April 25, 2014
“Man in the Middle”
By Adam Ferguson, Student at the University of Arizona
Ruben Salazar is deemed as the “Man in the Middle” for a few reasons. One of those reasons is because his mom was very pro-American while his dad was pro-Mexican. Salazar was caught between these two opinions while his parents fought over what kind of person he would be. I feel similar to Salazar in this way, though not nearly as extreme. I grew up being taught to be pro-American. I was raised in Tucson, so I have always been close to the debate about immigration and discrimination. I was taught that illegal immigration was wrong and that bad people did it.
When I turned 19, I was called to serve a two-year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Boise Idaho as a Spanish speaking missionary. I had no idea that there were very many Spanish speaking people in Idaho. I had taken three years of Spanish in high school but I felt inadequate to be able to teach people in that language. I studied and practiced Spanish at the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah and after just two months took my newly acquired skills to the streets of Boise. I quickly learned that there were quite a lot of Spanish speaking people in Boise. They had immigrated there to work on the farms and dairies in the surrounding areas. In just a few short months I was speaking Spanish fluently and had met a lot of Hispanic people, many of which are still dear friends. I came to understand how kind, humble and hardworking the Hispanic people are. Eventually, although I am of Scottish decent, I felt Hispanic at heart. I still cannot eat my food without a tortilla in one hand and a chile in the other.
Many of the people I met on the streets of Boise were illegal immigrants. But I don’t think I met anyone who fits the description of a bad person that I was taught when I was a kid in Tucson. They were all there in search of a better life. They just wanted to make a decent living for their family. I learned a lot from them which has helped me in my life, especially in regards to having a good work ethic. While most of the Hispanic people I met were good and honest people, they were always very cautious and timid, especially when a police officer was around, and even more when “la migra” was near, or as they often called them, “los limones.” I cannot imagine what it would be like to live with one eye open, always concerned about who was watching me or if I would be kicked out of the country. Many of them recounted to me their stories of crossing the border into this country, and many of them were nothing short of amazing and miraculous that they made it here alive. For most, it was a long and extremely difficult ordeal. I came to realize that these people would only subject themselves to such an ordeal if it was for a better cause. While my view of immigration as a law did not change, my view of the kind of people which immigrate illegally greatly changed. Some of my greatest friends are illegal immigrants in this country.
While I was greatly exposed to the issue of immigration, somewhat on the inside, I was not exposed to the issue of discrimination. I mentioned that many of the people I met were always on the lookout for “la migra,” but I never saw anyone taken by them, let alone wrongly dealt with by them. When I think back, no one I was associated with was ever discriminated against, but many of them thought that it was a large problem. I am not saying that it is not a problem, or that it does not happen, but that I think it is not as common as some people believe.
I am so thankful for those two years I spent in Idaho with my Hispanic brothers and sisters. I am forever changed because of it. I have such a deep respect for the Hispanic people and the lessons I learned from them. I can definitely say that I feel somewhat of a connection to Ruben Salazar as the “Man in the Middle” because, though not as extreme, I have also been on both sides of the argument.
Bio: My name is Adam Ferguson. I am a 4th year Architecture student at the University of Arizona. I am married and have a 16 month old son.