A Path Forward:
By Isaac Aguirre
Centerville Junior High students have rallied to enroll in his classes and among his students, he is known as “Chevere” (AKA, cool). Señor Flamenco, the Spanish teacher at Centerville Junior High School, has been gracious enough to be interviewed about his life story and how he found hope amid the challenges of immigration from his native country of El Salvador. A path forward, he calls it, from the war-torn country of his upbringing to becoming the person he is today. His stories, which are humorously shared in his classes, are brought to life in this interview. Here begins his journey:
“Any immigrant can tell you that immigration brings very unique experiences and challenges,” says the tenured Centerville teacher. In the interview, Señor Flamenco described the trauma and intensity of being “forced” to flee his home country. During the time he fled, El Salvador was undergoing the brutality and hardship of a twelve a year civil war that was notorious for its pervasive political violence and atrocities the government committed against civilians. Señor Flamenco’s first uncle had an affiliation with the guerrillas and this was a de facto for the government firebombing his house, causing him to flee for his life. Situations like these were not infrequent and this encouraged families to seek political asylum in the United States. While days passed and the tensions of war pressed onward, staying behind was not an option for the Flamenco family. He goes on to say that leaving behind his traditions and family was not easy; and the more he remembered his childhood he had to give up in El Salvador, the harder it was to fit in.
Among the struggles of crossing the borders of Guatemala, Mexico and the United States to settle in Oakland, California, is a story that Señor Flamenco often shares with his classes. After crossing the U.S. border and then reuniting with his sister in Los Angeles, young Señor Flamenco hadn’t yet assimilated to the cuisine in the States—and so here came the test. On one occasion, he remembers choosing a goldfish out of the tank to prepare a fried snack of his own and never fully realizing what he did wrong until much later. Nonetheless, his experiences in learning the culture of the U.S were rewarding and today he can enjoy an expression of both.
Later in our interview, Señor Flamenco mentioned the differences between public education systems in El Salvador and the US and he struggled with adapting to a different educational environment. And yet, he prevailed through the transition and was admitted to Cal State East Bay as a first-generation college student. He was an intern in the private sector for business and marketing, and a student-body president that represented students at the state level, by lobbying to pass bills in the legislature. After his undergraduate years, he accepted a two-year scholarship at Mill’s College, Oakland, to become a teacher. He described this chapter of his life as an experience worth every hurdle.
Undoubtedly, there are people we can meet who have such a transcending impact on the lives of young people and adults. Señor Flamenco does just that. Resilience and perseverance are at the heart of his experience of immigrating to the U.S and making headway in a new life. His stories illuminate the legacy of immigration to the U.S and how every immigrant can have an opportunity to thrive and make their path forward.
Caption- Señor Flamenco is the Spanish teacher at Centerville Junior High School