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Published: Fri, May 19, 2017
World | By 215

My Family | KCTS 9 - Public Television

My Family | KCTS 9 - Public Television

In 1946, my parents Serafin and Josefa Cerna boarded a train in northern Mexico with my older siblings - Angelica, Peter and Serafin Junior - and headed for America to begin a new life.

They have been traveling for four days and finally reached their destination: Toppenish, Washington. My grandparents, Tomas and Felicitas Cerna, settled there in the early '40s. At one time, my grandfather was a wealthy landowner in Mexico. But a revolution forced him to flee with his family in 1918. He crossed the border and eventually created a new life as a farmer. He was farming in Wyoming when he received a letter from two of his sons who were working the migrant stream. They told him of fertile land and opportunity in Washington State's Yakima Valley. My grandfather decided to move the family there, buying a home and farm land near Toppenish.

My father was born in Mexico, but spent some of his early years with his family in the US In his twenties, he Returned to Mexico to farm property owned by my grandfather. That's when I met my mother, who was a school teacher. They started a family and were doing it very well. They decided to make the journey to America and connect with my father's family.

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After arriving in Toppenish, my father worked for my grandfather and then started farming on his own. My grandparents had 20 children. Fourteen made it to adulthood. Seven of his nine sounds became successful farmers.

My grandfather was small in stature, but he had the full respect of his children. You did not mess with him. He expected his children and grandchildren to be hard workers and good citizens.

My sister Sally and I were born in Yakima. Along with our older siblings, we worked on the farm. I did not like farm work, but I came to appreciate it because it taught me a lot about hard work. It also gave me an appreciation for farmers and farm workers and what they mean to our country's economy.

My parents became U.S. citizens in 1953, the year I was born. They were proud to be American. And they were just as proud to be Mexican. They taught us to value both cultures. I saw how hard my parents worked to give us a home, food, and a chance to make a better life for ourselves. They wanted more for us and that is why they came to America - for us to have a better life. Like so many other immigrants that came here, their story is an American story.

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