At the age of six, I came to live in the United States. My grandmother was so excited. She painted the most beautiful images of how it would be. “Mijo, we are going to go to a better place. We are going to a place where the streets are made of gold, where dollars grow on trees, and most importantly, where you can become somebody.”
When I got here, we lived in San Diego, CA, right next to the ocean. I remember going to the beach, listening to the seagulls, feeling the breeze on my face, looking at the waves drifting to the shore, feeling the last sun rays hitting my skin. It was magic. Every Saturday, my grandmother and I walked along the shore, picking up sand dollars and sea shells. She helped me build sand castles. “No, hoy, no. Primero tienes que hacer tu figura.” I would laugh and hug her. She wasn’t only my grandmother; she was my friend.
I didn’t like school because I didn’t understand anybody. At the time, I didn’t speak English. When I got home, my abuelita became my school. She taught me how to read and write in Spanish. And while learning Spanish, I was able to pick up English.
I liked studying with my abuelita because after we finished, she would cook dinner. Man, could she cook! I remember her wrinkled hands grinding the corn, then chopping fresh tomatoes, tomatillos, onions, and chiles. Every cut exact, just how she wanted. She made the best salsa. Sometimes my friends would come to my house for dinner. But most of the time, it would only be the two of us having dinner together because my uncles were never home and my mom was too busy working.
I never met my grandfather or father, so my abuelita took the responsibility of guiding me. She taught me how to clean, sweep, mop, cook, and even wash and iron my own clothes. She also taught me how to be independent, respectful, responsible, and how to treat women.
As I write this piece, I clearly remember her words: “Mijo, I brought you here so you can do something with your life. I want you to get your education and become a great lawyer or doctor or whatever you want. Show everybody that a Mexicano can make a difference and that you don’t need to shoot anybody or steal to get attention. I believe in you, and I know you will accomplish anything you put your mind to.”
Now that I am a senior in high school, I am going to graduate and go to college because I don’t plan on letting my abuelita or myself down. I want to thank my abuelita for raising me to become a real man.