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Education led to great opportunities

Walter Gallacher
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Walter GallacherRicardo Torres
ALL |

Ricardo Torres grew up in Mexico City the son of working class parents. His mother always saw education as the escape from the confines of poverty. She made sure her son got a college education by working long hours as a cleaning woman. In 1989, Ricardo came to Aspen to teach Spanish. Here he remembers growing up in Mexico City.

Torres: I was so lucky because Mexico City is a very cosmopolitan city. You have to take the worst with the best because the City is like a coin with two different sides. It could be good and it could be bad. And my mother always had this obsession that going to school was the way to get rid of the bad influence. So she kept supporting me until I finished college.

My mother never got the chance to go to school. Her father thought that only boys go to school. So she stayed home helping my grandma and became nobody or at least that is the way she thought of herself. So that is why she focused on us. She would say, “You are not going to be like me. You need to go to school and finish something”.



A couple of years before my father died he left us, and my mother started working as a custodian in a middle school, cleaning bathrooms just to support us. She was older but she wasn’t afraid even though she had never worked at a formal job before. She was always working at home with us, her eleven kids.

And so thanks to her and the culture in Mexico City, which is one of the largest cities in the world, I was able to succeed. Everything I know comes from there. I used to go to the theaters, plays, movies, international film fests.



I really liked to hang around with my professors. In Mexico it is a little different than in the United States. In Mexico, students and professors are friends. They go to bars and restaurants together. There is none of the separation that you see here.

And another thing, teachers and professors have a little more power because parents don’t really get involved, especially in the high schools and the universities. So you really are in the hands of the school or university.

Gallacher: Why do parents take a hands-off attitude?

Torres: Because they trust the schools. They believe that teachers know better than a parent. I remember when my mother used to send me to school and she would say, “You better behave and do everything that your teacher says, wrong or right”. There is this very old tradition to respect the elders, especially teachers.

I never heard my parents ever say, “Yeah, your teacher is wrong”. Never, never.

Teachers were really trusted. And somehow it works because if you have a bad teacher you can learn from that. You learn not to do what that teacher is doing. My third grade teacher used to pull my ears when I was behaving badly and I hated her for that, but I also learned from her. And you don’t judge them. It is just the way it is in Mexico.


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