By Nestor Torres
“Mi vida esta hecha de todas las vidas.” – Pablo Neruda
For me, the path to higher education has not been an easy one. I am a Xican@. I am the product of more than 500 years of colonialism, genocide, oppression, and systematic racism. Despite the obstacles that this identity inherently bears, it proves that tough situations always breed tough people.
My parents migrated here “illegally” from a small pueblo in Mexico in the early 1990’s with the hopes of providing their up and coming family with a myriad of new opportunities they themselves were never exposed to. It is a goal they have selflessly and unwaveringly remained dedicated to for decades now. They are, above all, my ultimate motivation to pursue higher education. Every drop of sweat that has ever rolled down the face of my father as he worked in ungodly conditions as a date tree worker is what drives me to want to better my own life and that of my future family. Every tear that my mother has ever shed in her trying journey as a mother of four is what inspires me to want to be the semi-perfect son she deserves.
Of course, there have also been other non-familial sources of inspiration in my life. Every restless hour on and off the clock my devoted teachers and mentors ever spent pushing, empowering, and encouraging me to try my best in my academic coursework is what has made me want to do right by them and make them proud. Every unjustly profiled and incarcerated person of color who has ever fallen victim to the school-to-prison pipeline is what motivates me to do right by all oppressed people I can ever be of any service to. Every under-represented and under-resourced student who has ever been failed by the school system and been allowed to fall through the cracks, never to reach graduation or to ever be given the hope of pursuing higher education is what moves me to want to fix this rigged system that devalues the lives of people of color. Every historical instance of oppression exercised over my ancestors that history books have ever tried to justify or ignore altogether is what makes me want to recover and honor the histories of my beautiful people.
All in all, I am a product of very unfortunate histories that I seek to challenge, break down, and rectify as a pursuer of social justice. I do not know what the future holds in store for me, for I still have very much to learn, but I do hope to go on to be able to give back to my community that despite its various limitations, has found a way to give me so much. It has given me knowledge, power, passion, wisdom, and strength. For me, this is something I hope to pursue now and though my years of higher education, starting at UC Berkeley. I hope to serve as an example and role model for students in my community who want to pursue higher education that we are very much capable of going out into the real world and into the world’s most prestigious public university and excel in all aspects of life.
Nestor Torres is a 2014 graduate of Coachella Valley High School and a first year student at the University of California, Berkeley.