By Helena Rodriguez: PNT Columnist
Many people mistake me for my mom, but not many have said over the years that I resemble my dad. With that said though, most people do know me as “Julio’s daughter.”
I’m proud to be Julio’s daughter, the daughter of a baker, the daughter of a “musico,” the daughter of a No. 1 Dallas Cowboys fan, the daughter of a former migrant farmworker, the daughter of a Tejano and the daughter of a man whose hard work I’ll never be able to match but will always appreciate.
As we approach another Father’s Day, or as I call it, a Dallas Cowboy paraphernalia giving holiday, I’ve been thinking a lot about my dad — not so much about the stuff that my father and I did together while I was growing up, but more about the many things we didn’t do together. It was the things we didn’t do together that have allowed me to become the person I am today.
Many Hispanic families live in a culture of collectivism in which family often comes first and the concept of individualism is more of an American thing. But individualism has become more common in my generation, and I am thankful that both of my parents, while instilling a deep sense of pride in me toward my Hispanic heritage, have also stepped back and allowed me to follow my own dreams.
Dad was raised in an atmosphere of collectivism, so he never had that opportunity. He worked alongside his parents in the cotton fields of South Texas and quit school in eighth grade to help support his family. He was raised in a “we” environment, so other than learning to play the guitar, something in which he has a God-given talent, there was really no “me” in his future.
By contrast, I’ve been selfish and have always done what I want to do, thanks of course, to Dad. Even when Dad did try to get me involved in “his world,” so to speak, I was already determined to become a writer, and so he just let me be. Like the time he tried to teach me to play the guitar.
He tried to be patient, may God bless him, but I had long fingernails which I refused to cut, and so Dad quickly gave up.
Then there was the summer in which my sister Becky and I went with friends to hoe cotton in order to make some money. I recall Mom’s warning on that first day. “Just think about your dad while you’re out there sweating in the sun,” Mom said. “He didn’t have a choice. He had to help his family.”
Those motherly words of advice kept me going all the way until noon, which came ever so slowly. At the end of the day, my friend’s mom informed me that the patrona had said I was too slow and they would not be needing my services anymore. I was disappointed, but then we soon got another opportunity to work in the “escardas” with some of Mom’s friends. By the end of that painfully grueling day however, I was fired again. I couldn’t hack the hard work like my dad, but then again I thought, he didn’t have a choice.
Then there was my senior year in high school when I worked part-time at the cafeteria at Eastern New Mexico University where Dad has worked since the day Becky, who is one year older than me, was born. They gave me an easy job of manning the dessert cart, but one day Dad asked me to help him and he quickly realized that was a mistake. I couldn’t even cut his professionally decorated cakes in a straight line and so Dad sent me back to the dessert cart.
I guess I wasn’t destined to walk in my father’s footsteps. But as different as we are, I can say that I’ve always found comfort in Daddy’s arms. The differences have sometimes drawn us apart, but have always brought us together, too. As much as Dad’s past has become a big part of my consciousness, I know my future is also a part of his.
Helena Rodriguez is a columnist for Freedom Newspapers of New Mexico. She
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