My parents grew up in soil that was not very fertile,
But it was rich.
Rich in foods like their daily dose of bean tacos, ancient rice recipes, flavorful pozole that had just the right amount of chicken and oregano, and of course, hot and fresh Christmas tamales.
It was rich in traditions,
Like Sunday strolls they took outside of the old church courtyard, where one would greet their fellow neighbors and ask how their day was.
They would attend the reenactment of the crucifixion of Christ, played with devout passion, or go to the annual festival, celebrating the patron saint, San Jose el Carpintero.
They gathered together to pray for the souls of departed loved ones in front of la Virgen and recited the rosary together by heart.
But what they were most rich in was family,
Their father came home from a hard day’s work, their mother prepared a simple meal of what she could afford that day. The kids had to be called in for dinner because they were too enchanted playing La Víbora del Mar to hear their mother’s voice.
Everyone sat around the table, thanking God they had each other when they had nothing else.
I grew up in a patch of soil that was more fertile,
But it wasn’t as rich.
The food my mom and dad ate didn’t seem as appealing to me as deep-fried McDonald’s chicken nuggets.
We would go to Sunday Mass, but just that.
Go in, pray, get out.
I didn’t know my neighbors and they didn’t know me,
And frankly, I didn’t care much about them.
The world around me would be filled with glossy advertisements, crowded streets where everyone acted like they lived in their world, and materialistic desires that clouded my mind with what society said was true happiness.
And even though I saw them every day, my family seemed quite distant.
My dad came home from work, my mom would have the supper ready, but she didn’t have to call me back inside because I was sitting in front of the television in the living room, engrossed in the actions of pixelated characters rather than communicating with the people who gave me life.
But I now know my roots.
I taste the love in every bite of my mother’s home-made tacos and tamales.
I see the devotion of the church in celebrating the religious holidays, like Christmas or the day of the Virgin Mary.
I feel the pride in my heart whenever I say that I am a Mexican-American and imagine the colors of the two flags dancing together in the wind.
I now know the sacrifice and struggle of my family, leaving the only home they knew to make sure I didn’t suffer as they did.
I owe it to them to keep their home alive.
I’ve been given the richness of my parent’s soil, even though I grew on a different patch of land.
These are the roots that have kept our culture sturdy.
One day, I will pass these roots to my children,
And I want to see them grow and thrive with it.
Ricardo Vega '21