|Photo from Gustavo Arellano's Weekly.|
Gustavo's life story as the son of immigrants and first gen community college student plus his own power to communicate with intellect and wit has made him a popular commencement speaker. Indeed, Gustavo, has given commencements speeches across this county and region at colleges and universities inclding UCI and UCLA.
However, Gustavo's coverage as a local journalist of the Orange diocese scandal of pedophile priests and SOCCCD's former trustee Tom Fuentes' involvement in that disgrace has apparently made him persona non grata as a commencement speaker at IVC despite years of receiving nominations and support from student, staff and faculty. Indeed, one year Rebel Girl (along with others) was told straight out at a committee meeting that the chair of the committee would not forward Arellano as a finalist even if he was nominated because she she so disapproved of how he had characterized Fuentes in his coverage of the scandal. (Fuentes worked as communication director of the Orange diocese from 1977-1989, years during which the diocese covered for pedophile priests at the expense of their child victims.)
Anyway, Gustavo is still in demand as a commencement speaker and who know, maybe one day he'll be able to speak at the little college in the orange groves, where his wife Delilah Snell is an alum. Rebel Girl hopes so. She nominated him once again this year.
Last week at Riverside Community College Gustavo was the commencement speaker. Here's an excerpt:
...Then, something happened that made writing this speech simple: my mother passed away in late April from ovarian cancer.
I’m at the point of my mourning process where I’m using my mom’s life to try and extrapolate lessons for myself. And I feel that all you graduates can learn something as well from my Mom, to help you in the years and decades to come.
My mother migrated to this country from Mexico in the 1960s when she was nine years old. She immediately went to work in the garlic fields of Gilroy and Hollister up in central California, before my grandparents moved down to Anaheim. She never went past ninth grade, because Mami was forced to drop out of school to help her family.
Not getting an education was something she always regretted, even as she embarked on a well-paying but tiring job as a tomato canner in Fullerton while raising four children. So she instilled in all of us kids the value of an education. Mami took us to libraries during the summer, and pushed us to join tutoring and honors programs.
All along, Mami emphasized that we strive to achieve a better career than her and my father, who was a truck driver. Not because their occupations were somehow bad or ignoble, but because the two of them had to take those hard jobs because of their lack of high school diplomas.
Her words and actions made a deep impression on us kids. All four of us got bachelor’s degrees, and three of us earned master’s. Three of us started in community college. And our example not only made her proud, but inspired Mami.
When she got laid off in 1997, she saw an opportunity. She decided to enroll at Fullerton College and go for a cosmetology degree. And after that? Maybe her own shop.
My mom jumped into the program with gusto. She paid for all the courses, textbooks, fees, equipment and such with money she had saved over the years. She made friends, read her books, and begin to experiment on us with different curls, clippers, and hair colors.
Before long, Mami began to do the hair for women and girls from her ancestral Mexican village for their weddings, quinceañeras, and other special occasions. I always remember her happy and proud of what she was achieving— finally, she was getting the education she always wanted.
And she was doing it at a community college.
This is the part of the story where I’m supposed to tell you she got her degree and lived happily ever after. But it didn’t turn out that way....
|From Arellano's LA Times' article: "I get one last Lent with my Mami. I'm using it to learn our family's capirotada recipe"|
Coda: Throughout the years Rebel Girl has been told to her face that Gustavo and all the others she nominates (the UCR prof of lit, a Muslim woman who was a Pulitzer Prize finalist; the Vietnamese born gay mayor of Garden Grove; the local female Muslim journalist, etc. etc.) are all too political and that the men (mostly) in suits, mostly white, are not. Somehow these traditional choices transcend politics via success and privilege even though, as Rebel Girl sees it, there is little that is more political than a man in a suit telling her and her students how to live their lives. Somehow being female, being brown, being Muslim, being gay is too political. Too bad.