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  • Synopsis: Introduction and ethnic identity
    Keywords: Latino; Latinx; Hispanic; Mexican-American; Woodstock, IL; Illinois
    Transcript: AYDE FLORES: I first have to start by introducing myself. I am the interviewer. I am Ayde Flores and this is for the NIU Latino Oral History Project. I am interviewing my cousin here. So, just to establish that relationship there. We are family and I'm going to ask the narrator four simple questions to start us off. Can you please tell me your name, your age, where you're from, and how you identify yourself ethnically and/or nationality?

    ERICK: Okay. My name is Erick Flores. I'm 22 years old. From Woodstock, Illinois. And I identify myself as a Latino and Hispanic.

    AYDE: Latino and Hispanic. Alright. That's very interesting.
  • Synopsis: Parents' decision to migrate to the United States from Mexico
    Keywords: migration; immigration; Mexico; United States; economic opportunity; opportunities; naturalization; naturalized citizens;
    Transcript: AYDE: Okay, so, as with everybody, I start as far back as your history goes. So, I'm going to start with your parents. Um, can you please tell me where your parents came from?

    ERICK: My parents came from a little dinky town called Las Vueltas in Coatepec Harinas in el estado de México in Mexico.

    AYDE: And, why did they decide to come?

    ERICK: Um, they came for opportunities is what they've said. The opportunity came for them to come over, and they decided to jump on that ship and come over here.

    AYDE: Opportunities? Could you tell me about those opportunities?

    ERICK: Well, jobs and money-wise as it's very common that there's not too much money over there in Mexico. So, they came when they had the opportunity to come. They came legally, from what I've been told.

    AYDE: Legally?

    ERICK: Legally.

    AYDE: Tell me more about that.

    ERICK: Like, they had papers. "Papers," whatever that really means. I'm—but they had, like they didn't, you know, I don't know. I don't even know, actually. Because now that I'm thinking about it, they have told me stories about the coyotes... [laughs]

    AYDE: [laughs]

    ERICK: ...and all that.

    AYDE: Before we go on, can you please give me that pen?

    ERICK: It's my panic mechanism.

    AYDE: No. [laughs] Okay, so, what, like, what kind of stories about coyotes and whatnot?

    ERICK: [laughs] Well, I don't know. I've never really asked them about their experience coming here. But from my knowledge, now they're both naturalized U.S. citizens. They're able to, you know—they have the same rights as an American citizen that was born here, except they can't be president, but other than that...I don't think they have the intention of becoming president, but they—now they have the correct paperwork or whatever sort of legal documents they need to be here and have a job and travel back and forth with a passport.

    AYDE: Right.
  • Synopsis: Bilingual education at elementary school; effect on self-esteem and identity
    Keywords: bilingual education; English as a Second Language; ESL; dual language learner; second language learners; primary education; elementary school; grammar school; public education; Spanish; identity formation; self-esteem; self esteem; identity; discrimination; prejudice; bigotry
    Transcript: AYDE: And where were you born?

    ERICK: I was born in Woodstock.

    AYDE: Woodstock, Illinois?

    ERICK: Woodstock, Illinois. South Street Hospital. 527 South St.

    AYDE: Nice.

    ERICK: Which is now a mental hospital. [laughs]

    AYDE: [laughs] Nice. And then, so, your parents migrated here, and you being born here, what was your primary language?

    ERICK: Primary at home was definitely Spanish. Spanish from all I can remember from, anything I can remember. Picked up English from TV.

    AYDE: TV? That's interesting. Can you talk more about that?

    ERICK: It's, well, obviously there's not too much Spanish—nowadays there's more Spanish cartoons and such, but back in the day in '95, '96, '97, there wasn't too many Spanish programming. So, obviously we watched Nickelodeon and SpongeBob and all those shows. And those are all primarily in English. So, you learn to pick up from what they're saying and what they mean.

    AYDE: That's very interesting that you credit it to TV shows.

    ERICK: I do, because—there's—I don't remember ever sitting down and learning English from someone. I very much credit that to television and just being exposed to the language and then picking up on what they mean by it. From a young age, I was always in bilingual school. Like, first to third grade, I was in a bilingual program, but it was really just one language, which was just, "It's Spanish." It really felt like it was a classroom for Mexicans, really, 'cause...

    AYDE: Can you talk to me about your experience in the Endres classrooms?

    ERICK: Um, in those classrooms, I just remember learning everything in Spanish. It was called the bilingual program, but there was no really—you didn't dig into English at all. Math was in Spanish. Science was in Spanish. And it felt very, like, dumbed down. Like...

    AYDE: Why do you say dumbed down? I've had another person tell me the same thing. Like...

    ERICK: I don't know. Like, I got transitioned after third grade. I—like in the middle of the school year—it was more towards the beginning. I got put into the English classroom just because in that class—in the Spanish classroom I was in, the bilingual class, they moved me out of it because I was too intellectually advanced compared to all the other students. I knew, you know, I just knew too much for what that class was giving me. It was kind of just, I guess in a way, stunting my intellectual growth.

    AYDE: Was that kind of how you decided that it seemed like it was, they were teaching you, like, slower?

    ERICK: Yeah. It was definitely because when I got put in the English class, it was like I've never been exposed to what they were teaching, grammar-wise.

    AYDE: Oh.

    ERICK: Like I remember, when I first walked into the English, English class, Mrs. Benda's [sp?] class, in third grade, there was a word on the board and it was schedule, and I couldn't pronounce it. I was like, what's this? I was pronouncing it in Spanish and so I said "skah-doo-dle." I was like, "What's a skah-doo-dle?" Or...

    AYDE: [laughs]

    ERICK: So it was—I remember there was just things like that. Even the books were different. I mean...

    AYDE: How were the books different?

    ERICK: They were nicer.

    AYDE: Oh, wow.

    ERICK: I remember one of the science books had, like, a texture to it. It was the science book and it felt like a reptile. Like reptilian skin and I was like, "Ooh, what is this?"

    AYDE: [laughs]

    ERICK: I mean, it had its own texture. And it was a different environment. It felt very different than being in the bilingual class.

    AYDE: And how did you feel going into the English classes?

    ERICK: I felt—at first I felt special. I was like, "Ooh." 'Cause they told me. They were like, "Well, you know, we're—you're not, you know, you're too—." They would say, "You're the smartest person in the class you're in, so we're going to move you into a different class." You know, it felt, it felt good. It felt different.

    AYDE: Okay. Well, talk about that. How did you feel different?

    ERICK: Just being, like, put in with, I guess, American kids. There was maybe two other Mexican/Latino/Hispanic kids in the classroom. One of them being our cousin José and the other one being Marco.

    AYDE: Oh. Yeah, yeah.

    ERICK: So, yeah. And he got moved out of class before I did. Because he was already in the "regular kid" class.

    AYDE: And how did you feel being in a class with only three Mexicans?

    ERICK: Well, at that age, you don't really notice it. Like it's not something that's so obviously pointed out. Like, you don't really look. Like, it's just like your skin color, kind of. It's not really nothing you pay too much attention to.

    AYDE: But you obviously noticed a difference.

    ERICK: Yes. Yeah, it was obviously different because no one [chuckle] was speaking Spanish anymore. I remember they would—I remember the kids would always be like, "[affecting heavily Spanish-accented English] Teacher." Like, you know, they'd say things, like in the Spanish class, that they wouldn't say in the English classroom. You know, it was just a very different environment.

    AYDE: And just tapping into, like, what I know about you as my cousin, I remember you said you hated ESL classes.

    ERICK: I, ah, didn't really like them, just because, when I look back, I feel like if I had started in the regular environment, as the, as my other peers that were in the class when I started third grade, I would have had more of a better understanding of English as a whole. Because I had no idea of grammar, no idea of how to spell things. I remember I would struggle...

    AYDE: And is that why you hated it?

    ERICK: Yeah. That and I just didn't—I don't remember learning anything in the Spanish class. I really don't.

    AYDE: So, do you feel like, um, were they effective in kind of assimilating you into, like, trans—were they effective in transitioning you from the Spanish class to the English classes?

    ERICK: The school, or...

    AYDE: The, I guess, the teachers, the faculty and what they taught you. Was the class effective?

    ERICK: The Spanish class? I don't think it was.

    AYDE: No?

    ERICK: Not at that time. Nowadays it is, but at that time I think what they were basically just doing is "Well, we're going to put all the Mexican kids in the Spanish class because they don't do as well in English and, you, know, kind of keep them separated from, I guess, the rest of the school. Just because they were trying to keep us all together. Because that what it felt like. It felt like they were just keeping all the Mexican kids together. And they were, they had—all our teachers spoke Spanish. And so the teachers would teach us obviously all in Spanish. Very little English. Actually, I do remember learning cursive. I learned cursive in my ESL classes.

    AYDE: [laughs]

    ERICK: And they said that we would use it after third grade and—not really. [laughs]

    AYDE: Not really, huh? Okay, and then, um, and how would you say that they're different today, because you say that they're more effective today?

    ERICK: Now, I feel like they are more effective. Because they're not—they don't seem like they're ESL. It seems like now they're more of "dual"—well, now they even call them a "dual language program." It's not "Let's put all the Mexicans in a class separated from the rest." It's "Let's start kids off from Kindergarten and have them be placed in the program if they want." And they accept Spanish-speaking people and also people who, I guess, are white or American or don't have Spanish as their first language at home or anything. It's just, I guess, giving, everyone an equal shot at learning dually, as two languages. Learning some things in Spanish, learning some things in English. How my sister, who is in dual language, how she describes her experiences are a complete, different approach and just different types of learning that they do. It's completely different. Nothing how I remember it, which I know I was only in it for two, two and a half years, but I mean, starting from Kindergarten, like, they would do all these things that were just, you know, a complete change of how they were when I was in the program.

    AYDE: Mm-hmm. And, um, and I guess, as you—going back to elementary, as you moved on through elementary school, what is the most prevalent, like, memory that you have?

    ERICK: From elementary school?

    AYDE: Yeah.

    ERICK: Mmm, I don't know.

    AYDE: No?

    ERICK: No. Just that ESL, being in both. The experience from that.

    AYDE: And so that is what is most prevalent, the ESL?

    ERICK: Yeah. And just that I was in it and then I wasn't. And getting, I guess, transitioned into a normal classroom.

    AYDE: Okay.
  • Synopsis: Ethnic and other cliques in middle school
    Keywords: middle school; junior high school; cliques; self-segregation; family; bigotry; racism; prejudice
    Transcript: AYDE: And, so, now let's move on to middle school. Um, can you...what do you remember seeing when you would walk into your middle school?

    ERICK: The cafeteria. It was right at the entrance. But, uh...

    AYDE: What about when you would walk down the hall, through the halls?

    ERICK: Mmm, just a normal school. Students. You know, everyone. Lockers were put in just, I guess, it seemed like they were just alphabetical. Like, it wasn't like you got to choose your lockers. And obviously all the Floreses were together. All the Carbajals were together. So you would see the little subgroups of...

    AYDE: Can you talk to me about those subgroups?

    ERICK: Yeah, like the Spanish people, the Spanish-speaking students, or Mexicans, or however you want to refer to them, since it was alphabetically, all of us, all of them would, I guess, always be talking. Especially because a lot of them are related somehow. Being second cousins or first cousins o, some of them, brothers and sisters.

    AYDE: Can you compare them to the other groups that you had in school?

    ERICK: Well, it seems like there's not really a lot of family members that are, like, American, at the same school sometimes. Like, it seems like it's very rare when you hear, "Oh, that's my cousin." Or, "Oh, that's my brother." It's not as common as with Hispanic families. Especially here in Woodstock, well, where I lived in Woodstock. Since a lot of us come from the same town, and we're, a lot of us are somehow interconnected or related. I guess we stick together.

    AYDE: And do you—could you tell me the demographic when you were at middle school?

    ERICK: Mmm, I don't quite remember. I'm—I don't—I mean it was—there was a lot of Hispanic students, but I don't know exactly. And some black students. And American. And some Asians, too. But it was obviously mostly, predominantly, white.

    AYDE: Okay. And then, could you talk about, like, the relationships between these groups that you just mentioned?

    ERICK: Some of them were very, um, what's the word? They were very integrated. Like, they had a little bit of everything.

    AYDE: Oh.

    ERICK: Some of them were, you know, they would get along with everyone. And it just seemed like there was like obviousl—like in every school there's like, the nerdy kids and they stick together. [laughs] It seemed like—because they were in challenge corps and stuff, which, by the way, there were no Mexicans in that challenge corps group.

    AYDE: And what was challenge corps?

    ERICK: Challenge corps was, well, at the time was, they would just say that it was to challenge the kids. They were kids who were more intellectually advanced, so to speak. I mean, they're the kids who nowadays—who when we graduated got, like, full scholarships to, you know, all these elite universities and colleges. But there was no Mexicans in that group. I do remember that. No Latinos. No blacks. I think there was some Asians. But, I guess, stereotypically speaking, that isn't surprising, but...

    AYDE: Okay, and so then, going back to the relationships, what were your relationships to the other crowds of, the other, or all the ethnic groups that you just described?

    ERICK: I would get along with everybody, as long—like, if they talked to me, I talked to them. But I was always shy. They had to talk to me first, but as long as they talked to me, I would definitely talk to them back. Obviously, you would notice, "Oh, this person is black. This person is white," but still, nonetheless, I was friendly with whoever talked to me.

    AYDE: How did you feel, like, looking at someone, like, "This person is black, this person is white, I'm obviously Mexican?"

    ERICK: Mmm...

    AYDE: Did you think about it too much?

    ERICK: Not really, but a lot of them would point it out.

    AYDE: Can you talk about that?

    ERICK: Like they would just, they would point it out. Like, "Well, those are the Mexicans." Or, "Well, those are the black people." It was just—it was more—it was obviously more pointed out, more noticed than it was in middle school—I mean in elementary school. I guess, it was just, like, it became more evident.

    AYDE: Can you remember a specific moment where it was pointed out?

    ERICK: Uh, well, all the Mexicans would sit together at the table sometimes. Especially the "not cool" ones. [laughs]

    AYDE: [laughs] Okay.

    ERICK: Like the ones that weren't as, you know, as cool as the others. So, and, they—it was like a whole lunch table just full of Mexican students and they would just, "Oh, that's the Mexican table." Kind of like it was in high school, too, but...

    AYDE: Right. And then, the teacher demographic. What was that like in middle school?

    ERICK: Teachers, demographically? Uh, they were, all white, but predominantly women as it seems to be. But they were all white. I don't remember there being a Mexican teacher there. I don't think so.

    AYDE: And what was the environment like in class?

    ERICK: I felt that it was good. [laughs] It was a good learning environment. I mean, we would learn what we had to, but I don't remember too many, I guess, outbursts or anything like that. [laughs] That would make me feel like the environment wasn't good.

    AYDE: And was it good even between all the ethnic groups?

    ERICK: Yeah, if I remember right. Yeah, it was good. [chuckles]

    AYDE: And, when you were in middle school, I mean, how did you identify yourself?

    ERICK: Mmm, I identified, I guess, as a middle schooler. I don't know. I don't think I really I identified myself. I mean, obviously I hung out more with Mexican students, but I don't...I guess Mexican. {laughs]

    AYDE: You never—when you would think about it, how would you think about it in middle school?

    ERICK: Hmm, Mexican, then. Yeah.

    AYDE: Well, I'm just asking because sometimes it not that simple.

    ERICK: Yeah.

    AYDE: You know, so...How do you feel other people saw you?

    ERICK: I think they saw me as a Mexican.

    AYDE: Mm-hmm?

    ERICK: Yeah.

    AYDE: And did you feel like the same way they saw you was the same way you saw yourself?

    ERICK: I don't know. I don't think so.

    AYDE: Why not?

    ERICK: I think they just look at, like, the skin, so to speak. They just see you, I guess, skin-deep and they just make assumptions. Like, "Oh, you're a Mexican. You're"—I remember that was a time where the term "beaner" was popular.

    AYDE: Mm-hmm.

    ERICK: And so they would say that. You know, beaner and stuff, but...They just say that, I guess.

    AYDE: And how did that differ from how you saw yourself?
  • Synopsis: Ethnic self-identity, imposed identity, and parents' naturalization
    Keywords: Ethicity; ethic identity; race; racial identity; parents' immigration status; citizenship; naturalization; naturalized citizens; undocumented
    Transcript: ERICK: I saw myself as more of a Mexican, but also as American. Just because I knew that I had been born in America. So I saw myself more as a little of both. But they just look at you like you're, "Well, you're Mexican."

    AYDE: And that kind of identification with both of them, did it just come naturally?

    ERICK: Uh, well, no, I think a lot of that also stems from the parents.

    AYDE: Mm-hmm.

    ERICK: Because they tell, they would tell me. Like, "Oh, you're Mexican, but you're—you were born here. You're Mexican-American." You know, " You have, you know, you're the, you're a natural born citizen of America." You know, "You're not like us, who are, who had to be, I guess, naturalized. You're just born here. So you're born with the same rights as anyone who is born here." As compared to them, that they had to work for it.

    AYDE: Can you, um, recount a specific time that your parents told you something like that?

    ERICK: It was when my mom was getting her cit—her, what's that? Residency. Because first you become a resident and then you can become a citizen. And it was between when she was becoming a resident to a citizen and you have to take this test and answer, like, all these questions about America. Because if you know ten questions, you're an Am—you're American, you know...

    AYDE: [laughs]

    ERICK: ...what July 4th means, I guess, and so...It was when she was becoming that that they were, you know, they were explaining to me, "Oh, you're, you know, you're Mexican-American. You, you already have all these rights that we're trying to get. You can already go to Mexico as you please because you have a passport. You have a passport. You can get a job, you know, because they ask for that. "Are you legally able to hold a job in the United States?" And they, I remember that, like, if you wanted to become president, you can.

    AYDE: [laughs]

    ERICK: [laughs] Or something like that. But obviously, at the time, my mom wasn't able to. She didn't have all those rights. But my dad did. He was already a citizen. But not my mom.

    AYDE: And what was the manner in which your mom told you that?

    ERICK: Um, it was a soft manner. She was just telling me.

    AYDE: Because it kind of sounds like she was saying it to you as if it was something you should be proud of.

    ERICK: Mm, I mean, it was—obviously because she was working very hard to get something that was handed to me at birth, so to speak. Something that they worked hard to, so they were, you know, like you were given a good opportunity by being born here.

    AYDE: And how did you feel having that birthright versus your parents having to work for it?

    ERICK: I felt—I felt good, but at the same time, I thought it was kind of silly how the process to work for it was because I remember thinking at the time, I was like, "Really? You just have to answer these stupid little questions and that's what makes you, you know, that what separates this hardworking person over someone who is"—you, know, it was just weird. It's a hundred questions and they're just the simplest questions that you can learn in any, you know, third-grade U.S. History class. So, it was just, you know, it was just silly, silly questions that—I was like, "Really? This is what makes you an American citizen is knowing ten, you know, a hundred of them, but they only ask you ten, it's only getting ten questions"—and you can get some wrong when you're answering the questions, I think. I think there's like a certain amount that you have to get right, but other than that, if you know the answers to ten questions, you're an American citizen.

    AYDE: It's very interesting. Were you thinking of the undocumented when you—you describe that's what separates this hardworking person who isn't a citizen yet from...

    ERICK: Yeah.

    AYDE: Were you thinking of the undocumented?

    ERICK: Yeah. Yeah.

    AYDE: And why is that? Why did that pop into your head?

    ERICK: Just because I think it's silly.

    AYDE: No, I know, but about the undocumented, I guess?

    ERICK: Oh, because some of them are very hardworking people and, it's just, I think it's just weird.

    AYDE: But at the time, that's what you were thinking about?

    ERICK: Yeah.

    AYDE: When you were in middle school?

    ERICK: Mm-hmm. Yeah, because
  • Synopsis: Responses to "Day without a Mexican" protest in middle school against Sensenbrenner Bill (H.R. 4337); thoughts on U.S. immigration system
    Keywords: Day without a Mexican; Sensenbrenner Bill; H.R. 4337; May 1st Protest; First of May Protest; activism; undocumented; U.S. immigration system
    Transcript: ERICK: it was in middle school when that whole "a day without a Mexican thing" was going on.

    AYDE: Oh, okay.

    ERICK: Uh, I forgot what year it was. But, I mean, it was that, you know, during that time where it became more of an upheaval. I don't know. [chuckle] It just became more prominent, the whole immigration issue and people getting deported and not being citizens and stuff like that.

    AYDE: Can you tell me about your experience with that?

    ERICK: Um...

    AYDE: Like, living through something like that?

    ERICK: Um, I remember a lot of people were saying, like, "On May 1st of—I forgot what year—don't go to work. Don't go to school. Let the world see how it would be without a Mexican," you know. And I—living through that. I remember I was—I didn't want to go to school, but I was just a lazy kid. I didn't like school. I didn't go to school that day, but, like I said, it was just merely—wasn't because I was like, "Well, I'm just going to be—I'm not going to school." [laughs] Just because for the fun of it. But I remember my dad saying that "How was that proving anything?" If anything, it's proving that Mexicans are lazy by us doing that, by saying, "We're not going to go to work."

    AYDE: Did you agree with him?

    ERICK: I did, but at the time I said, "No." I said, "We have to prove" because I didn't want to go to school. It wasn't—it was merely a self-centered thing of why I participated in that. It wasn't because I was going to go out and protest or anything. I was just at home. You know, there's people who really felt strong about that. Went to Chicago or some—and participated in a protest about it, but, like I said, the reason I was participating was just a mere lazy, self-centered reason. And my dad, he did go to work and we had some Mexican actually helping us renovate our kitchen at the time, and even the Mex, that guy, said, "I'm going to come and, you know, finish the work I'm doing." And my dad, I remember him saying, "If anything, that's just showing the world taht we're lazy. That we would do something like that. That we weren't really proving a point"

    AYDE: How do you feel about that now?

    ERICK: Now I feel like that is a good point. Like what he said.

    AYDE: Wh...

    ERICK: Yeah. I think that, I mean, I understand the reasoning behind it, but I just don't think that it is a very effective way because, you know, you're just—because, unless you're really going to be participating in the, you know, the marches or anything, if you're just doing it out of the reasoning I did it back then, just because you're lazy, then you're just showing you're doing it because you're lazy. You're not really taking a good enough stance.

    AYDE: And what did you feel everybody else's intentions that didn't go to school were?

    ERICK: I think it was just lazy. A reason not to go—kind of like senior ditch day. Something like that. So, you, know, it wasn't too effective. [laughs] And um, another, you know, just about that is the Mexican students that did miss school and didn't get called in, obviously there was consequences to that, as there is at any school. But they got assigned Saturday detentions.

    AYDE: Mm-hmm.

    ERICK: And the teachers who were, I guess, supervising the detentions, they—I don't know, I don't want to say they agreed or they, but they knew the intention, or they knew the message, I guess, that they were trying to spread, so—and I remember one time the teacher mentioning that there was some Mexicans that didn't go to their ISS and she didn't mark them that—you know, she, you know, she took the attendance as if they had gone there, even though they didn't go. Because...

    AYDE: And how did you see that? How did you look at that?

    ERICK: I saw it as an interesting stance that the teachers took. Like, because even they kin of—they basically took a stance on the whole reasoning because they—the students were punished for something they did and the teachers were like, "We're not enforcing the punishment. If they show up, good. And if they don't show up, oh well."

    AYDE: But, I mean, obviously they had to have agreed with...

    ERICK: Uh-huh.

    AYDE: ...what they were doing. You know, by...

    ERICK: ...by say—Yeah, I thought it was cool. I was like, "Well, good for you." You know, one of the teachers I didn't really like [laughs], so, I mean, I guess it kind of improved my image of her, seeing that she was supportive to the cause even though, like I said, most of the students probably didn't go because they were just lazy, but...

    AYDE: That was good, yeah...

    ERICK: ...but, one of the—because it was two of them. And the other teacher I really liked, so, and, I still do, but she's not a teacher any more. [laughs]

    AYDE: And so, how did it f—I guess I just am interested to know how did it make you feel that this teacher was supporting something that you did, even though you just did it because you were being lazy?

    ERICK: Oh, well, I didn't get a suspension or—I got called in. My dad said I was "sick." [laughs] But I thought—you know, I admired their stance, that they, they knew, I guess, what the purpose or what the reasoning was even though, like I said, they, the kids weren't out protesting in Chicago or anything. But they knew, they knew the reasoning. They knew why, you know, why it was going on. They knew to expect it. That there wasn't going to be, probably, a lot of Hispanic kids at the school that day and so, I don't know, I thought it was—I thought it was cool that they took a stance like that.

    AYDE: And...

    ERICK: And they didn't really make it public. I just overheard them one time speaking about it. But it wasn't like a public, like, they let everyone know, but I remember the teachers saying it one time.

    AYDE: And then, um, you mentioned that you knew, or you now know, the intentions behind "a day without a Mexican." Can you describe that for me? What were the intentions?

    ERICK: I guess the intentions were to show the world how much of an impact—well, maybe not the world, but the country, at least—how much of an impact Mexicans have on the economy and on the world as a whole and to see that there's some Mexicans that, you know, have important jobs that we do and if you take, if you get rid of us, you know, there are consequences, I guess, so to speak to—that, you know, we are useful. That we do do things and that, you know, even though most of them see us as, as Donald Trump said, rapists and drug lords and whatnot, but that's not the case. You know, there's a lot of us who—a lot of Mexicans who do hard labor that other people don't do or don't want to do. And if you could, if you take them away, I guess, kind of to show them that the economy or the functioning city or the country would—that it would at least take a blow. Maybe not crumble, but it would take a blow.

    AYDE: And do you feel like it was effective?

    ERICK: No.

    AYDE: Why not?

    ERICK: Well, there's still—I mean, they're working towards change, but, I mean, it's still, it's still a work in process.

    AYDE: And why do you say that?

    ERICK: Just because there's no real immigration legislation change or anything like that. People are still getting deported and still getting arrested for the same things that they would back in, say, 2006, 2007.

    AYDE: What do you think Chan—like, real change would look like?

    ERICK: I think real change would be, I don't know, having something in place to have people who are here illegally get citizenship or become at least residents or have some sort of way to be here, in their eyes, legally.

    AYDE: Why do you feel like that?

    ERICK: It—I just feel like there should be something in place.

    AYDE: I mean, I guess I'm asking why do you, why do they deserve that citizenship?

    ERICK: Mmm, I think that they deserve it because they're already here. I mean, they made it here. And, I think they just deserve it, then. And I know a lot of people feel very negatively about that, that they, you know, they came here illegally, but, I mean, they got through. You know, they went through what they had to go through and they're here.

    AYDE: So it's the struggle that makes it...

    ERICK: Yeah. Mm-hmm.

    AYDE: ...really...

    ERICK: You know, they're going to work every day and, I guess, it's kind of like a police officer: you don't know if you're going to come home just because you don't know if you're going to get stopped or you don't know if, you know, the INS is going to come barging through the factory, checking everyone's paperwork or, you know, social security or stuff like that.
  • Synopsis: Discrimination felt in elementary, middle, and high school
    Keywords: discrimination; bigotry; racism; prejudice; segregation; self-esteem; self esteem; identity formation
    Transcript: AYDE: And then, you mentioned the Donald Trump, like, uh, you know, um, "They bring their rapists, they bring their lazy workers, their this and that." Did you ever feel like people tried to categorize you like that when you were going through middle school and on to high school?

    ERICK: Mmm, you know, when I look back, I see that, I feel like that's how they, I think that's why they had like the ESL class. Just because they thought that we were lazier. We were not as, I guess, intellectually developed as the other kids, and that's why they kind of kept us bunched up. I mean, when I look back, that's how I feel it was. I'm sure that on the paperwork there's different reasonings as to why, you know, maybe they thought that we would learn more effectively or something like that. But, you know, just looking back and thinking about it, it seems like that is, that's what may have influenced their reason of, so to speak, segregation. [laughs]

    AYDE: And, and what about when you were in middle school going on to high school?

    ERICK: Uh, in middle school, I didn't—everyone—I don't remember there being a Mexican class, because I think they would take those to Northwood.

    AYDE: But, uh, obviously people still judge—your peers still kind of judge you and you hear negative things when you...

    ERICK: Mm-hmm.

    AYDE: Did you ever feel, like, negative things were being said? Or can you remember a specific time where you heard kind of negative things, because you said...

    ERICK: Yeah, I remember. I was a very good student in middle school. I was always honor roll. And I remember sometimes—I mean, I'm sure that it was jokingly said, but, like, "Well, you're on honor roll, but you're Mexican." You know, something like that. [laughs] And it's, well, I don't know. I just, I do remember them mentioning stuff like that. Like, "You're on honor roll? But you're Mexican," or...

    AYDE: And how did you feel when they said those things to you?

    ERICK: I was kind of like, "So?" Yeah.

    AYDE: It doesn't matter?

    ERICK: Yeah. It doesn't matter. Like, "So what?" [laughs]

    AYDE: And did it ever make you feel angry or...

    ERICK: No, not at the time.

    AYDE: No?

    ERICK: No.

    AYDE: Not at the time, so later on or...?

    ERICK: [laughs] I mean, no, and it doesn't make me angry. I think it's more of a—they're not educated in the matter, so to speak. I guess they're not—they just don't know better. You don't know better as a kid when you look at the world and you have blinders on your eyes and you're only seeing a certain way, it's hard to change that.
  • Synopsis: Middle school; learning Native American history
    Keywords: Native Americans; American Indians; history; psychology; middle school education; classes; teachers
    Transcript: AYDE: I mean, um, will you recount a, just a typical day going to middle school for me?

    ERICK: Um, I would go. Come in at 8:20, 8:15. Talk to some people.

    AYDE: [laughs]

    ERICK: Go to class. I mean there was—I would have just, I don't know, regular classes. Then you'd have lunch. But, I don't know, there wasn't nothing too out of a day-to-day operation, I guess. It all feels normal, the same. I don't know. It’s hard to recount just because there's nothing that really stands out.

    AYDE: What about high school?

    ERICK: High school? Like a day to day, like how...

    AYDE: Mm-hmm. Just a regular day.

    ERICK: The same. Nothing really stands out.

    AYDE: And I'm not—I'm not looking for something that stands out. I just you to recount a normal day and stuff.

    ERICK: A normal day?

    AYDE: Yeah.

    ERICK: Just show up. [laughs] You know, go to the classes. Take some test sometimes and...

    AYDE: What were the classes like?

    ERICK: I don't know. They were good. [laughs] Some of them were easier than others and others harder than others.

    AYDE: What kind of subjects do you remember learning?

    ERICK: I remember in U.S. History we learned about, like, the Native Americans and the teacher felt very strongly because he was like some miniscule percentage of Native American, so he would hammer that in, that the Native Americans got cheated and, you know, what we learned, and obviously like second grade U.S. History is not even like the whole tippy-top of what really happened. You know, that Columbus was a murderous, inhumane person and he felt very strongly that, "Why do we celebrate Columbus Day?" You know. I remember that. Just because, like he, he was some percentage of Native American and he took a stance when we talked about that specific portion of U.S. History. I think he even went like off of the, like lesson plans or whatever they have to have in place, but...

    AYDE: And how did you feel learning about that?

    ERICK: I was shocked because it's just things you don't hear about. Things that they don't really want people to know. Just, I don't know. It was weird. I was like, "Whoa, really? This all happened too?" It was like, "This is what really went down," he said. And he's like, "That's not cool."

    AYDE: And why did it feel like something that they did—they don't want you to know? Who didn't—First, who didn't want you to know?

    ERICK: It's just something that's not really pushed in the general education agenda, so to speak. It's not something that—like, I doubt if—if we did not have that teacher, that wouldn't have been taught to us.

    AYDE: Mm-hmm.

    ERICK: Just because he had a stance on it. He—and he said that he wanted us to know.

    AYDE: Was it his rhetoric that kind of made it seem like it was something that they don't want you to know?

    ERICK: Yeah. It was his—the way he talked about it, it was something that just is hidden. You know, I mean, and obviously I understand why, you know, it's a, it's a horrible, you know, it's like a bad ghost of America. And all of the government and what they did, it's something—you know, kind of like the church killing, like, scientists. Something to that nature. It's a bad scar and they just don't really push that into general knowledge, and you have to either take a special class in college to learn that or you have to found out for yourself.

    AYDE: All right. And at the time, I guess, um, whatever, at the time, it was just eye-opening?

    ERICK: Yeah, at the time it was eye-opening because I mean, you knew that the—that when they got here, the pilgrims or whatever you want to call them, you know, when they got here that they, they make it seem like they got along. They had Thanksgiving. But they don't—they forget to tell you the fact that they would murder and rape the women and kick them out and, you know, make them move to the west and take all their land and, you know, they just kind of came in, learned what they knew, you know, about farming and how to live on the land and, "Okay, you're gone." And they kind of, they kind of leave that part out. {laughs]

    AYDE: [laughs]

    ERICK: It's not really mentioned that they killed them and they would murder them and they would kind of ambush them. They made them seem like, "Oh, we're friendly people. We're here to coexist" and then just pushed them aside.

    AYDE: Um, and what other teachers kind of struck out at you in high school?

    ERICK: Um, well, he was one of them and he ended up going to North, but then he got laid off. But, um, he was one of them that was, I felt was a really good teacher. There was another, the psychology teacher. But he didn't really, I guess, discuss anything like that, but he was just a really good teacher.

    AYDE: And what made him a good teacher?

    ERICK: He was just really experienced. Very—he knew his subj—all he taught was psychology. He knew his subject matter and he knew it well. He was a psychologist. You know, he had been teaching for 30+ years. He knew what he was talking about. I don't know. You know, it was just good stuff to learn about, psychology.

    AYDE: So what—it sounds like what interested you was just his knowledge on...

    ERICK: Yeah, his knowledge the matter and his teaching method. Another teacher that I had was my gym teacher. She was—She's retired now, but she was amazing. And a lot of people didn't like her.

    AYDE: Why not?

    ERICK: I don't know why they didn't like her, they just didn't, they didn't get along with her. I mean, she was strict. She was very strict, but I loved her. She was awesome. [chuckle]

    AYDE: Um, going back to, you know, like your psychology teacher and just—you said that you really appreciated him because he was very knowledgeable. How did he differ from other teachers?

    ERICK: Well, he always smelled like coffee. [laughs]

    AYDE: [laughs]

    ERICK: But he was just, I mean, the stuff he knew was— I wish I would have been able to take his class AP, because I took it just regular, regular psych, which is just a semester and the AP class is a whole year. So I wish I would have been able to take him at AP, just because I feel like there would have been so much for him knowledge-wise. And he was just a really good teacher.

    AYDE: And how was that class different from, like, other classes?

    ERICK: I don't know. I just remember his class that —I looked forward to going and, I mean, we would always learn something. It wasn't like a—like, there was no wasted day in his class. Like some classes, like you'd have days that you'd just kind of blow off. You do "catch-up days." You're working on homework or one time it was, there was always something, something to learn.
  • Synopsis: High school; student interaction
    Keywords: Self-segregation; Mexicans; student organizations; community service; student orgs
    Transcript: AYDE: Okay. And then, um, how were the relationships between the students in high school?

    ERICK: What do you mean? Like the whole general student population?

    AYDE: Mm-hmm.

    ERICK: Um, they were not as integrated as the middle school. They were more separated. Sparse—you know, they were more in clusters. I don't know. Like, it seemed like the black people hung out with the black people. You know, there was your, obviously, your exceptions to the whole demographic, I guess, that who hung with you, but it felt like it was more the Mexicans hung out with Mexicans. White people hung out with white people. And blacks with blacks. Goths with goths. Nerds with nerds. Kind of like that.

    AYDE: And where did you fit in?

    ERICK: I was with Mexicans. I was, yeah, with Mexicans.

    AYDE: And how did you feel being with the Mexicans?

    ERICK: Good. [laughs]

    AYDE: Why were you with the Mexicans?

    ERICK: I don't know. Just because a lot of them, you knew, I knew since elementary school. But, like I said, there was some obvious exceptions. You know, some—but mostly, it was mostly Mexicans, though.

    AYDE: All right. And then—so, I guess, you said that there were mainly, like, kind of clusters and they never really interacted. So, I mean, what was the relationship like when they—obviously at school, you're kind of forced to interact.

    ERICK: Mm-hmm.

    AYDE: Right? So what were the relation—or, what, of what you remember, what was it like when they did interact, the different racial groups?

    ERICK: I mean, we got along. Obviously, it wasn't like a big clash when would interact, but it was just more, like the Mexicans would kind of team together. Like if there was projects in class, that's what it would seem like. It would seem like the Mexican group or friends would team together. But, like I said, there was always like one exception or two where one of the Mexicans got along really good with one of the white people or one of the black people and they'd join in the group or we'd join in their group or something like that. But it was more clustered that way.

    AYDE: So it was really more like—it sounds like how you're describing, it was just more social...

    ERICK: Yeah.

    AYDE: ...more social reasons?

    ERICK: Mm-hmm.

    AYDE: And then, um, what kind of activities, like, maybe afterschool activities or things do you remember doing in high school?

    ERICK: Oh, I wouldn't do much. [laughs]

    AYDE: [laughs]

    ERICK: I wouldn't do much in high school. I was in Lucha for a while. I didn't stick in it too often, but it was like, "All latinos unidos" group. Obviously, all Mexicana, or all Latin, latinos. Because some of them were obviously from other parts of Latinoamerica. But that was more of a latino group. Although they would say anyone could join—which they could—there was no other race in that group, or in that club.

    AYDE: And, um, why didn't you join any other organizations?

    ERICK: I don't know. I just wasn't really—I wanted to join glee club, but I didn't find anyone who or—or no, the reason I didn't join glee club was because their meetings were early in the morning.

    AYDE: [laughs]

    ERICK: But I thought that was a good club because it was—you know, and you just volunteer. It's a volunteering club. But I didn't, I didn't join. I did my time.

    AYDE: What do you mean your time?

    ERICK: You have to do community—you have to do a certain amount of hours for community service to graduate cum laude, which is just like an extra, I guess, award you get. Although I didn't get it because of my attendance. But, I had everything done. And you had—and part of the cum laude is you have to do the community service and you have to be in a sport or club. So, that was, I guess, one of the reasons I was in it.

    AYDE: Was that kind of the sole reason?

    ERICK: No, the sole reason was a lot of my, the people I associated with were in it. But I knew, I was like, "Well, I want to get cum laude." Well, of course I got lazy senior year, or junior year. You just miss school. [laughs]

    AYDE: [laughs] And then, um, I know this probably sounds like I'm repeating myself again, but, I mean, what do you remember seeing when you walk into your school? When you would walk into class? Or what's the most prominent memory you have of high school?

    ERICK: I've told you the story about Kayla Beatty. With the...

    AYDE: Oh my God. [laughs]

    ERICK: [laughing] That is one of the things I most remember about high school just because it makes me mad.

    AYDE: Well, what happened?

    ERICK: That she did that. That we both missed school on the same day, and the teacher assigned a project and she—and we had to choose partners—well, you didn't have to partner up, but you had to, you had the choice to, you know, to make the workload easier, so to speak.

    AYDE: [coughs] Mm-hmm.

    ERICK: And, I asked her. I was like, "Do you want to be my partner?" And she said, "I don't think so." [shakes head, laughs] That is one of the things I most remember just because one, everyone would always say she was a nice girl; and two, obviously—that was sophomore year—so at the time, it wasn't known, but she was, she was the valedictorian of the school.

    AYDE: Mm-hmm.

    ERICK: She graduated top of our class. You know, first of like two hundred and fifty-some students. You know, got all these scholarships. You know, I think she got like over a quarter million dollars' worth of scholarships to go to some school in Iowa. Maybe the University of Iowa. I don't know. I'm not sure. I don't really care to much for her. But I just remember—I mean, that's one of the things that—and I—I was very upset because I was like, "Why would you?"—I was like—obviously at the time, I didn't think about it, but now I'm thinking like, "Was it a race thing? Was she like 'Mexican, I don't want to be partners with you.'" Obviously, she knew she was the—intellectually savvier than I was because she probably—she was probably already top of our class at the time. But, yeah. That's one of the things that I remember. And I knew she was really smart.

    AYDE: How did you feel when she turned you down?

    ERICK: Ahh...offended. I was like, "What the heck? Why would you?"—I was like, "If it had been one of the other kids, would she have said yes, maybe?" I don't know. I don't know if she would have said yes to someone else or if it was because we weren't friends, but we were in the same class. It was—there wasn't too much work to do out of the class—I didn't do too much work for my project out of the class. Most of it I did inside the classroom.

    AYDE: And how did you feel offended?

    ERICK: Just because she said no. [laughs] I thought—I was like, "Is it because you think you're smarter than me? Or is it because, you know,"—I don't know why. I guess, part of the reason I feel offended is because I didn't know why she said no.

    AYDE: Mm-hmm.

    ERICK: She just said, "I don't think so." I was like, "But we missed the same day." [laughs]

    AYDE: [laughs] Right. And then, um, I know I keep trying to pry into this, but I really want to get into, like, your classes. Just your headspace. What it was like to go to your school.

    ERICK: Um, I liked going to Woodstock High School.

    AYDE: Really?

    ERICK: Mm-hmm.

    AYDE: How come?

    ERICK: Um, it was—I don't know. It's just like, you miss it. Like, like you've always said, you just miss high school sometimes. It was, you know, it's an easier time and it's just—I don't know. I thought it was fun.

    AYDE: And why do you...?

    ERICK: When I think—when I look back. At the time, no. You don't think it's fun. You think it's—you think it's a pain. But, you know, at the—but I, I—you know, looking back, I liked it. You know, it was a good four years. [laughs]

    AYDE: Why do you say an easier time?

    ERICK: Ah, just because you didn't have to worry about working a job. You didn't have to worry about anything else but your homework, really. And now it’s like, oh, you have to work a job. You know, you have to pay for your classes. Like, you know, back then, you know, your parents paid your tuition, but tuition was just your registration fees and your lunch. Now it's, you know, out of high school, it's a different world.
  • Synopsis: Ethnic identity and definition of "American"; benefits of being born in the United States
    Keywords: ethnic identity; race; Americanness; nationality; self-identification; opportunity; opportunities; culture; Mexican-American
    Transcript: AYDE: And, um, going back when I asked you how to identified yourself ethnically, um, I mean, it may sound like a very simple question, but why do you identify as Latino?

    ERICK: Um, I don't know. Just because it's—like, do you mean, like, a Latino-Mexican or why do I use that term? Just Because I use the term just because I don't know what's politically correct, I guess. Is it Mexican? Is it Latino? Or is it Hispanic? Which one do you fall into?

    AYDE: Mm-hmm.

    ERICK: Yeah, but...

    AYDE: So, then, yeah, I guess, is that why you chose Latino? Because it sounds politically correct?

    ERICK: I think the politically correct one is Hispanic because, just, that's just usually what you fill out on the forms when they, like, "What race/nationality are you?" And there's no "Latino" usually and there's obviously no "Mexican." So, you choose Hispanic.

    AYDE: So, let's ignore political correctness. What would you say to me then? How would you identify yourself?

    ERICK: As Mexican.

    AYDE: As Mexican?

    ERICK: Mm-hmm.

    AYDE: Why do you say that?

    ERICK: Just because I'm, I don't know. I don't think it would be right for me to say I'm American.

    AYDE: Talk to me about that.

    ERICK: [laughs]

    AYDE: Why?

    ERICK: I don't know. IT just—it would feel weird. Like, I feel if someone were to come up to me and say, "What are you?" And I said, "I'm American," they'd be like, "No you're not."

    AYDE: So, is it something more that other people would disagree with you?

    EF. I think, yeah. Just to make it—I guess, just to make their lives easier and to simplify. Because mostly, most of the time when, like, people ask you, "Where are you from?" they kind of want to know, like, I guess, where you're origin-wise from. So, just to simplify, I just say, "Oh, I'm Mexican."

    AYDE: Do you...

    ERICK: But even that feels weird.

    AYDE: And talk about that. Why?

    ERICK: I don't know. It just, it just feels weird that you have to tell people. I don't know. Saying.

    AYDE: What do you mean it feels weird that you have to tell people?

    ERICK: I don't know. I just, I'm not...

    AYDE: What feels weird about it?

    ERICK: Like I, I prefer to say, "I'm from Mexico" than "I'm Mexican."

    AYDE: Can you describe why? What's the difference?

    ERICK: I don't—it just feels weird saying "Mexican." I just...

    AYDE: Well, what's the difference from saying, "I'm from Mexico" and saying, "I'm Mexican?"

    ERICK: I don't know. It, it's, it's really weird, I know.

    AYDE: [laughs]

    ERICK: It's very strange, but I, I prefer saying, like, "Oh, I'm from Mexico." "Where are you from?" "I am from Mexico." And I don't say, "I'm a Mexican."

    AYDE: Well, that's kind of funny for you to say, because you're not from Mexico.

    ERICK: I know. Isn't that—it's—I'm from America, from the United States. So, I, I don't know. It's just very weird how, I guess, I've been conditioned, or I don't know, to say that. Because it just feel—it doesn't feel right if I say, "I'm Mexican."

    AYDE: So, if you don't feel Mexican and you don't feel American, then what are you?

    ERICK: I have no idea. [laughs]

    AYDE: Do you ever feel a sense of loss?

    ERICK: For what?

    AYDE: Well, you don't know how to identify yourself.

    ERICK: Well, when they ask, I say that. I say "Mexican" or "I'm from Mexico." But, I mean, that's just how...

    AYDE: Intrinsically, how do you feel?

    ERICK: I feel both.

    AYDE: Can you talk about that?

    ERICK: Um, I feel like I'm from Mexico and also I'm from here, from the United States. I'm just a little of both.

    AYDE: But why are you both?

    ERICK: Because the roots are obviously in Mexico, but the tree grew in the United—you know? Because...

    AYDE: Oh, okay.

    ERICK: Like a tree grew in the United States, but the roots are in Mexico. And it's like, "Well, where's the tree from?" It's, it's both. The roots are there, but the tree just happened to sprout on the other side of the river. That's all it is.

    AYDE: That's very—That's a very interesting way to look at it. I've never heard of that.

    ERICK: It's just something like that.

    AYDE: And... I don't know, how, how, how does it—because you said that you don't like saying, "I'm Mexican." You like saying, "I'm from Mexico." So how does it feel when someone says, "You're Mexican?"

    ERICK: Mmm, I don't know. I don't think I've really had people say that.

    AYDE: No?

    ERICK: I mean, back in school, but at the time, "Yeah, I'm Mexican." But just now, it just feels weird, I guess with the more experience I—I don't know.

    AYDE: So, um, back then, it was just kind of easy to just go, "Oh, I'm Mexican?"

    ERICK: Yeah. Because that's what everyone would say.

    AYDE: So, do we put ourselves in that kind of stereotype, then?

    ERICK: Mmm, I think we let other people put us there. And so, we just get comfortable with what they say.

    AYDE: All right. Well, okay. And then, um, switching to another topic, who was someone that you looked up to when you were in high school?

    ERICK: In high school? Hmm. [pause] I don't know.

    AYDE: I mean, it doesn't have to be some, like, public figure or anything like that.

    ERICK: [pause] Mmm, um, well, someone I looked up to—at the time, we were in the youth group. And one of the people I would just look up to, just because they were very knowledgeable, was Juan Carlos. Which, the other day, I was watching one of his videos. Because I was trying to show Jenna, but she wasn't too responsive. But, I just looked up to him. One, he was from Guatemala, and he was just very—a bright, bright man. Very smart and very, I guess, biblically smart as well. And he, he would make good points and he would, you know, specify things, you know, that were biblical and it was, I mean, it was just—bright, bright man. And it was—he was someone that I felt was worthy to look up to.

    AYDE: Did it—and what difference did it make that he was from Guatemala?

    ERICK: Um, just, he spoke Spanish. [laughs] But, I mean, it was just, like, he would come here and point out things. Like, I know you're going to ask, "Like what?" Um, he would say that we were in a good country. You know, compared to how it was over there, and how he would describe his childhood over there. You know, saying that, you know, it's very, you know, bad. That's it’s a bad environment. Bad—well, that it was or—I mean, it still is, probably. But that it's just a weird, bad environment that he grew up in and how it was over there compared to, I guess, the luxuries we have here.

    AYDE: It seems like throughout your life, you were reinforced that you have the luxury in your birthright.

    ERICK: Yeah.

    AYDE: Can you talk about that? I mean...as you grew up, how did that affect you?

    ERICK: Um, I don't know how that affected me as I grew up, but I mean, that was something that was pushed. "You have a luxury." Not necessarily that we were born here, but that we are here. And that that is a luxury compared to how the motherland was.

    AYDE: Oh, so does it—it's not, it's not even that you were born here, it's that you are here?

    ERICK: Yeah. And that's a luxury in and of itself.

    AYDE: Okay.

    ERICK: Just that you're here. Compared to how it is over there. How they have to work differently, how you don't get paid too much. How, you know, there's no benefits to anything, really. Work-wise, like there's no health insurance and stuff like that.

    AYDE: How did this kind of affect your role as a teenager. I mean, as a teenager, really, your only job is to go to school.

    ERICK: Mm-hmm.

    AYDE: Right? So, how did this kind of reinforcement of, "I do have the luxury of being here" affect your schoolwork?

    ERICK: You know, schoolwork-wise, it didn't really affect it.

    AYDE: Mm-hmm.

    ERICK: But, the luxury of just having to go to school was a luxury. You know, according—you know, based on what my parents would say, and based on what other people would say. That you could go to school and that's really all you have to worry about. They would always say, "Don't worry about anything else, but, you know, do your schoolwork. Go to school." While over there, even though they don't go to school for too long, they would say that when they would go to school, you know, they had to walk miles back home and they had to, like, go home and, you know, do odd chores that we just don't do here like milk the cows and, you know, wrangle the sheep. I don't know. [laughs] I don't know. Stuff—you know, just things that we don't do here unless you're a farmer, but...

    AYDE: And then, so what did that luxury kind of affect? Like, was it in the back of your mind?

    ERICK: That luxury of being here?

    AYDE: Mm-hmm.

    ERICK: Um, not necessarily. It wasn't like all back in the back of mind, but...

    AYDE: Did you feel like you took it for granted at all?

    ERICK: Um, I mean, I've always said if I could go back, I would do things a little differently and, you know, actually try. [laughs] You know, do—like not, you know, reach the full potential that I had. Because I, you know, you get lazy. You just want to do other thing—you know, you just get preoccupied with other things that, you know, I would probably maybe participate in more things in school.

    AYDE: I mean, is it for that reason, though?

    ERICK: No, it'd just be because you realize that you wasted it. You know, and you can't go back. And then you think, "Well, I wasted that opportunity that, you know"—and my parents would tell me, "You have an opportunity that we didn't have and stuff like that, but, you know, you just realize, like, "Oh, yeah, I did waste it." [laughs] Or maybe not completely wasted, but I could have used it more effectively.

    AYDE: And how could you have used it more effectively?

    ERICK: Just by trying to do more, or, you know, like the full potential instead of just, you know, going at it maybe fifty, seventy-five percent, giving it a hundred.

    AYDE: And what does it matter?

    ERICK: Just because maybe, I don't know, money-wise, scholarship-wise, school-wise. It's kind of—because it's always the bright people that get the scholarships. It's not the lazy ones that don't try, you know. Not that I probably would've wanted to go anywhere far, but...

    AYDE: Why not?

    ERICK: I don't know. I just, I've always thought, like living, like going somewhere far is, I don't know. It's not something like I feel like I would be comfortable with.

    AYDE: And, um, [mumbles]—oh yeah, so, at this point in your life, that your kind of recognizing, like, "Oh, you know, I took it, um, I took that opportunity for granted. I should have tried harder, or whatnot," what for you would be kind of trying harder and succeeding. Or, what would you try harder in to succeed?

    ERICK: I would just try harder, like, in my schoolwork. I would want to, I would've wanted to have been, like, like an honors student in high school. Just because it was somethin—like, I'm an honors student now in college, and if I—I know I had the same basic capacity now that I did back then. I could have done it. I just chose not to.

    AYDE: Right. But, I mean like, like kind of how does that affect you now? Like looking back and seeing, like, "Oh yeah, like, I realize I could have been trying harder." Like, how does that affect you now? Like...

    ERICK: ...right now? I don't—I really don't think it affects me.

    AYDE: Why not?

    ERICK: I don't know. I feel like even though I—I don't know. I just, I don't feel its impact. It's just something I know I could change. I mean, if I could, that I could have done differently, but it doesn't really affect me in my life now.

    AYDE: Okay.

    ERICK: At least I feel it doesn't. [laughs]

    AYDE: [laughs] I guess I'm just asking because it's kind of funny that it was always put into your head like, "It's a luxury. You have an opportunity. It's great that you're here." And it doesn't really affect you. Like you're...

    ERICK: It doesn't. It doesn't affect me now and, I don't know, it's just, I guess, the way, just, the cookie crumbled. It's—like things worked out. Things are working out, I guess. [chuckles]

    AYDE: Mm-hmm. And so, for the future, kind of, what is your child—or what would you identify your child as? Like you identify as neither Mexican nor American, but if somebody asks Mexican, like how would you want your child to identify himself or herself?

    ERICK: Mmm, I don't know. That's an interesting question. I, I would still, I guess, in the paperwork, say Hispanic [laughs], you know what I mean? Like, even though, technic—you know, speaking in black and white paper, legal form—I guess technically, I'm American. You know, just—even though, I mean—my parents are Mexican, but I'm born in America, so if I had a kid, I'm American. You know, like it's—I would still put Hispanic, even though I'm born here.

    AYDE: And how come?

    ERICK: Just because I feel like that, I mean—it's not just the nationality. I think it's like your whole heritage. Like, I'm still going to raise the child with the same, I guess, values and stuff that come with a Mexican or, you know—because it's a very different cultural thing than, I guess, what's here.

    AYDE: Does it matter how you identify yourself?

    ERICK: I don't know. I don't know if it does or doesn't. People like identifying things, though it's...{laughs]

    AYDE: That is very true. People do.

    ERICK: They have to put someth—they have to compartmentalize something, you know? And they have to put it in a box. And they have to just, they just like identifying things. And is it important to me? No, but it is to, I guess, the government or, you know—it's important to a lot of people to label. To put labels on people.

    AYDE: And what does it mean to be not Mexican, not American.

    ERICK: I don't know.

    AYDE: What is your life like not Mexican, not American?

    ERICK: Good. [laughs] I don't know, it's—I mean, I do, like I said, I identify, definitely, with both.

    AYDE: Mm-hmm.

    ERICK: But, am I more one or the other? No, I don't think so.

    AYDE: Well, how about this: what does it mean to be Mexican?

    ERICK: I think it's so much more than just being from a, being from Mexico.

    AYDE: Can you elaborate?

    ERICK: Like I said, like it's the culture, the values, the what you're instilled with. Like, it's more than just because you're born underneath some geographical line that was drawn on a map. There's more to it than just that.

    AYDE: And what does it mean to be American?

    ERICK: See, that's, that's the weird one because I think "American" is, or "America" or "United"—it's like a, like, it's everything. Like it's, everyone in it. Different people from different places, like, that's why I don't get why some people associate themselves as, like, American when, it's like, you have ties from all these other different countries. How is it that you say you're American when, you know, you're 50% Irish, you're 20% German and you're, you know? It's like—that's why I don't get, "American."

    AYDE: So, I mean, I guess, in, like, the eye—I don't know. Like, who would you say is American?

    ERICK: I don't know. I don't know. I can't think of anyone.

    AYDE: Can you describe any...

    ERICK: I can tell you who's white. [chuckles]

    AYDE: [laughs]

    ERICK: But I can't tell you who's American just because, like I said, everyone had different ties from everywhere. That's why I think it's weird.

    AYDE: But, I mean, you described, like, being Mexican so much more than being born from Mexico, Is American kind of the same thing, then?

    ERICK: I guess, yeah. Like, I don't know. Like, it's just, like I'm saying. It's very strange because America has a bunch of different things from everybody. It's kind of like Christianity. Christianity has different aspects from a lot of religions that they took over. So, it's like, you're, I don't know. It's just weird. Americ—I can't, I can't tell you an American person just because, like everyone I know who's, who live here has ties to some other country. It's like, then how are you American? You know, you're not—it's not like you're, you've been here for four hundred, you know, like you can trace your family ties back to Europe for, you know, a lineage of three hundred, four hundred years, but you can't, you can't do that with America, with a lot of people who are from here, because everyone's from different countries, different geographical areas.

    AYDE: So, kind of having said that, that everybody is from different, like different geographical areas and stuff like that, how does it feel only learning, like, I guess, white, Caucasian history?

    ERICK: Mmm...

    AYDE: When you were in high school?

    ERICK: I mean, they do teach you other stuff. But it's not as much in depth. Or they don't—like every year, you basically take some sort of American U.S. History in school. But they—I mean, they don't—it's not like they're teaching you, you know, Mexican history from Mexico or history from Brazil or something. Like, they don't go over that. But they do go every year, usually, American history.

    AYDE: I, uh, I guess I'm just asking because you said, like, there's—you don't know anybody that's just American...

    ERICK: Yeah.

    AYDE: ...and you feel like the people you know are from, like, different...

    ERICK: ...different parts. Yeah, like, I wouldn't say George Washington was American because he was born in Britain [chuckles] or like it's, you know, I wouldn't say Columbus. Obviously, he was a from Spain, I think. You know, but he, they're not from here. So, I don't—I just can't tell you. You know, obviously, like Obama, like, he's not American. He's from Nigeria or I don't know what country. Like, his father, his mother's Hawaiian, which is another country that, I mean, which was like its own thing until 1959. And it just became a state, but I don't know. It's just very, like, I can't tell you.

    AYDE: So is it important to talk about that?

    ERICK: I think a lot of people, um, they just say they're American to make people feel alienated, I guess. Like, "Oh, I was born here. I'm better than you. You're born from down there or across the pond. You're, you're not as good."

    AYDE: All right. [mumbles] I guess, kind of what I'm getting at is that, I mean, you were born here, right?

    ERICK: Mm-hmm.

    AYDE: So technically, under the eyes of the government, you are American.

    ERICK: Mm-hmm.

    AYDE: And, I mean, the fact that you identify as Mexican or Hispanic or whatever is politically correct, it doesn't really matter, right? Like, you were born here. So, I mean, there's a lot of people like you. There's a lot of people that were born here and they don't really identify as being American. Um, there's a lot—even people that weren't born here, like you said, like, there are people that have been here for a really long time and have the privilege of being here, even though they weren't born here. And, I guess, I'm just asking, like, [pause] I don't know. Why don't you think that's told? Why don't you think something like that is shared?

    ERICK: Uh, no idea. I think just there's not people asking or wondering, kind of. They're not poked to think about it, I guess. I don't know why it's not shared, though. It is how it seems to be.

    AYDE: How does it feel that it's not shared?

    ERICK: It kind of feels like it's swept under the rug. Like, I don't know, they don't want to say anything.

    AYDE: Does it make you feel one way or the other?

    ERICK: What do you mean? Like...

    AYDE: Because you're one of those people swept under the rug.

    ERICK: Um, I don't know. I don't—it doesn't really come up. I think maybe if it was something that would come up often, but at the present moment, no. [chuckles]
  • Synopsis: Changes in dual language programming; thoughts on national language
    Keywords: bilingual education; English as a Second Language; ESL; dual language learner; second language learners; national language; primary education; elementary school; grammar school; public education; Spanish; identity formation; self-esteem; self esteem; identity; discrimination; prejudice; bigotry
    Transcript: AYDE: Oh, right, I was going to ask you just to finish up some questions here. You asked about your sister being in dual language and stuff like that. How are, I mean, can you kind of describe how, like, how it seems different?

    ERICK: It just seems different because it's more—better coordinated. Better planned out. There's more of a structure to it. Before, it just felt like—when I was in it, it just felt like it's kind of just put together just to, like I said, keep us segregated from the rest of the school. [chuckles]

    AYDE: And can you describe what it is. I don't even really know what it is.

    ERICK: Now, it—like dual language is—anyone can participate in it. And you start from Kindergarten and you just take some classes in Spanish and some classes in English and at the same time, you're learning both languages. They're teaching you English and they're teaching you Spanish. As compared to when I was there, it was just all Spanish. No English grammar, no nothing was taught. And now it's more of a—you know, you're actually learning to learn in both languages. To speak in both languages. To write in both languages. And she's even told me before that there's some, like, white kids who perf—who do just as good, or if not better, than some of the kids who come from Spanish-speaking homes.

    AYDE: And how do you feel about that?

    ERICK: I feel like it's just—they're trying better. Sometimes, some of the kids just don't want to try. Or they think it's too hard and they opt of it. But, I feel like it's good for them, for those who are succeeding. Good for them for, you know, I mean, they don't have—it's something that's completely optional to them and they're still doing it. And not only are they succeeding, but they're exceeding. And I think that's good. I think it makes them more aware and not seems as, like, "Oh, white people are better than Mexican people." Or, "Oh, English is better than Spanish." I think it's awesome that they incorporate both languages into their curriculum, into their learning environment.

    AYDE: All right. And then...

    ERICK: And I think—and I also think it's cool that they're learning Spanish as compared to just telling the Spanish people to learn English. And one of my co-workers always says, like, "Well, I think if they're from Mexico, and they're coming here, they should learn English." And that's how she feels. I, I—you can't change how she feels, but I don't think that's a right thing to say.

    AYDE: Why not?

    ERICK: Just because there's no national language.

    AYDE: Why do you say that?

    ERICK: Because there literally isn't.

    AYDE: [laughs]

    ERICK: Like, there's no, like—and that's why I don't get why she always, she says, "Well, if they're coming here, they have to learn English. You have to learn English if you're going to be here." No, you don't. There's no—there's nothing—because some countries have an official language, but we don't. We have a language that's adopted officially for government use. Obviously, like the constitution and stuff that, all those stuff are written in English. But there's nothing that says that you have to know English to be here. And that's why I think she's incorrect in saying that. And I know that's how she feels, though. Because she doesn't like when people call and they want to speak Spanish or you can't understand what they're saying because they have a heavy German accent or something like that. But specifically with—she's mentioned it a couple times that Spanish people—she's like, "I know you know how I feel about this. And I know you may feel differently, but..." But she does say that. And that doesn't bother me, but I think she's wrong. I don't think that anyone has to learn English to be here.

    AYDE: It doesn't bother you?

    ERICK: Not that she says it. I think she's wrong, but I'm not—everyone is entitled to their own opinion.

    AYDE: You don't think it's offensive?

    ERICK: Mmm, well, I guess, in that term, it is a little bit, but, like, it's her opinion.

    AYDE: Do you feel it's offensive towards you?

    ERICK: No, I just think it's offensive to those who can't learn something. You know, you're coming here when you're forty years old. You know, you're not going to be able to pick up as much as someone who comes here—someone who's born here, for one, and who has the luxury of SpongeBob or someone who comes at ten years old, you know, like my cousin who came here when she was like ten, twelve years old and she doesn't speak it perfectly, but she speaks a whole lot more than her parents and they've been here the same amount of time. It's just because of the, you know, your intellectually more capable of learning new things at a younger age and you can, you know, you're put in school and you pick things up. Sometimes you don't even know you're picking things up, but you're picking things up. You're like a sponge. [chuckles]