Demolition And Spring Break

About The Rosales Sisters’ Scholarship

*San Francisco Bay, 1984. Abel Rosales, his five daughters from the top-left, Elizabeth, Nancy, Adriana, Veronica, Olga. *Christy was born in 1988.

It was spring break of ‘89 in Watsonville, CA, and we, the Rosales Sisters, were just mocosas—rugrats: too young to decide how we’d spend two weeks off from school, but not young enough to opt out of the hard labor our father had planned for us.

In our backyard was an old camper RV where our parents had let friends, whom they called los primos, live for the better part of a year. The camper was about 15’ by 10’ and had everything a recently immigrated couple needed: a refrigerator, a dual burner stovetop, a full bath, and a queen sized bed. It had linoleum flooring and faux wood paneling that was covered in some places by rainforest patterned wallpaper.

I remember every detail of that camper—The Aspen Trail—because for those two weeks, my four sisters and I were charged with the task of taking it apart—vinyl siding and all.

*Abel & Maria Rosales, 1975.

The family labor force varied in age from nine to fifteen years old, with the eldest, Elizabeth, a sophomore in high school, and myself in fifth grade. Too young for demolition work? Maybe. But not to our father, Abel Rosales, who tasked us with a strict deadline of completion: we had until school started again to finish.

Every morning for two weeks, before we headed to the backyard, our mother made refried bean burritos with homemade flour tortillas—the memories of which still make me hungry to this day. Up too late to sit down for breakfast (per Abel), we would eat with one hand and organize our workspace with the other, until we were energized enough to work—and work we did.

Each of us had a job that our father appointed to us based on our ages: my sister Veronica and I, the youngest, were in charge of sorting the scrap metal; organizing it by destination to either the recycling plant or for the general dump in town. Elizabeth, Adriana, and Nancy took sledgehammers to cabinets, pulled apart faucets, and took hardware off of drawers; anything that could be resold or melted down for cash was sorted by Veronica and me.

*From the top left, Adriana, Nancy, Veronica, Olga and Christy, 1992.

Much of the fourteen days were spent the way you can imagine—grunting, crying, complaining and in turn, our father scolded, preached lessons of life, and otherwise yelled in some form or fashion. But we worked and we finished, begrudgingly, just in time.

The truly exceptional aspect of this story didn’t dawn on me until I became a parent myself. And that aspect is this, Abel Rosales did not bribe us into submission or hoax us with promises of future vacations or time to ourselves. Our father was a dictator, and a mean one at that, but lazy? No. He took no breaks, ate while he worked, and expected us to do the same. He showed us what exhaustion was - and what respecting a hard day's work really looked like.

*Abel Rosales, 1980.

I remember the sweat, the labor, the grit, and the pain, but I also remember a hard lesson I learned when I returned to school after our “vacation”. The first in-class writing assignment was to write about what we did with our families over our time off—and I lied, writing about time spent at a distant family ranch. I also remember that I was marked down for not reading a book and completing a book report during those two weeks. I remember the shame and embarrassment of it, and how othered I felt. My parents hadn’t even asked if we’d had homework or assignments due during the break. Why would we have homework on vacation?

Why did I write all of this? Definitely not to point fingers at our father— my memory of him, although complicated, is one that I’ll always honor. I wrote this to recognize that to this day, when I work on, or engage in anything that I truly care about, I work my ass off. I hustle and turn into a workhorse, amplified—and my father taught me that. That was a lesson learned in two weeks’ time.

I’ve written this to point out the juxtaposition of American society's values and those of an immigrant family, like the one I grew up with. While I’m proud that I learned how to work hard, as a kid I failed to make the connection between hard work—labor—and school work- education. My sisters and I agree that this distinction, and it's connections, are a vital part of success as first-generation students. Immigrant parents like ours have a different value system than the one honored in American public education. It’s not a wrong one, just a different one. That said, one of the reasons that I’m sure a college education was not in my parent’s purview for us was the cost. It was completely out of reach for them—and so, it was just a dream for us.

I went back to school to finish a degree later in life after a lot of hard lessons as an adult about being too underqualified to even apply for positions that I really wanted. I learned that in this society, in 2021, having a degree still matters —and it probably always will.

*Olga Rosales Salinas, 1985.

My sisters and I hope that every kid who attends Aptos High School with immigrant parents like ours doesn’t miss the connections that can be made between their worlds. The work ethic you’ve learned (begrudgingly) can help get you through college. Most of all, we hope that money isn’t the reason that your parents—your immigrant parents—aren’t talking to you about higher education.

We started our scholarship to help kids like us fulfill their dreams in a society that values college above all else.

The Rosales Sisters’ Scholarship would like to help you get to college.

*Two of Abel's sisters- our Tias. Us from the left, Elizabeth, Adriana, Nancy, Veronica, and Olga. Christy wasn't born yet.

If you would like to join us in this effort, please donate to our fund directly. You will receive a receipt for tax exemption from the Pajaro Valley Unified School District (PVUSD) at the end of May 2021. If you would like to donate to PVUSD directly, please do so and add the Rosales Sisters' Scholarship and Aptos High School in the note section of your contribution. You will receive a tax exemption receipt from PVUSD directly. Thank you so much for helping us positively impact the lives of first-generation or immigrant students from Aptos High School, where we each attended.

And thank you for reading! Liking, sharing, and commenting is also super appreciated!

Olga Rosales Salinas