I hear a noise and open my eyes; my father is telling me it’s time to get up. It’s five in the morning. I crawl out of bed, throw on some clothes, and head to the kitchen for café and pan dulce. I’m in Mexico the summer after my freshman year of high school visiting my dad’s side of the family.
My grandparents live in a tiny mountain town called Bonhe in the State of Hidalgo, about two hours north of Mexico City, and a twenty-four-hour drive from the US border. In Bonhe, like many other parts of Mexico, most of the roads, buildings, and property-line walls are made of rocks, cement, and cinder blocks. In Bonhe, most people live a rural lifestyle. They drive down the mountain into town for food, clothes, and other basic necessities.
For income, my family own fields and farms a small number of animals. Today we will be hiking over two hours through the mountains to get to my grandfather’s fields. I finish my pastry and sip the last of my coffee, then head out the front door to collect everything we need for our journey. We grab two horses, load them up, and head out. We begin our trek on the unpaved, dirt path that connects my family’s property down to the actual road.
The main road is not any more comfortable though. Cobblestones of various shapes and sizes dig into our feet. Regardless, we make our way about a mile up and then break off into the mountain. Unlike the hikes I take back home in Arizona, there is no cleared path here. We are forced to maneuver through the bushes, cacti, and large rocks, cutting vegetation with machetes, slowly making progress toward our destination. I pause often to scrape the layers of mud off the bottom of my shoes.
The conditions I complained about as a kid in the United States are luxuries my father and his eight siblings never had growing up.
We arrive at the fields already tired, but the work has not even begun. We take a small break to drink water, then set up the plow and harness it to the horses. My job today is comparatively easy. I walk behind the plow-lead and drop seeds into the opened-up portion of the dirt. Behind me, my brother covers the newly laid seeds with little handmade metal “scoopers”. For the rest of the day, we go back and forth trading these duties. Although we have the easiest jobs, we are exhausted, working under the beating sun, thousands of feet in elevation.
This is a typical day for people in Bonhe. The conditions I complained about as a kid in the United States are luxuries my father and his eight siblings never had growing up. They had no electricity, no plumbing, and not even a nearby school.
So, at eighteen-years-old my father makes the biggest, scariest decision of his life––the decision that would create my life and affect many others. He comes to America. Twenty-five years later my family has made a lot of progress. My parents came from nothing. Now they are managers. My brother and I have graduated from high school (something our parents missed out on while working tirelessly to support us) and have moved on to higher education.
I believe we all have someone in our family line who has made personal sacrifices so that we can succeed.
I believe we all have someone in our family line who has made personal sacrifices so that we can succeed––whether it’s our parents, grandparents, or even further back. Someone who had no money and no idea how they were going to do it but believed in the American Dream. Someone who started from the bottom, saved money, and built a career or business. Someone who raised their kids with both the luxuries of America and the values of their homeland. Someone who did everything they could to make sure the younger generations had a better life than they had.
The question, then, becomes: What do we do with the opportunities that have been given to us? I believe the answer is simple: We strive to provide the next generation even better opportunities. While this answer may be simple, in practice it is not easy. We will have challenges, bad days, and hard times. To persevere requires three things: reflection, planning, and action.
To persevere requires three things: reflection, planning, and action.
When I reflect, I think about everything my parents did to provide me opportunity. Reflecting on the progress I have made using their support brings me a level of gratitude and humility I can’t find elsewhere. Next, I take time to plan for the future of the family I do not yet have. I take time to consider how to advance my career path, which skills I need to develop, and which topics I want to learn more about in order to achieve the goals I have set. Finally, I put my plan into action. I read books, I network in the arena I hope to transition into, and I make specific, intentional moves in my career that help me develop positive habits and character traits.
Remember, the American Dream is alive and better than ever. There is a Spanish saying that translates to: “The difference between the possible and the impossible lies in the determination of a person.” Let’s take inspiration from those who came before us. Let’s go out there and achieve our goals.