never picked up as a child — considering the fact that my realm of understanding has evolved since then. At one point, I heard a quote that I hadn’t heard the first time I watched the movie and it really captured my interest.
“We have to be more Mexican than the Mexicans and more American than the Americans, both at the same time! It’s exhausting!” said Edward James Olmos, playing the character of Selena’s father, Abraham Quintanilla.
After watching that scene, I began thinking about the struggles that my parents, and many other individuals, underwent while immigrating to this country.
My parents — leaving behind distinguished careers and beloved family members — fled their native country of Honduras to escape the financial and political disparity plaguing their Central American homeland. Upon arriving to the United States, fiscal insolvencies, language barriers, and cultural differences not only suppressed their hopeful spirits, but also established hurdles that would hinder the progression of their professional careers.
My parents lost their career titles and accustomed lifestyles in order provide the best opportunity for my sister and I to succeed in the most powerful nation in the world — a sacrifice that I greatly appreciate.
Growing up with colleagues of predominately Latino background, it has come to my attention that many other first and second generation individuals share similar stories of their parents or grandparents experiencing plight and sacrifice as immigrants (although the troubles that immigrants face are not exclusive to those of Latin American descent).
However, I feel that many young first and second generation Latinos either don’t understand the struggles that their relatives face(d), or are aware of them but don’t appreciate the sacrifices made for them as much as they should.
I began noticing this once I was old enough to observe teenagers goofing off in school. I realized that many Latino adolescents don’t utilize the educational resources available in their arsenal of tools serving to employ upward social progression — a privilege that their immigrant parents or grandparents worked so hard to attain for them.
Personally, I feel that if someone doesn’t take advantage of the numerous educational opportunities available in this country, they are not properly appreciating the sacrifice and effort that their elders gave.
As a Latino and as a child of working-class immigrant parents, I feel that we need to open our eyes and take advantage of the excellent academic prospects available in this country. Although it might be difficult, we must work hard to educate our people, advance our careers, and offer a helping hand for those who are facing similar struggles so that we can truly appreciate and gratify our ancestors for their unyielding sacrifices.
If not, we condemn ourselves to a life-long sentence of socioeconomic imprisonment and fail our parents and grandparents in their pursuit of hard-earned success for their younger relatives.