Road to Junction: A Mexican couple’s determination to give their children a good life
Thirteen years ago San Juana Bravo and her husband Mario left their home in Mexico so that they, like parents everywhere, could give their children the world.
“Mexico is beautiful,” San Juana said, “but people don’t have opportunities for jobs (and) better lives.”
Mario knew friends who worked in the peach orchards in Palisade and so he came north to work on one of the farms for three months.
He recalled having to work five hours without stopping for a drink of water during the summer heat. It was different than the work he had done in Mexico at the Coca Cola bottling plant where he worked 10-12 hours a day, six days a week for $10 a day.
After the plant closed, he headed north ahead of his wife and young son, to find a job and a place to live.
A month later San Juana and their toddler son, Mario, Jr., came to join him. Her parents accompanied the young mother on her journey to the United States. The parents then said their good-byes and returned home to their small town in the state of Guanojuato, in central Mexico.
The Bravos live in a small mobile home on Orchard Mesa with their four children — Mario, 14, Hannia, 10, Joe, 7, and Max, 2.
Max sits on his father’s lap and helps himself to one of the red apples on the tabletop while his parents talk about why they emigrated to Colorado. Hanging in the kitchen are embroidered floral curtains, made in Mexico, reminding Mario and San Juana of where they were born.
Occasionally Hannia would translate for her parents when they needed help finding the exact English words to convey what they wanted to say.
Growing up bilingual, speaking two languages — English and Spanish — is one of the benefits their children have acquired, San Juana said.
The children picked up English while attending the Duel Immersion Academy in Riverside. Their parents learned by attending English as a Second Language classes that used to be offered at Clifton Elementary School. Later they studied English with volunteer tutors at Mesa County Libraries’ Literacy Center.
San Juana, 34, remembered the difficulty of not understanding the language when she first moved here. She needed a translator for doctor visits, for example. Now she can help her kids with their homework, and she volunteers at the library and at Riverside Educational Center, an after-school program.
Mario, Jr. attends Bookcliff Middle School where he earns “good grades and is a good student,” his parents say with pride.
Someday, “Mario wants to work for Google,” his father said. “He’s very smart,” good with computers and also plays guitar and drums and likes playing soccer.
“We hope one day to see our kids realize their dreams,” Mario, 36, said.
They didn’t believe that could happen if they stayed in Mexico.
In Grand Junction, Mario has worked at Castings Inc., an aluminum foundry, for the past 12 years which has allowed him to support his family. He was also able to buy a car — once a dream of his. Another dream is to someday buy a house.
Until then, the Bravos are in the process of remodeling their two-bedroom, one bath, mobile home, by adding a small edition so that their daughter, who’s almost 11, can have her own room.
“We don’t live like the rich, but we live better than (we would) in Mexico,” San Juana said.
While members of San Juana’s extended family have visited them in Colorado, Mario has not seen his family for more than a decade.
“I have seen them through Skype (a free interactive Internet program), but we don’t touch hands for 14 years,” Mario said.
Although leaving behind their own parents and extended family is “sad,” Mario is grateful that he is able to provide for his own family.
“We had a dream, to prepare our kids for the future,” he said.
On Christmas Eve the entire family attended midnight Spanish Mass at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in downtown Grand Junction. San Juana helps out with serving food at the church during special events such as funerals.
In Mexico, they participated in a tradition of walking from house to house and singing Christmas carols carrying a special doll representing the baby Jesus.
Another Mexican tradition is making tamales at Christmas time — one that San Juana continues to observe. She generously sent a visitor home with several after a recent visit.
San Juana said she misses “my friends, my family, the parties, the weddings, (and) the quinceaneras” — the celebration of a girl’s 15th birthday, marking the transition from childhood to young womanhood.
And, she also misses the town plazas in the center of most Mexican cities and villages where residents walk, talk, play music, sometimes dance — and generally mingle and enjoy being outside with friends and neighbors.
Birthdays, or when relatives fall ill, also bring longings for Mexico. Occasionally the Bravos send money to family members so that they can buy medicine, San Juana said.
Still, the family is happy — their beautiful, healthy and well-mannered children clearly their pride and joy.
“This nation gave me more than I dreamed — mis hijos, (my children), a job, a car, an established home,” Mario said. “I love this nation. It helped me grow up strong.”
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