Fellow’s Corner: A Month for Gratitude


Zessna Garcia-Rios
American Dream Fellow 2015 – 2016

As October comes to a close and the new month begins, I am strongly reminded of my roots and of my identity as a Mexican immigrant in the U.S. We begin the new month with Día de los Muertos and end the month with Thanksgiving. As I’ve mentioned in the past, I was born in Mexico and grew up in Bentonville, Arkansas. I would like to begin the month by being thankful for living in a country that allows me to carry my Mexican identity with me, and embraces me enough to share with me this country’s traditions. I am thankful for working with the Cisneros Center, and I am thankful that every day I get to hear the stories of New Americans in Northwest Arkansas.

The month of November marks many significant times in my life; remembering loved ones who’ve moved on and experiencing my first real Thanksgiving. This post is in remembrance of all of those before me and all of those to come who have made the decision to come to the United States. My maternal grandfather, Fidel Rios Varela, was the first person in my family to come to the U.S. He was a “bracero” in the early 60s and worked the fields. During picking seasons he would live in Bakersfield, California. In the early ’90s he, along with my parents, worked in the chicken production plants in Rogers, Arkansas. My grandfather spoke both English and Spanish and was one of the hardest working men I have ever met. He went on to be 73 years old.

I am thankful for his sacrifices and I am thankful for his perseverance, his spirit, and his determination to reach his American Dream. I am thankful for living in a country where I can be successful regardless of my background. I am thankful for people like my grandfather and the many more who have made the journey so more generations of Americans may continue to achieve their highest potential.

Cisneros Center for New Americans


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