A Day With A Mexican

The man in the picture is an immigrant from the Mexican province of Vera Cruz. He hails from a tribe called Totonaco.  He came to the United States when he was merely 17 years old. He never went back.

I asked him if he ever experienced racism in the United States. "Yes, there was a time in this city when the white people sat in the front of a bus and the Mexicans and the blacks at the back. I have friends who did not have work permits, they were hired but not paid by their white employers. The whites even got better tables in restaurants! But things are much better now."

I also asked him if he would ever like to go back. "No, this is where I have lived my life. This is my country."

I could not help but ask, "If you experienced racism here, why did you continue to live here?"

"As humans, we like to seek pain. Even if we have a good life, we will find ways to make it more difficult."

(Totonaco is his native language. But he can hardly converse in it; he prefers Spanish. He told me that most Mexicans prefer Spanish. At some point in recent Mexican history, people started feeling ashamed of using their mother tongue. I told him it's a similar story in India: most Indians prefer English. No English or English spoken with an Indian accent is jeered at. As I write this, I remembered: a19-year-old German traveller told me that in his circle of friends it is not cool to not be able to speak English.)


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