Tomato to Medicine: The Transition from Tomato Worker to Pediatrician

The Texas Story Project.

My father was born in the small town of Queréndaro, Mexico in 1954 as the 3rd oldest child in his family. In order to support the family, my grandfather would travel to Tracy, California eight-to-ten months a year to work at a ranch where he would pick tomatoes from the fields. At the age of fourteen, my father started to work alongside his father by going on a fifty-six-hour bus drive by himself from Morelia, Mexico to California. On the ranch he would sort tomatoes that passed on a conveyor belt. Other times he would pick tomatoes in the field. At the time, the conditions at the ranch were unpleasant. Airplanes would often drop pesticide right over the workers on the fields and the people there worked from morning to night.

Sometime in the late 1960s while my father and grandfather were at the ranch, Cesar Chavez came to visit the owners of the land. There, with him, the owners, and some workers (my father included), Chavez advocated for better working conditions for the farmers. Chavez was visiting different ranches in the area so he had not stayed for long. At the time of his visit my father had his doubts about Chavez since no one before had been able to change the working conditions. Of course it is worth mentioning that at this time Cesar Chavez was not nearly as known as he is now.

At a very young age my father had wanted to become a doctor and having an older friend that was already a doctor further got him interested in becoming one. For the next ten years my father would travel to California yearly, working from two weeks to three months at a time. After going to medical school for seven years and getting his medical license in 1978, my father stopped working at California and started working as a general doctor in Morelia. He worked there for 7 years until he decided to go to Texas. My father went there because he wanted to learn more about medicine and wanted more from it.

In 1985 he moved to a small town near San Antonio for a few years and took on several jobs during that time, ranging from being an x-ray technician to surgeon's assistant. During those years my father worked and studied every day of the week. In 1988, he moved to Corpus Christi to get a masters degree and those few years would be the most challenging. He spent those days in his apartment room studying, practically isolated from the outside world. On top of that, my father also had to learn English at the same time – as he was going to classes, since he did not really need to speak English up until that point. After years – decades of hard work – my father got his masters degree and became a pediatrician in 1992. He still is a pediatrician and enjoys doing it to this day. It was motivation and determination from a young age that gave my father the will and patience to achieve his goal of becoming a pediatrician.

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