COMMENTARY: Last week, as I was driving my 5-year-old daughter to school, we had a brief conversation about Donald Trump. Yes, my 5 year old, who is very inquisitive, asked me why I did not like Donald Trump. In a way that she could understand, I basically told her that I did not like him because he did not like immigrants, particularly Mexicans.
She then asked me what her nationality was. I told her, well, you were born in Las Cruces, and since your mom and I were born in Mexico, you are Mexican-American.
She then said, I am your “morenita,” so that means Trump does not like people like me? The bell rang and she had to go to class. Our conversation was interrupted.
To my little ones, there will come a time when you will be mature enough to understand my words — so here are some words I do not want left unsaid.
The results of the 2016 election were shocking for the majority of Americans. The uncertainty and discomfort can be easily felt in the air. Being a Mexican national who holds a work visa and is in the process of applying for a green card, most people assumed that I would be devastated after Election Day. However, I am surprisingly upbeat and in good spirits.
Yes, I chose to stay positive and look toward the future despite uncertain circumstances. This is the only way we will speed our recovery. We have to work harder than ever toward a common cause and convince ourselves that we are not too far gone.
It is in times like these that I have to draw upon my happy memories and remember that the United States is more than one man. I still remember the day when I landed in Colorado to embark on a new venture and participate in a foreign exchange program at Pueblo South High School. It was Sept. 6, 1994, and my heart was filled with excitement. I could not wait to learn English and learn as much as possible from the American culture.
Things took an unexpected turn, and due to unforeseen circumstances, my host family could no longer have me live with them. A Spanish teacher decided to take me in until she could find another host family. Soon after, I met the Maldonado Family, who took me under their wings and welcomed a complete stranger into their home. They immediately made me feel like one of their own and showed me their unconditional love and support. I love you guys.
My point is that the Maldonado family is just a perfect example of the many individuals you will run across in this country. It is because of them that I had the privilege to be exposed to a new culture and live between two worlds.
Since we now live in the Texas-Chihuahua border, you have been exposed to the best both countries have to offer. I hope you appreciate the fact that you will be bilingual and will not inherit my “funny accent,” of which I am very proud.
I have never been prouder of being a Latino, a Mexican national, and a New Mexican by “naturalization.” I hope you are too. Regardless of what happens during the next four years, do not let anyone shred your dreams to pieces and convince you that Mexican-Americans or other minorities do not have a place in this country, have a predetermined destiny, cannot succeed, and do not deserve to be part of a more inclusive economy and cohesive society.
Ever since I was little, I have been intrigued by different cultures and languages. I hope you can learn to be proud of who you are while appreciating cultural diversity and what every culture has to offer.
My “princesita,” my “mime,” do not ever take anything for granted. Remember that even though life is beautiful, it is also full of complexities. Never stop fighting for what you believe in and always send a message of unity, optimism and collaboration. It is only in the darkness that we can shine.
Rodolfo Acosta Pérez is director of family empowerment for a nonprofit organization in Las Cruces and a former research assistant at the Arrowhead Center for Economic Development.