Happy Mother's Day or Feliz Día de las Madres

My mother is a strong Mexican-American woman.

What's nice is that I can honor her on two days. Sunday is Mother's Day in the United States.  Every May 10 in Mexico they celebrate Día de las Madres, which falls on Monday this year.

In Mexico, they often serenade mothers with a song called "Las Mañanitas," and mariachi music. My stepdad is a mariachi musician. Even though he is 80 I know he will serenade her today. Their love story is another column which you can read here.

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Today, I offer this tribute to my mother, Santa, and her sisters (some pictured here when they were young and glamorous.) My mom is one of nine sisters. Only four are still alive.

One of my aunts, Cipriana or "Chipe," just passed away a few weeks ago. She was 92. She had eight children, 24 grandchildren and 37 great grandchildren. She was so loved by her family. Her family is her legacy.

I am thankful I still have my mom.

As children, my mom and her family worked the fields. They were farm workers and this brought them from their home state of Texas to the Midwest.

In the 1950s, they settled on a farm near Elk Grove Village, Ill., where they picked tomatoes and other vegetables.

Once while in the fields she slashed her thumb with a knife while picking beets. You can still see the scar. I am thankful that I never had to do hard labor as a child.

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The sisters in their family convinced their parents they should move to the city. This brought them to Chicago.

My aunts went to work in factories. My mom, who is the youngest, went to high school. She also held an afternoon job at department store on Halsted Street.

I know that this education made all the difference for my mother who had five children with my father.

And my mother went back to college in middle age. She went through a divorce and besides raising us found time to study.

We'd spread our books out on the dining room table. We studied together as a familia. I even sometimes read my mom's school papers.

My older sister, Sylvia, and my mom both graduated from college the same year in 1980. I was 13 then and I knew that I too would go to college following the example they set.

My mom went on to become a bilingual education teacher and later a social worker. Growing up she helped register people to vote and others become U.S. citizens. She's retired now,  volunteers with her church ministry, and lives in Texas.

At 73, she is still studying. She just just finished her first year of theological studies towards becoming a lay minister. She has two more years of study to go.

My mom taught me the importance of education, social justice and helping others.

I want to thank my mom and all the women in my family for setting an example for me. I know that I would not be here if it weren't for all their hard work and struggle.

Gracias.

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