Coming to America – Fernando’s Story

In this post I’m going to introduce you to el “Chapparo,” my third older brother. His name is Fernando but my apa called him Chaparro, for you non Spanglishers this means a shorty, sorry Fernando I had to clarify. Of course Fernando did not put on that nickname, it was exclusive for my apa and ama. In high school he was dubbed  “Zap”  by one of his teachers. I believe it was a derivative from our last name Zepeda, which every teacher mispronounced. That teacher must have pronounced it “Zapeeduh.” My brother had his own battles to fight while in transition to learning the English language and American ways.

School and the Immigrant Child

Like my other siblings, Fernando was dropped into the American education system without knowing how to speak English. I know the difficulty of going to an unfamiliar place as a little kindergartener and not having your safe and secure pillars, like ama and apa visible and near. I was a chilliona my first year and cried until the teacher handed me to my 4th grade big sisterPero no me imagino what it must be like for a child to be dropped at school with a bunch of strangers and not understanding a word they’re saying to you. Chapparro (it feels weird to call him that since it was an exclusive name used by our parents) went along with the program as well as he could.

No Hablo Ingles

Un dia, while the class was working with messy art stuff, Fernando needed to wash his hands, he looked around and didn’t see a sink, so he went looking for one. He walked right into the girls bathroom and proceeded to scrub his hands. Luego, as he was washing vigorously he felt that uneasy feeling of someone watching him. He turned around and saw that some of the little girls in his class had followed him. They were chattering indignantly and staring at him in disbelief. Didn’t he know that he was in the girls bathroom?! Since he didn’t understand them, Fernando went back to washing his hands, but before he could finish he felt a nasty tug on his ear as he was being pulled out of the bathroom. Now he was indignant! The teacher was saying something to him and pointing at the words on the bathroom door “GIRLS” Fernando looked at the door and at her and using the universal “body language.” He shrugged his shoulders and knowing my brother, he had that natural Zepeda frown on his face. That’s when it hit the teacher, a “face palm” moment, that if he couldn’t speak English, he wouldn’t be able to read it. She showed him where the BOYS bathroom was and from that point on Fernando knew exactly where to go. No confusion, boys used the boys bathroom and girls used the girls one, and the English acquisition continued steadily for my big bro. 

I really enjoy sharing these stories, in my opinion, they are such a vital part of our American history. Y, para mi, it enriches my treasure vault. 

4 thoughts on “Coming to America – Fernando’s Story

  1. Frank Sterle

    I’ve noticed over decades the exceptionally strong ethic practiced by migrant workers, especially in the produce harvesting sector. It’s typically back-busting work that almost all post-second-generation Westerners won’t tolerate for ourselves.

    Also, frequently — and often enough, willfully — overlooked is that many migrants are leaving global-warming-related chronic crop failures in the southern hemisphere widely believed to be related to the northern hemisphere’s chronic fossil-fuel burning, beginning with the Industrial Revolution.

    While I don’t support domestic businesses exporting labor abroad at very low wages if there are unemployed nationals who want that work, I can imagine migrant laborers being more productive than their born-and-reared-here counterparts.

    I’m not saying that a strong work ethic is a trait racially/genetically inherited by one generation from a preceding generation. Rather, I believe, it is an admirable culturally determined factor, though also in large part motivated by the said culture’s internal and surrounding economic and political conditions.

    Albeit, I anticipate that as decades pass, strong work ethic and higher-than-average productivity, unfortunately, will likely give way to these motivated laborers’ descendant generations’ young people having become accustomed to the relatively easier Western way of work. … One might already witness this effect in many of them getting caught up in much of our overall liberal culture.

    Like

    • Mexican-American Girl

      Thanks for taking time to check out my blog, I do appreciate it. In my own personal experience, my apa and ama did find it incredibly important to teach us about good work ethic. They both set that example well. I believe that we, in our mixed cultural family, have passed on that teaching to our kids, I do agree that times have changed. Have a great weekend 🙂

      Like

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