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An American Journey. Culiacan to Redwood City

By Salomon Quintero

Loved it! 😍

An American Journey: Culiacan to Redwood City chronicles Salome Quintero's family history from the Mexican revolution on to present day.

Synopsis

An autobiography that traces the history of a family through historical events from the Mexican Revolution, the Spanish Influenza, World War II, conformity of the 1950's, UC Berkeley in the 1960's, the era from "Assassination to Resignation," all against the backdrop of racism and immigration, legal and illegal.

An American Journey: Culiacan to Redwood City is the personal memoir of Salomon Quintero. Mr. Quintero led a fascinating life. He met Cesar Chavez, participated in protests, spent some time in jail because of his participation, had several simultaneous romantic relationships before finding the love of his life, had a successful law career, and finally retired to find inner peace.


No less fascinating were the lives of his parents and grandparents. Salomon’s great-grandfather was born in Mexico when Benito Juarez was president. His grandfather died during the Spanish Influenza epidemic in 1918, leaving a young pregnant wife behind. His father, Antonio, played football with Kenny Washington and went to Mexico to live for awhile in the 1940s to avoid the draft where he met and married Beatriz from Culiacan.


After a failed business venture, Antonio decided to head back to the U.S. to look for work. He was detained at the border and forced to enlist. Beatriz smuggled her infant son across the border under her coat and registered him several months later in the U.S. Subsequent children were born in the U.S. and had a fairly typical American upbringing.


Mr. Quintero shares the trama his father endured as a soldier stationed in the Philippines. He also chronicles the ongoing family house expansion over the years. He mentions fascinating characters that were part of his life growing up, but doesn’t follow up on their lives or talk about how their presence otherwise influenced his childhood.


I was slightly disappointed with the erratic flow of the book. Chapters seem to be organized around different themes rather than chronologically, which made it difficult to keep track of how the story pieces fit together and who the characters were at any given point in the story.


Then there were odd tidbits that I would think a little research would have cleared up. For instance, Mr. Quintero mentions that Claire, a Jewish girl from New York, might have been married to his father. Shouldn’t there be records on that? He alludes to the fact that his newly married parents experienced hardships that remained family secrets as long as his mother lived, but doesn’t specify what those hardships might have been. In for a penny, in for a pound Mr. Quintero.


There were historical references and certain terms that could have been clarified for readers.


Mr. Quintero mentions that the cost of coyotes is exorbitant but doesn’t explain that he is referring to human smugglers, not the animal. This term and process could have been expanded on when he talks about how his mother smuggled her son across the border. Or when he talked about his family moving from the Cananea Copper Mines to take employment at the Copper Queen Mine, probably with the intervention of  a labor-brokerage coyote.


Mr. Quintero tells us briefly that his grandfather worked at the Cananea Copper Mines but doesn’t include the information that during that time period a violently oppressed labor strike at the mines was one of the factors leading the the Mexican Revolution.  


That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy reading An American Journey: Culiacan to Redwood City. I did. In fact, I enjoyed reading it so much that I wanted more; more clarification, more details, more organization, more historical references. I felt at times I was getting the cliff notes version of Mr. Quintero’s full and rich family history. I expect that since some of Mr. Quintero’s family is still alive, there may have been things he preferred not to dredge up. Be that as it may, I still found an engaging read.



Reviewed by

I am a voracious reader. I've also self-published several books. My interests include homesteading, traveling, specifically in Mexico, off-grid living, natural healing, herbs, and teaching. I enjoy reading everything from paranormal romance to prepping.

Synopsis

An autobiography that traces the history of a family through historical events from the Mexican Revolution, the Spanish Influenza, World War II, conformity of the 1950's, UC Berkeley in the 1960's, the era from "Assassination to Resignation," all against the backdrop of racism and immigration, legal and illegal.

I.                 WHERE ARE YOU FROM?

November 2008: I’m on a lunch break from a court trial in San Jose with my client, Pytor, a tall and charismatic but lovelorn Russian high-tech engineer. We pass by a plaque that tells the story of the son of Mexican migrant farmworkers who earned a PhD. Pytor is puzzled and says, “Both of my parents had PhDs.” I answer, “I’ll bet your grandparents weren’t peasants.” He is quiet. He then tells me his story of immigrating to the US He says,

When I left Russia, I moved to Germany. I lived there for five years and as long as I was there, I always felt like I didn’t belong. I speak perfect German, but I was always treated like a foreigner. But when I immigrated to the US, from the moment I got off the plane, I immediately felt at home. Everyone accepts me as an equal without reservation. That’s why I love America.

As an American, it made me feel good just to hear his story.

We stop at a Thai restaurant and take our seats. The waiter arrives. He looks at me, tilts his head slightly and asks with a smile, “So, where are you from?” I explain, “I’m from San Carlos, but I’m originally from Palo Alto. It’s about 20 minutes up the road.” I know what he meant, but I throw him a curve ball anyway.

He takes our orders and I contemplate the irony. I’m thinking, I’m in my native land. My forefathers have been here for more than a century. I’m sitting with a Russian émigré, fresh off the boat, but I’m the one who’s asked where I’m from. I know I shouldn’t be so sensitive about it.

My mind wanders back in time.

~~~

I’m a classic baby boomer, born in 1947, exactly nine months after Dad was discharged from the US Army. The 1950s was the time of my childhood. It was a time of conformity.

Television was the new technology of the day. We were excited when Dad set up our first TV set in the living room. Every night our family gathered around the TV to watch shows like Ozzie and Harriet and Leave it to Beaver. Through the magic of television, we were taught what it is to be American, how to act and how to look. The quintessential American family lived in the suburbs, had a white picket fence and ate Wonder Bread. Everyone aspired to be like them. No one wanted to be different. I did my best to blend in.


When I was in first grade, I came home from school one day and told my mother, “My teacher found out I’m Mexican.” Mom repeated my words as a question, “Found out?” I told her I’m half Mexican, pointing to one arm and half American, pointing to the other. Something in the ether made me feel that being Mexican was not as good as being American. I grew up in East Redwood City. It was a working-class neighborhood, with a smattering of different ethnicities and races. My friends at school were “colored,” Freddie Wilson, Russell Hamel and Lenoris Spillers. I used to walk home from school with Russell. He was the toughest kid in school. One day we stopped in at his house. He said “Hi” to his mother and I was shocked to hear them speak English to each other. It hadn’t occurred to me that people spoke English at home. It blew my little six-year-old mind.


About the author

I grew up in a Spanish speaking home in the 1950's and became active in the Chicano movement at U.C. Berkeley in the 60's, and was arrested in the Cesar Chavez grape boycott. I earned a BA in History and JD degree at Cal, and returned to my hometown where I practiced law for the next 44 years. view profile

Published on March 04, 2019

Published by Amazon Kindle

40000 words

Worked with a Reedsy professional 🏆

Genre: Biographies & memoirs

Reviewed by

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