I am an American of Mexican descent. I am not Latino; I am not a Hispanic; I am not Mexican-American. There is a difference. Congress encouraged the creation of Latinos, Hispanics, and other hyphenated names for Americans.
I grew up in South Central LA, in a broken home and as an “ethnic” minority.
I am not a university graduate, but I did graduate from high . I have lived a pretty good life because I’m not stupid and do not lack common sense. I do have the brains that God gave me. I grew up believing that being American was the best thing that could happen to a person. To my parents, being Mexican only signified the country from which they migrated. They migrated to come to the land of freedom and .
I remember movies that portrayed immigrants arriving from Europe and seeing the Statue of Liberty for the first time. Actors like Spencer Tracy played characters whose first goal was to learn American English—the language of our liberty. Next, they studied to become citizens, and the day they did was glorious.
To be an American was foremost in the mind of the immigrant. Next to being an American, the most important thing was being an individual. Every success or failure in my life is because I, a man, did it. Not because I’m an American, not because I’m of Mexican descent, but because America gave me the chance to succeed or fail. And I did it with America’s blessing!
At age nine I started working at the El Indio tortilla factory on Broadway and 92nd Street in Los Angeles. I worked every weekday morning from 6:00 AM until about 8:30 AM just before school. My grandmother got me the job because she shopped there and knew Oscar the owner.
My job was to stack the tortillas in one dozen stacks as they came off the corn tortilla making machine. As I would pick the steaming tortilla off the little conveyor belt it was really easy to puncture the tortilla and the steam would burn my fingers. It took a while to learn how to take them without ripping any small holes in the tortilla, but I learned.
On Saturdays I would work an eight-hour shift at El Indio and help Oscar with other chores besides counting tortillas. I helped him make masa, (a ground corn dough used for making tamales), menudo and other stuff. After a while he would let me work the counter selling stuff to customers.
One of the proudest days of my life was the day I waited on my first customer. Oscar had actually trusted me to handle the customer, ringing up the cash register and making change. I was so proud of myself, it was like I was walking on air.
Earned Pride, an old fashion word that one feels when they know they have done something really good. Earned PRIDE, not the self-esteem that they hand out to our kids today. We know when we’ve done something that makes us feel proud and the kids today know they haven’t done anything when everyone is handing them some kind of self-esteem award.
After a hard day’s work on Saturday’s Oscar would give me a buck. Hey, it was 1946 and I was happy to make the buck. I don’t remember what I got paid for the mornings I worked, but it was a lot less than a buck. Maybe a quarter.
I worked as a newspaper boy from around eleven until I was fifteen. I had no sooner convinced my mother to let me quit the newspaper job when I was surprised by my uncle Pancho. He offered me a job as an apprentice produce clerk. Uncle Pancho was the produce manager at a market in Westchester CA called the Food Palace. Westchester was about an hour bus ride due west on Manchester from where I would catch the bus in South Central L.A.
The day he told me I would be given a chance, I knew I would have to lift boxes and other heavy stuff so I ran to our garage in back of the house to work out. The heaviest thing I could find was the lawn mower so I grabbed it and started pressing the mower over my head. I did it as often as I could until I actually went to work.
Pancho was a real company man so he told me I had to work two weeks for free to show the bosses I was dedicated. So I did and two weeks later, as an apprentice, I was making somewhere around $1.80 an hour. I started work two weeks before my 15th birthday in August of 1952. That’s really why Pancho wanted me to work for free, I had to be 15 before I could legally work. Getting this job changed my life in every way you could think. And for the better in all aspects.
I was growing taller and getting muscular on the job. Like I said, in 1952 I actually grew about 10 inches and my attitude was changing too.
What a thrill it was to have a man’s job and get a paycheck each week. It was summer vacation and I was working 40 hours a week, probably grossing around $72 bucks a week before taxes. I have no idea what I cleared but it must have been over $60 a week.
I’d bring my check home and my mother would take me to the bank and cash the check. Then she would give me something like $10 or $15 so I could pay for my bus rides to work and a little extra. She kept the rest.
Working at the Food Palace I learned how to trim lettuce, celery, corn, cabbage and the rest. I learned how to set up and tear down the wet stand, how to stack apples and all the beautiful displays of fruits and vegetables demanded by Pancho. (The wet stand is the display that holds all the vegetables that had to be sprayed with water during the day, there were no refrigerated stands like today). Back then a Produce Department was a career for men and a respected trade.
The crap job was to work the 1:00 PM to 10:00PM shift, (alone from 7 PM) and have to tear down the wet stand after the store closed at 10:00PM. Tearing down consisted of removing all the lettuce, celery, cabbage etc. and placing them in wooden crates and the stacking the crates and wheel them in to the refrigerated cooler for overnight storage.
The night guy also had to have enough newly trimmed lettuce, celery, corn, cabbage etc. so the day shift could set up the wet stand the next morning with one level of any wet stand vegetable. During the day shift the first thing the trimmer would do is cull the last night stuff and make it look good enough to be placed back on the wet stand, on top of the new stuff, to be sold first.
Guess who got the crap job as soon as he was properly trained. Yep, me! This was about the time I had to start school around the end of August, 1952. I learned really quick!
I understood why I had to close. I was perfect for the job, a school kid who couldn’t work during week days so I would work 5 hours a night from 5:00 PM till 10:00 PM. That is, I got paid for 5 hours but it took me till about 10:45 to get all the work done. I’d get home around midnight or later. Go to bed and start school the next morning.
On Saturday’s I’d get to work a 10:00AM to 7:00 PM shift so I got a break from closing. I was working with grown men who had families and they were teaching me about other manly things like the birds and the bees. We would press one hundred pound sacks of potato’s and that is a lot harder than you might think. A sack of potatoes is dead weight, but I eventually got strong enough to do it and a lot stronger as time went by.
When I was assigned to close, I figured I wasn’t an apprentice anymore so I asked Pancho for a raise and classification change to Craftsman. I mean how could an “apprentice” work alone and be responsible for all the trimming and maintaining the stands by himself? I didn’t ask him immediately, I waited till sometime in October so I had a track record of doing good work that was noticed by the day shift guys.
Finally, when I got up enough nerve to ask Pancho for the raise he went ballistic. You’d have thought I stole his last buck by asking for the raise. So I backed off, but I didn’t like it. He reminded me of Dave and the newspaper corners.
From the time I started working there my primary trainer was one of the older guys, Joe. He was an Italian guy, about 35, married with a couple of kids. He really taught me how to become a good trimmer and I liked Joe a lot. Joe quit a few days before I asked Pancho for the raise, but I kept in touch with him.
Pancho was not an easy man to work for. He was Mr. Company and back then the produce manager was responsible for making a certain amount of profit. He made sure everyone worked their ass off.
Joe had quit over an argument with Pancho and it didn’t take him but a couple of days to get a new job. At his new job they had an opening for a night guy and he called me and offered me the job. He told me the job was mine and he would vouch for me to transfer to the different branch of the union as a “JOURNEYMAN!”
I learned at an early age that the good ole boy system was alive and well in unions. This time I benefited, but what about next time?
So here I was, asking Pancho to be promoted to Craftsman at about $2.65 an hour and Joe is calling me offering me a job at Food Giant in Hawthorne as a Journeyman at $3.30 an hour. What a no brainer that was.
When I quit, Pancho went completely out of his mind when I gave him my two weeks’ notice. I was an ungrateful bastard for turning my back on good old uncle Pancho who gave me a job when he could have hired someone else, blah, blah, blah.
Pancho tried in vain to keep me and as a last resort agreed to promote me to Craftsman status, but the genie was out of the bottle, I was worth more to someone else. Again, I had learned, at the young age of 15, that I had added value because I knew how to do something as good, or better than someone else. I never forgot that for my entire life, added value, what a concept.
Of course, today a 15-year-old would never have the opportunities I had. You know, the government is there to protect 15-year old’s now from the evil business owners who are out to take advantage of them. What a load of crap that is. A kid should be able to work as soon as he wants to and earn what he agrees to. How else is he going to learn a work ethic?
By quitting, in a strange way I became a man because I made a decision without my mother’s permission and stuck to my decision knowing that family gatherings were going to be a bitch when Pancho visited our home.
I wasn’t wrong, things were pretty ugly when he came over. He quit taking me to play tennis with him at the Los Angeles Tennis Club and other tennis related stuff. I don’t think he ever got rid of his hard on for me, but later in life he needed me.
So now it’s around the middle of October, 1952 and I’ve got a new job at Food Giant. Joe was the number two guy and he vouched for me and was solely responsible for my getting that job making $3.30 an hour. Life was grand.
I was averaging four nights a week, Saturday and every other Sunday. Sunday’s were great because I got paid double time, yep $6.60 an hour. With Sundays I was grossing more than $140 a week in 1952! My mother was really happy too, she gave me a raise to about $30 a week.
I joined the military at age seventeen and, by age twenty, I became staff sergeant. I was responsible then Dais as an Intercept Controller. After my discharge in 1958, at the age of twenty-one, I joined a company in Los Angeles as a machine shop loader. A “loader” is a guy who carries the heavy materials to the machines. So, basically, I was at the bottom of the ladder.
During the following three years, I was promoted from loader to expediter, to coordinator, to lead coordinator, and finally to production control supervisor. During my sixth year with the company, I was passed over for a promotion that I deserved. So I decided to leave the company. After a short stint in the bar business, I was hired as a manufacturing production control planner and, within three months, I was promoted to management systems analyst. A few months later, I was promoted to manager.
At that point, my former boss’s boss offered me a job as supervisor of fabrication control for a company that built helicopters. I took the job and, three months later, was promoted to general supervisor of fabrication control. I supervised 350 people. Later in life, I founded and ran a consulting company and published a semi-technical magazine that was read in twenty-two countries. I have traveled extensively to South Korea and Canada as a consultant.
Throughout my life, I’ve never thought of myself as anything but a man who had been given the same opportunity that is given to every American—the chance to succeed. I have never been ashamed of being of Mexican descent and have never felt any prejudice against me. While trying to analyze why I never felt any prejudice against me, I’ve come to some conclusions. When my mother came to the United States, she was only six years old, and my grandparents settled in a part of Los Angeles that was predominantly white. As a result, I learned English as my first language. These factors facilitated the development of any natural ability I had.
My parents didn’t move into a barrio. They learned and accepted English as their language, they assimilated. Back then, there were no schools that taught in Spanish; the government created that. There were no signs in Spanish; the government created that. I got my first jobs (before and after the military) without equal opportunity employers and affirmative action; the government created that.
I was accepted because I wasn’t a Mexican that walked around saying, “Orale, man, Que pasa?” The government created that too. When I was passed over for promotion, I didn’t claim prejudice or racism; the government created that. No prejudice was ever shown against me because in my heart and soul I was and am an American. I believe prejudice lies in the heart of the beholder.
I have been fortunate enough to travel to South Korea on several occasions. On my first visit, I was the guest of Samsung, one of the largest corporations in Korea. During that visit, I went to a city called Kumi to tour a telecommunications assembly plant. Kumi is about three hours southeast of Seoul by train.
In Kumi, I exited the train station and looked out on the streets filled with people. I felt something different. At first it was a funny feeling. Then it struck me; I was the only American in a street filled with hundreds if not thousands of Koreans. This was the first time in my life where I was the only American in such a large crowd.
Later, on the train back to Seoul, I started to reflect on things I had seen but not given any thought to while traveling, like the time I was sitting in the bar of the Shilla, one of Seoul’s finest five-star hotels. I noticed a German fellow and a Frenchman talking to the bartender, who was Korean. I observed that the German couldn’t speak French or Korean, the Frenchman couldn’t speak German or Korean, and the Korean couldn’t speak German or French. They were communicating in English, and I felt a feeling of pride when it hit me—English, our language, is used by the world to communicate.
If you do much traveling, there is another fact you quickly learn. There is only one currency that will never be turned down, no matter where you are: the American dollar, (at least back then). I started comparing the difference between a country like Korea, a homogeneous society with one race and nationality, and America. In America we aren’t the melting pot we used to be, but we are a multiracial, multinational country. I asked myself, “What does an American look like?”
An American can be white, black, red, brown, or yellow. An American can have blond hair, black hair, kinky hair, or straight hair. In short, you cannot identify an American by his or her physical traits. If there is no physical trait that identifies an American, then it must be something else, possibly a frame of mind. It could be an idea or a philosophy we live by, an attitude toward a way of life, with a little conceit and arrogance about being American — a pride, the American privilege brought about by the freedom our Constitution guarantees. (if it is followed)
What amazed me was that it took traveling outside the United States before I really started to think about what was happening inside the United States. If you are anything like me, when you return to the US, you feel a certain pride in being an American. You can feel good, that is, until you get home and listen to the news, pick up the local newspaper, or turn on the TV. There are certain so-called Americans who have become racially motivated minority groups and are tearing at the fabric of America.
Instead of a melting pot, we are becoming more of an egg separator. Factions professing that heritage is more important than being American are unknowingly—or worse, knowingly—dividing America into ethnic or racial groups. It seems some people only care about taking from America and not giving anything back. Not even being proud enough to call themselves Americans first, they hyphenate their nationality by placing an ethnic nationality reference before the word American.
These people are predominantly Afro-American and Mexican-American. They claim ethnic heritage is more important than American heritage. Instead of assimilating the American thought, the American way, and the American dream, they place their ethnicity above being American, and still use all that America has to offer. They reject American heritage. As an American of Mexican descent, I was born in America and I was taught and believe George Washington was a hero.
Today’s hyphenated Americans must reject that premise and believe they need to be taught of some other heroes. They demand bilingual education as a better option for their hyphenated American children. The worst possible thing the American educational system can do is graduate a student who cannot speak English fluently.
When Irish, Germans, French, Jews, Koreans, Chinese, or most other nationals migrate to America, they don’t demand to be taught in their languages. Today, Americans of Asian descent aren’t demanding to be taught in their language, and they are consistently the top performers in our scholastic system. Is it that they think becoming an American is the most important thing in their life, important enough to leave their country in favor of the land of freedom?
Why is there so much support for today’s hyphenated Americans to be brainwashed into believing it’s most important to be a hyphenated American? Why aren’t they being encouraged to assimilate? In doing what they are doing, they not only destroy their children’s chances but also add unnecessary costs to our educational system by claiming ethnic-heritage education is required for self-esteem.
I’m an American with a last name of Diaz, and I have enough self-esteem for a dozen people. But then, I’m proud of being an American. I’m proud of being of Mexican descent. I grew up eating beans and tortillas for breakfast lunch and dinner, right next to steak, meatloaf, and fried chicken. When it comes to teaching a child reading, writing, and arithmetic, it doesn’t make any difference where the child’s parents were born. Yet certain educators say they can’t teach all kids out of the same book.
What does a child’s ethnicity have to do with American history, with grammar, with math, or with science? Being born American or becoming a naturalized citizen should not be the totally free ride it has become. It is said America gives many freedoms to all when it should say America gives many freedoms to all who embrace her. The last time anyone tried to divide America, a civil war was fought and Americans killed Americans to keep this nation intact.
Yet these so-called Afro- and Mexican-Americans do nothing but preach division. They and their supporters believe history must be revised to include a point of view other than American. They try to belittle America’s history by making the white male European connection sound chauvinistically racist. They completely forget that the white European male-dominated Constitutional Convention created the very document that allows them the freedom to make those ridiculous charges.
They forget that the white European male-dominated explorers helped carve the greatest nation in the world. If this experiment had not happened, and succeeded, all those who are complaining would be bowing down to a king or sacrificing virgins to some sun god at noon on a daily basis. If we allow them to demean American history, we are allowing them to demean the very core of what it means to be American.
Even though our Constitution is the primary cause of American success, it has been under assault for decades. The more we distance ourselves from the Constitution, the worse America’s future becomes. I decided to interpret the Bill of Rights as I, one of the people, read and understand it. The ruling class, the elites, the intellectuals, and the academics will scoff at my views, but this had to be written.
There are some homeless who have a mental condition and some who are just lazy. There are some who are the product of an economy that hasn’t created jobs in ten years and that is changing with President Trump.
Editor’s First TV Interview
What you are about to watch is my first interview as the editor of Speak Up America. I found it as we were cleaning out a storage/office building we have on our property. I haven’t seen this in years, in fact I had forgotten about it. I knew I had been interviewed, but I forgot about this particular show.
I won’t say any more about it because the show explains itself. I will say, in the history of Speak Up America, this show is an important event.
The Sunday Journal