“Once upon a time, a boy left the island to take the L-train to work.”


A Dream Goes On
Alexander Diaz

Alexander was born and raised in the San Joaquin Valley, an agricultural region near Yosemite and the giant Sequoias. The son of a migrant farm worker who refused to be just an agricultural implement during the days of Caesar Chavez, Alexander acquired a passion for working hard and fighting for justice. However, his first love is baseball. His late father was a semi-professional baseball player from Puerto Rico, and the love for the game flows deep within his bloodlines. Now an adult far removed from childhood dreams, Alexander left a promising position in the finance industry to pursue those dreams. The 28-year-old will be transferring to UC Berkeley next fall to study integrative biology and economics. He hopes to earn a Bachelor's Degree for his mother and to play professional baseball one day in honor of his father. As for himself, every day that affords him the opportunity to pursue his happiness and share his journey with those he loves is more than enough. Alexander is a work in progress, but has embraced an uncertain journey to live a life with no regrets.

When Luis walked down the streets of Michigan Avenue, his accent stood out quite possibly more than the urban towers. He was in awe of the steel jungle. His honey-almond eyes gasped at the sight of the two-horned needles atop the windy city's skyline.

"I'm not Rappaport, but there are dreams to be made here," he thought to himself.

His joints bore the brunt of a long walk from the L-train. If he punched into work late, perhaps that would be the straw that broke the camel's back. After all, those Puerto Ricans are lazy. Fate endured, from one shoe to the next, and each customer appreciated his warm smile and genuine attention to detail. Something was different about this one. He spoke in a Caribbean dialect, not the norm of people around those parts. He cared, not that labor was anything but mundane, and rather, the candor with which he spoke was sophisticated.

"Sir, I don't suppose you have this Cavalli in a 9, buckskin preferably?" A beautiful woman asked. "I'm looking for something a bit swanky this evening. The bourgeoisie could not fathom the sight of the bohemian type dressed in middle class garb."

After two hours of fetching, bending, pulling for the right pair of high heels, Luis found the lucky charm. The Chicago elite were usually demanding when they came to shop. They largely belonged to the Democratic Party, which favored a more socialistic approach. Qualified, hard-working, born from a diverse crop of sugar cane was Luis's political construct. He believed in helping the less fortunate, liberty, free markets (albeit a conservative ideal), and the pursuit of happiness. Dreams. He believed in dreams.

His dad was born in a place they call The Enchanted Island. Native to the Taino Indians, Puerto Rico was colonized by the Spanish conquistadors. Influences of African slaves, Spanish settlers and the original inhabitants all fused into a culture grounded in the musical artistry of the Bomba and Plena rhythms. Hector Lavoe arranged the guiro and maracas to the discord in his voice. Luis took it all in. His dance was graceful, exotic, meaningful. To live free among all and to rejoice is the delicacy of its servitude.

People who watched him believed his athletic propensity was special, something that would one day be called upon. However, life in poverty had no qualm. His father was the eldest of nine brothers and one sister. He raised them to be strong and proud. His brothers would run to the table for the main course. Arroz con gandules consisted of a rice and pigeon-pea dish, slightly seasoned with sofrito, smoked ham, pork meat, chorizo, olives, and red peppers. This is Puerto Rico's national dish. Luis calmly handled business down the street as his family ate. There was work to do. There were no major drug syndicates, only neighborhood peddlers pushing for a meal.

His education was second to none. His grandfather worked in the concrete mills from sunup to sundown. One day, he entered his eldest son in a drawing for the opportunity to have a child attend the prestigious private school of Academia Santa Teresita, located an hour northeast from his hometown of Ponce. The academy produced future governors, professional athletes, political dignitaries alike. When his father learned he won the lottery for entrance to the school, he realized the door was open. The truth was always cruel, but in this instance, a moment of melancholy was due.

Saturday Night Fever was opening that night. There was a buzz about; everyone knew the clubs would be moving with Afro beats. As Luis woke up one morning, not knowing his life would change, he was at peace. On the way to greet his daily quota, there it was. She was slender, her hair was long, dark, resembled the lavender sunset as it brushed the water’s edge. The two locked eyes and temporarily lost track of their agenda. He wasn't from where she was from, but that would soon change. Her sister called her Rosa Elia. Named after the most beautiful flower a garden could blossom, her face, too, was soft and elegant. It was love at first sight.

Their love returned to California. There were children, two boys. Both were mirror images of their handsome father. Best of friends, they swung a baseball bat when they learned to walk. Accolades would soon follow, awards, educational merits. There was also pain, failure, sorrow, struggle, determination. A Bachelor’s of Science on paper, he worked his entire life, gave everything he could to his family. They say you must accept the thorns of a rose, an imperfect flower. The worst in him, forgiven; the best was what mattered most.

In a distant memory, the door that opened was perennial, but morbid. We cannot foresee the tragedy life can throw at us. Luis was not the exception. As he tried to throw batting practice on a lazy summer afternoon, he felt a sharp pain in his side. It would be the last time father and son practiced together. The cancer spread, malignant, and his dream was at stake.

Eight years passed, and those brave hopes are now realized through his seeds. Luis's American dream is alive and well. Through his passion, his love, his own dream, is a legacy. Once upon a time, a boy left the island to take the L-train to work. He didn't know that day would change his life. He didn't know that day would take a turn for the worse, give birth to a turn for the best. Luis's life will always be honest. His life was the kind you look to the sky, the kind you remember in dreams. His father told him to have faith; the broken heart only mends what it can.

His dream goes on.