Family Stories by Angelica Fregoso

     There is no right way to feel about being the first generation in your family to be born outside of your family’s home. Of course, it’s a privilege to be born in the United States, where I have a better chance and opportunity to become something greater than what I could have been in my family’s home. The key word in all of this is “my family’s home.” As a first-generation born American, I am missing a lot of history. I know my family members as they exist today, but I have limited knowledge about their past. I have a culture that only my siblings and I can relate to, because we were born and raised in the United States.

Mexico was home for both of my parent’s families for many years. They dedicated their lives to the Mexican culture and agriculture. The men in my family were always farm workers, while the women were expected to be stay-at-home mothers and care for the household and all that comes with it. I have learned that a typical day for my family, who are no longer around, could be exhausting. The men worked in the fields, often for more than eight hours a day with very little break. They had to deal with the farm animals and make sure that the landscaping and farm were clean and stocked. At day’s end, the men would come home to a clean house and dinner on the table. It had been expected that the women would cook, clean and care for the children. This was the expectation of my grandpa, Jose Reynoso Vazquez, and my great-grandfather, Fermin Sandoval Hinojosa, and so on.

A story—something like a ghost story—is well known within the family. When my aunt was a very young girl, she disappeared and somehow ended up in the house of my great-grandmother, who had passed away. My aunt does not remember because she was really young, but it is a famous story in our family.

Another story is about my grandfather and how he raised his children to become strong and fearless. My grandfather was the type of person to be known as someone who does crazy things to himself and the family. He wanted everyone to have some masculine qualities, even the girls. My grandmother always had to keep an eye on him because he would have daring adventures with his children and not worry about the consequences. There was the time my grandfather put my mother on top of a horse and slapped the horse so that it would start running. My mother had to hold on because no one else was with her on the horse and my grandfather would just run on the side of the horse. When the horse would slow down and stop running, again my grandfather would hit the horse so that it would continue running. My mother said that my grandfather would do that for miles because he wanted his children to grow up strong — no matter who they were.

It is also true that living in Mexico can be rough, just like any other country that struggles with money. When they were young, my aunt and mother faced a scary moment when they had to run away from people who were trying to hurt them. All they wanted was to eat the watermelons that were out on the field, but because they were on private property, the owners started chasing them. My great-grandfather created a diversion so they could get away.

Some family stories seem over the top. My father told me that my grandmother was only a baby when arrangements were made for her marriage. Of course they waited until she was older. Still, she was just a child when they arranged for her to be married to my grandfather, who was at the time about 12-years-old.

My grandmother from my mother’s side is named Maria Sandoval Valdez and her parents were named Fermin Sandoval Hinojosa and Aurora Valdez Sandoval. My great-grandfather’s grandma was related to family from Spain, and she immigrated to Mexico in the 1800’s. Her name was Clarita Menchaca who was also a widow. My great-grandmother’s parents were named Silvestre Valdez and Daria Sandoval, but that is all I know about them. My grandfather was named Jose Reynoso and his mother’s name was Telesfora Vazquez. My grandfather did not know much about his background because his mother died when he was 4-years-old and his father died when my grandfather was 12-years-old. He grew up on his own while being in different assistant homes.

My family has always had to work all their lives, they only had money to take care of themselves and the family, but they did not have enough money to be able to go out and enjoy a day with the family. Spanish has always been a primary language for my family so it is a huge change that now some of us—like my brothers and I—have been speaking English since we were born in the United States. Being able to communicate with my family back home is somewhat of a challenge since Spanish is not my first language.

I have learned that my family’s religion had always been Catholic until a man named Alejandro Romero came from the United States and told my great-grandfather (from my mother’s side), that he was a Jehovah’s Witness and that he was on the right path. He wanted my great-grandfather to change, which he eventually did over time causing my grandmother to eventually change as well. Since then, a few other family members of mine have changed also. Though the majority of my family members remain Catholics, this twist and turn in my family’s history will continue to grow as family members are exposed to both religions and will be able to choose which one they want to follow.

My mother’s last name, Reynoso, is from Spain, and means “king.” My father’s last name, Fregoso, is Italian, and the Fregoso family in the 14th Century was said to have been a Castilian family.

My personal interests have not been influenced by my ancestors, but by my geographic location. I have a different view point than my family’s, and that is what I think that most of the students in our journalism class at San Francisco State University also experience since many are the children of immigrants.

These insights can help me as a journalist covering a diverse community because I am open to new beginnings. I was born away from my family’s heritage which has caused me to create my own unique culture that contains both Mexican and American techniques. Covering a diverse community, I know to expect that a lot of cultures are different, and have their own way of doing specific things. With a diverse community, things are always bound to change, so being able to adapt to new cultures that are in your surrounding can be easy for me since I was born in the United States. In the United States it is easier because there are already so many different cultures everywhere you turn to, but in Mexico it is just Mexicans, so it is harder for my family in Mexico to be open to a new culture. The types of lessons that the news media can gain from this experience is that not everything is going to be perfect. Some news media will only be able to get the attention of some cultures, angering others. Not all cultures will be targeted in the news and it is understandable due to the differences that each culture has.

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