Proud to be Mexican
GYPSUM – Manual Escamilla looked out of the smattering of Mexican parents scattered around the auditorium at Gypsum Creek Middle School.”Your children will learn more if they sit in front or along the aisles,” he said in Spanish. But the message wasn’t just meant for children. With that, the University of Colorado instructor turned his back on his audience, and the people hustled to reseat themselves at the front of the room. He turned around again. Pleased with the new seating arrangement, Escamilla, who specializes in Hispanic issues and education, began talking again. The hour-long presentation was meant to teach Hispanic parents about the American educational system and how to help their children be successful, but ended up also renewing their pride in being Mexican. With a rumor in the air that immigration officers were on the prowl, many Hispanic parents stayed home, leaving a slim but determined parent turnout. “I heard from the kids that parents thought it was a trick to come,” said Kim Chambers, the Gypsum Middle teacher who had organized the event.
Telling children where to sit was one piece of the puzzle, but parents have work to do too, Escamilla said.Playfully, Escamilla introduced one father to another. They had never met before. “I’m introducing you not to go out and drink beers – though if you want to drink beer together, that’s fine – but to communicate to help your children,” he said. “Call each other. Talk.”Escamilla stressed forming a network of parents to keep in the know about what their children are up to and how to help them.”We come here as maids and dish washers,” he said. “It’s honest work, but we can do more. We must better ourselves as a people.” Chinese and Japanese cultures place heavy emphasis on education, Escamilla said, and he encouraged Hispanic parents to make school as their children’s highest priority. Escamilla said he was pressured to get a job instead of go to college when he was young. “Mexicans don’t come here to study. They come here to work,” he said. “Not my parents, but other family members told me I wasn’t helping my family because I was studying.”But Escamilla said he makes a lot more money with a doctorate.”I came from a very poor place,” Escamilla said. “Time at school is worth it, and not just for men, for women too.”
While the lecture was meant to stress how Mexican parents can help their children, Escamilla spent much of the hour talking about national pride.”I’m Mexican – not Hispanic, not Latino,” Escamilla said. “I don’t want to teach, but reinforce that you’re Mexican.”I consider the term ‘Hispanic’ a label, therefore, I don’t use it,” he said. “The term Meixicano is a nationality or ancestry.”Chambers had wanted Escamilla to cover nutritional topics – like the necessity of breakfast – and schedules, such as the appropriate bedtimes for kids; but also understood the importance of his nationalistic message. “I strongly believe that for some of the participants, just seeing a person with a name like ‘Manuel Escamilla,’ who can speak Spanish, who is Mexicano, who is a professional and who is very confident and appears to be competent was probably welcomed,” Chambers said. He was right. While Adreiana Corral devoured the information about how to make her children more successful in school, the message of Mexican pride resonated even more strongly with her, she said. “When someone leaves their country, they start to lose the values, customs and culture of that country,” she said. “To see someone who is so successful be so proud of where they came from, it lets you remember where you came from and be proud of that.”Staff Writer Nicole Frey can be reached at 748-2927, or email@example.com.