Character Sketch of Ramon by Tayli Jade Lam

The Letter of Pride

I have a letter from my father that I have kept safely in the pocket of my wallet. The pocket where money belongs but has been absent. I read it when I am feeling defeated and low, it is a reminder of the hard times we’ve been through as a family and the type of strength that is instilled in the Quintero family. He wrote it a few months after the miners’ strike and he gave it to me when I graduated high school and left home. It’s been thirty years since then, both my parents have died, and my brother and sister are off living their own lives. Me, I’ve been married to a woman much like my mother for twenty-five years. She is as stubborn as a mule but has a very kind heart, she disobeys the social norms and often disobeys me as well. I never forget her birthday.

I am currently without a job. I was laid off from the construction company I worked for due to budget cuts and economic standing. There is hardly enough money to put food on the table for my wife and two kids, I often skip dinner to ensure they get enough to eat. My wife watches a few of the neighborhood children and does laundry for the rich white folks. If it was not for her, we would all be on the street by now begging for change like the addicts.

It’s four o’clock in the morning and I am one of fifteen men standing against a brick wall. We are waiting for people to come so we can sell our time and skills for only a small portion of what they are worth. Tired and hungry I pull out my father’s letter:

Dear Luis,

I am writing this letter to remind you of your worth. To remind you Quintero’s never give up no matter the circumstances. When you begin to forget this, remember the miners’ strike and the brutality we suffered to fight for our equal rights. You are a smart kid, you are part of the reason we made it through this difficult time. Although we came out on top, it was not without hard work and determination. Remember there will be more hardships to come and we will take them on with the same fierce, humble, and determined manner. We will welcome hard time gladly as they make us stronger men and rebuilds the values I raised you with. I am always here if ever you need me, even if one day I am not there physically, I will still be with you. Stand strong. Hold your ground. NEVER give up.

With Love, Dad

I fold the letter back up and stick it back in my empty wallet. The brick wall has filled with more than one hundred men as the sun peaks out above the mountain. A truck rolls by, a white man with a soft smile gets out and shouts “I need three men who can help me build a house. It’s a six-month job.” I step forward with pride as the rest of the men scream and shout like wild animals. He comes up to me asks “What’s your name?” I say, “Luis Quintero, sir.” He responds, “Well Luis, today’s your lucky day. Hop in the truck and we’ll discuss your pay.”

Author: Tayli Jade Lam

tayli jade lam

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