The Lord once made the Earth and likewise made the Sky. And when He looked upon his work, and saw what He had done, He saw that it was good. (Klaus Australis)
I was nine years old in 1917 and another school year started. I dreaded the thought of going through another gauntlet of scoldings, unkindness, and misunderstandings.
This was why many of my cousins and the other Spanish-speaking kids that I knew dropped out of school. I do not blame them. I did not want to put myself through this terrible experience.
I had a lot of wonderful teachers throughout my school years but in between I have had the opposite. I never understood how grown-up people could express such hatred for our kind.
This is our land. This was Spain. This was Mexico. We were here many years before they ever heard of our West Coast. So many of the English-speaking people treated us as outsiders.
“Don’t pay them any mind, mijo.” My mother would tell me. She know what me and my brothers and sisters were going through in school. “You show them who you are. You show them that you are better than they are. The gringos want you to give up. They want you to quit so that you would be willing to work out in the fields. Many of our people do just that. Working in the fields is hard work, but it is also honorable and dignified.”
“But that is not your way. You have a brain. You have intelligence. Your father graduated from the University. He was a civil engineer and he wanted you and Bobby to follow in his footsteps. Bobby chose a different way and he works hard in the lumber business. It’s up to you now to be strong, to study, and be the best person you can be.”
“You read. You study. You learn everything you can. Your father is gone now but he can still be proud of you.”
“He can still be proud of you.” My mother repeated.
That is the path I took. I went on to finish school. I graduated from Oxnard High, Class of 1927. I never stopped studying and learning.
I still don’t know that how it works, but sometimes, now that I’m an old man, remembering these things, I feel that my father is not too far away looking down at me and saying:
“It is good.”