I was the seventh child in a family of ten. We had five boys and five girls, an even match. We lived in a small town in Michigan. It was a quiet, peaceful place. We were one of the few Mexican-American families that lived in town all year round.
Dad had a good job in a factory. Most of the Mexican families were migrant laborers and only came to the state in the summertime. Dad and his family came to Michigan as migrants too. When his parents, brothers and sisters moved back to Texas, he decided to keep his family in Michigan and work in an auto factory.
I guess we did pretty well in Michigan, especially compared to our relatives in Texas. We lived in a big house with a big yard. Fruit trees and beautiful flowers decorated our yard. We had plenty to eat. Dad’s family in Texas wasn’t so fortunate. They didn’t have very much money. Many of them still traveled the country to work various migrant jobs. In the winter, they all headed back to San Antonio to count their family profits.
Every summer until I was twelve, Mom took all of us kids to the Traverse City area to pick cherries. Dad taught all of us children that hard work and an education would enable us to achieve success in America.
We usually joined the flocks of migrant workers from down south who migrated to the Michigan fruit fields. We followed the caravan of cars up to Lake Leelanau, just north of Traverse City. There, we went to the home of a nice fruit farmer. He housed us in clean garages and barns and paid us the average wages. These were much better conditions than other migrant families had to endure at neighboring farms.
In the fifties and sixties, discrimination was obvious towards Mexican-American migrants. We could only swim in the "Mexican section" of Lake Leelanau. We had separate bathroom facilities. They reserved a special Mass at church just for the Mexicans. It wasn´t that people were rude to us. They just kept us separate then sent us on our way when the work was done.
We worked long hours, from 7:00 am until 6:00 pm each evening.
Each Saturday, Mom paid us our allowance which was based on the work we completed. We learned so many valuable lessons in the Cherry fields. Dad was right. Hard work did reap rewards. We also learned the value of a loving family.