I Wasn't Always Proud

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Booksie Classic

I wasn’t always proud to be Chicano or Mexican-American. I wasn’t always strong or full of the pride and self-respect I now possess, and that my parents always seemed to have.


By Al Garcia

I wasn’t always proud to be Chicano or Mexican-American.  I wasn’t always strong or full of the pride and self-respect I now possess, and that my parents always seemed to have.

I must confess, that as a young kid growing up in the Rio Grande Valley, and going to school around rich, well-dressed kids, I felt cheated and could not understand why my parents couldn’t provide me with the same things that all the “other kids” (a euphemism for white Anglo-Saxon kids my age) had.  I was even ashamed at times.  Ashamed of me.  Ashamed even of my parents.  And for a highly impressionable kid my age, that was serious stuff.  It affected me with my school work, and certainly my self-esteem.  I was a kid – a kid who just knew what he saw and what he was missing.  I wasn’t always proud.  I wasn’t always strong.

I wasn’t the smartest kid, nor the wisest.  And I was, by no means, good looking either.  Yet I wanted to belong, to be a part of the experience that everyone around me seemed to be enjoying, I was the typical 13, 14, 15-year old kid.  Yet, the “cliques” in school seemed made up of only the “cool kids,” good looking kids.  Those with the hippest clothes.  Those that had their own car to drive to high school.  Those whose parents where part of the School Board, or intimately involved in school activities, or involved in politics, or those who simply had money, and showed it.  I wanted so much to be a part of the group who, after school, drove off in their cars with their friends, laughing and shouting.  I was envious, because I too wanted to belong to that “clique.” 

But like many like me, I was one of those who could only look, from a distance, like having my face against the window, wondering what it would be like to belong.  The only Chicano or Mexican-American kids who did make it into the “clique” were those whose parents were part of the “establishment,” those who had been "allowed" into the “club.”  My parents were not among them.

The mind of a growing and evolving kid like me back then, was always thinking.  Always wondering.  Always asking questions.  But the one thing that never dawned on me back then, was asking why all the Anglo kids and their parents always seemed to look down on individuals like me.  There must have been a reason, and I didn't ask.  I tried to fit in.  I tried to dress “hip” with what little resources we had.  But it wasn’t to be.  I never asked the right questions, and my parents seemed content with simply living their lives and not rocking the boat.  They had accepted their fate.  Yet they were determined that my life would be better than theirs.  That was their only goal.  The only thing they strived and toiled for, their children.  And I wasn’t always proud to be who I had been born to be.

Now, years later, I understand why I was the outsider in my own back yard.  Why I felt the way I did.  It wasn’t me.  It wasn’t my parents.  It wasn’t even the Anglo kids around me.  It was my America.  It was my country that had decided, even before I was ever born, who I would be and how I would be treated and perceived.  But still, I wasn’t always proud.

I think back, and I feel so ashamed at blaming my parents at times.  Blaming them for not giving me what they didn’t have to give.  Yet, they gave me everything they had, I know – their love, their devotion, their protection, and their faith.  But at that time, I just wanted all the “toys” and acceptance that the Anglo kids had, just like any kid would.

Today I have my own house.  My own life.  Family and friends that I cherish and love.  I don’t envy or desire for much.  And I possess the greatest treasure one could ever have.  Something that has outlived the "cliques" and the envy – I have within me love, dignity, pride, empathy and faith.  The things my parents gave me when I was that selfish, envious kid back then.  I didn’t know it then, but I did have everything I needed to be the man that I would become.  No “clique” could have prepared me for my life like my parents did, I just didn’t understand it then.  Now I know.

I wasn’t always proud, but now, I feel like one of the proudest guys around.  It may have taken me a while to get to where I am today.  But it was all because my parents gave me more than I could have ever hoped for, or wished for.  They gave me the world, and I went out and I lived, and hopefully, I’ve made them proud.  Because looking back, they sure made me proud!

And I wasn’t always proud, but in the years that have passed I’ve learned that being proud isn’t a requirement for being Chicano or Mexican-American, or any other race or ethnicity.  It is simply living one’s life in the manner, and with the character, to make others proud of you.

Submitted: June 22, 2021

© Copyright 2021 A.Garcia. All rights reserved.

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