Between oak-colored bookshelves and the smell of cinnamon in the room, we sit on separate sofas opposite one another. My father has an excited and flattered look on his face because I have chosen him to interview. Outside the sun is setting, which we can see as we look out the window. He is usually kissing me, hugging me, and constantly telling me how much he loves and misses me now that I am in college, but today he is unusually quiet. I look at him and tell him I love him and that I am ready to begin the interview.
At first he gladly holds the tape recorder as I record our conversation. He smiles and points it at me when I ask a question then points it at himself when he answers. As the questions become more and more personal, the smile on his face goes away and the tape recorder is placed on the table between us. He keeps his hands busy as he twirls his fingers in a nervous manner.
His name is Hector Baro and he is my father. He is a 49-year-old man who was born in Chihuahua, Chihuahua which is the biggest state in Mexico. He tells me he has one brother and three sisters, one of which is deceased.
He first studied engineering at the Instituto Regional de Ciudad Juarez in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico and then he got two Masters Degrees at the University of Chihuahua in Chihuahua. His third Masters Degree was obtained at the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech), one of the best engineering schools in the U.S. located in Atlanta, Georgia. As he tells me this, his chest stands out because he is as proud as anybody can be. He smiles and explains to me that he knows that there are not many Mexicans that have had the opportunities that he has in respect to being able to study at a professional, well-recognized school.
I ask what his childhood was like and his face goes blank. “Nice… I lived in a small town with not too much to do. When I was living in Juarez I was a Boy Scout, Eagle Scout,” he explains with a smile, “and I played a lot of football, soccer, and baseball. We were always playing something.” A sort of sadness falls over his face and I know something is bothering him.
I go on to ask him what some of his hobbies are as he has said that as a child he was always playing a sport. He gladly tells me that every Saturday and Sunday he plays in many different golf clubs. He loves the diversity in each club. He explains that he liked playing because "it is a sport that challenges me, and I love to be challenged.” He especially loves it because it brings him and my older brother, Hector, closer as they both spend quality time together every Sunday playing together. My younger brother, Jorge, also recently started playing. They entered their first father/son tournament two months ago. They did not win, but my father was excited to have spent so much quality time with Jorge for a change.
“How was your relationship with your parents?” I ask when he puts the tape recorder down on the table that is between us and leans back on the couch. He hesitates for a moment and looks out the window. He looks at me with a gloomy look in his eyes and says “Fine…” trying to make himself believe it. “I had no problems because they were never there.” He sits quietly for a long period of time as I give him extra time to think. He then explains to me that his family was not a very well-functioning one. My dad relates that most of the time he was alone, had no food, and had to find his own way of taking care of himself. He then explains that his relationship with my grandparents is better now that he is older, but that he still does not have a lot of patience for them.
To loosen up the moment, I ask what his greatest accomplishments has been. His greatest accomplishments leave me in awe! I learn that he had become a high school teacher at the age of 17 and was a college professor at the young age of 23. He first taught only mathematics, but needed more money so also began teaching English. “I would study the lesson the day before class and would teach what I had learned the next day. I had one student who had studied English in the United States and would give me a hard time because he knew I really did not know very much English. This student would ask me questions about English words that we were not studying or would want to know something that I obviously did not know. I finally got fed up and went home and studied and was able to shut him up when he asked me a question and I was able to answer without hesitation.”
“What was your most difficult time as a child?” I ask. There was plenty of silence in the room as my dad’s mind fills with unpleasant memories of his childhood. He explains, “My whole childhood was difficult.” He then pauses and takes a deep breath. “You never knew what was going on the next day because we never knew whether somebody was going to come and impound the car or something. My father was a very disorganized person and you never knew what was coming the next day, so we almost lived by the day.” He continues by relating that he once worked very hard and bought his very own stereo. Later that night he got home and the stereo was gone because his dad had not paid bills. The stereo was taken as a substitute for the unpaid bills. “Sometimes I had to decide whether to use my money to go eat and walk to school, or to use the money for the bus ride and wait to eat later. If I waited to eat later it usually meant going to my friend’s house and having their family invite me to have dinner with them. There was never any food in my home.” He looks embarrassed and not too proud of his past as he explains the situation. I ask, “What is your biggest childhood memory?” and my father grows uncomfortable, resettls himself on the couch and says, “I don’t know… bad ones… skip that question.” His reaction only tells me that he doesn’t have many good memories and that it is difficult for him to relive them so he would rather not talk about it.
I put my pen down, smile at my dad, and thank him for all of his time. When the interview is over, my dad turns off the tape recorder and sits in silence. He says he is glad the interview is over because he felt that the questions were emotionally difficult. It hurts me to see my dad sitting on the couch with such a hurtful and upsetting look on his face as he remembers the questions I asked him. He tells me it is never easy talking about his past.
As I walk out the door, he looks at me with a very serious look and says, “Ellie, I could have been a dropout, a nobody, but I decided I wanted something better for myself and pursued it. I want you to know that if you want it, you can do it! Remember that for anything you ever want to do and I want you to know that I love you!” Those words of inspiration will stay with me in my heart for the rest of my life.