Throughout my time in school I have always loved learning about history and oppression, which might explain why I plan on majoring in history and sociology. Understanding how people before my time lived and made things work without having nearly as many resources as I do is extremely engaging. Then analyzing that information further by trying to understand what people’s roles were and why is as equally captivating. However, it was not nearly as fascinating when I discovered both these subjects have been affecting my family for at least 100 years.
Nevertheless, the most recent oppression was not being committed by a different group of people or someone in a position of power like most people would assume. In this situation my own family was keeping me down, something I did not know could happen. As a child I could never fully comprehend why my own aunts and uncles treated my family different. Besides those acts of oppression though, I had an extremely fun childhood. I did fairly well in school, had great friends, and got a lot of the things I asked for. I did not always get what I wanted as soon as I asked for it but my parents always tried to get it as soon as they could.
However, at times I forgot I was one of the few kids that got that kind of luxury. My parents are both United States citizens, so they got access to a lot of things that made our life easier. They had secure jobs with fair wages, could travel abroad, and were able to live without the fear of ever having our family split up. I understand all that and am extremely grateful for it but I do not think others do, especially those in my extended family. My uncles and aunts used to think we had a perfect life. They looked at my parents and assumed they were just handed citizenship, that we never had any problems.
It was not that simple though, we did have our own issues. Having citizenship did not make all our problems go away and them not being able to realize caused a rift between us. When my parents stopped blindly doing what they said, they started ignoring us. If only they knew what it took for them to become citizens. Both my parents were born in the small village of Chacala. It is a small little cluster of houses only three hours away from Culiacan, the capital of Sinaloa. My paternal grandfather was a rancher, just like many of the other inhabitants of Chacala.
His first child was my father and as soon as he was ready to work he was taken to help on the ranch. They were able to make enough money to live on at first but as my grandparents continued having more children, times got rough. Eventually the time came for my grandparents to send my father to America. At the age of eighteen, my father was supposed to start a new life in a country he only ever read about. In 1977 he illegally crossed the Mexican-American border. The crossing itself was dangerous because the coyote, the man who was supposed to smuggle him across, abandoned him and the people he was with halfway down the passage.
After that the group had to somehow find it’s way to San Ysidro. Fortunately, they made it without anything going wrong. After that my father was picked up by his aunt and taken to Los Angeles. In Los Angeles he found work at a furniture factory and a moving company. Most of his days consisted of making couches from 7 A. M to 5 P. M. , resting for three hours, then helping load and unload trucks from 8 P. M. to 2 A. M. He needed to work two jobs because one would not provide enough money for his family back home. It was exhausting work but it had to be done.
My father continued working those two jobs for several years before finding a better job at a landscaping company. In 1986 though, his life was completely changed. That year President Ronald Reagan signed into law the Immigration Reform and Control Act. This law was supposed to buckle down on employers who hired illegal immigrants while offering amnesty to those who were in the country before 1982. Being here since 1977 my father was ecstatic about being given this chance. He instantly applied to become a legal resident and flew out to see his family in Chacala, where he met my mother.
After falling for her he decided he wanted to get married and bring her to the United States. He came back and took citizenship classes in preparation of the naturalization test. As soon as he could, he took it and became a U. S. citizen. After that he married my mother, sponsored her,she became a legal resident, then a U. S. citizen. Since then they moved to Oakland, more family members immigrated here, and they had me and my sister. Once the family up here grew and people started finding out about my parents legal status more things were expected of them. Whenever anyone was in need of money they instantly went to my parents.
Whenever someone was sick in Mexico, they were expected to go check on them. In their eyes, my parents were citizens so they could not complain about anything. They thought we were rich and powerful, that we could do anything. It got to the point where it felt like they only came to us when they needed something. In December of 2007, one of my uncles got extremely sick. As soon as we knew we sent money to transport him from Chacala to Culiacan so he could receive medical attention. That was not enough though, as my grandmother and her children insisted we went and checked on him.
Since both my parents were working they reiterated they could not just drop everything and travel halfway across the country. On top of that, airline tickets were not cheap and they would have had to buy four in order to transport us all. Their response to all this was “Well you guys are already rich, just buy the tickets and go. ” They also tried making us feel guilty by saying things like “If I had papers I wouldn’t think twice about checking on family. ” Ultimately, we did not go because we did not have the means to do it. Eventually less and less family members came to our house.
At the time, we were oblivious to the oppression so we just started going to their houses instead. At their houses we were only met with extreme criticism and judgement. If we could not help them in anyway then why were we going to their houses? My parents tried to please them as much as they could but they did not realize that we could not abandon everything and do as they said. We were being oppressed into thinking we had to do what they said. When we could not fulfill their wishes we were outcasted by everyone, they would avoid us for months at times.
I remember this went on until June of 2008 because that was when I graduated from elementary school. I looked on to the audience and noticed everyone had tons of family members in their sections. My section only took up three seats so other people sat in the extra seats. During all of this we felt like we were at fault for not doing what they said. Me and my sister would argue with our parents at times because they said they could not help. How could someone with your own blood cause this much disfunction? They had me turning on my own parents in search of their satisfaction.
What bothers me the most now that I look at this incident was that I never expected them to be able to do that. When I learned about oppression I always read about how people who are different and in positions of power are the ones who other, I was rarely ever told someone like me could keep me down. Had I known that could happen I would have been more prepared to combat it. I could have informed those in my immediate family about what was happening, that we did not need to please them. Throughout the last couple of years only one thing has actually stated that a group of the same people can oppress each other.
Gloria Anzaldua, who was an activist and writer that grew up in Texas and endured several forms of oppression, covers several topics in her essay “How to Tame a Wild Tongue” including her feelings on the social and cultural difficulties that Mexican immigrants face when being raised in the United States. Among one of the things Anzaldua describes Mexican immigrants must endure is the judgment from other Mexicans for the way they speak Spanish. Anzaldua describes the situation as: Often with mexicanas y latinas we’ll speak English as a neutral language. Even among Chicanas we tend to speak English at parties or conferences.
Yet, at the same time, we’re afraid the other will think we’re agringadas because we don’t speak Chicano Spanish. We oppress each other trying to out-Chicano each other, vying to be the ‘real’ Chicanas, to speak like Chicanos. (Anzaldua 49) Mexican women are oppressing each other by trying to be more Chicana than the other. These woman make each other feel bad for not speaking Spanish as fluently as they think they should. In order to fit the mold of a “perfect Spanish speaker” one has to pronounce everything correctly, know how to use the right words, and keep from mixing English in to the language.
Anzaldua argues that these actions are bound to be committed by Spanish speakers who live in the United States. And this image of how Spanish should be spoken is completely ludicrous as there are multiple variants of the language. Spanish should be used as a form of communication not a tool for oppression. You can not keep someone down because they have a slightly different way of doing something. This is happening between people who are in the exact same position too, proving you can in fact keep your own people down.
Those who speak Spanish “the right way” and those who do not come from the same background. More light needs to be shed on this issue. We can not expect to prevent others from oppressing others when we let our own people do it without realizing it. Ultimately, we need to expect anything from anyone. Oppression can be found anywhere in the world today. As for my family and the constant putting we received from those around us, that has been solved for me the most part. After not being acknowledged time after time my parents decided to confront my uncles and aunts about their unfair treatment.
They discussed the ridiculous expectations placed upon them and the misinterpretations they had about our lives. We were not in positions where we could attend their every single need and left them with an ultimatum. Either they acknowledged we could only do so much or ignore us for their entire lifes. Luckily they went with the first option and things have been really good since. However, if there was anything good about this event it was that I got knowledge out of it. Had this not happened I would not have learned about the many ways oppression can affect one’s life.