SBS 301 Cultural Diversity/Prof. Koptiuch         Fall 2012       Personal Memory Ethnographies

Amalia Escobar

The Gift of Giving

In my childhood home we almost never had a Christmas tree. It was always more important to have a nativity scene on display. This helps to establish the type of people that come from my family. We were always taught that it was the Nino Dios (Baby Jesus) who brought us our gifts, not Santa Clause. We grew up only speaking Spanish at home and held many Hispanic values.

I was about three or four years old and it was Christmas morning. I had received some of the coolest toys as presents that year and I was so excited to play with them all. They were all so different and I loved each and every one of them. Before I had the chance to rip them all out of their boxes, my grandmother told me to pick just one of them to keep. I was confused. She told me that she would be giving the rest of my presents to some children in Mexico who were less fortunate than I and had not received any presents at all.

I became even more confused. Why did their parents not buy them presents of their own? Why did I have to give up all of my presents just because they had bad parents? These were MY gifts and she was just going to give them all away? I was torn; I did not want to have to choose and give away my toys.

My incident takes place in the 90s which was also at the start of my childhood. At the time, it had been important to me because I had felt as though I was being punished. My toys were all being taken from me (except for one) and I had done nothing wrong to deserve that. Now, I see it as important because it helped to broaden my understanding of cultural differences.

We traveled across the border often to Palomas from where we lived in New Mexico. The roads in Palomas were dirt roads. It has been a few years since I have been to that town, but as I recall there was no such thing as pavement once we crossed the border. I always remember having to keep the windows rolled up so that we would prevent the car from getting dusty. The sense of poverty in that town seemed to be as pervasive as the dirt.

Life as a young child in Palomas, Chihuahua was not easy, nor was it pleasant. My name is Miguel and along with my 4 younger siblings, I grew up in a poverty stricken home. My mother took care of the 5 of us as best as she could after my father left us. Receiving gifts for our birthdays or Christmas was rare. We simply could not afford it. As the oldest of the children, I always felt a sense of responsibility for the others. I felt badly that they did not have the opportunity to experience what most children do. I was only about 7 years old so there was not much I could do to help them out.

My grandparents emigrated from Durango, Mexico in the 1960s. They had lived in Mexico all of their lives but made the decision to come to the United States after they started having children. Though they have been living in America for decades, they still hold their values and culture close to their hearts. They have done their best to instill those same values into their children and then their grandchildren.

Because we lived so close to the border and our family is of Mexican descent, it is hard not to be aware of the current events in Mexico. Around the 80s and 90s economic growth in Mexico was so poor that the value of the peso had to be decreased by 78 percent. The border town of Palomas, which is where I had dropped off my extra toys, has always been a poor town. We traveled there almost every week just to attend mass on Sundays and I cannot recall a single paved road. There were barefoot children on the streets and women selling crafts outside of most stores. It was clear that the economic downturn impacted this town severely.

One day, shortly after Christmas, I went out for a walk. I was heading over to the church to spend some time praying. It is what brought me comfort when I was feeling down. While I was there I prayed for a miracle. I was tired of the holidays my brothers and sisters had to spend feeling different than other kids. I wanted to give them something good for once.

On my way home from the church a car pulled up beside me. A little girl opened her door and handed me a bag. I did not know why, but I took it. As they drove away, I opened the bag. It was what I had been praying for. The bag was filled with toys that had never even been played with before. I felt a sense of joy and relief. I had the opportunity to surprise my brothers and sisters with these gifts just in time for Dia De Los Reyes Magos. That is exactly what I did. The look on their faces was priceless and it is a year that I shall never forget. I am so thankful to that little girl for donating these nice toys to me that winter day and I am also thankful to God for hearing my prayers and making a miracle happen.

Eventually, my grandmother explained to me that it was not the children’s fault that they had not received any gifts. She made me understand that if it were me in their shoes, I would be appreciative of another child sharing their gifts with me, I knew she was right. Before then, I had not been aware that there were people in this world who were poorer than we were (or richer for that matter). Now when I think back to that Christmas, I do not remember having just one toy. I remember having the opportunity to share my Christmas joy with other children.

As an American who is of Mexican descent, it is important to me never to turn my back on my people. If there is anything I can do to help out a Mexican in struggle, no matter how small the gesture may be, it is my belief that I should do everything that I can to help out. I owe my outlook on life not only to this specific Christmas event, but to my grandparents who taught me to think this way.

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