Mother taught woman about hard work
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Adriana Ayala came to the United States on her own when she was 16. Growing up in Mexico, she had learned that hard work was the key to success and often survival. It is a lesson she has never forgotten. Note: This is Adriana Ayala’s second appearance in Immigrant Stories.
Ayala: My mother was my greatest inspiration. I didn’t grow up with a father figure, so everything I knew I got from her. I do feel that the work ethic that what I have achieved is due to her example, because she was always working. She used to tell us, “Just make sure that everything that you are wearing and everything you put on the table is made possible by your hard work. You wake up early in the morning and you go to work and you come back at night and you know that you have done what you need to do.”
My mom was a maid for many years, and I think my passion to come to America was infused by her stories. My mom and my uncle used to go to Chicago when the United States had the bracero program. They were very young, 14 and 16.
My uncle would go on to Chicago, and my mom would stay and work in El Paso as a maid. They did that for many, many years. My mom would wait for my uncle to return after five or six months, and they would return to Mexico together around Christmastime. They did the same route year after year.
My mom stopped going north when I was born. She opened a little taco stand, and the money she made there allowed us to eat. She did that for most of her life. When I was 3 years old I remember learning how to make tortillas, tamales and other things she sold in the town plaza. Eventually she was forced out of the plaza. So she opened her own little restaurant. She had the restaurant for many years. In fact, that was what she was doing when I came to the United States.
Gallacher: Did you work in the restaurant?
Ayala: Oh, yes, we all had chores. Growing up you learn what your parents and grandparents tell you. My grandmother was a widow, and she lived with us for as long as I can remember. She used to tell us when we were very young that those who didn’t work didn’t deserve to eat. She told us that God wanted hardworking people.
Even when we were very young, we had to do our chores at home and do well in school, be good citizens and be respectful. So when we came home from school, there were dozens and dozens of tortillas, big tortillas for the burritos. My mom sold a lot of burritos.
Our job was to separate the tortillas and let them cool, because they would get stuck together after they were warm. After they cooled we would put them in piles and then in plastic bags. Once we had them bagged, my brother and I would bring them to the restaurant. After that we could come home and eat.
On Saturdays, we used to make menudo soup. I had to sit out with my Grandma for two or three hours and cut the tripe. I hated that job, because it smelled so bad.
We made the tortillas in the backyard on a 50-gallon drum. My mother had it converted into a stove. She would burn wood inside and heat the top of the drum and that is where she would cook the tortillas. In order to get this stove hot, we needed a lot of firewood. My brother and I had to bring the firewood from the front yard all the way to the back. That was really hard work. My arms would get really tired and full of splinters. I remember crying every time we had to do that. and we had to do it every Wednesday.
I can remember crying and saying, “I’m not going to do this for the rest of my life. I hate this. Why do I have to carry the wood? This is for guys not for girls.” But nonetheless I had to do it.
On Sundays, we had to make the tamales. We all had to spread the dough on the cornhusks and have the tamales ready. The restaurant really took everybody. We all had to work.
Adriana Ayala is the director of the Re-1 PreCollegiate program. The program is dedicated to helping outstanding students be the first in their family to go to college. Immigrant Stories appears every Monday in the Post Independent.
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