My father left El Salvador and made his way into Mexico in time to fight in the Mexican Revolution; he fought in the armies of Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata. He entered the U.S. in 1919 at the age of 25 and worked jobs all over the U.S. including the first Ford assembly line factory. Despite the fact that he was 47 when we entered World War II, he volunteered to do his civic duty. He was rejected by the Army and Navy, but was accepted by the Merchant Marine. He was posthumously declared a veteran of the war.
He met my Colombian mother through correspondence while she was still in Colombia. They met here and married. I was born a year later and orphaned at the age of two when she died of cancer. When my father finally was forced to retire from the Merchant Marine, he spoke of the importance of loyalty to country, an education and going to college. He wanted me to become a lawyer or a doctor, but I fell in love with the idea of becoming a teacher of Spanish. My high school teachers of Spanish were my role models; teachers are more than teachers; they are individuals who listen to you when you have problems, and I had them.
I also fell in love with Hispanic culture and history; I would devour history books while in high school, and I wanted to share the information with others. I taught Spanish and Italian in day school and I taught Hispanic adults at night in preparation for the GED, so I taught all subjects. I became a school administrator and later a district administrator responsible for 150 schools in Queens in the area of safety and security. I have been president of the American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese for 12 years; I feel an obligation in assisting our teachers in improving and helping to motivate our students to learn the language. Due to my less than happy childhood (I was raised by an abusive aunt), family is important to me. I stay close to my cousins, nephews and nieces; I am Papá Noel every Christmas for the little ones.