This past friday, I was in a waiting room where I overheard a elderly woman from out of state talking to a local man. It was just small-talk, just a casual conversation. She wasn’t talking to anyone and I suppose he either wanted to talk to someone or make her feel more comfortable.
It was a small waiting room, relatively quiet with few people inside (including myself). I won’t excuse my eavesdropping but like I said, it was hard not to listen to the only conversation in the room.
She was visiting for the season, as many people from up north like to do (Winter Texans) and said that everyone here lived in the ways of ‘mañana’, ‘tomorrow’ in English. Which means she implied everyone here likes to just procrastinate and do things tomorrow.
I live in South Texas which is a predominantly Hispanic region and to hear someone say that made me upset. I might even be offended if I’m still thinking about it although it happened days ago.
Now, my knee-jerk reaction was to say, “Where did you read that load of garbage?” I’ll elaborate on this in a minute. But, I kept quiet.
I wanted to wait and see what the man (who was Hispanic) would say as a reply.
He didn’t argue with her statement. He just repeated her comment with a submissive chuckle.
I was disappointed.
I wish I had said something. But I didn’t.
I didn’t because I had everything I wanted to say jumbled up in a ball in my throat and was afraid what I truly wanted to say wouldn’t come out.
I don’t like to start confrontations but this really affected me. I would have wanted to tell her that she was misinformed, not in a rude way but in a serious way. I wanted to say:
“Excuse me ma’am, but you are misinformed. I have lived here all my life and to hear someone who visits here once a year make assumptions about my culture is offensive.
I come from a people who work hard in order to support their family and will make any sacrifice to make sure they survive.
I come from blood who worked ungodly hours in the fields just so they can have enough money to buy food, pay bills and make their livelihood.
My grandmother had to sacrifice her education by leaving school in the 3rd grade because she had to help her family work picking in the fields.
My mother sacrificed her childhood to work summers by working in the scorching sun, picking cucumbers and wearing thick, hot gloves where the thorns still pricked her skin.
I come from a family that had to work before the sun came up until after it went back down. There was no time nor luxury to save it for ‘mañana’.
It is because of their hard work and sacrifice that I get to say I have not had to work in the fields. It is because of them that I can proudly say I have an education and am currently working on my Master’s degree. It is because of my family and the importance of hard work that I take my education seriously and am dedicated to my studies because I want to make them proud.
So if you think we are lazy and like to procrastinate, then you need to get to know us better.”
That was what I wanted to say. But I didn’t.
Unfortunately, I am almost certain of where she obtained this piece of misinformation. Currently, there is a controversy circulating around a proposed Texas textbook about Mexican heritage culture. This book is filled with factual errors, seems to promote racism and also has important information missing that explains the importance of Mexican culture in Texas. Here is an excerpt from the textbook that has since been removed due to the controversy:
“Industrialists were very driven, competitive men who were always on the clock and continually concerned about efficiency. They were used to their workers putting in a full day’s work, quietly and obediently, and respecting rules, authority, and property. In contrast, Mexican laborers were not reared to put in a full day’s work so vigorously. There was a cultural attitude of “mañana,” or “tomorrow,” when it came to high-gear production. It was also traditional to skip work on Mondays, and drinking on the job could be a problem.”
Having misconstrued information presented in these textbooks could be highly problematic for the 5 million students that would be taught this in Texas schools. Just like the elderly woman, others would start presuming Mexicans are lazy. What would it do to the self-esteem of Hispanic students who, like me, have families that worked to the bone just to put food on the table?
And now, with all that is going on after this election, do we really need more stereotypes against us?
Protesting against this book is not over and will probably will not be until the Texas Board of Education makes their decision later this fall.
I am proud of my heritage. I am proud of my family and all they have done.
I will live in the present and do everything that I can because like they say,
“Live like there’s no tomorrow.”
If you would like to read the article I quoted in this post, you can follow this link:
Thank you for reading.