Communication Studies at Edmonds Community College
Vicente was sitting in the cafeteria with a group of his sister, Guadalupe's, friends - again. Ben had called him over "Hey, Vinnie." Whenever he did that, Vicente felt like he was being paraded in front of all Ben's friends so Ben could show them just how worldly he was. Vicente was worried that that was why Ben was so interested in Guadalupe- maybe she was just a trophy to him. "Well," Vicente thought, "she is beautiful". He had to admit that. His family had sent her here to the United States because they knew he was there to take care of her. But still he got tired of the jokes about Guadalupe "living" with him - as if he trusted anyone else to protect her! His family counted on him to protect his sister and he couldn't understand why Americans thought this was so funny.
Then there were the jokes about his name. "Veecentee? Your name is Veecentee?!" Ben and his friends would start with their questions. "Don't you mean Vincent? Or Vinnie?" Vicente would never point out their ignorance or the rudeness of their comments. It would be impolite for him to make such a comment - and it was important that he learn American ways.
Then, there were the jokes Ben made about Vicente and American women. He really didn't understand the jokes about how the girls must like his accent. "I'll bet that accent draws "em like flies." At first Vicente got confused: "Draws "em? Like flies?" Ben and his friend just laughed.
American girls might go out of their way to talk to him, but they never listened. They were too vain. He remembered one incident when he first came to Lynnwood. "One day a girl in my class walked up to me and said 'WhatÕs up?' I looked up and she laughed." As if he would be interested in the girls here! Rosalinda was waiting for him at home. They had known each other since they were young children. Their fathers were business partners and both families had long assumed that Rosalinda and Vicente would be married.
All Vicente wanted to do was to learn what he could and then go back home to his family and Rosalinda. It was time for him to start his own family and to take over his father's business. His brothers and cousins couldn't understand why he had even come to the United States to study. They thought he was just showing off, because he had always been the smart one in the family. "Don't wait for him," they told Rosalinda. "He'll marry some rich American girl and stay there."
At first, he tried to explain to his family that the family's oil business - the exploration part of the company, the oil refinery plant, and the petrol sales offices throughout Mexico - the family business where they all worked - needed people who could speak English well and do business like American companies did. His father understood, but his cousins and brothers still teased him about his American women and his American ways. Vicente secretly thought that they might be afraid of how he might change.
But Vicente knew he wasn't going to change. He was afraid of being in the US. He had heard many bad things about how dangerous it was. His uncle who lived in Seattle was pulled over by the police and asked for papers. But since he didn't speak English well, he didn't understand what the cop wanted. He got out of the car - like they do in Mexico - but that was the wrong thing to do here.
So Vicente didn't like to go out. "IÕm not the kind of person to go outside" he told the people who asked him. There were times he told his acquaintances that he would meet them at a bar, but, then, he didn't go - worried that something would happen to him like it did to his uncle.
Sometimes he worried that he didn't have many friends here. Besides, it was hard to have friends because people didn't try to understand his pronunciation and he didn't understand them because they talked too fast. When he asked them to repeat themselves, they got impatient and say "Oh, never mind" or "Just forget it." Those comments made him feel bad. So he'd rather be alone.
He did have some friends where he worked. They "bothered" him and he "bothered" them back. He liked the teasing. These friends didn't seem to mind taking the time to listen to him and they helped him with his pronunciation, too. But, even with these Americans, Vicente still felt worried. He had heard Ben and his friends talk about other Latins. They thought that Latins and Mexicans wanted to take away their jobs or their money for college. His uncle told him stories like that, too, how people here thought Latins were less than Americans. He didn't like people to think bad thing about him.
Part of the problem was that Vicente didn't have much time for friends. By the time he went to school and finished work, he barely had time for supper before he had to start studying. He didn't even have time to go the Writing Center for help or to the library to do extra research. So when he started to feel lonely, he tried to put it out of his mind. There was just too much to do.
Even with all he had to do though, Guadalupe still came first. He suspected that she wasn't serious about her education and just liked the adventure of going to another country and meeting Americans. No one else in their family had traveled outside of Mexico. He was afraid she would forget about her values and want to marry an American and stay in the U.S.. He was responsible for keeping her safe - in every way. Guadalupe often spoke about staying in Lynnwood on her own after Vicente left for home. He suspected that she is just teasing him, but he didn't know for sure. They argued about this many times. Vicente pointed that that their life is in Mexico and she must come home with him. "Ahi esta nuestro sitio, Guadalupe," he told her. "After all", Vicente thought, "who will protect her when he was gone? Not that gringo, Ben." Guadalupe shouted back at him, in English, that he just didn't understand!
The other day, a girl from his English class, Alyssa, tried to explain to him how and why young people in the U.S. behaved as they did.
"Every girl - or guy - wants to get away from their family." Vicente replied, very surprised. "That seems so sad. Your family is everything for you."
Alyssa continued, "Oh, I don't know. I don't think I could live with my mother. I need to be in charge of my own home."
Vicente shook his head unable to understand how someone could want to be separated - on purpose - from his or her family. It was too hard to understand. He expected to live with his family until he had a family of his own. Since his family's property was very large, there would be room for him, his wife and their children to build their own home next to his parents. He might never "get away from his family" and he didn't want to. "Is this what Guadalupe is thinking?" Vicente worried.
He needed to spend more time with Guadalupe! He must try to make her less vain, less adventurous, and less impressed with America. During their last argument, he told her how much he wanted her to come back home with him. "You will miss our parents and all your family," he told her. "En Mexico tenemos nuestras amistades. Tenemos nuestra familia. Y tenemos nuestra linda Raza. Ahi hay amor en la gente." But Guadalupe only laughed and told him that Ben could be her family and her people. "You are too strong-willed and strong-spirited for your own good", Vicente told her. Yes, he definitely needed to spend more time with her. Otherwise, how would she know that her family loved her? Or that she needed to return to Mexico with him, and not stay here to be with Ben?
"No me eches mentiras" - "Do not lie to me"
"Mi Mexico lindo y querido" - "My beloved and beautiful Mexico"
"Donde el sol rie con la gente" - "The place where the bright sun smiles equally with all the people"
"Ahi hasta el mar es caliente" - There where the beaches are endless and the ocean is pleasantly warm.
"Ahi esta nuestro sitio Guadalupe"-"Mexico is where we truly belong"
"Ahi hay amor en la gente" - "In Mexico you will find a true love among the people"
"En Mexico tenemos nuestras amistades. Tenemos nuestra familia. Y tenemos nuestra linda Raza." - "In Mexico we have our friendships. There we have our family. And we have our beautiful people."
"Gringo" - This term is used by Latin Americans in reference to Anglo Americans. It is mostly used in countries where there was or is a heavy Anglo American military presence such as in Cuba, Puerto Rico, Nicaragua, Colombia, Panama, and Mexico.