Dear Mrs. Ryan,
I would like to share my life story about my grandpa with you, just like you shared your grandma’s story with us.
Since I can remember, my grandpa has always taken care of me, well technically my grandma started taking care of me when my mom went back to work. I was 4 weeks old. My grandma was very sick, her heart that was very weak and she passed away when I was 9 months old. My grandpa was very sad and fell into depression. He had already lost his only son, my uncle Emilio a year before my grandma had passed. The doctor suggested to my mom that it would be a good idea to leave me with him so that he could get better. I’ve been with my grandpa ever since.
In our classroom we read your book called “Esperanza Rising,” and it exposed me to my grandpa’s life. It helped me imagine him as a young man as opposed to the wise, warm Welito I thought I knew so well. In the book we learned about your grandma’s life and struggles and I also have many stories to tell you about my grandpa and his struggles. For example, one time he told me that he was thrown out of restaurants because he was Mexican.
Mrs. Ryan, our grandparents came to United States to have a better life. My grandpa, like Esperanza started to work in farms picking fruit and sending money to my grandma in Mexico. This helped the family have food. In reality, a year had to pass for my Welitos’s family to have food on their table. Let me tell you the next story about my grandpa.
My grandpa was sending my grandma money orders for the bills and for my great-grandma’s doctor’s bills. There was this lady called Virginia and Virginia’s house is where my grandma used to get her mail. Virginia was the affluent lady in my mom’s colonia, or neighborhood. Virginia had stolen one year worth of money orders that were accompanied by letters from my grandpa to my grandma. My grandma did not have a phone so my grandpa could not contact her. This lady had been cashing the money orders until she was discovered a year later when grandpa came to Mexico to visit the family. This memory of my grandpa made me upset because grandma thought that Welito had abandoned the family, something I know for certain he would never ever do. Thanks to my grandpa’s story, I knew what money orders were when we read about Esperanza buying money orders to put them away, while my classmates didn’t.
The circumstances that Esperanza faced while working were similar to my grandpa’s experiences. In the chapter “Aguacates” Esperanza describes her hands as the hands of an old man even though she was a young woman. Welito has told me how the skin from his hands would peel off from the insecticides used in rows of vegetation and how he would collapse on the dirt when the heat was above 100˚F. One time a swarm of mosquitos engulfed him and he had to be taken to the hospital because he is allergic to mosquito bites.
I was very sad to read about the injustices that Esperanza, Miguel and his family endured. Poverty is like an unfair punishment. I am sad to report to you that I still see this type of poverty just 15 minutes from my house, the border between Reynosa, Tamaulipas-Mexico and Hidalgo, Texas-USA. My mom has told me how in Mexico, she only had one pair of shoes for school and that when she came from school she had to take them off and be barefooted for the rest of the day. She would only wear shoes to go to school. My grandma could not afford brand name shoes or clothes. Even though sometimes I forget how hard it has been in the past for my grandpa, and I act selfish, I remember that I am lucky to have all the things that I have and to have such a hardworking mom who is the first generation to go to college.
You know Mrs. Ryan, I think that poverty in Mexico is now different from when our grandparents were growing up. Some of the rich people are not rich because they work for their money, but because they work for the Cartels. The Cartels are people that traffic drugs. We see it in the news, and when we go to visit my family in Reynosa, we hear gun shots every day. Last year in January 2015 my Aunt Lupe, who was 80 years old, came to visit my grandpa and told my Welito, Mom, and me, her story about her home; The people from the Cartel thought that her house was a good site to do business. My Aunt refused to sell and they burned down her house while she was asleep inside. She escaped and spent the night at the neighbor’s house. Unfortunately, she passed away recently, and my grandpa tells me that Aunt Lupe is now with my grandma and my uncle waiting for us to reunite again someday.
I don’t like it when injustices are done to the poor or anyone, no matter race, color, or age. I do hope that our next elected president will be a good man or woman that will protect our rights and treat us for what we are and nothing less: humans.
We learned in class that one out of five families in our neighborhood do not have food on their tables. I have told my teacher that we should collect cans of food for those families that don’t have foods on their tables, and she said yes. There is a food bank about 20 minutes from our school in Pharr, Texas and we plan to collect food and take it to those who are not as fortunate to have at least a meal once a day.
The memories of the 3 generations of strong women (Abuelita, Ramona Ortega, and Esperanza) in the book gave them grief, comfort, and or hope. I see that my grandpa feels this comfort when he shares his stories with me. I can see hope when his eyes sparkle while he talks about his life. I also understand now why sometimes he pretends to smile when he tells me his stories; I was not able to put it into words before. Now I know why! The reason is that some of those stories that he doesn’t share are full of grief that he holds inside his heart, making it sink and making his tummy ache, filling his body with sorrow and woes. I have read many books, but your book has truly helped me see my grandpa with different eyes, he is truly an amazing man.
Your book has not only made me reflect on the unfair things in our world, on how important family is, on our traditions, food, music, even religion, and how the strength of our ancestors influence our character, but it has also allowed me to be aware and honored that a Mexican-American boy like me has the chance to experience both American and Mexican cultures at once. I am proud of who I am.
Mrs. Ryan, I want to grow up and write stories like you, I also want to help people in need. I worry about those in need. I shared my worries with my grandpa while we were in bed ready to go to sleep. Grandpa says that if I work hard I can be a writer and help my community. His answer reminded me of one of the proverbs that Esperanza’s father says to her, “Aguantate tantito y la fruta caera en tus manos.” To me this proverb means that you need to wait, be patient and work hard for what you want and eventually, your hard efforts and patience will be sweetly rewarded.
P.S. My Welito’s hands are no longer coarse; they smell like coffee and they are very big and soft, like a big blanket that hugs me when I’m scared or sad.