We’ll hear one of those stories today from Lourdes Villanueva. Her parents were migrant workers harvesting fruit throughout the South. Lourdes came with her grown son Roger to talk about what it was like going to school while her family was constantly on the move.
Lourdes: Everywhere we went, even if we were going to be there for four weeks, six weeks, picking the crops, my mother would make sure that they enrolled us in school.
And Spanish was not allowed in the school systems. Even out in the playground. I mean, they used to have the little playground patrols, which were our friends that were supposed to turn you in if you were speaking Spanish out in the playground, which, of course, I was always in trouble because I was speaking Spanish.
Then, of course, in the ninth grade is when you started working for credits to graduate, and we never stayed in one place long enough to get any credits. So why even bother? I thought I knew everything that I needed to know at that time and got married at 18 and had you. You pretty much grew up in the back of the pickup truck.
I was picking crops, and in my breaks, I had to change your diaper and do whatever needed to be done and continue on working. And I always thought that you need to do what I didn’t do, which is finish your education first.
Roger: You always said that you were going to lead by example. And I remember when you got your1)GED, you were in the fields. And instead of having lunch, you would have your books and you’d be studying.
After that I remember that you said, you know, I’m going to go to the community college at night. And I remember you taking one class, and you started off like that. And then Dad was the one to take care of us, to cook for us. And we hated the beans and eggs, because that’s all he ever knew how to cook for us.
I can remember us stuffing it under the refrigerator, and then we would act like our plates were done. He used to make us eat everything because he wanted us to appreciate everything that we had, because I know that both of y’all came from basically nothing. And, I mean, I was just so proud the day that you graduated.
Lourdes: Yeah, I had to hurry up and graduate before you guys did, because I knew you guys were coming right behind me.
Roger: Yeah, well, I really thought that was something special. If I was to have the choice to choose another mother, I would never choose anybody else but you. And when I look for my partner, I always said, if my wife can be half the woman that my mother is, I will be OK. And I know I’ve never told you that, but that’s the way I feel.