Knowing Your Roots

Researching my last name, I came across a few facts that I wasn’t aware of. First of all, knowing where your roots begin and knowing about your ancestors is something everyone should at least investigate at one

point in their lives. Part of forming your identity comes with the knowledge that one gains. For myself, not only did I answer questions like, why is my skin the color that it is, why am I so tall, and why is my last name Bendana but also I figured out why my family is here. First of all I want to point out and make clear that my last name isn’t Bendana as most would pronounce it but in fact it is Bendaña. It’s a last name that hails from Spain. Apparently my ancestors came from Spain into Nicaragua and settled into the Spanish ruled city called Granada. The Bendaña family owned a tobacco plantation, a practice that was brought over from Spain to Nicaragua.

As Spanish came to Nicaragua so did the Germans. Very few, but they did come. From my mom side and dad side I know there was German blood. My grandfather’s grandpa’s mom was German. He told me that she had beautiful green eyes. This explains why my paternal grandpa and my sister have blue-green eyes. This also explains my height and my light brown eyes. I mention my height because most people aren’t very tall in Nicaragua and I do get comments like, “ you are tall for being Nicaraguan.” That’s because of the Spanish and German influence. What about my skin color? Well like most Europeans that settled in the Americas, they killed many indigenous men and unfortunately some raped the women. The mixture of European and native indigenous people are called mestizos. Of course I proudly carry that blood as well and that would explain the color of my skin.

Juigalpa, Nicaragua, the city where I was born in is the third largest in the country. My grandparents still live there and I still to this day enjoy vacationing out there at least once a year for three weeks. Juigalpa is the capital city of the municipal (state) called Chontales, where the rivers are made of milk and the rocks are made of cheese. Not literally but it is an expression used because it is where most of Nicaragua gets its dairy products. Of course a main contributer to selling dairy is my grandpa, who to this day still produces milk and cheese from his farms/ranches for supermarkets around the country. Seems like they are well off; in fact they are. Then why did my mom and dad move to the United States when I was one years old? Politics, guns and a misfortunate profession. My dad graduated from the University of Guatemala as an Agricultural Vet. Not only did he know about crops and how to put them on the market at a fair price, he also knew about curing farm animals. Mainly cows. Working for the Ministry of Agriculture in Nicaragua, sometimes his job required for him to travel into the mountains where many had their farms. Unfortunatley the country was involved in a civil war in the mid 1980’s where in consequence his job required for him to carry a rifle. Not only did he put himself in great danger, he also put his family in great danger. This resulted in us moving to the United States.

My mom already had her mom and dad ( my maternal grandparents) living here in the Bay Area. But of course like most Nicaraguans that move to the US, we first moved to Miami, Florida. The income was horrible in Florida. Low paying jobs didn’t please my dad therefore we ended coming to good ol’ California. Daly City, California, three room apartment, my grandma, my grandpa and my two uncles. To top things of we came into the picture. Mom, Dad, Sister and Me. We lived 4 years in that apartment while great events happened such as the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake and the Bay Bridge World Series. We survived it all and before I knew it we moved into a 4 bedroom home and rented there for 13 years.

Fours years old and I remember my grandma and grandpa taking care of me. My parents would both be at work. My dad had two jobs and would sleep in the mid-day to get ready for his other job. I can’t make any noise for if I did I would wake him up and get him angry. Luckily he had Sundays off and that was the day he would take us out and make up for loss time. Every Sunday we would go to the same park, the park that we called at that time, as kids, the park of the ducks. Sunday was our day with dad because mom worked that day. My mom worked from 1-9pm at a restaurant. I remember a typical day for me would be to wake up at 6:30 in the morning, sit down and have breakfast with my mom, dad and sister, then my mom would walk us to school while my dad left to work. Three o’clock comes around and I see my grandma and grandpa waiting for my sister and I to come out of school. We would walk 6 blocks home, come in, eat and do our homework. We couldn’t watch T.V. but instead when we were done with homework my grandpa would play cards with us sometimes dominos, sometimes Chinese Checkers. Dad would come home at three, say hi and go right to sleep to rest for his next job. Makes me grateful that my sister and I had grandma and grandpa to take care of us everyday. Before I knew it, it was bath time always at seven thirty. Eight o’clock comes around and I remember begging my grandma to let us stay up just so we could say good night to my mom when she came home. Of course we couldn’t because bed time was 8:30. Wow eight thirty, that is early now that I think about it but this type of discipline worked very effectively, because the next morning I would be up at six in the morning without whining and pouting. Wish I can do that now.

Now I realized how important my extended family was to my sister and me as well as for my mom and dad. It helped a lot with our up bringing. Unfortunately the loss of my grandpa due to cancer only left my grandma to take care of us. Yes I also did have my two uncles living with me but they were in college doing their thing. Soon they would graduate college, get married and leave the home. Luckily for my parents, they were moving up the ladder so that they can afford rent between the two of them. English videos paid off for my dad moving him up to a maintenance position at one of his jobs. My mom already knowing English ,because she studied in the US when she was 17, found a better job at a doctors office. Our economic status was getting better quickly.

My sister and I entered high school and now things began to change. We rarely would sit down to eat as a family at the dinner table for lunch or breakfast. I was into my baseball team and school so in result I ended up spending less time in the house. It would be nice to one day sit down as a family and eat. It would also be nice to go camping again as a family like we used to. To me the solution is simple. All I have to do is wake up at seven in the morning to eat breakfast with mom and dad. As for going out with them on weekends, all I have to do is ask for a weekend off. I think that currently I am working on the problem by traveling with my parents. Just recently the four of us vacationed in Cancun, Mexico. Little things like that is what brings a family closer together. Of course in the end communication is the key to a better relationship. Planning out events and incorporating each individual’s ideas is part of developing an open relationship. This will help me spend more time with my family.

After doing this report, it made me realize how important my extended family was in my life. It helps when there is someone there to take care of you when your parents are off working trying to make a better living. It many advantages like for example my parents didn’t have to pay my grandparents for the care and also they weren’t strangers to us. Family can form a healthy learning environment for their kids. I am glad to say that I didn’t have it any other way.