Nappy Roots

Those lazy Mexicans. Surely you've seen them, for they are everywhere. Always sitting down taking a siesta instead of working.

My siblings and I spent most of our youth as the only non-white family in a small rural school in California, where I would hear things such as, "You lazy Mexicans, you are all so dirty," or, "Does your dad work?"

Such accusations always confused me. You see, in my household, my grandmother would rise at the crack of dawn to start her pot of beans and her daily ritual of sweeping and washing down the patio. My father would already have been at work since 3 a.m. preparing the dough for the fresh bread he and his bakers created, seven days a week, 365 days a year. My mother would rise, feed her children and get them off to school all before she headed out to the bakery to work her 10-hour shift.

As soon as my siblings and I were old enough, we also joined our parents at the bakery. Almost daily, after school I would rush there to get something to eat before riding my orange Schwinn to work.

At La Azteca Bakery, our customers were mostly people who worked in the fields handpicking tomatoes, cleaning weeds from the young cotton plants and pruning trees. Most of them rose long before sunrise in order to have mercy from the heat of the day while they performed their backbreaking labor.

Here in the Valley, most of the area's restaurant kitchen personnel are Mexican. Most work two jobs. These non-English-speaking workers wash, chop, dice and cook in some of the best eateries, serving exotic and delicious foods from around the world. No matter what the cuisine, no matter how award-winning it may be I will guarantee that there are Mexicans preparing it.

Yes, you probably have seen the Lazy Mexican, his siesta by the cactus immortalized by the little plaster statue sold by the thousands at every curio shop, in every border town.

I have a walkway made of terra cotta pavers stamped with the image of this Lazy Mexican. As I spend my early mornings gardening and cleaning my patio, I can't help but smile each time I walk on this path remembering my abuelita. How I wish I could sometimes be this little guy sleeping the day away.

Silvana Salcido Esparza is a local chef and restaurant owner.


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