My Grandfather’s Greatest Gift
He Made Me an American
I have gained a number of things from my grandfather. I have his hair which, now in my mid-30s, still shows signs of neither receding nor graying. I have his skin tone which seems to have enhanced protection against the more harmful effects of the sun. I have wonderful health.
But the greatest thing my grandfather gave is not something in my genetic makeup. It is a lifelong series of choices my grandfather made, most before I was even born.My grandfather, Jose Argondona, was born in 1921 in Torreon, Mexico. In the early 1940′s my grandfather decided that the civil war torn area of his birth was not a good place to raise a family. Looking north, he found the place where he wanted his progeny to live. He spent years immigrating to the United States.
My mother was born in 1951, the second of eight children. When she was twelve, after spending so many years speaking English at school and Spanish at home, she came home to a major family decision. I can only imagine what it must have been like to be sat down in front of one’s parents to be told, “Daughter. We will speak English in this house. And you will teach us.” I am sure that it wasn’t easy. There must have been days that my grandfather thought that learning a new language so late in life was hard, but he stuck to it nonetheless.
Years later, when my sister and I were toddlers, my mother told my grandfather that she planned on teaching us both English and Spanish. He had a bit to say on the subject. “No,” he said. “Don’t confuse them. You live here. Teach them English. If they want to learn Spanish later on, let them decide to do so.” My sister took Spanish in high school. I have learned German and French, and a little bit of Korean. But Spanish has not been a language I have ever needed.
I notice that too many people in similar circumstances take different roads. Many people end up living here in the United States, instead of being American. I wonder sometimes, where would I be without this gift my grandfather gave me? It would not be where I am, I can tell you that!
I find that my views are shaped by this great gift I have been given. I believe that we must secure our borders, not because I hate immigrants, but because I love real immigration. You have to do it right. By stopping illegal immigration, you stop the second class status that inevitably comes with it.
I believe that English should be the only official language, not because I would disparage others, but because English already is the de facto language. By allowing immigrants to take the easy road of not assimilating themselves into our culture, no matter how good the intent, we hurt them and their descendants for generations.
To many, I come across as a hardliner. They feel that my views are cruel, and that I have forgotten my Mexican heritage. Maybe they are right on that last part – because I am not a Mexican. My grandfather did not come to this country so that I would be Mexican. He could have stayed in Mexico for that. He came to this country so that I would be an American. And an American I am. Why would they, who question my intent, call themselves anything else?