Skip to main content

Gracias Senor Escalante

Last week Jaime Escalante died at the age of 79. We got to know him thru the movie "Stand and Deliver." He was such an inspiration to this Latina.

I owe a bit of my science career to Senor Escalate. See the movie came out in 1988 and I'm betting that I saw the movie in 1989. This means I saw it at that critical time as I was moving from middle school to high school. This is the point where many girls with mad math skills bail on math and science. There are a number of theories, but the most prevailing one is that the social pressures to be "not smart" overwhelm girls and well, we kinda fulfill that framework.

My freshmen year of high school my algebra teacher asked me to consider taking two math classes sophomore year so that I could finish calculus senior year. WHAT? Yup, I was being asked to take geometry plus algebra II with trig in one year. And I did it. Well, at least the two math classes and was on track for completing calc senior year, but I bailed due to a super rough junior spring semester with a crazy teacher who killed my math-esteem.

But while my teachers were super supportive, I kept hearing Senor Escalante's voice reminding me to have ganas. So while I didn't take 5 math classes in 4 years, I did do 4 in three.

What Senor Escalante really did for me is show me in no uncertain terms that as a Latina, I matter as much as anyone. The scene where he goes to see Ana's father at his restaurant...well, I can't even begin to express what that scene meant to me. While I was raised by my parents to believe that I could and would do anything I set my mind to, I was keenly aware that as a Latina, as a girl, there was a cultural indifference to my success.

Thus seeing in a movie, a Latino man stand up to another Latino man for the benefit of an up and coming Latina, gawd, I knew then that I couldn't let my gender or ethnic background hold me back. That despite this overwhelming feeling of dread, I could do it. Because no matter what his students looked like, how thick an accent they had, what kind of family they hailed from, he believed in them. And I was aware of my privilege, not as keenly as I should had been, but I knew I had advantages over the kids in the movie and the ones who lived doors down from me attending a different high school. For one, I knew calculus as offered in my high school. And if the kids in that movie could overcome their challenges, if Senor Escalante could believe in them and guide them to a new path, well, gosh darn it, I had nothing to complain about.

"Stand and Deliver" is often touted as a movie about Latino success, but many miss the explicit message that us girls can do it too. It may seem obvious with the gender make up of the class, but that one pivotal scene AND then Ana returns to class! Oh, marked a point where machismo was told to sit the fuck down and let us all thru.

I'll always know that a negative times a negative equals a positive, but I'll also always know that an educated daughter is worth more than a a couple of hands in the kitchen.

Gracias Senor.


Anonymous said…
I hadn't heard this news, but the film did inspire me when it was shown in my algebra II class (which I also doubled up with geometry my sophomore year).

My niece is 12 and loves science - I can only hope it continues.

Popular posts from this blog

Is there love after abortion?

Over two years ago , way before I started writing for Girl w/Pen, Alison Piepmeier wowed me with an essay about getting an abortion and how her decision made with her husband was a love story : ...the story I most want to tell—and one I have never heard—is of abortion as an intimate part of a couple’s life together.  Our abortion was a love story. I’d worried that Walter and I were rejecting a gift from the universe.  What I discovered, though, was that when we stripped away the distractions of everyday life so that we could make this difficult decision together, it bound us together as surely as if our choice had been different—and as it turns out, that was the gift. Every once in awhile their story returns to me. I often don't know why it stumbles into my brain and says, "Hey! Ponder me!" but it does. This morning it returned to me yelling, "Why?!" I was half-listening to WBEZ's 848 and some story about a man running away from his life. Original, I kn

Book Review: Wolfpack by Abby Wambach

Less than a year ago, Abby Wambach took the stage at Barnard's commencement and gave a speech that shook many, including myself, to the core . Her speech went viral and I made the above image in order to share the highlights of her speech. Earlier this month Abby released the speech in book form. Wolfpack : How to Come Together, Unleash Our Power, and Change the Game is short (less than 100 pages) but is much more than just her speech . You get a peek into how the speech came together and why she said everything. And because the book is short and is an expanded speech, it moves quickly. I feel that it moves with the same ferocity that Abby use to move down a soccer field. And you might find yourself cheering as she takes you through the story. Abby has always been one of my favorite players. The way she ran amok on the pitch was exactly the way I felt I played sports. Never caring how you looked and giving it your all. Leaving it all on the field. When she retired from socc

Chicago Women Who Owned 2015

When I asked social media which Chicago women kicked ass in 2015, I got a list far too long to do justice. I also realized how many of my lady friends kick ass every day, but it's a constant kicking of the ass, not a lot of headline kicking. Ya know what I mean? So I tried to make this list a mix of Chicagoans who had some headline kicks and some who kick ass every day and deserve a shout out. Let's get started, shall we? Photos from social media or public domain pages Luvvie Ajayi Luvvie did my job and summed up her amazing year herself! I love it when women do that. Yes, let's take a moment to reflect on our accomplishments and dance at our own parties. Luvvie makes us laugh, even when we want to cry. She pushes us to be active, even down to our shoes. You'll never laugh so hard when learning so much than when you are in a meeting with her. From hanging with celebs to her epic travel schedule, Luvvie definitely owned 2015. Charlene Carruthers Carruther