The coming together of two or more things is what comes to mind when associated with the word assimilation. Orange County is the epitome of the word assimilation, as the county has gone through numerous changes and has the unity of different cultures, beliefs and ethnicities. I’ve heard of it many times being referred to as a huge melting pot, or a place where different peoples, styles, theories are all mixed together. Having been born and raised in Anaheim in 1979, Gustavo Arellano a famous journalist and columnist for the OC Weekly has gotten a taste of what has been this sweet - and - sour Orange (County). His personal experiences and those of his father, grandfather and great - grandfather have all left a history in the fields where oranges once grew and where they learned to assimilate in numerous ways.
For Gustavo and his family, Orange County has served them a great deal of hardships, yet all realities that made them assimilate life in Orange County. With the desire to work and live a better life, Gustavo’s Great - Grandfather and Grandfather originally migrated to California in 1918 from El Cargadero, Mexico. Being no strangers to work, (regardless of what image is associated with the typical “Mexican”) Gustavo’s Great – Grandfather and Grandfather like many other Cargaderenses worked in the fields picking fruit and with no complaints when it came to the measly wages that were given for their long hours of work. Despite these hardships, the family assimilated as new workers to this foreign land and became part of the working force. As Gustavo remembers, “Work was all my mother lived for as a young woman. On days off, she usually washed her clothes or cleaned the house” (Arellano 76). Being brought up by a single mother, this passage from Arellano’s book resonated in my mind, as I myself have the clear image of my own mother working two jobs to sustain our family. I am now a grown up myself and I work a full time job and attend school, I believe something that was originally instilled in me by my mother through her hard work and need to work in a foreign land to bring up her children. Much like my own mother, Gustavo’s mother instilled in her children the importance of working and earning a living.
Gustavo sarcastically engages us into the story of his upbringing in Anaheim. Growing up in a home with poverty, he had no choice but to be educated by the public school system of AUHSD (Anaheim Union High School District). For Gustavo assimilating between his culture of origin (with a Stetson, boots and a buckled belt to go with the ensemble) and the demands of the American culture, was a struggle. Poor Gustavo had the challenge of proving himself to his family that despite his upbringing he was still Mexican. While at the same time having to prove himself to the Americans that he was as American as they were. Always being seen by his family as not “Mexican” enough Gustavo explains the traumatizing experience of him trying to prove to them that he was indeed Mexican, “Imagine a skinny kid – five feet eight inches, no more than 130 pounds, with glasses as thick as a bank teller’s window. Stuff him into super tight blue jeans, cuffs slightly frayed. Hang a bandanna in the right back pocket with ARELLANO printed in Old English font. Add cheap black cowboy boots, a knockoff Stetson, and an itchy long – sleeved shirt. Make sure the boots or jeans have not been broken in. Refry with insecurity. Voilà! We have a laughing stock”