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Mi Vida Mexicana

Noe Serna

Growing up as a Mexican-American has made me look at life a certain way. I have lived with and around Mexicans since I was a small boy. For this reason, I will focus on my culture and how it has influenced my life. I will also look at how television and photojournalism has affected my thoughts.

I lived the majority of my youth in Los Angeles, California with my parents and my sister. Our house was in East L.A., which is an all-Mexican neighborhood. All of my friends were Mexican also. East L.A. was not the best place to raise a family. There were a lot of gangs, drugs, violence and crime. The good things in life, such as peace and love, were overshadowed by these negative parts of life. Therefore, the gangs, drugs, violence and crime were the only things in life that I knew. The one person that I did look up to was my Uncle Juan. He would take me to baseball games, and we had a lot of good times together. He was the closest person to a role model that I had.

Then, he ended up in jail for grand theft auto and I hardly see him anymore.
I tried to stay out of trouble by doing my best in school. I felt that if I tried hard enough, I could make a change in my life, but sometimes it felt like I wasn't getting anywhere. I would get frustrated and give up. Then, the trouble seemed to find me. I would hang out with the wrong people and get into a lot of fights. But the whole time I knew I could do better than this.

During my youth, my dad had a serious drinking problem. This brings up a lot of bad memories, but one really sticks out in my mind. It was late at night and I was in the car with my parents and my sister. My dad was driving us home and he was drunk. A police officer pulled us over on the road. The officer knew my dad was drunk, and he gave my dad a DUI. My mother had to drive us the rest of the way home. She was not the best driver in the world, not to mention, she had no idea how to get us home. The whole night got really frightening when we got lost in some bad neighborhoods. I could tell she was nervous, scared and upset about the whole situation. I wanted to help her, but I was only eight years old and I didn't know what to do. About two hours later, we safely made it home. I will probably remember that night for the rest of my life.

Around the same time in my life, I started becoming very interested in baseball. Baseball had a positive impact on my life. I was still living in Los Angeles, so my favorite team was the Los Angeles Dodgers. This is when media became involved in my life. I watched a lot of the Dodgers' games on television. I really enjoyed watching Pedro Guerrero play, but Kirk Gibson was definitely my favorite player. I wouldn't really classify him as an idol, but I thought he was an awesome baseball player. I was really impressed with the way he could dominate a game. After I started watching the Dodgers, I wanted to play baseball constantly. I became obsessed with the game and I found something I really loved. After a lot of practice, I became very good and I had a goal to shoot for. My goal was that someday I would become a famous baseball player, and for a long time I really believed it was possible. Eventually, that dream faded away. I am very grateful for the whole experience. After watching baseball on television and falling in love with the game, I had a new, fresh outlook towards life. Becoming a famous baseball player was the first positive goal I had in life.

When I was ten years old, I moved to Aguascalientes, Mexico with my mother and my sister. My father was living in Chicago at this time because he got offered a job there and my family needed the money badly. We were living with my dad's parents at their ranch house in the mountains. The majority of my family is from Aguascalientes, and I still have a lot of family there today.
While I was living there I became a lot more familiar with the Mexican way of life. Most young men in Mexico don't have a big interest in school. Young Mexican men would much rather work and start saving up a little money for themselves than go to school. The same thing happened to me in the brief period of time that I lived there. I completely lost interest in my school work, so I decided to work with my grandpa in the campos (fields).

After about a year and a half, my dad wanted my mother, my sister and I to move back to the United States. The trip back to California is another memorable time of my life. My dad met us in Aguascalientes and the four of us managed to get a ride close to Tijuana. Since my sister and I were born in the United States, we didn't have any problems crossing over the border. My mother and father were a different story. They were both born in Mexico, and they didn't have U.S. citizenship or a "green card." So, my Uncle Samuel picked up my sister and I in Tijuana while my parents waited for the "coyotes." "Coyotes" are people who smuggle other people across the border in exchange for money. I remember being very sad and scared about leaving my parents behind. I didn't know when I was going to see them again. Luckily, everything worked out and my parents got across the border a couple of days later. My Uncle Samuel went back to Tijuana to pick them up, and the next day I was reunited with my parents in Los Angeles.

In the winter of 1992, my family and I moved to Elgin, IL. Elgin is a medium-sized city about 35 miles northwest of Chicago. This was a big adjustment for me coming from Los Angeles. My English wasn't very good because when I was living in Los Angeles I spoke mainly Spanish. Also, I went from a neighborhood that was all Mexican to a city that was very diverse. Right before I moved to Illinois, I had an accident at one of my baseball games. I was standing by the dugout and one of my teammates was swinging a bat a few feet away from me. I got too close and before I knew it my two front teeth got knocked out. My parents were tight on money at the time, and they couldn't afford to get me false teeth. So, I had to go a few months without my two front teeth. This made it even more difficult when I moved to a new city. Because of what I looked like, I became very shy. It was very difficult to meet new friends.
After a few months at Kimball Middle School in Elgin, I met some American guys that lived in the same neighborhood as me. They would laugh at the way I pronounced my words, but besides that we became close friends. We were very different than each other, but we always had a good time together. We all played in the same baseball league, and we would hang out after school. Our friendships remained strong throughout high school and to this day we are still good friends.

The influence of watching baseball on television came back into play during high school. Even though I had no real interest in school, I had to keep my grades up to stay eligible for the baseball team, which was my main priority. I kept my grades at a decent level and played baseball all four years at Larkin High School. I had performed so well in high school that after I graduated, I started playing baseball in junior college. Not only did I play, I was one of the captains of the team. This really boosted my ego and made me feel like I accomplished my goal.

If it wasn't for Kirk Gibson and the L.A. Dodgers, who knows if I would have ever made it to this point. Television did have a positive impact on mi vida.
Another form of media that has had an effect on my way of thinking is photojournalism. A few months ago, I saw some photos of Native Americans dealing with the hardships of life. I thought about how different life was back in the 1800's. The pictures portrayed how much harder it was for people to survive without the luxuries we have today. These photos reminded me of my relatives living in Mexico. My relatives probably had to deal with the same problems. This experience made me realize that I shouldn't take things for granted, such as my house, my car and my health.

I am 22 years old now and my life is far from over. I think about how much I have learned in the past 22 years, and I know it is just the beginning. Because of television, photographs and other types of media I have learned about other ways of life besides the Mexican way. Even though I still hold on strong to the beliefs of my family and my culture, I feel that it is good to see other points of view. Now, I am more prepared for any changes that might come my way.

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