Mexico: A neighboring country but worlds apartWORTHINGTON —Patricia Ambrossi left her hometown of Oaxaca, Mexico, as a young lady in pursuit of a better life in California.
WORTHINGTON —Patricia Ambrossi left her hometown of Oaxaca, Mexico, as a young lady in pursuit of a better life in California.
“When I came to the United States, of course I didn’t speak any English,” said Ambrossi from her office at Prairie Elementary. “I went through the same things that everybody does – learning the language. I came to live with my brother and sister in-law. The main thing she told me was ‘you have to learn English.”
Learning English was a challenge for her as a student in Mexico, she explained — therefore making it a more difficult process to grasp the language in California. Evidently, her hard work has paid off since she is now the Spanish interpreter at Prairie Elementary.
In between learning a new language and working to support herself, Ambrossi enrolled in a dental assistant program. Upon being licensed, she worked as a dental assistant for 15 years in California.
“I got married, had my kids and got divorced,” said Ambrossi who has three children — Jose, Omar and Monica. “I remarried my husband Andrew and we decided to move out of California. We thought that the best thing was to look for a smaller town.”
Friends they met in California — who used to live in Worthington — convinced Ambrossi and her husband to move to Worthington.
“They said we would go together but at the last minute, they changed their minds,” she added.
Ambrossi and her family settled in Worthington 12 years ago and then moved to Bigelow.
“In the beginning it was hard,” she said, explaining that where she had lived in Los Angeles and San Bernadino was more culturally diverse. “I noticed that there was some prejudice here. It absolutely gets better once people get to know you. We stereotype people but there is good and bad in every culture.”
Instead of continuing as dental assistant, Ambrossi took on her first job in Worthington as a paraprofessional at the middle school.
“I went to Minnesota West to complete my liberal arts and I came back to work as an interpreter for the district,” she explained. “Everything changed for me and I just love what I do.”
Having lived in the U.S. for more than twenty years, Ambrossi still remembers what it was like to grow up in Oaxaca.
A southern state in Mexico, Oaxaca borders the Pacific Ocean. It is one of the more diverse states in terms of indigenous people. The Zapotecs make up the dominant ethnic group in the state.
Ambrossi’s family does not have indigenous roots. She was born in Mexico City but moved to Oaxaca at the age of 5.
“It is a beautiful place and deep inside I still miss it,” she said, adding that she has not visited her country since her children were born. “I know everything changes with time so I’d like to see what it looks like now.”
Part of the reason she has not been back to Mexico is because her parents and all of her nine siblings currently reside in the U.S.
Ambrossi explained that family holds very high importance in the Mexican culture,
“We’re always together,” she stressed. “We are very respectful to our parents and adults. That’s what I taught my children.”
Major festivities in Oaxaca are Noche de Rábanos (Night of Radishes) and La Guelaguetza or Lunes del Cerro (Mondays on the Hill).
Noche de Rábanos is the focal point of Christmas celebration in Oaxaca when sculptures are carved out of radishes. Lunes del Cerro, Ambrossi explained, is an annual celebration when indigenous representatives from the seven regions in Oaxaca congregate in the city, bringing together dance, music, food and artisan craft.
“I always encourage my kids to be proud because their parents are Mexicans,” Ambrossi said. “At home, we only speak Spanish. They’re bilingual and that’s something to be proud off too.”
With her children born in the U.S., Ambrossi detailed how she “adopted” a lot of the American culture.
“It’s a combination of both cultures in our family,” she said. “We celebrate a typical Thanksgiving. We do turkey, stuffing and everything.
“I love this country,” Ambrossi said. “To me, it gives everyone the same opportunity but it depends on the person to use it. For example in school, teachers are very concerned bout their students. I can tell you that when you work with the teachers here you can see how much they care about their students.”
Daily Globe Reporter Ana Anthony can be reached at 376-7321