Guest Post: Growing Up with a Migrant Mother
Updated: Jan 14
Photo Credit: La Voz
I recently attended the funeral of our Godmother Lala Esquibel. Her passing was more than an interruption of the life our families.
The closer you got to her two sons in their moment of sorrow, the more devastating was her departure. They say that funerals are a way of coping for those left behind and this certainly was a great example of that purpose.
I lost my mother in 2002 after a relatively long illness. Knowing she would be gone soon, she attended our family reunion in Austin, Texas to say goodbye and ask her younger sister, my Aunt Lydia, to look after us.
We buried Uncle Robert, one of mother’s brothers a week ago in Texas and everyone was there including my Aunt Lydia. My brief moments with her brought back so many memories of living with and loving mom.
As I prepare to celebrate both the Mexican Mothers Day on Thursday, May 10th and Sunday May 13th for those in the United States, I have so much to go over. The spirit and shadow of mother’s power and affection hangs over us as it has always.
My earliest memory of mom was when she was 15 and I was a 1-year old holding a tin cup so that my grandfather, who was milking a cow by hand, could fill it. Drinking that warm milk with mother looking at me with pride was the subject of the first story I wrote for a school project.
I remember her with us in the back of a truck as we prepared to leave South Texas for the harvest fields of the Midwest. Our travel began that year in front of a courthouse where one of the men in the group went in to get a copy of his birth certificate because even then, having your papers in order was important.
It was that year that mom showed her mettle as a 19-year old leader in the migrant community. I was on the floor at my father’s feet in the front cabin of a truck that was headed back home from the harvest fields of Missouri, Ohio, Michigan and Arkansas when we were refused service at a restaurant in Wichita Falls, Texas. My angry mother came from the back of the truck and took over the driver’s seat and the caravan that followed.
She found a restaurant that would serve us because she could read a sign that said, “We serve all the children of God.” She never waited for the right political climate such as today’s “#Me Too” to exercise effective leadership as a woman and her reputation grew in the fields even after we settled in Colorado.
Until shortly before I left to join the Air Force, mom continued to take the family during the summers to work the cotton fields in the South. The last time I spent one of these summers with her, she managed a Black crew from Louisiana that chopped and clean the cotton fields of Central Texas.
In a way she was like an older sister that grew up taking care of a younger sibling. Our closeness came out of growing up together in an atmosphere of unconditional love that only a mother can give.
Mom created a magical world founded in the richness of what she offered even in the middle of poverty and economic challenges. She was a leader of people that always sought to address issues greater than herself and the regular requirements of a loving mother.
[Written by David Conde. Published in La Voz Bilingüe on May 9, 2018.]
Dr. David Conde is the President for North America of the Chamber of the Americas. He currently serves as the President of the ECMHSP Board of Directors and a Contributing Writer to La Voz Bilingüe.