Return to El Salvador: The Escobars

For most of the past 12 years I have gotten to know my father’s side of the family more than my mother’s. This is because I usually stay with my father and sister. My family there is very “Coto,” and it’s easy to see how similar we are. When I first met my family, I noticed right away that the Cotos walk the same. We have a distinctive duck waddle that is easy to spot when we are together. The more time I spend with my bother, sisters and father, the more of these traits I have noticed.

Since most of the Escobars are still in El Salvador, I haven’t had a chance to get to know them as well. During this trip I really got to see what the other side of the family was like.

One night after going out to eat Pupusas, a typical Salvadoran dish, we stopped by my Aunt Haydee’s house. As she was talking, I noticed right away that my brother Ernesto and she make very similar facial movements. I chuckled a little and hoped she didn’t notice. I could just picture Ernesto making the same face.

I looked over to my aunt Tita on the couch and there she was, sitting just as I would. Back to a corner, one arm stretched resting on the sofa back, the other in the air supporting her head. Up until that point I always thought my mannerisms came exclusively from my father’s side. It was nice to see one from my mother.

I’ve often wondered what else I got from my mother. Looking so much like my father, I thought a lot of my personality might have come from her. Watching the family interact, I got to see their characteristics. My Aunt Tita and her daughters are warm, fun loving, and silly. My Aunt Dalilla and her sons are more quiet, reserved, and pensive. What a wide range of personalities! I definitely see these same traits in myself. It appears my hunch was correct, I am very much an Escobar.

That weekend was my cousin’s wedding. It was one of the reasons that I decided to go back to El Salvador. In attendance were all but one of my aunts and cousins I had not seen in 12 years. Some of them resembled my sister and her daughter. Others reminded me of my late grandmother. My cousin Cesar bares a striking resemblance to Ernesto. He was there with his wife, daughter, and newborn son. Again I’m reminded of the life I might have had. We danced and laughed the whole night.

Besides figuring out which family members looked alike, I also learned more about our family history. I learned that my grandfather, Hector Escobar, worked in construction and even helped build the Panama Canal. It’s very cool to think that our family had a small part to play in its creation.

Getting to know the Escobars was a lot of fun. I got to see another side of my family and myself.

What Obama’s Victory Meant to Me

Last night the world watched as Barack Obama was elected the 44th president of the United States, and its first black president. For me it was a very emotional and special moment. I watched as a man who has inspired me, who I identify with and who I voted for was lifted into one of the most important positions in the country. What blew me away about this moment was the beauty of seeing all these people come together, united as one, to celebrate a man who gave them hope.

Being Hispanic and growing up in a white household, the issue of race was not important, but it was always there. Throughout my life I have been labeled as “Mexican” because of my skin or “White” because of where I grew up. The truth is I am neither and I am both at the same time. I am Latino, white, black, Asian, German, Jewish as well as a host of other races and cultures which is a reflection of the people I call friends and family. In Obama I see myself. Someone caught between racial identities but at the same time represents the very best parts of what it means to be American.

What struck me the most about last night was all the faces of the people in crowd. White, Black, Latino, young and old all came together to celebrate this historic moment. You could see the hope in their eyes and the admiration they had for our new president. People like Jesse Jackson and Oprah Winfrey who are leaders in their own right last night were humbled to tears. Last night they were not famous celebrities, they were just one of the crowd.

This is where history is made. These are the moments we learned about in school. The moments that Obama himself talked about in his speech. Moments like when women got the right to vote or when Martin Luther King gave his “I have a dream” speech. This must have been what it was like to be inspired by JFK. To be a part of it, to experience it for oneself is truly remarkable.

I feel I have to say congratulations to John McCain for putting up a real fight. While I don’t agree with his politics, his devotion to America is unquestionable. His concession speech was classy, well spoken and sincere. Where was that John McCain during the campaign? Where was the John McCain from SNL? Last night he too rose above his parties politics and acknowledged the significance the moment with honor and respect.

To me this victory meant the realization of MLK’s dream and the dream of millions of Americans who gave everything to make this world a better place. It represents the American dream and the ideal that anything is possible if we work hard. Last night wasn’t about black or white, Republican or Democrat. It was about people coming together. People celebrating the possibility of change and the power of hope. It is a moment that represents the very best of America and a moment that I will not soon forget. Today I am proud to say I am an American.

Congratulations Barack Obama, our 44Th president of the United States of America.

My Birthdays – Nelson/Roberto

Yesterday was a friend of mines birthday. We went out to eat for 3 hours and had lots of fun. I love getting together like this for birthdays and my birthday. However this wasn’t always the case. Growing up I never knew my real birthday and it always bugged me that everyone else knew there’s. Some people even knew the exact time of birth. I had no idea. I used to look at calendar and feel like it was blank.

I did have a birthday that my adoptive parents gave me when I was adopted. Growing up this is what we celebrated but it always felt so …hollow and fake. Even thought we had cake and everything it never felt like it was mine. Don’t get me wrong I still enjoyed my birthdays and of course loved the presents…who doesn’t?

Looking back on it now I think those feeling of emptiness were really part of something bigger. Your birthday while not being terribly important to the in larger scheme of life is an important part of your identity. Its something so simple that people take for gran it. Whenever someone asked how old I was I would say something like “I’m 15…I think” It was that little bit of uncertainty that bothered me so much. I could be 15 or 14 or 16. I never knew.

Now that I know when my birthday is, I developed a sense of pride when I tell people. After 16 years of uncertainty it feels so good to be able to look someone in the eye and say I was born on may 22, 1981 at 2pm in San Salvador. I think that why I make such a big deal of it now and the fact that I have two birthdays. I’ll joke with friends and say “today is my second birthday what did you get me?” Of course they always come back with “you only get one” Hey it doesn’t hurt to try.