Bones Macias

As Interviewed by Kaitlyn M., March 14, 2015

Bones Macias: In His Own Words

My name is Bonifacio Macias.I grew up in Reynosa, Mexico until I was nine-years-old then in the Valley for the rest, ‘till I was 18.

My mother saved enough money to bring us across and get us a Green Card and get us legalized in the United States. My father was a Bracero worker, that the government used to bring from Mexico to build a railroad.

My experience coming to the U.S., not knowing the language, nine-years-old -- never had gone to school until I came to the United States. I went into first grade not knowing the language and I had to repeat first grade because I had to learn to read it and speak it. It took me two years to learn that, and I was ten-years-old by the time I got out of first grade.

The people were friendly but the teachers expected you to speak English and me, not knowing how to speak the language, they were at times mean. They felt like I needed to learn the language fast, and I was making their job harder. They saw it as an inconvenience.

The teachers were frustrated when you would speak Spanish in the class -- they would hit you with a ruler. What made it hard is when I went home, my parents did not speak any English; they wanted us to speak Spanish. I was always confused because I had no help to learn English at home and I had no help to learn Spanish at school. It seemed like I was learning everything halfway.

We had no special programs like they have now in school, where it’s bilingual education. They threw us in class and we had to learn it. I thought being hit with a ruler was unnecessary -- it wasn’t my fault I couldn’t speak English. I was brought to the United States when I was nine, I was just a kid. I felt mistreated just because I was born in Mexico. By the time I was in second grade I was a B student. I picked it up pretty fast. We knew we had to get good grades so we could get a career and we could buy the things we wanted and not have to work so hard.

Every time we went to the stores it always seemed like we had someone follow us into the store. It was like we were going to steal. In that regard we felt like we weren’t equal to the people who were not Mexicans like we were. They could tell we couldn’t speak the language so they watched us closely. It was like we were suddenly thieves or something, but we were just different -- because we didn’t speak the language. or didn’t drive a nice car. We weren’t thieves, we were just poor.

There was always people that called us names. “Dirty Mexicans” or “Go back to Mexico” -- “What are ya’ll doing here?” But that was all part of the 60s when a lot of us were being discriminated against.

We were being pulled out of school in May and April to go work up north, like in Ohio. As migrant workers we would go and pick tomatoes, pickles, apples. We would leave in April and come back in October, so we would miss a lot of school. We lost two months at the end and two months at the beginning every year. Every time we went back to school we had to work harder to catch up to the other kids.

We got to school and we were mistreated, but we didn’t care. We knew we wanted to finish school. That was the way to get ahead. Working on the fields picking pickles, picking tomatoes from sun up to sun down, at 7am to 7pm, every day except for Sunday, was hard work -- and we knew we didn’t want to do that the rest of our lives. The book in school was a way to get out. It didn’t matter if they mistreated us or hit us with a ruler or called us names, we knew education was they way to get out and be equal to everyone else. What motivated me was not to go back and work in the fields, when it’s really hot in the summer. You’re on your knees, bent over all day long, your back hurts. That motivated me more than anything -- I did not want to do that kind of work.

The problem with my parents -- my parents did not know the value of education. They never went a day to school. Why would they see anything wrong with nothing they never experienced? They could not even sign their name -- they would put an “X.” My parents did not know the difference between the good grades and the bad ones.

We motivated ourselves because our parents did not know how important education was. I had no one to follow. We had no one to follow. We had to do it all on our own. Even in school they treated us different because we were migrant workers and we spoke Spanish. They saw us as: “Well, those kids aren’t going to get anywhere” -- so the teachers don’t help you, the counselors don’t help you. So you end up doing it all by yourself. You do what you think you need to do.

I started feeling like everyone else when I started high school. I started playing football. Once you start playing football you are pretty much in the mix. You start to feel equal, you feel the same. But it took eight years to be equal. Americans, when they are born, from day one they feel equal.

I have worked for everything I have. That’s what gets you ahead. It’s learn, learn, learn.