- Posted September 12, 2009 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Are you a Garcia?
Eddie V Garcia, Proud American
Well, this is an interesting story topic.
Let's see, I came to the US with my parents from Cuba at the age of three.
Looking for freedom, opportunity and a new life, the US had all that and more on the table. But I am proud of my parents who instilled in me a strong work ethic and the value of hard-work to achieve what it was we came to achieve in the US.
We ended up in a suburb of Boston, Ma. It was a cold November day when we arrived in Boston and I had never seen snow, much less frigid temperatures.
Even though there were other Hispanics in the city, everyone lived in the section of town among similar ethnicities.
We lived in a mix Hispanic and Italian neighborhood. As Garcia's, we sort of stood out simply because of the surname, but we blended in quite well as were tan 24-7 much like the Italians and other Hispanics. Speaking Spanish and Italian and sharing cultures, foods and certainly heated discussions.
The one thing that I will always remember is my parents knowing and making the earnest attempt to learn English.
They knew that in order to succeed in the US, English had to be learned and spoken. My parents weren't the kind of immigrants who expected the US to "provide" for us when we were healthy, fit and capable of doing things.
I learned English by watching Sesame Street, The Electric Company and Zoom on a 13" black and white TV that my parents were able to buy at Woolworths.
I was too young to start school, but I used those shows to learn English and communicate with the other English speaking kids in our neighborhood.
I also became my parents' interpreter. My dad would take me to the bank (at 4 years old) to translate his banking business needs. I would be the one to call the city's water department or the phone and cable company.
I remember an older gentleman who was the bank manager laugh aloud when my dad brought me one day. But I also remember the manager saying, "That is a fine boy you have there to help you with this stuff." "It is what America is about - autonomy and drive." Yes, at the time, I had to look up that word.
I went to public schools in our city of Lawrence and made lots of friends. Surely, knowing English helped tremendously. I wasn't an outcast and I was able to participate in my class studies quite well.
I do remember a boy in my 1st grade, Jesus Garcia.
At five years of age, I was surprised that we had the same last name. He was from Puerto Rico but couldn't speak English that well. I wondered why that was the case since I spoke English pretty well.
One day, I asked my mom about it. This is what she told me.
Eddie, God created everyone differently and with different gifts. Your father and I work everyday to be able to have a roof over our head, to have food to eat and to have the basics things but to be able to buy that television for you to learn English and things that are important in this country.
We also know that in America, for us to climb the ladder, we have to be able to communicate with those who are here. For us at work and you at school, knowing English is the only way to succeed and truly feel independent.
I don't know about Jesus' parents or background, but maybe it's that he and his parents just got here from Puerto Rico or something else. But always remember that when we arrived in this country, your father and I knew right away that without English our experience would be terrible and difficult.
We decided that whatever it took to learn English was the thing to do and not a day to waste.
So, what I would tell you my son is to help Jesus learn English by talking to him in English and not Spanish. By doing that, you will help him more than you will ever know.
I took my mom's advice and the next day at school I approached Jesus and told him I would be his friend and his teacher in learning English.
Jesus and I became very good friends all the way through high school. Sharing the same last name, people often thought we were brothers.
In fact, he and I became members of our student body government in freshman year. During a discussion, I found out that Jesus and his family of five had arrived in the US from their native Puerto Rico almost 2 years before we arrived.
I know that one of the greatest gifts I was able to give my friend Jesus Garcia was the comfort and ease of learning English. For that I am truly blessed and grateful.
That is why I support making English our official language in this great country.
The discussion of learning and using English in our government and in business is at the forefront of today's news.
More and more immigrants arrive in the US "illegally and legally", but the numbers of non-English speaking immigrants continue to rise.
The numbers of non-English speaking immigrants rise even after years of being in the US. With translating services and documents in other languages, driver's license exams in other languages and even voting in other languages, it curtails the desire or need to learn English.
Perhaps that is the reason why Jesus and his family didn't grasp English that well. In Puerto Rico, English is not the dominant language. Spanish is spoken at all goverment levels and is the language of instruction in the schools.
So what incentive would Jesus have to learn or use English in the US when he was used to just Spanish in Puerto Rico even though Puerto Rico is a part of the US and he is a US citizen. To him, not having to learn English was something that was normal because of the language status in Puerto Rico.
Incidentally, at the time Jesus and I became friends in elementary school, my parents and I were just beginning the process of becoming naturalized US citizens.
Interesting that we as freshly arrived immigrants already had the foresight to know that learning English was a necessity, but for him as a US citizen it wasn't a priority.
On the discussion table is the subject of should Puerto Rico be the 51st state, remain as a Commonwealth or become an independent nation.
H.R. 2499, a bill filed in the US Congress will force the issue on Puerto Rican voters on the island.
As I become more involved with this issue and learn more about it, I am not sure statehood is a good idea. There are many reasons, but the discussions we can have would be the ideal stage to share those feelings and positions.
I will share one position that I hold dearly regarding statehood and that is if statehood becomes a viable option then it must have English as the official language at the core of the referendum.
As Americans, we hold those things bestowed on us by the Constitution as sacred.
Similar to any fraternal organization (i.e) fraternity, sorority, military, becoming a member requires certain things that unite the members as a whole.
For us as American, English is that unifying "glue" that keeps us cohesive and allows for progress.
The strange thing is that Puerto Ricans are already US citizens, but their ambivalence in accepting English as the official language is puzzling. Please note that not all Puerto Ricans are opposed to having English as the official language.
Puerto Rico becoming the 51st state without English as the official language is pointless.
So let the discussions begin.
Eddie V Garcia
It's funny that my childhood friend's name is Jesus and that I am a believer in Jesus Christ.