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’s Like Mexicans: Personal Experiences Essay, Research Paper

Gary Soto’s Like Mexicans: Personal Experiences

My decision to write in response to Gary Soto’s work, ?Like Mexicans?

was influenced for the most part because of the similarities between myself and

Gary Soto, and our families included. Gary Soto is a Mexican American male, who

grew up in the San Joaquin Valley in the industrial part of a town called Fresno.

His grandparents came to this Great Valley in search of creating a better life

for themselves and their families. I am also a Mexican American male who was

born and raised in the San Joaquin Valley in a small town called Porterville. My

grandparents migrated with their children, my mother, father, and their brothers

and sisters in hopes of creating a better life for themselves as well. At the

time economic betterment meant working as a hired slave for minimal income and

keeping your mouth shut. After all, you were nothing more than a wetback who

came to America to reap her benefits.(This ludicrous ideology is still present

today) Gary Soto’s grandparents and my grandparents, although they ma y be a

generation behind one another, I am sure were exposed to many of the same

hardships and or social barriers. It was not uncommon back then as it is not

uncommon today for Mexican families with minimal work skills to be forced into

the fields to work with their children alongside in hopes of escaping poverty.

For the most part such families remained poverty stricken due to unfair and

illegal wages and work conditions. However irrelevant this all may sound, facing

similar hardships or obstacles will often create a sense of unity among those

who are affected by such conditions. In short, I feel that not only do Gary Soto

and I share a common ethnic origin, but all that comes with our origin, be it

pride, shame, or ideology.

“Like Mexicans” is a short story in which Gary Soto is constantly being

reminded that he should marry his own kind. His own kind being one of Mexican

descent, and of poverty and refraining from others, especially ?Okies? as his

grandmother used to always say. Soto ends up marrying a Japanese woman, not a

Mexican. But he still has to deal with his internal struggle and acceptance of

this choice. One cannot be looked down upon for questioning oneself and the

decisions one makes, especially when it comes to marrying after being raised in

a household that reinforced the belief , ?Marry Your Own?. My mother and my

father never told me that I should marry one of my own. My mother always told me

to do what ever it would take to make myself happy. Now that I think about it,

she did sometimes tell me that I could meet a nice girl at church. ?Mijito,? she

always began, ?Don’t you want to marry a nice girl? There are a lot of nice

girls that go to church. How can you want to marry a girl who will sleep aroun

nd?? I was reluctant to tell her that the nice girl’s parents were saying the

same thing to them about me. Gary Soto’s mother never said too much to him in

regards to marrying any one type of woman in particular. ?If you find a good

Mexican girl, marry her of course,? (page 696) she once replied to him. She did

however respond in a worrisome manner and with hesitation when she realized that

her son was going to marry a Japanese woman.

I was in love and their was no looking back. She was the one. I told my

mother who was slapping hamburger into patties. ?Well, sure if you want to marry

her,? she said. But the more I talked, the more concerned she became.(page 697)

I recall vividly when my mother met Tanya, my wife, for the first time.

She said that she liked Tanya, but that she didn’t think she was really my type.

What then was my type? After marrying Tanya, I began to wonder if she was ?

Mexicana? enough for me. After all, she was very liberal, strong and open minded.

I think this is why my mother used to tell me she didn’t think Tanya was my type.

My mother reminds me of Gary’s grandmother, very submissive, docile, your

stereotypical Mexicana. Tanya didn’t like to cook, she was in no way submissive,

and was at times what my mother would term as unlady like.

Gary Soto’s grandmother believed that just about everyone was an ?Okie?

if they were not Mexicans. Gary’s grandmother, although I am sure she wanted the

best for him was very stereotypical. She once again reminds me of my mother in

this way. Their weakness in being stereotypical is almost forgivable and cute. I

think it is more out of ignorance of others and there is no real harm meant. One

thing we must keep in mind as well, is the time in which this story took place

and the exposure the grandmother might have had to others outside of her

immediate family. My mother lived a sheltered life and really never had the

opportunity to be exposed to the real world. My mother had a habit of trying to

make me believe that children who did not obey their parents were in general bad

children. Parents were the divine authority and should never be questioned,

since they are the parents they always know what’s best. This was at least what

my mother was taught by her mother and can you blame her for inheriting su ch an


For her, everyone who wasn’t Mexican, black, or Asian were Okies. The

French were Okies, the Italians in suits were Okies. When I asked about the Jews,

whom I had read about she asked for a picture. I rode home on my bicycle and

returned with a calendar depicting the important races of the world. ?Pues si,

son Okies tambien!? (page 696)

I also found Gary’s Soto’s grandmother amusing because she would

ridiculously lump people together. This however is easier than trying to

recognize each and every different ethnic group that exist on the face of the

earth, but it is our differences that often make us so unique.

One particular part in this short story that really disturbed me, was

the fact that Gary and his friend Scott at a young age could make the

distinction among their different ethnic groups. By this I mean that there was

an acknowledgment that both Gary and his friend Scott came from different

ethnicity groups and should therefore keep within their groups when considering

marrying. Couples often marry those of the same ethnic identity for a sense of

familiarity. One may also want to spend their life with an individual who shares

the same cultural ideology. This shared ideology could be political, religious,

economic etc. A shared or common ideology reduces conflict and creates a sense

of unity. Marriage after all is supposedly the act of two people uniting for the

rest of their lives. I would not be a bit surprised if Scott at the same time

was being reinforced by family members or peers that he too should stay among

his own people.

?No offense, Scott,? I said with an orange slice in my mouth, ?but I

would never marry an Okie? We walked in step almost touching, with a sled of

shadows behind us. ?No offense, Gary,? Scott said , ?but I would never marry a

Mexican.? (page 696)

I often have similar conversations with my good friend and housemate

Adrian, in which I often find myself believing that I should marry a good

Mexicana. I haven’t been reinforced by family to this ideology. I think it is

due more towards the frustration I have with our social structure. I have the

sense that I could relate better to someone of common descent. Someone who has

endured the same pain and or confusion of ones own distinctiveness, social class,

ethnicity, etc.. I can honestly see myself living the rest of my life with a

person who is ?Other? than white. However wrong or contradictory it may sound,

my feelings are such. I felt that Gary and Scott shouldn’t have felt the way

they did about marrying their own, yet I shared the same feelings. I believe in

the pride of ones own heritage and descent but I also believe in a diversified

world. I often tell people that as long as you love an individual their

ethnicity should have no significance. I now have to ask myself whether or not I

really b elieve that. It’s very confusing for me, as I am sure Gary was confused.

Gary is somewhat reluctant at first to go to his future mother in law’s

house with his fiancee Carolyn, but later is relieved upon his discovery.

When we pulled into the drive, I panicked and begged Carolyn to make a U

turn and go back so we could talk about it over soda. She pinched my cheek

calling me a ?Silly Boy.? I felt better though when I got out of the car and saw

the house: the chipped paint, a cracked window, boards for a walk to the back

door. There were rusting cars near the barn. A tractor with a net of spiderwebs

under a mulberry. A field, a bale of barbed wire like children’s scribbling

leaning against an empty chicken coop.(page 697)

Gary Soto’s discovery of his fiancee and her family was that they were

similar to Mexicans. ?These people were just like Mexicans, I thought. Poor

people.? (page 698) Of course not all Mexicans are poor, but a large percentage

of the Mexican population do have to overcome many more obstacles and hardships,

such as racism and discrimination in order to sustain the equivalent social

status of a middle class Caucasian group.

?On the highway, I felt happy, pleased by it all. I patted Carolyn’s

thigh. Her people were like Mexicans, only different.?(page 698)

Asian immigrants are subjected to many of the same social and economic

barriers as are Mexicanos who migrate from Mexico. They are often wrongfully

perceived as a group of people who are coming to take advantage of an

economically rich system.(Our economic system may seem plentiful in comparison

to their economic system back home) They are therefore looked upon as ?The

Other? and are treated as such.

Gary Soto at the end of this short story I believe overcame his self

questioning of whether or not Carolyn was right for him. It is a shame that one

is socially conditioned so much that he or she would have to justify their

validity and wanting of another human being. I suspect that this is simply just

another characteristic out of a million that has evolved out of a complex social

order. It saddens me sometimes to think that I often believe that there are

people for me and people that are not for me. In actuality, there are no rules

to relationships that determine who one ought to marry. These are all what I

will term social constraints.

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