Debunking the Myth
I like to believe my grandfather crossed that border so many years ago to plant the seeds of a better future for those who would cross the border later - I hope my work contributes to the well-being of la gente.
TBHP: Can you describe yourself in three words or less?
W: Muy Padre (as in "dad", not as in "cool").
TBHP: Can you tell me a little bit about your childhood?
W: I grew up in San Antonio with only one brother but most of my memories include my large extended family on both my mothers' and fathers side. I had a great childhood. I was an anxious and analytical little kid and spent alot of time in my own head...which was pretty tough until I was able to take all that intellectual energy and pursue my PhD (finished in September!). We played outdoors alot, but also played more than our share of video games.
Like many Hispanic parents, my parents worked hard to send my brother and me to Catholic school, and I am proud of the education we got there. I generally liked school, and tended to do well, so I suppose I just kept going forever.
Even though high school is generally a tough time, I liked my high school experience (Go Jackets!). I had good friends, I enjoyed running cross country, and, well, I didn't realize how lucky I was to be around like minded folks who tended to accept me without question. I didn't really have a sense of ethnic or political identity during high school, because I wasn't forced to. It was comfortable to grow up proud of who you are and who "your people" are, even if you don't really realize what's going on.
TBHP: You are married, right? How did you guys first meet?
W: This may be a weird one, Ha!... My partner and I met when we were studying abroad in Puebla, Mexico, and I was doing an internship at a hospital back when I still thought I wanted to go to medical school. For some reason, she joined me in a hospital on the day the doctors were taking me to the birth unit. We saw three births that day, which I think may have kinda influenced her more than we anticipated, as she later did her undergrad thesis with parteras (midwives) before becoming a doula. It was romantic?
TBHP: Any good advice for fathers?
W: As the saying goes, "it takes a village." I kinda think there are two truths that extend from this. First, raising kids is far easier when there are people around to support you. Thus it's important to nurture these relationships. For some of us, who are lucky enough to live close to parents and family, this may come naturally. For others, who have moved away from their home towns, it's important to create other relationships that can help you through the tough times of parenting. Second, remember, while you NEED a village now, you may not need it forever. As my kids have grown up (one is 7, one is 4, so we made it past diapers!), it's MY turn to be the village. So give support to those parents who need it, but then when the time comes, remember to pay it forward.
TBHP: Is being Latino important to you?
W: Pff, it's among the most important! It's funny, when I first went to college at a largely white upperclass institution, I tried as hard as I could not to be identified as "the Latino". I didn't want to be characterized like that, so I avoided Spanish clubs or Latin clubs for my first three years. I wanted to be allowed in to spaces just like everyone else without having to explain where I came from or why I thought a certain way, and I didn't want to have to represent all Latinos everywhere. What's more, I hated when people thought I was there because of affirmative action.
The problem, which I see in hindsight, wasn't with me, but with the rarity in which Latinos and Latinas make it to institutions of higher learning. It is natural for young students not to want to defend themselves every time they speak. I mean these are 18, 19 year old Latinos and Latinas who are living away from their homes for the first time, and all of the sudden we find ourselves having to speak for our whole race, our whole upbringing, our whole heritage. At the same time, we had to convince people that we were there because we earned it, not just because the school wanted "diversity."
I used to beat myself up over hiding my Latinidad in college, but that wasn't really useful. It's much more useful to be forgiving of our 18-year-old selves who were scared out of their minds, and do the best we can to create environments where Latinos and Latinas leaving home for the first time can comfortably explore and take pride in who they are.
TBHP: William, how would you like to be remembered?
W: You know, my work and research focuses on the impact of immigration enforcement on Latino communities. I hope, in some way, for someone, that my work will make their lives better, healthier, and happier. I like to believe my grandfather crossed that border so many years ago to plant the seeds of a better future for those who would cross the border later. So yes, I hope my work contributes to the well-being of la gente. But I think I really want to be remembered by my kids as the father who helped them brush their teeth, the father who bent rules when they were sleepy and let them sleep with their shoes on even though "WE HAVE TALKED ABOUT THIS BEFORE!", the father who was patient when they were anxious about their spelling test, the father who coached their soccer team and maybe taught them a drill or two, and the father who took good care of their mother, who likewise takes good care of him. That would be enough, just to be remembered like that.