Becoming Neighbors in a Mexican American Community: Power, Conflict, and Solidarity

By Gilda L. Ochoa | Go to book overview

Chapter 5
“Between a Rock and a Hard Place, with No
Easy Answers”: Structuring Conflict

Sixty-two-year-old Silvia Bravo smiles warmly as she invites me into her home. She escorts me to her kitchen table and offers me a drink. As she walks toward the refrigerator, she gestures to the neatly arranged papers at one end of the table and says she is coordinating a large donation project at the church. I soon learn that she is very involved in the local Catholic church and parochial school. Detailing her involvement in this project, she returns to the table with two glasses of water, sits down, and begins to describe herself and La Puente.

Silvia Bravo is the daughter of Mexican parents who migrated to Texas, the state where she was born and completed high school. Her first language was Spanish, and it was in elementary school that she learned English. Silvia remembers her schooling experiences as “very hard,” saying the teachers were “always getting after me in school to speak English because they wanted me to learn it correctly.” She now says she speaks Spanish “well, but not very well because it’s mostly the slang type of Spanish.”

After she married a third-generation Mexican American, the couple moved to Los Angeles in the 1950s. Three years later, they purchased their first home, and it was in La Puente. Having spent most of her life in the city, Silvia fondly recounts learning to drive, raising her children, and participating in the Catholic church and school in La Puente. She is taking care of two of her grandchildren and has enrolled them in the same Catholic school that her own children attended.

Silvia has been actively involved with the Catholic church and vividly remembers her early participation when the church was being built:

They were building the church when we first moved…There was just
the frame, and then they finished the building. There were no pews when

-98-

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