Living by Los Dichos: Advice from a Mother to a Daughter

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9780743287784: Living by Los Dichos: Advice from a Mother to a Daughter

Dichos: Spanish sayings or proverbs

Advice is one of the most valuable gifts a mother can give to her daughter. Cristina Pérez turns to her mother's wisdom every day by reflecting on the dichos she taught her. Here Cristina shares those that have most powerfully influenced her life and translates them into solid advice. Any woman looking for guidance -- whether she is about to leave for college or is getting married -- will find what she needs with Cristina's help. Dichos transcend age, race and religion to provide just the right answer at just the right time. Most important, Cristina shows that proudly embracing your roots and staying true to your identity will guide you down the right path. Dichos have directed Cristina through the toughest challenges and led her to success. Now let them lead you.

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About the Author:

Cristina Perez is a successful lawyer, three-time Emmy Award winning television personality, radio host, entrepreneur/business owner, national author and columnist, and devoted mother and wife. The daughter of Colombian immigrants, Cristina was born in New York. Cristina was the host of the Spanish language television program La Corte de Familia (Family Court) which aired nationally and internationally in fifteen countries on the Telemundo Network/NBC (2000-2005). In 2006, Cristina made her English-language television debut on Twentieth Television’s first-run syndicated Cristina’s Court. She has been named Woman of the Year in California for her community activities and was named one of America’s Top 10 Latina Advocates. Visit her online at CristinaPerez.tv.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter One

De mi vida para tu vida

"No hay boca donde no esté,

ni lengua ni país que desconozca,

ni sabiduría que lo sustituya."

(There is no mouth where it is not present,

Neither language nor country it does not know,

No wisdom can replace it.)

-- LUÍS A. ACUNA

Learning Los Dichos

I have to admit that I'm not an expert, I'm not a doctor, and I'm not a therapist. I'm just a woman, a mother, a wife, and a professional who lives and learns from her experiences, her mistakes, her family, and her culture. This is my version of a guidebook based on my life -- from relationships and family to work and cultural identity issues and everything in between! I'm going to cover all the lessons that I learned from my mother and am now passing along to my daughter. I hope that mothers and daughters everywhere can find something in this book to enrich their lives and then pass along to their children.

As you will discover, this book, like my life, is premised on the solid fundamental teachings and lessons I have learned through dichos and wisdom from my family. I choose to use dichos because they are a symbolic vehicle for relatively simple concepts that guide me through certain situations in life. Each chapter includes symbolic dichos relevant to the chapter's content, with my interpretation of them, how I have applied them, and how you the reader can use the dichos to enhance your own life. While I provide an English translation of each dicho, it may not be literal. What I am providing is the moral of each dicho.

"Lo que bien se aprende, nunca se pierde"

(What is well learned is never lost)

In order for a culture to have any kind of longevity, its participants must actively study each stitch of thread that has created the culture and holds it together. Both young and old should learn and live by their culture's wisdom so that it can continue to flourish for future generations. Every culture possesses its own way of passing this wisdom on from generation to generation.

In the Latino culture, dichos act as that intergenerational gateway. Dichos are invaluable proverbs and sayings that succinctly deliver a serious message, value, or belief. They are used to help make a point, teach a life lesson, and validate life's trials and tribulations. Dichos serve as profound lessons to be learned from the life experiences of our forefathers, each incorporating the astuteness of past generations and serving as teaching tools for us to live by today and tomorrow. In learning and living by los dichos we continually breathe life into the inspiring, humorous, and philosophical proverbs that have woven themselves throughout Latino culture for centuries while being blind to educational, economic, and class systems. Dichos are history translated into words.

Thousands of dichos exist -- some humorous, some serious, and some specific to certain countries. Each has a particular meaning that is generally universal and crosses over all cultures.

Dichos provide messages of hope, direction, and guidance just when we need them. When for some reason or another a basic truth escapes us, dichos put us back on track. When we face challenges, dichos offer clarity and direction.

Because of these reasons and many more, dichos are the rules that I live by everyday.

"De tal palo, tal astilla"

(The apple does not fall far from the tree)

This dicho is similar to the English sayings "The apple does not fall far from the tree" and "Like father like son." My parents migrated to the United States from Colombia in the 1960s. They came to this country with essentially nothing except each other and the dream of a better life for themselves and their children. My father is from a large family of modest means, with thirteen brothers and sisters. In fact, my grandmother, my father's mother, was pregnant twenty-two times. My mother is also from a large family of eleven brothers and sisters. My family is a walking and talking billboard for the big Latino family.

Shortly after they were married, my parents decided to move to the United States "temporarily," as is frequently the intention of many immigrants. Their plan was to work and save enough money to one day send my father to medical school and return to Colombia. Forty-plus years later our family is still here.

DARÍO'S STORY

My father's dream was to become a doctor like his uncle in Colombia, whom he worked for as a young man. The United States, as my father puts it, was the land of "possibility and potential." So he and my mother arrived in Bronx, New York, in 1963, in a country where he and my mother did not know a soul. The idea was to stay for six months and find work. If my father could not find work, then they planned to return home.

An educated man, my father looked for a job wherever he could. His English was not the best, but good enough. However, it seemed that no one had any available openings that he could fill. He recalls being turned away the moment the potential employer looked at him or heard him speak. He resorted to employment agencies that were also of no help. Finally, he found a job at a hospital, in housekeeping, and worked as a janitor. The hospital was one and a half hours away from the Bronx. He earned fifty dollars a week and would spend at least one third of his pay traveling to and from the job, so he was forced to live at housing provided by the hospital. He visited my mother only on the weekends. At the time, she was pregnant with my sister.

After a short while, my father decided he needed a better job and for thirty days, he walked the streets searching. He finally found a new job with a watch company in Manhattan and was able to reunite with my mother. He also moved her to a safer neighborhood in Queens. My father worked there for over five years doing piecework on an assembly line. At this time, the watch company contracted with the United States government to make, among other things, timers for bazookas used in the Vietnam War.

My father felt like he experienced plenty of discrimination at this job from other employees who had been working there for a long time. The most senior pieceworkers were comfortable in their environment and the guy who produced the most pieces was admired as the "stud" of the workplace. When my father came along, he believed that the senior workers were threatened by this new one-man workforce. You see, my father the future surgeon, was very good with his hands and worked fast. Instead of respecting him for his good work they made fun of him. They would chastise him, saying things like, "Of course he has to work fast! He can't speak English very well so that's all he has to do." My father didn't take it personally because he knew that job was a stepping stone, but for the other workers it may have been their final destination. Nevertheless, the workers made it so uncomfortable for my father that the supervisor finally told him, "Don't worry about these jokers. If you can make more pieces than anyone else, do it because we pay by the piece. Knock yourself out." He received $1.79 per one thousand pieces. The average worker made 1,000 to 1,200 pieces per hour. My father knew he had to push himself to provide for his growing family (my brother had arrived by then), and to realize his dream of becoming a surgeon. He pushed himself to produce over 2,300 pieces per hour.

While working full time, he decided to enroll full time at Manhattan Medical School to become a laboratory technician. After graduating, my father, finally armed with improved credentials, was able to obtain better paying jobs with different hospitals in New York City and eventually became a laboratory supervisor at a blood bank.

My father's principal goal during this time was to move his family to a better neighborhood. After continually being told he could not afford it with only fifty dollars in his checking account, he bought our first home in Bethpage, New York. He borrowed all he could and for the next five years he worked two full-time jobs and one part-time job until he paid off his loans. He even managed to save enough money for medical school.

At that moment my father felt that he had worked enough -- it was time to obtain his medical degree and become a doctor. He reminded himself of his goal: "I came to the United States to find work, make money, and pursue my goal of becoming a doctor." Obviously, he could have just continued working for the rest of his life at jobs that paid the bills and supported his family but did little else. He asked himself, "Why did I come to America?" He feared that he had almost given up his dream for the complacency of the daily grind. Enough of that! It was time to go for it.

With a family of five to support, attending medical school in the United States was financially out of the question. In the early 1970s, he applied to foreign medical schools in Guadalajara, Mexico, and in Salamanca, Spain. It was more cost effective to maintain a family abroad while attending medical school on a full-time basis. Spain was not an option, as the travel cost would break him financially. So he decided to attend the Universidad Autónoma de Medicina in Guadalajara, Mexico, a university associated with the American Medical Association. We drove cross-country from New York to Mexico so my father could attend medical school.

In a short period my father had gone from a decent paycheck in an unsatisfying job to no paycheck at all in medical school, his dream. Now imagine this -- he was a full-time student, had some money from student loans, but had no job to provide for his family of three children, all under the age of twelve, and a wife. How did he and my mother make it? Simple: during his vacations and ...

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