I wrote this the other day:
I introduce myself to Anastacio and talk to him for about five minutes. “Buenas noches,” I say. “Buenas TARDES,” he politely replies. It’s before 7 p.m. and even though the sun has gone down, I should know better.
Three nights a week Anastacio, his wife, and Anastacio’s older brother, who recently replaced Anastacio’s teenage son as the third team member, walk into our downtown Dallas loft offices to empty the trash cans, sweep the floors, and clean the bathrooms. I swivel around in my hundred dollar chair equipped with back support, make brief conversation and continue working on my laptop. But three times a week, after my brief small talk with Anastacio, I stop to think.
The story of Mexican immigrants taking on the unwanted jobs is not new by any means. Not even the story of the son of Mexican immigrants working on his laptop while Mexican immigrants clean his mess is new. What makes me stop and think, is that Anastacio, the man who wears a Dallas Cowboys baseball cap and has a mustache reminiscent of Emiliano Zapata could easily be my uncle, his wife my mother.
Look at me and you can tell I’m a Mexican-American. I have brown skin, possess Mestizo features, and wear Versace eye-glasses. Acculturated, but not assimilated. Look at me and I bet you can’t tell that both of my parents work two jobs, not unlike Anastacio, who lays carpet and tile during the day.
I think about how fortunate I am to be in my position. I have a comfortable chair with a back rest and equity in the start-up internet company I work for. I live in Uptown Dallas and my balcony faces the American Airlines Center, where multi-millionaires spend countless hours. And for reasons that make me uncomfortable, I command respect from a man twice my age, who has been in this country as long as I’ve been alive, but has failed to leave his immigrant status. Anastacio never addresses me in the informal “Tu,” but rather uses the formal “Usted” when talking to me.
I say I introduced myself to Anastacio, because that’s exactly what I did. I’ve been talking to him since he started working at our offices three months ago, but I never stood up, extended my hand, and said, “My name is Carlos, mucho gusto.” This week, I did that.
Maybe next time I talk to Anastacio I’ll find out what state in Mexico he’s from and why his son stopped coming to help him, but for now an introduction must do.
Now, if I could only muster up the courage to “introduce” myself to my 20-year old cousin, Edgar, who is living somewhere in the DFW area illegally, I’d be in good shape.