Jesse J. Bañuelos is very proud to have been born in an adobe hut in Las Moras, a ranch in Zacatecas, Mexico, where he also lived during the years of his childhood. Las Moras is located between Tlaltenango and Tepechitlán, towns that are about half a day, on foot, from Las Moras.


When Mr. Bañuelos was 5 years old, his father started taking him to the field at dawn, every day, during the planting season to help him plant corn. When it was time for the harvest, they would also toil in the field from dawn to dusk. That’s how Mr. Bañuelos’ father taught him how to work, and the value of an honest day’s work.

A Gold-Hearted, Young Woman Taught Him How to Learn

No one went to school in Las Moras because there was no schoolhouse. One day, Fernanda Dominguez, a young woman who was the only literate person in Las Moras and its surroundings, offered to give school classes in her house to any child whose parents wanted their children to learn. Many parents didn’t want to send their children to Fernanda because when they were grown up, the parents expected their sons to be peasants and their daughters to be homemakers, just as the parents were. Therefore, they wouldn’t need to read or write, those parents would say. At first, Mr. Bañuelos didn’t want to go to Fernanda’s classes because almost none of his friends were going to go. However, his mother insisted. Although the classes lasted only six months, because Fernanda had a gift for teaching, in those six months, and with only a few hours of class per week, she taught Mr. Bañuelos to read, to write, and to do arithmetic. She also instilled in him a great love for books and for learning.

A Wise and Noble Teacher Taught Him How to Fight Against The Impossible

In time, Mr. Bañuelos and his family left Las Moras, and moved to Tijuana. In Tijuana, Mr. Bañuelos attended Escuela Primaria 16 de Septiembre, an elementary school, where he received formal schooling for the first time in his life. About a year and a half later, he and his family came to the US. Mr. Bañuelos didn’t want to come here because he loved going to school in Tijuana. Moreover, because in the US they speak a language that he didn’t understand, he was afraid that he would never learn it. That’s why, when he arrived in the US, he didn’t want to go to school. However, his mother insisted.

When Mr. Bañuelos had been in the US for less than two years and was about to graduate from the Eighth Grade at Potrero Elementary School in El Monte, California, Mr. Bennett, Mr. Bañuelos’ favorite teacher, asked him to give the graduation speech in both English and in Spanish. Since Mr. Bañuelos’ English skills were still very poor and because he suffered from an extreme fear of speaking in public, some teachers didn’t want him to present the speech in English. Mr. Bañuelos didn’t want to present that speech either. He knew that because of his poor English skills and because of that fear, it would be impossible to do it, and therefore, if he were to try it, he would fail Mr. Bennett badly. Moreover, Mr. Bañuelos’ parents didn’t have the money to buy the suit nor shoes that he would need for the speeches. Nevertheless, Mr. Bennett convinced Mr. Bañuelos to try it, and convinced the other teachers to let him try. Thereafter, Mr. Bennett helped Mr. Bañuelos to practice the speeches three times a week, for two months. Then, one week before graduation, with his own money, Mr. Bennett bought him a suit and a pair of shoes. 

On graduation night, after Mr. Bañuelos finished his speeches, the audience applauded him warmly. Then, his classmates congratulated him for his speech in Spanish. When he asked them about his speech in English, they commented that they had not understood much of it because of his accent, and because he stuttered and stumbled over words. “What about the applause?”, he asked them. “They applauded you because you had the guts to get on that stage knowing that you were going to make a fool of yourself,” one of them commented. In tears, Mr. Bañuelos approached Mr. Bennett to beg for forgiveness. Mr. Bennett smiled and said: “Congratulations, well done!” Confused, Mr. Bañuelos uttered: “I don’t understand, I failed you completely.” Again, Mr. Bennett smiled and said: “someday you’ll understand what you did tonight.”