Immigrant Stories: Ricardo and Theresa Hernandez
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
When Ricardo and Theresa Hernandez came from Mexico they brought their love of music and dance, a gift they have been sharing with the Valley for over twenty years.
Ricardo: I came to the United States in search of a better economy and to teach my kids to open their minds and get to know more people from other cultures. Both of my kids know three languages, English, Spanish and French. I was interested in the United States even as a little kid. I was playing American football all my life as a middle linebacker and a running back. My whole family was involved in football. So I always imagined that one day I would play in the United States. I never played in the pros but I did play in the semi-pros.
Gallacher: Tell me that story.
Ricardo: American football, believe it or not, started in Mexico in the 1930’s. It was a group of friends who all had money. They made teams and played one another without many rules. Some of these guys lived in the U.S. and Mexico and traveled back and forth.
Around 1930, the University of Mexico had a team called Los Pumas, but there wasn’t another team for them to play. By 1938, the National Polytechnic Institute had a team and they used to play one another once a year. Now that was a game! It was a rivalry like the Army-Navy game.
My dad played American football in Mexico in the 1950’s and my brothers and I followed in his footsteps. We all played for the National Polytechnic Institute. One of my brothers got a scholarship and went on to play for the University of Connecticut and then he transferred to Boston College and played football there. My other brother is coaching football in Mexico. It is a national team in the masters’ division. All the guys are thirty-eight and older. Some of the guys are in their sixties and still playing football.
Gallacher: Were you ever interested in soccer?
Ricardo: No, I’m too heavy for soccer. I could never play soccer. I tried once or twice but it wasn’t a good experience for me. I was too aggressive. I would go for the ball and run over people and the coaches would yell at me. So I decided pretty quickly that soccer wasn’t my sport.
Gallacher: Theresa, it doesn’t sound like Ricardo would be a very good dancer?
Theresa: No, no he is a great dancer. It was one of the things that attracted me to him. I remember the first time I met him. My brother invited him to a party at our house and we were all dancing.
I grew up in a house where there was always music and dance. So I was happy to see that this handsome man could also dance. We met dancing and we have been dancing ever since. We have been together for thirty-three years.
Ricardo: You know to be a good dancer you have to coordinate your feet, your hands and your movements especially if you are dancing with a partner, because your partner has to look good. Men are just props in the dance but we are also the managers. The women are the stars but we have to manage their movements. So there has to be a lot of coordination between feet, hands and thinking.
Gallacher: Where does this love of dance come from?
Theresa: My mother and father were both really good dancers so I think it runs through my veins. Every day that I am at home I have music on and I am dancing.
Ricardo: My parents were very good dancers as well. I use dance and music to calm my nerves after a stressful day at work. It takes fewer muscles to smile than to frown. Life is too short to spend it being grumpy.
My son and daughter are good dancers and my grandkids like to dance. When they come home to visit, we put music on and push the furniture back and we dance.
We have always felt that music and dance is a universal language that brings people of different cultures together. That’s why we started the Valley’s first bilingual, bicultural radio show in Aspen on KAJX. Every Monday night from nine to 11 for eight years we did our show, “Latino Mosaico.” We used to get 60 to 80 calls in two hours. People were requesting songs but also looking for information. It was great fun.
Theresa: For the last ten years we have been hosting a salsa dance party at Jimmy’s Restaurant in Aspen. After everyone is finished with dinner we do like we do at home. We push the tables back and people dance late into the night.
Gallacher: You also teach a class in Glenwood.
Theresa: Yes, we’ve been teaching a class at the Glenwood Community Center for the last five years. The class is bilingual. Ricardo gives instruction in English and I repeat it in Spanish. So if you are studying English or Spanish you can practice speaking while you are dancing and having fun. There is no better way to learn than by having fun.
I love the way dance can bring people together. People come into our class feeling awkward and stiff but as they begin to feel the music and the rhythm they relax and have fun. They forget about what it was that was bothering them and they dance.
Ricardo: It is interesting to watch as anglos and latinos come together in our dance class. Everyone is nervous at the beginning, but pretty soon people are smiling and laughing. They start as strangers from different cultures and they end the class as friends and it’s all through music and dance.
Gallacher: It sounds like dance has played a central role in your relationship.
Theresa: Yes, it has helped keep us together. We did our radio show together and now we teach dancing together. A lot of couples want their relationship to be either his way or her way. We learned along time ago to not think about life as mine or yours but “ours.” We are always working toward “ours”, trying to keep the balance between “mine” and “yours.”
– Note: To read past Immigrant Stories go to http://www.immigrantcolorado.blogspot.com
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