Will your Labor Day be a holiday or a “jale-day?”
“Jale” is Spanish slang for the word “work” and is pronounced something like “hah-leh,” so essentially holiday and “jale-day” are pronounced the same but mean two completely different things.
“Jale-day” is a clever mix of Spanish and English and a great way for me to pose the question again: Will your Labor Day be a holiday or a jale-day?
Unfortunately, some people will have to work on Monday, a day meant to take a break from labor. For those of you fortunate enough to get a three-day weekend, hope you have fun in the sun. Labor Day weekend is unofficially the last weekend of summer and typically the last lazy weekend before the fall rush sets in, followed then by the mad-dashing holiday season.
For the fashion conscious, Labor Day is also the last weekend one can wear white until next Easter, if you don’t want to have the fashion police on your back. And as in the case of my friend Cindy Venzor in Abilene, Texas, Labor Day a few years ago also proved to be a good day for her to go into labor and have her baby.
In case you didn’t know it, Labor Day was made an official national holiday by Congress back in 1894 to pay tribute to America’s hard workers.
While many of our jobs nowadays are stressful, they are probably not as physically grueling as the jobs held by our parents and grandparents.
I’ve certainly had my share of hair-pulling days this past year, but I know I don’t have it half as bad as Dad did growing up in the 1940s and 1950s. Dad now holds down two jobs. He’s been a baker at Eastern New Mexico University for 36 years and has worked part-time for the past few years doing maintenance at an apartment complex.
My first job was manning a dessert cart at age 17 at the ENMU cafeteria for 15 hours a week. My biggest obstacle was trying to cut the big sheet cakes in a straight line. Dad’s first job was as a young child, toiling away in the cottonfields under the hot Texas sun.
I’m ashamed to admit I’ve only worked in the cottonfields two times in my life and I was fired both times. My sister Becky and I went with friends to hoe weeds in a cottonfield one summer, hoping to make a little money. When we left at dawn, Mom told me, “Think about your dad while you’re out there. He didn’t have a choice when he was a kid.”
Mom’s words rang in my head throughout that painfully long morning. Lunchtime seemed an eternity away. Everytime, I’d ask the time, sure it was close, only a half hour had passed. At the day’s end, I was informed the patrona, the boss lady, didn’t want me back. I was too slow. Becky went back for a few more weeks. After that, we went with some other people to another farm to work and at the end of that day, I was told again my services were no longer needed. No hard feelings there. I planned to have a desk job someday.
I did feel a little ashamed at first, though, that I couldn’t last even two days in the fields, but I don’t feel ashamed anymore. Most of us want our children to have it better than we did, and I know that’s what my parents wanted for me, too. But as I sit at this computer, in this air-conditioned office, not required to lift anything heavier than a telephone book, I think of those who do back-breaking work to make a living, trying to make our lives a little easier, too.
My hat goes off to the blue-collar, or, as the case may be “T-shirt” workers who serve our food, repair our highways, haul our trash, work on our farms and dairies, build our buildings and even deliver this newspaper to you.
Helena Rodriguez is lifestyles coordinator for Freedom Newspapers of New Mexico. She can be reached at