For a series we’re calling “Letter To My California Dreamer,” we’re asking Californians from all walks of life to write a short letter to one of the first people in their family who came to the Golden State. The letter should explain:
What was their California Dream?
What happened to it?
Is that California Dream still alive for you?
Here's a letter from Javier Cervantes to his mother, Maria Mojarro Cervantes:
When I think of the California dream, I think of you: Maria Mojarro Cervantes.
You grew up in Central Mexico in the state of Zacatecas. It was a harsh place. You grew up very poor, higher education was not an option, and there were no jobs. The only way to survive was to grow whatever you could and barter for farm animals. You had food and shelter, but that was it. No future, no chance to rise above your circumstances, you wanted more for your life.
When you were only seventeen, you heard that some cousins of yours left to go up north and now had better lives. One of these cousins told you that maybe if you went, you could stay with an uncle. You wanted to go but you were scared. But you were more afraid to stay.
How you would even get there? You had no idea. You didn’t know English. Not to mention it was illegal to enter, and the trip would be dangerous.
Your parents vehemently objected to the idea. They were expecting you to marry a farmer and have a family, as all women did there.
You scraped together all the money you could and borrowed money from your friends, and then you were off.
You made it to Tijuana and got a hold of a human smuggler -- a coyote. He hid you in the trunk of his car and drove you across the border, dropping you off at a bus station in San Diego.
When you finally got to your uncle’s house in San Francisco, he helped you find a job in housekeeping at a hotel in Oakland. You worked brutal, twelve-hour days.
In this new land, you were mistreated, looked down on, made to feel worthless.
Although you suffered, you had faith that this would lead to a better life. You remained in a land that treated you as a second-class citizen. You could have gone home and brought all of this to an end. But you believed in your heart that your life would get better.
Today, you are a U.S. citizen, a homeowner and a successful entrepreneur.
To pick up and leave Mexico, to carve out a life for yourself in another country, is unimaginable to me. But you -- a teenager from a small farm town -- did it, and showed me courage that I could not believe.
That is a true California Dream.
Your son, Javier Cervantes
We’d love to see your letter to your family’s California Dreamer. Maybe it was a parent, a great-great grandparent or maybe even you were the first in your family to come to California with a dream. Fill out the form here and share your story with us!