It is hard to imagine how life would be now if my father Rodolfo Estrada would have not made the choice to immigrate to San Antonio back in 1967. Last week as I was visiting with my older sister Maria Domitila, we were reflecting on my fathers wisdom of preparing our voyage to the United States from Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico. My sister was reminding me that her and my older brother and sisters came to this country legally. Back in 1967, my father was working as a jeweler for a generous man named Maurice, who owned a jewelry store on South St. Mary’s Street across from the Greyhound Station in Downtown San Antonio. This kind soul would provide my father the letter needed back in those days to bring his family to the U.S. to obtain a residential visa.
I was the first born there in San Antonio, Texas. I am one of the youngest of nine children. I was born in 1968, the same year the HemisFair Tower had its grand opening. My father named me Norma Antonia, to boast of his pride that I was a United States citizen born in San Antonio. I say this with much humor. As fate would play an important role, a man named Gerald Lyda gave me one of my first real estate opportunities. When I first met Mr. Lyda, I had no clue he was one of the largest general contractors in Texas. Mr. Lyda became one of my first mentors.
My first memories were of my family first arriving in San Antonio; we lived on Presa Street in a rental home that was a duplex. I recall that we didn’t have much. At first, we slept on the floor on cardboard paper, and our chairs were paint cans. I remember my parents struggling to provide for our family. My father had multiple jobs working at the original Earl Abel’s on Broadway, and at Joske’s downtown as a painter. He would then later be at the Marriott Downtown where he worked for over 17 years. My mother Fidelia was always working, at times working two jobs as a cook. I never recall her complaining about having too much work. I remember my mother always carried herself with much grace and a smile on her face. We would enjoy her homemade Mexican cooked meals. And I enjoyed watching her set the table, always setting the table with her best plates. We didn’t have much; yet, her extraordinary talents to make the food taste and look like a professional chef had prepared it made our table look elegant. My parents were from very humble families from Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico. They taught us that being poor did not mean we would be dirty or have no manners. They instilled in us a sense of pride and dignity.
My parents always set the example for their children, that with hard work and dedication, there was nothing we could not achieve. They taught us to be honest and decent citizens, never relying on the government for help. My father was a man that was not wealthy, yet he carried himself like he was brought up by wealthy parents. He would not allow us to speak slang at home. We were only allowed to speak Spanish, and he made sure to correct us immediately and firmly if we mispronounced any words. I am so grateful he took the time to instill in us the importance of our Spanish language and roots.
For all the new families, children and individuals that have or are immigrating to the United States, I ask that you take the time to reflect and make a choice to leave a positive legacy for your generation. Become the kind of immigrant, Mexicano, Latino or Hispano which will give a positive image of what we truly represent. The Mexican people are hard working, honest and generous. We come to this country to give and not take. We are all about family and community.
The Estrada Family is proud to share that we have active and retired members in the US Army, registered nurses, teachers, a medical student (that is soon to be a surgeon), a life coach, an artist and a real estate agent. And several of the grandchildren are attending universities and colleges.
The Estrada Family continues to grow, and the more we grow, the more we want to become an asset for the great country we live in! We want generations to come to live with a sense of pride knowing that their ancestors made a contribution to this country, that we valued the opportunity we were given to have a better life here in the United States, and that we are proud to be U.S. citizens and Tejanos.
My father passed away over two years ago, after losing his battle with diabetes. I know my father was able to enjoy seeing several of his children and grandchildren walk the stage as they graduated from their respective universities. I can only imagine the sense of pride my father must have felt knowing that he had made the right decision to bring his family to live a better life in the United States. Gracias Papa!
With all the negative media surrounding the overwhelming crisis on the border brought upon immigrants, I wanted to launch my first article with the legacy of my Mexican parents to bring to light a more positive view of immigrants living in this country. For the next several articles, I will continue to interview and share positive stories of immigrants in this country who have made a difference in their communities, and who’s children are now important and serve as successful role models.
Norma Garcia is a Staff Writer at Latino Giant. Norma was born and raised in San Antonio, TX, where she has served as a real estate agent for over 14 years. She has an impressive record of volunteering and giving back to her community, beginning at the age of 18 years old when she would go to Laredo, MX to help do missionary work at a small Christian church. She is the author of “My Dear Jasmine: From Tragedy to Triumph” published in 2008.