My maternal abuela and abuelo (they answer to “granma” and “granpa”; names given to them by my younger cousin when she was just a toddler) and their children lived in Reynosa, Tamaulipas, Mexico. They soon realized that the best thing for their family would be to move to the U. S. My mother, the third-oldest of ten children, was 13 years old when they finally moved to a tiny two-bedroom house in nearby Pharr, Texas.
When it was time for the onions to be harvested in the nearby fields, both parents and children would go from work and school to work in the fields until the sunset, only to do the same thing again the next day. Summers spent in Michigan and Indiana to pick strawberries and clear fields helped make ends meet.
My paternal abuela, “Mama Ely” still lives in San Salvador, El Salvador and, along with my late abuelo Ricardo, was the mother to seven children. Although they lived in a relatively safe part of the country, her family was still witness to one of the most brutal periods in Latin American history: the Salvadoran Civil War of the 1980s was responsible for the death of over 70,000 Salvadorans.
Visiting El Salvador was expensive and not always possible for us, but she always made her annual trip to Texas to visit us. To this day she always makes sure to give me a “birthday gift” – money accompanied with a handwritten message telling me how much she loves me and how she loves my smile.
I can tell you these things about my grandparents because I’ve heard it from their own mouths through the various times that I’ve conversed with them. I feel very blessed to say that I have a great relationship with my grandparents. Much in the way maturity helps you understand your parents better, the same exact thing happens with your grandparents. You begin to notice that even though you grew up decades apart, and in many cases, completely different countries, you really aren’t that different from them.
I worry that in this age of Twitter, Facebook, and non-stop texting, many of my younger cousins (and others in the larger Latino community) will never get a chance (or make the time) to sit down and form a meaningful relationship with their grandparents. The sabiduría they possess is something you don’t get by reading a book, passing the bar exam, or getting your PhD.
It comes from decades of living, making mistakes, and finding a better way to do things. Take the time to forge a meaningful relationship with your abuelos, if you still have them. Visit them, ask them about their lives, tell them about yours. You’ll soon learn that the person you are today is shaped, in large part, by the sacrifces they made long ago and the lives they continue to live today.
To learn more about Cris, visit ElKaminoReal.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those
of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.