By Guillermina Quezada
This article was created as part of a writing workshop organized by Boyle Heights Beat and ELACC.
It’s October 18, 1995, in Leesburg, Virginia. At 4:30 in the afternoon a girl is born, a daughter to Latino parents, whose name would be Mariana. Being born on the East coast of the United States, in the middle of a mostly white population, her light brown skin and dark hair are seen as a novelty.
I remember the great joy her arrival caused, to think and imagine her future in this country. Her father would tell her every day “you will be someone important and will use a computer,” and would seat her in front of the computer. He would tell her: “you will be a secretary.”
As she grew she showed she liked playing with toy cars, something not intended for girls, according to society. I remember her father would buy her dolls, but she was simply not interested in those type of toys. It is something that our culture does not agree with. Later her two brothers arrived, Manuel A. and Jesse. Later, as time passed, the little girl grew and traveled to Mexico and along with her brothers learned about the way of life in that country.
Later on, when she returned to this country, she had to face the reality of not speaking English. It wasn’t easy for either of the three to face the language challenge, but thanks to bilingual education they were able to advance and catch up little by little.
As a mother, my wish is that my children obtain a professional career. Every day I have a challenge I must overcome with them, first of all the cultural challenge and then our economic limitations.
With great effort and her mother’s support, since her father spent most of the time working, Mariana was involved in leadership programs at her 2nd Street Elementary School. With the support of vice principal Leonard Smith, she finished the sixth grade with excellent achievement.
There’s a plaque in that school’s principal’s office with her name: Mariana González.
From there she moved on to Hollenbeck Middle School, where she began another phase. It wasn’t easy for her being in a school with more than a thousand students; she felt lost and unaccepted, facing the challenges of adolescence and the environment.
Little by little she began to join sports teams –softball, football and basketball– and found great support in her teacher Marisa Martínez, which enabled her to overcome yet another challenge and finishing the eighth grade with an honors medal. She also participated in several technology innovation projects.
Then she entered Méndez High School. Yet another phase and one not so easy. Mariana suffered depression for various events in her life. So many changes and challenges in our family and our society.
She went through several crisis and did not want to continue living. She received psychological help and the support of many people, especially from her mom, who was always at her side, motivating her and giving her support and telling her “you were born with a purpose and a mission.” Thus, little by little and with professional help, she was able to leave that phase behind.
She decided not to stay at Méndez, because she had a friend at that school in which she confided. Sadly, that friend told other people about their personal chats. She decided to change schools and I, her mother, supported her. We looked for a school that would take her and, in fact, she was accepted at Esteban Torres High School.
There she made a huge life change. She practiced sports and ran in different races and walks. She was also a member of the Toros basketball team, with which she travelled for tournaments in San Francisco, San Diego and Sacramento. She kept on fighting and participating with great enthusiasm. Her teammates held several fundraisers to help her with her expenses when traveling to the tournaments.
After several stumbles she was able to graduate and obtain her high school diploma. Without knowing what career to choose, she began attending workshops held by community organizations. Concerned for her future, I would take advantage of community resources, leaving her name and address so that they would send her brochures on various education and training opportunities.
She found Auto Mechanics interesting and registered at Los Angeles Trade Technical College. My husband was surprised by her choice. He wasn’t in agreement, but did not oppose it.
Every morning she wakes up with passion and enthusiasm for her class. Her goal is to become a smog check inspector. Of course, that’s not an easy challenge in our machista society, but she forges ahead and does not worry about what people and society think, because she believes in herself and her mother supports her.
It wasn’t easy, because we couldn’t afford her studies, but not impossible. She applied and received federal funds through the Free Federal Application for Student Aid (FAFSA).
Now my husband is proud because our daughter is the first in the family to graduate from high school and is taking a college course, facing the challenge of a career that is not meant for women.
¡Sí se puede! Yes we can. Let’s go, Latinas becoming leaders in technology.
Guillermina Quezada is a Boyle Heights resident.