Story and photos by Rebecca Vazquez
Finding my roots has always been something I have struggled with. I have always wanted to get closer to understanding where my family is from and the stories that follow. I have always wanted to understand what made some of my relatives travel outside of their hometown in search of a new life and what made others stay. But this is not just my story, it’s my father’s we as well.
I am a 23 year old young adult who had never been to my family’s hometown, I had never seen where my grandparents, Romauldo and Maria Vasquez grew up, I had never seen the cities or places my father, Sergio Vazquez visited as a child until this year. I am a Mexican-American descendant who partially speaks and understands Spanish and can finally say I have been to Mexico.
My father, Sergio hasn’t returned to Mexico since before I was born. It has been over 24 years since he last was there due to family reasons, and my grandma has not been to her own hometown for over 35 years. They both left everything at young ages in search of something better.
My grandfather, Romauldo first came to the states in 1958. He was lucky enough to be able to seek out a higher education when he came with his family. He was one out of 14 siblings, and was the eldest son. He grew up in Jalisco and then was brought to the states roughly when he was 17. As the eldest son, my grandfather always strived for better especially when it came to his family. My grandmother, Maria came in 1963, but came from a small town called Teocuitatlan in Mexico, unaware of what she could do when arriving with her sisters. She never completed high school and immediately began working when she came to America.
“I didn’t know anything, I didn’t know I could go to school, I never went to school in Mexico, all I knew was I came here and was told to start working,” Maria Vasquez said.
Just this year my father decided it was time to see parts of his homeland he has never seen but only pictured through stories told by his family members. This trip began at 12:45 a.m. Friday, April 22. A long car ride to Tijuana from Eastvale, Ca. passing the border and arriving to the Tijuana airport to travel to Guadalajara. On arrival from a long wait in the airport and plane ride, 12 hours later in the back of a old Chevrolet pick-up my father’s uncle Chavo Jimenez welcomes us. “Vamos,” Chavo tells all of us as we hopped into the back of his pick-up, knowing we have a long drive ahead.
“I haven’t been in the back of a truck since I was a kid,” said my father Sergio with a big smile on his face. It’s a two and a half hour car ride to my father’s uncle Ramon Jimenez and his wife Monica’s house who he hasn’t seen for over 20 years. It seemed as if everyone once tried to leave Mexico but returned for their own reasons just like we were.
In Colima, where my father’s uncle Ramon lives, we were overwhelmed with interested in how different and how slightly similar Colima was to LA. “Bienvenidos,” said Ramon Jimenez as he gave my father Sergio a huge hug and immediately asked him if we were all hungry.
The entire trip consisted of us eating and trying new things everywhere we went, on of the days we even traveled to the small hometown that we grandma was from, Teocuitatlan. It was amazing to see and meeting family members who I had only heard of and seeing the way they live in such a small town. It was a surprise to meet the oldest women in Teocuitatlan; Angelica Garcia Jimenez; who happens to also be a member of my family.
On top of meeting new family members, it was a new experience learning about the culture and how important working and making money is out there. In Mexico, it is not only adults trying their best to make money out but also the young. Luckily for my family my uncle Ramon is able to support his family and allow both his older kids to focus on their education, but I know it wasn’t always like that for him.
When leaving Mexico, there was a slight scare for my family and I but only because it was something that my brother and I haven’t done before and my father hasn’t done in a long time. As we saw cars getting pulled over and searched we simply did as we were told by the authorities and then on our way, my father had a sort of a ‘laid-back’ attitude about going through the border because he knows he is now a US citizen and has nothing to hide.
This trip for my father was just the beginning, “Next time I come I am bringing the whole family,” my father would tell his family members. This type of experience was something I am glad I was able to be a part of and will be doing again.