Tag Archives: Mexican-American

Remembering A Veteran

My dad...in flight training

My dad…in flight training

Today is Veterans Day.  From the time I woke up this morning to just a few minutes ago, every other social media post today has been about Veterans and remembering their contributions to our country.  It has been a welcome diversion from the recent election and with the divisiveness of what has transpired, it really got me thinking about my dad and his brothers and their sacrifice as Mexican-Americans to our great country.

I don’t actually know a lot about what my dad and his brothers went through when they each joined the service but I do know about the time period when they enlisted and served.  I also know what my dad experienced when he was growing up in Carlsbad, New Mexico through letters I received from several of his classmates/football teammates after he passed away in 2001.  I’ll share those remembrances in another post.  But suffice it to say, it wasn’t all fun and acceptance back then.  My dad didn’t talk much about it, choosing to just tell certain stories without any reference to discrimination or unfairness.  I think that was his way of just working hard and getting ahead.  I admire that in him because later in life, it served me well as I grew up overseas and in Puerto Rico during my formative years.

Dad's Air Force pins an his pilot log books.

Dad’s Air Force pins an his pilot log books.

I wish I knew more about dad’s time in service to our country.  I regret that I didn’t talk to him about this but then again, there is no guarantee that he would have shared anything about this time either.  I’ve heard that sentiment from a number of people who I know.  These are memories that have remained locked away to some of those who served.

I love looking in my dad's pilot log books and seeing his handwriting as he documented his training...

I love looking in my dad’s pilot log books and seeing his handwriting as he documented his training…

What I do have are photos, dad’s pilot logs and a few other artifacts from those years.  I also have two yearbooks from his pilot training in Texas.  One in particular is very touching because dad had placed check marks beside the photos of his friends who didn’t make it back during the war.  I didn’t know what these check marks were until my mother shared that with me several years ago.

One of dad's training yearbooks....

One of dad’s training yearbooks….

So as today closes out, I am grateful for the sacrifices of my dad, Praxedis Sotelo Zuniga, his brothers – Felix and Lorenzo Zuniga – and all the faces in the two yearbooks made for our country.  Some paid the ultimate sacrifice and that is humbling to see in my dad’s yearbook, the faces of those brave young men who did this for our freedom.

On this Veterans Day, God Bless the brave men and women who have served this great nation of ours…

 

 

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What Would YOU Do?…if you met John Quiñones?

Meeting John Quiñones for the 2nd time at UAB 2014

Meeting John Quiñones for the 2nd time at UAB 2014

Well, first things first…you take a picture with him!  Then you listen to his amazing story!

It’s Hispanic Heritage Month and my alma mater, the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), does things BIG where recognition and celebration are concerned. Each year they bring top Latino powerhouse speaker to students and the community at large.  I’ve had the privilege of hearing and meeting Actress-America Ferrera (2011) and Actress/Activist-Rosario Dawson (2012).  Last year Soledad O’Brien, Broadcast Journalist spoke about her CNN series Latino in America.  All have brought great and inspiring messages to the students.  I love hearing the Q&A portion of the evening and the poignant and heartfelt questions the students ask of the speakers.

With Actress America Ferrera at UAB Lecture Series in 2011

With Actress America Ferrera at UAB Lecture Series in 2011

My daughter, Emily and her friend Maya Madden, with America Ferrera at UAB in 2011

With Actress Rosario Dawson at UAB in 2012 for the UAB Lecture Series.

With Actress Rosario Dawson at UAB in 2012 for the UAB Lecture Series.

This year, John Quiñones was on deck to bring a great message about embracing the changing face of our nation. But the bigger message was one of perseverance to the students in attendance by sharing his personal story.  John is a 7th generation Mexican-American from San Antonio, TX.  I smiled when he spoke a line that my dad used to say to me about his family in New Mexico – “we didn’t cross the border, the border crossed US!”  He didn’t learn to speak English until he started school at the age of 6.  It was a time when children in public schools were punished for speaking their native language.  He spoke about his struggle to lose his accent so he could pursue his dream of being a broadcast journalist.  At one point, his family joined a caravan of migrant farm workers and traveling through northern states after his father lost his job in Texas as a janitor.  His father posed the question to him one day as they were working in the fields – “do you want to do this the rest of your life? “ As all parents, he wished for a better life for his son

John Quiñones speaks to the crowd at UAB Lecture Series 2014

John Quiñones speaks to the crowd at UAB Lecture Series 2014

He spoke of his great fortune in joining Upward Bound, a program out of St. Mary’s University, a federal TRIO program that helped prepare him for college. Ultimately, John earned a master’s degree from Colombia University’s School of Journalism.  Soon he was working in Chicago at the local CBS affiliate and posing undercover as a migrant worker to cover a story he suggested to his bosses about why Mexicans cross the border illegally for a better life in the UA.  He won his first Emmy for this story.  The irony in all this?  The kid who was punished for speaking Spanish as a 6-year-old ended up getting an anchor job because he spoke Spanish!  He covered Latin American news for a number of years, in fact, he has covered stories all over the world.

And of course, there was much discussion about his award-winning TV show “What Would You Do?”  Several clips from the show were shown and discussion followed.  It’s such a study in human behavior and our own biases.  The students had a lot to say about that!

Having John Quiñones in Birmingham, Alabama during Hispanic Heritage Month was the best way to kick off the festivities for me. Oh…and this wasn’t the first time I had the great fortune of meeting him.  I had a photo opp with John in San Antonio – his home town – in 2010 at the NCLR (National Council of La Raza) conference.  In the flurry of the NCLR Gala Event, he was very gracious and posed for a picture with me.

Meeting John Quiñones at the NCLR Conference in San Antonio, TX (2010)

Meeting John Quiñones at the NCLR Conference in San Antonio, TX (2010)

So proud of my Alma Mater UAB, for providing such excellent speakers for their students and community. Shout out to the Student Multicultural & Diversity Programs, UAB Lecture Series, and the Office of the Provost for Student & Faculty Success for a great event.  Can’t wait to see what next year will bring!