We started from the beginning of the publication asking the question. “Quienes Somos?” – “Who are we? It is a provocative, complex and complicated question with really no answer.  I will explain why it is hard to produce a definition or meaning of who we are. 

Felix Alvarado



So, I thought the best way to show who we are is to trace my ancestry. From an incredibly early age my father who say he was a Mexican.  Of course, that made me a Mexican.  The Mexican in me was reinforced daily.  We had one radio and at night we would listen to a Mexican radio station, XEW, from somewhere in Mexico.  We listened to all the mariachis from Pedro Infante to Jorge Negrete.  we also listened to “novelas.”  My favorite was “Dos Arbolitos.”  On Sundays we would go to the movies.  Usually, there was an introductory movie, Roy Roger, Gene Autry, Tarzan, Hopalong Cassidy or Cisco Kid. Then came the main attraction, a Mexican movie.  Pedro Infante, Jorge Negrete, all Mexican actors of the day. Growing up my culture was Mexican.

I could not have predicted any part of my future.  Dreams, not even little ones, was something that we I grew up believing. I was surrounded by people that did not believe that there was a better world than picking cotton.  That was true until the cotton-picking machine appeared.  Then everyone, thousands were without a job. My father decided we would start a new life in San Antonio.  We moved to the West Side.  Some people were so afraid of the West Side that they would bypass it. Supposedly it was a dangerous place to live.


I quickly learned that my Mexican culture was not a part of the West Side.  Kids spoke a Spanish called “Pachuco.”  Not knowing what the words meant, I got into trouble a couple of times.  Did not take me long to learn though.  I did what I could to make money to buy groceries.  I scrounged dumps looking for bronze, copper and lead that I could sell. I learned that hunger is much more powerful than pride.  Undeterred I continued attending school. I was ready to graduate when I was called into the Dean’s office and informed that I was being suspended from school.  The crime was playing hooky. I had never been in any trouble in school.  Never.  Here I was the senior year, ready to graduate and go on to Trinity or St. Mary’s and here I am in complete disbelief of what was happening.  There was no interrogation, no bring your parents, nothing.  Just a simple “sign here.”  Something I refused to do. The Dean had made up his mind and there was no changing it.  In anger I walked out, the last words I said were “I quit.” One more lesson to be learned, the only school I could attend was Edgewood HS.

I had joined the Naval Reserve.  We had a mutual attraction.  That ended when I told them that I had left school. Reaction was swift, go back to school or be activated. My choices were limited, go back to school or go on active duty.  Neither choice appealed to me.  A third choice suddenly appeared, the US Army.  Joining the Army was not something that I had ever considered.  In the discussion, my options were now going back to school, going on active duty and now joining the Army, I gave the Army recruiter 24 hours to get me into the Army or do not knock on this door again. Twenty-four hours later I was on my way to Fort Carson.    

My life had changed. Somehow, I had to merge my Mexican culture with this new life that I knew nothing about.  Six and a half years later I would be discharged.  A Staff Sergeant. I was successful in the Army.  It was not the kind of success that I wanted.  My dream to get a college education still alive.  

I went back to San Antonio. While visiting an Army friend of mine at a recruiting station I shared my goal with him.  Listening in was the Air Force recruiter.  He mentioned that I could achieve my goals in the Air Force and get paid. The only catch was a test I had to pass.  Electronics.  Something I knew nothing about. I took a trip to the library and hit the books hard. Much to my surprise, I passed the test. Again, I had to give a recruiter a deadline.  He told me he could get me in the Air Force, if I was lucky.  No luck I told him, he had seven days to get me in.  He did.  

My time in the military was all about learning how to live in a new world. My music selections now were rock, western or easy listening.  No more mariachi music.  Gone were tacos.  I had choices as to what I wanted to eat. The biggest change in my life was my social life.  Not well received by my fellow Anglo soldiers, I was a loner.  Somehow, I found Spanish clubs in Stuttgart.  Spanish clubs were my escape from all the harassment and abuse in the barracks. I started dating a Spaniard.  I learned a different kind of Spanish. Spanish food was also different.  I was living in two different worlds.  My Mexican culture was abandoned somewhere in the past. The Spaniards were kind and patient.  They taught me social graces, food and language. I became bilingual and bicultural.  I alternated between two cultures.  I had acquired WASP and Spanish cultures. I have memories of my Mexican culture, but it is like a book that you read once in a while and put down.  

I ate tacos. When I returned, I had to acquire a taste for Mexican American food.   I did not eat any of the food available in Mexican American restaurants.   I still prefer to eat Spanish food. My Spanish is not as good as it was.  But Castilian is still there.

I left a Mexican.  The person that returned was not the person that left. Culture determines who you are. My heritage is still Mexican.  

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