I Love My Bloodlines by Alma Montiel

During my years in college, I have become more culturally and self-aware about who I am and the roots of my identity. I know that I come from a loving family that has always had a united front, even thought my parents are divorced. I must have gotten lucky because I also scored the most amazing step-parents, whom I adore. My name is Alma Betsaira Montiel Guardado. I am 28 years old. I was born and raised in Southern California; Riverside County to be exact. Much of my extended family also lives In Southern California. I identify with the area but I’m aware that there is much more to my identity than the small town of Moreno Valley.

My father was born in Mexicali where, as the story goes, he was extremely sick as an infant and had to be sent to Sonora, Mexico to be cared for by his grandmother. My father was then raised in Sonora until he was 18 years old and decided to migrate to the U.S. I have always wondered how sick my father was and if it is something that is genetic and could possibly be something I should be aware of when I decide to have children. My grandparents are also from Sonora, and I have tons of family who still live in the pueblo. The town is a rural place where it is very hard for people to make an honest living. My dad has told me before that part of the reason he left Mexico was to get away from bad influences and the and spread of drugs. It is sad to see all the struggles going on in Mexico because of the cartels. I wasn’t aware that the problem has been going on for decades. I don’t know much of my dad’s upbringing except for the fact that the small pueblo of Santa Cruz, Sonora was very poor and had a small population. I do know that he was a calm and happy kid, and many people tell me I have some of his temperament.

The flag of Sonora, a state in Mexico.

My mother, on the other hand has a more extensive story. My mom is from Chalatenango, El Salvador. My mother also didn’t have much to grow up with in El Salvador, but my grandparents made a living with their animals and land. My grandfather took care of the animals and, and my grandmother made cheese to sell at the market from their cows. According to my mom, my grandpa was a hardworking, small-time businessman. During the civil war in El Salvador my grandfather was killed by rebels who wanted to take his land and his cattle. Unfortunately, I never got to meet my grandfather, and the story of his death is told to all the children in my family as a reminder to us that we come from a loving, hard-working family.

I always find myself wishing I knew more about my ancestors and where my great, great, great-grandparents came from. My mother’s family are fair-skinned with colored eyes and she tells me they have ancestors of Spanish descent. My grandfather, in his young age, was also a bull-fighter. I assume he must have adopted that tradition from his Spanish ancestors. This is where I start to ask about the missing stories in my family. Where did my great grandparents and their parents come from, and why don’t we have documents or pictures of them? It’s interesting to think that far back and realize that there may be some connections to people of another world and I know nothing of them. I enjoy hearing the stories from both of my parents about their parents and what life was like for them growing up. 

The flag of El Salvador.

I have been lucky enough to visit both of my parent’s places of birth and where they played as children. For the sake of cultural language, I always say I am Latina. I am Central American and Mexican, I was born in the U.S, but my first language was Spanish. The food I ate growing up was not hamburgers and hotdogs; I grew up eating traditional Mexican and Salvadorian dishes, pupusas, enchiladas, chilaquilles were all a part of my nutritious diet growing up. I love the Latino culture, we work hard, love hard, eat good, and we value family more than anything. Although I am proud of who I am and where my family came from, I have also learned to adopt American culture as a part of my identity as well. I love being American and am proud of our country and the opportunities this country has granted my parents. Both of my parents are now U.S citizens, and although they don’t have college degrees they have been able to provide a wonderful life for my siblings and I.

* * *

The search to know who we are should continue throughout our lives. As I’ve gotten older I know that filling in the missing blanks in my life help resolve issues within myself and can even make me understand why I believe the things I do. For example, I know my grandfather was killed in a time of war in his country, therefore I find myself being completely against war, and my politics are more to the right because of it. Furthermore, because my parents were immigrants, my values are more in line with liberal ideologies. I realize now that who we are and where we come from is extremely influential on the things we believe. After doing some research, I’ve learned that the civil war in El Salvador spanned from 1980-1990 and that the Farabundo Marti, a national liberation group or guerilla group, tried to overthrow the military-led government at the time. It’s saddens me to think of the tragedy and loss this time of conflict brought upon my family, and how the effects of war last lifetimes.

After getting my Ancestry DNA test results results back, I was surprised to see that I am pretty much half Native American and half Spanish. My family is a traditional Christian one, but I wonder who was Christian in my grandmother’s family that made the religion stay within our family for generations. I still haven’t able to figure out all the missing pieces of my family. My family has little to no documentation of its history. Growing up I remember only one picture of my late grandfather; I sure would have liked to know more about him. Asking my grandmother questions about her life was fun. I asked my grandmother why she’s a  devoted Christian, and she told me that because of the times of war she lived through and the loss of her husband, she turned to religion as her savior. This is explained to me why my family’s religious background is so extensive and why they swear by the Christian church. However, religion is starting to fade as we, the grandchildren, get older and challenge the things we’ve been taught in regards to religion. This does not make my grandmother happy what so ever, but it is just how the times have changed and we are forced to adapt.

My parents met at work at a company named Comfort, where they use to build RV’s and trailers. Interesting enough, my dad has been in the RV business since I can remember, and he recently was given the privilege of operating an entire company. Now my brother is also in the RV business; I find it adorable that my parents met at that company and that the RV business has been in my family for many years. As a little girl I remember every year my dad would take me to the Pomona RV show and everyone who knew my dad would tell me how popular he was in the industry. My family comes from humble beginnings, and I am always grateful for the everything my family has been able to accomplish. I wonder how difficult it must have been for my parents when they got here in the 1980’s when they didn’t speak a lick of English, but tried their best to maintain a job and make money to send back to their parents. As I learn more about Latino culture I start to see that many Latinos have similar backgrounds.

In this country, Latinos have been stereotyped for centuries. The typical stereotype is that the men are bandits and the women are hyper-sexual, These stereotypes stem back to old media resources that criminalized Mexican people and immigrants who came to this country. I’m sure these stereotypes played a big role in how my parents were treated when they came here. I try to keep in mind that these infectious stereotypes that continue to plague our society come from many years ago, and those old minds were not tolerant of what was unknown. In today’s society there are still stereotypes and it is discerning that we live in such a mixed country, yet we still deal with discrimination and other racial issues.

These are reasons why as I venture off into the professional world of journalism, I have to remember that my voice will be heard or read by many different types of people from different places of origin and different shades of skin color. I must not let historical stereotypes dictate the way I view others. Being accepting and being tolerant of people who are not like us, we can learn from each other’s experiences and grow from them. In this class I’ve learned that just how we have a genetic makeup and a cultural background, journalism, too, has a fundamental makeup and has been culturally influenced as the time passes. It is our job to keep the progression of such a jaded industry going, But it is also time to start remaking journalism because the world is a different place from when Western Union and the telegraph were around. It is unfair to treat people in biased ways, which is why journalism needs to keep being massaged until we get the knots of history out of it, and we can finally write well-written and informative news.

Who I am today and where I come from gives me perspective about the world around me. I look at others and think of what struggles those people might have gone through, or where did their families have to migrate from to better themselves; thinking of these things gives me a sense of empathy towards others. I hope to not let empathy get in the way of delivering what is real and factual, but I would like to think that I can deliver clear and unbiased news to people. Pealing at the layers of my cultural background was fun and exciting, it helped me understand my own personal beliefs and the perspectives I have on other people and this country. I hope to continue learning and being tolerant of what is different and I hope to never forget where I came from. In an ever-changing and ever-growing world it is necessary to stay true to who we are, and continue to grow and learn, and I hope to do so throughout my career as a journalist.

I identify with two main cultures, the Latino culture and American culture. Both have instilled in me different aspects of social and personal values and ethics. My parents have given me more personal morals, while living in American society has given me social values. I love my bloodline and where I come from, but would also like to know much more about it. I also enjoy revealing more of myself as I get older and getting to know more of who I am because the cultural aspects of who we are make a big part of why we think the way we do, make decisions the way we do, and conduct ourselves in the manners that we do. All these aspects of me are what will eventually help or hinder my career as a journalist. I must remember to be wary of bias and to be open-minded to what is unknown for me. I always try to bear in mind the stereotypes and discrimination my parents must have had to go through, when they were just young people trying to better their lives in a new place full of new challenges. Keeping where I come from close to heart serves as a constant reminder to stay humble and to make better judgments of the world around me.

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