Everyone in the workshop conducted a variety of interviews, some with family members. They often discovered hidden dimensions of lives they thought they knew. Sometimes those individual stories connected to larger social histories, as in Dhilery’s story of her Uncle Rojo’s education at España-Mexico.
Other times, in the writing process, students excavated memories that yielded new insight into family, as Grecia’s personal essay illustrates.
Dhilery Alejandra García Hernande – Profile by Carlos Emilio Rodríguez Barrientos
Dhilery is currently studying communication sciences at Universidad Latina de América. Though it wasn’t her original plan, she decided to stay in Morelia with her family during her studies, knowing she would be able to live in a foreign city in the future. She now thinks that staying here was for the best. She has the support of her family and the comforts of home. There will be time later for adventures in foreign lands.
She has also done many things outside of school. Last year she worked at “Festival Internacional de Cine de Morelia.” It was a very good experience because she could watch life in a work environment and it helped to prepare her for a career after she finishes her studies. It was really great for her to see the roles people play in the workforce and how an organization needs everybody to participate. This says a lot about her personality. She likes order and responsibility. Most important, it proves that she really likes what she studies, and communications will prepare her to work in a similar organization in the future.
Dhilery also likes to study other languages such as English, French, and Chinese, and she enjoys learning about different cultures. She hopes to study for a master´s degree in another country, but she wants to come back to help Mexico and her community to become a better place.
I spend Christmas with most of the members of my mother’s family. All my uncles, aunts, and cousins get together to pass some quality time.
Since I was a child, my uncle Jesús Cerriteño has been coming to Morelia. He would just sit in the family living room watching all of us chat. He was enjoying the reunions, but sat there without speaking, only smiling.
I would never have imagined that he had such an interesting life story. My mother used to talk about how my wonderful uncle (also her’s) would arrive home and give his children and my mom, who used to play with her cousins when she was young, a small candy cake called “gansito.”
I had wondered for a long time about my uncle and his life. An interview was the perfect tool for learning about him.
We call my uncle Jesús “Tio Rojo” (Uncle “Red”). When he was a teenager, one day he was playing basketball and nobody knew his name. He helped his team win, so when the people congratulated him they just said,“You the red one, congratulations.” So everyone started to call him “Rojo” after that basketball match.
Now at the age of 75, that teenager still has his smile, his laugh and good conversation for those willing to listen. His hair is almost all white and his skin is a little bit tanned. Because of his work as a painter, he spends a lot of time outdoors.
I interviewed him in my house in Morelia. He was wearing a blue sweater, a pair of jeans, and black shoes when he started to talk about his life.
Jesús Cerriteño was born on December 15, 1938. When he was five years old, he became one of those lucky Mexican kids to study at a special school. “España-Mexico” was founded in 1942 when Mexican President Lázaro Cárdenas ordered the construction of a boarding school for orphans from the Spanish Civil War. Francisco Franco was the Spanish dictator from 1936 until his death in 1975. Thousands of people died during the war, leaving children behind. Some of those kids came to Morelia on a ship in order to have a chance at a better life.
Some Mexican kids also had the opportunity to live and study at “España-Mexico,” the best school in Michoacán at that time. My uncle was one of them. “Thanks to my mom, I could go to that school,” he says. He was raised by his mother, who was a housekeeper. She helped him get the scholarship that allowed him to study at the boarding school. ”It was the best one here, all the teachers were really smart,” says my uncle.
Looking back now, he remembers these years as the best time of his life. “I had the opportunity to go to a lot of places and to learn a lot. I loved being there,” he says. At “España-Mexico,” he had some benefits that he hadn’t had at home such as a daily shower, a good education, daily food, and even some sports time.
He studied there during elementary school. During the summer break before going to middle school, he quit. He could have gone back but he decided to start working. He now regrets this decision. But as a teenager it seemed easier to start earning his own money and start flirting with girls. He got some small jobs with people he had met before until he discovered what he really liked: being a painter. It may seem odd, but he found magic in mixing colors to discover a new one. “I tried a lot of jobs. I tried to be a mechanic, but I didn’t like to use gasoline to clean car parts. I tried to be an electrician but it was boring. So I finally learned how to paint the interiors and façades of houses. I enjoyed this because the person who taught me also showed me how to mix colors to create a new one. I was young so for me that was awesome.
My uncle still works as a painter. He has had a good life, having found his work when he was a young adult. He had 11 kids. Now he lives in Villahermosa, Tabasco, México with the younger of his daughters, her husband and three grandchildren. At this time of his life, what he likes the most is being with his family and watching action movies in his free time.
Grecia Gonzalez Miranela – Profile by Miriam Lamarka Miranda
Grecia is twenty-three years old and her main character trait is that she’s a direct person. You can see by looking at her face that she is serious and formal. Maybe that’s because she studies law and is always is trying to do things correctly. After finishing her study of law, she would like to move outside Mexico to work at a Mexican Embassy.
She’s the kind of person that uses school as a tool to become a better human being. The university keeps her busy all the time, which she loves. But she also enjoys watching sports and baking desserts.
Grecia is a social person, too, always smiling and saying hello to her friends. She would love to study art because she thinks it’s the best way to express feelings and to show yourself to people. When she thinks about the future, she imagines herself living with someone she loves.
I remember the red and white lights every winter that signal Christmas is coming. The Christmas tree, the gifts, the decorations, and the smell of the pine tree in the house overwhelm me. I especially remember the Christmas of 2007. Why that year? I need to explain the circumstances.
My dad, Ignacio, had a car accident in Zihuatanejo in September of that year. He was living there because of his job at the gas station we own, and the rest of us were living in Uruapan. He was hospitalized for 23 days, and for all those days we couldn’t visit him because he was transferred to Guadalajara to receive intensive hospital care. My mom, Yolanda took care of him there. My brother, Nachito, and I didn’t know what was going to happen next. Uncertainty was our companion in those days. My father had two legs and some ribs broken and his diabetes got complicated too. He couldn’t walk; that was all we knew. But after five years of just visiting us every weekend, he came back to live permanently in Uruapan because he was injured and needed us to care for him.
The reality was that after the accident, we had a different dad. The man we used to know was very active, working every single hour of the day, driving from one gas station to another, yelling and screaming at everyone. He was very severe about work and how he felt people should act. After the accident, we saw a shadow of the man we used to know. My mom, my brother and I had to help him with everything. This included moving him to go to the bathroom and taking a shower, preparing his meals, and bringing food to him. He was in bed all day long; the only moves he made were to turn his body from side to side. All of us were chained to that room, the one next to the stairs on the second floor.
But that Christmas was very special because my mom, my dad, and my little brother were very close for the first time in many years. We were a family, a real one. Those months after the accident, we started to help each other and started to have a good relationship. The problems were there but that Christmas but we decided to lock them up for the night. We ate at our dinner table on the first floor and in that moment, unchained from his room, we felt free for the first time in months.
I remember that I cooked Bolognese pasta and baked an apple pie – my brother and dad’s favorite. Just having the four of us, without my grandparents and other relatives around, was a precious gift. This dinner felt like the most special and loving one that I’ve ever had. Today I remember that night and I can still see the red and white lights tinkling for us. We hoped for good days, and knew that everything was going to be just fine if we were together.