I love the following quote from HÈctor Tobar’s The Tattooed Soldier despite the fact that it doesn’t seem to fit my family’s experience. Perhaps Tobar is referring to a newer generation of immigrants who came in the 80s and not those, like my family, who came in an earlier wave during the 1960s.
It was a fact of life that when you came to the United States you moved down in social station and professional responsibilities. Women with medical degrees became laboratory assistants, accountants became ditch diggers. Los Angeles made you less than you were back home. People accepted this because they still made six times more money than they could in El Salvador or Mexico even though everything was twice as expensive.
Everyone took a step down…
When both sets of grandparents immigrated permanently (both of my grandfathers were braceros so they came to work temporarily), they were already well into adulthood. They brought large families and children ranging in age from infancy to teenage years. They left jobs in canneries and as ranch hands for wealthy landowners in the states of Guanajuato and Zacatecas. Both families ended up in Los Angeles after short periods in Tijuana, Texas and northern California. My family did not step down.
This city has been good to my family and has never made us anything less than what we would have been in Mexico.
Inspiration for this post comes from Tobar’s novel as well as the fact that I just celebrated my grandpa’s 85th birthday. The photo on the right is of my grandpa in LA in the 1945.