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De Parte del Maestro
By Josh Flores

Will you be the next difference maker or next statistic?
Last week was the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month, which offers an opportunity for both reflection on the past and a look into the future. 

We reflect on the past to pay homage to the Latinos who have come before us and laid the foundation for our ability to enjoy all of the freedoms and privileges we have today.  To look ahead into the future you need not look any further than the mirror.  However, when you look into the mirror do you like what you see? 

Of course I am talking nothing about your physical appearance when I ask that question; it is much deeper than that.  In fact, I am asking if you like the person you are and, equally important, the person you are becoming.

Judge Sonia Sotomayor

As a young person, you literally have a once in a lifetime opportunity…the opportunity to determine what you will be in this world.  Granted, there are many things that you cannot control, but the key to determining your own future is making sure to control the things you can. 

In this article I reflect on the past Latinos who should serve as inspiration to you and I will offer advice about how you can ensure that you blaze a positive trail and, hopefully, one day someone will look at you as inspiration.

Our History is rich with inspiration
I hope that as a young person you can name at least one Latino who has contributed greatly to not only the cause for La Raza, but to society as a whole.  If nothing else, there has been a recent media blitz about one Sonia Sotomayor, who recently became the first Latina appointed to the Supreme Court. 

If you are not aware of whom she is then you need to wake up and read the paper or watch the news once in a while; give the game console or computer a break and take a moment to educate yourself about what is going on in the world. 

While Sotomayor is today’s news, there are many others who have passed on leaving a legacy of positive contributions behind them.  Here is a brief biographical glimpse of a few of my personal favorites:

César Estrada Chávez was a Mexican-American born in Yuma, Arizona.  He worked in the fields throughout Arizona and California as a child and eventually became one of the greatest advocates for the rights of farmlaborers in the United States. 

His lifelong dedication to human rights for Latinos, serves as constant reminder about the importance of standing up for a cause that you believe in.  Others examples include: Baldemar Velásquez of FLOC and Dolores Huerta.

Roberto Clemente, born in Carolina, Puerto Rico, was one of the greatest outfielders in Major League Baseball.  In an era when being Latino was not the ‘in’ thing, Roberto was always himself and proclaimed his pride for his culture. 

César Estrada Chávez

What inspires me about Clemente is not what he did on the baseball field, but rather what he did off of it.  His charitable work in the Spanish-speaking world was remarkable and it was during an attempt to do such work that he lost his life in a tragic airplane crash.  Roberto Clemente has instilled the message of never forgetting where you come from and of giving back to your community. 

Frida Kahlo was born in Coyoacán, México in 1907.  She was a remarkable artist who gained little true recognition until after her death.  Her life was marked by tragedy and physical pain and suffering from polio as a young child and later being involved in a trolley accident.  The accident caused several traumatic injuries, which subsequently caused the remainder of her life to be plagued with pain. 

From her hardships, Frida found inspiration and rather than choosing to give up, she simply moved forward.  Her strength and ability to find inspiration in the face of tragedy and hardship is an example to be positive and work to overcome obstacles in life.

Benito Pablo Juárez García, born in Oaxaca, México, was a full-blooded Zapotec Amerindian.  He was born to peasants in a mountainous region and grew up speaking only Zapotecan.  He worked in the fields as a child and was illiterate and didn’t speak Spanish until after the age of twelve. However, Juárez had a passion for education.  He became a lawyer and later a judge. 

Frida Kahlo

Juárez’s leadership ability elevated him to the presidency of México in 1858, making him the first full-blooded indigenous president.  He went on to serve five terms in office, during which he implemented massive reforms. 

Juárez is proof that no matter where you come from, you can accomplish anything with hard work and belief in yourself.  For me, it doesn’t get any more inspiring than going from illiterate peasant to reforming president and the catalyst was education

A proud time to be Latino
Latinos have made many tremendous accomplishments throughout history that should serve as a source of pride for all.  However, there is always two sides to history—on the other end of this story are the countless Latinos who have allowed their lives to pass them by without contributing one positive thing to the world. 

Although, as Latinos, we know that most of us are good, hardworking people, the mainstream media will be more likely to report on those who have committed crimes or who are doing negative things than on those who are doing positive. 

Statistics show that more Latinos are pursuing higher education than ever before; the question is are you or will you be one of them?  Of course, college is not for everyone and there is a very small percentage of Latinos who do make it big in sports, music, or some other entertainment avenue. 

Benito Pablo Juárez García

The important thing to keep in mind is that you do not have to be famous for accomplishment; however, the great things you accomplish can make you famous and, who knows, one day maybe your life will be inspiring to others.  ¡Hasta la próxima vez!

I would love to hear from you about my column please send me feedback or let me know if there is something you would like me to write about.  You can e-mail me at [email protected]. ¡Gracias por tu apoyo!







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