Dime que dice. Que quiere? Tell me what he says. What does he want?” my parents asked. The tall, blond, blue-eyed man with metal-rimmed glasses, stern and resolute, stood on the creaky floor of the front porch of the small East Los Angeles duplex that we lived in, knocking on the door, demanding something. Though I could speak some English, I could not fully understand what he wanted. My parents stayed in a back room, mortified, unable to speak English, perhaps knowing they were unable to meet the demands of the man, who repeatedly asked to speak to my father. My father did not speak to him. Soon after the man left, the electrical service to our home went off.

At dinner that night, all of the children were silent and my mother appeared close to tears, something she never permitted herself to do, and did not that evening. She had set candles on the dinner table and quietly served our meals. My father, grim but stoic, finally smiled and said, “Don’t feel bad children, this is the way the rich people have dinner – by candle light.” During the 1930s there was no lack of movies depicting how elegantly “los ricos” lived. Immediately, all of us mentally visualized what he meant and for that evening we were, indeed, a rich family. Children, aunts and parents looked at each other, laughed heartily and happily dug into our meals.


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