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From working in the fields of Mexico as a kid to graduating from ASU


Today I'm thinking about a friend of mine. This isn't an imaginary story, I really knew him, and still do. I'll call him Miguel (since that's his name) and he was born in Mexico, and graduated from Arizona State University the same time that I did.

I met Miguel in 1982, and we both graduated the next year, in the Fine Arts Department, as Graphic Designers, which was a kind of new program at the time. And as overwhelmed as I was, being a kid from Minneapolis, at ASU, looking at it from Miguel's point of view made it seem as if I were comfortable with it. And he that thought I was.

Growing up in Minneapolis, I had never seen an Hispanic person. My schools had some Black kids, and even some Asian kids (we called them "Oriental" in those days), but other than seeing the Frito Bandito, and Speedy Gonzales on TV, I had no experience with Miguel's world. I had studied some Spanish in High School, but it was Castilian, not the Spanish that I learned to speak in my twenties. Miguel was very unusual to me, and his world fascinated me.

I invited myself into Miguel's world. I saw where he lived, I met his parents, who were absolutely delighted that I could speak a little Spanish (his dad especially, who didn't speak English). I was at Miguel's wedding (being married didn't stop him from graduating from college!), and I used to play a game with his baby, where I pretended to take off her nose (it was just my thumb), and I would say, "¡Mira! ¡Tengo su nariz!" (Look! I've got your nose!). As I recall at the time Miguel wanted me to call him Mike, which I did. His plans were to assimilate into the local culture, which he did, while always keeping a bit of old Mexico with him. When he got his first job, he dressed well, and always wore boots. He went back to being called Miguel, and he added a little bit of spice to his design work. He was a good designer.

Like me, Miguel liked thinking about stuff, and sometimes I would visit him and we would compare what our ancestors would have been doing at the same time. Mine, on a little island west of mainland Europe, would have been digging in the mud, without a written language while his were building temples, and measuring the stars.

Miguel enriched my world, and was part of the process of expanding it, which I'm still working on. Looking back, I really can't blame myself for the narrow point of view that I grew up with, because I hadn't seen anything else. What I learned to see was extraordinary, and I'm looking forward to seeing more.

Thank you, Miguel! I'd be a poorer man if I'd never seen your world!

Image at the top of this post: A cartoon that I drew in 1981 with Miguel and me. ¡Viva Mexico!

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