PROFILE OF JESSE J. BAÑUELOS

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, small towns which are about half a day’s walk from Las Moras.

IN MEXICO, HIS FATHER TAUGHT HIM TO WORK BY TAKING HIM TO THE FIELD TO TOIL ON THE LAND WHEN MR. BAÑUELOS WAS 5 YEARS OLD

As soon as Mr. Bañuelos turned 5 years old, his father started taking him to the field every day at the break of dawn during the planting season to help him plant corn. When it was the harvesting season, they would also toil in the field from sunup to sundown. That’s how Mr. Bañuelos learned to work.

IN MEXICO, A Gold-Hearted, Young Woman Taught Him TO READ, TO WRITE, AND INSTILLED IN HIM A GREAT LOVE FOR BOOKS AND FOR LEARNING

No one went to school in Las Moras because there was no schoolhouse. One day, Fernanda Dominguez, a young Woman who was the most educated person in the ranch, offered to teach reading and writing in her house to any child whose parents wanted their children to learn. Some of the parents didn’t want to send their children to Fernanda’s house because when they were grown up the parents expected their sons to be peasants and their daughters to be homemakers, just like their parents were. Therefore, their children wouldn’t need to read or write, those parents would say. Mr. Bañuelos didn’t want to go to Fernanda’s house either because almost none of his friends were going to go. However, his mother insisted. Because Fernanda had a gift for teaching, in only six months and with only a few hours of study per week, she taught Mr. Bañuelos basic reading, writing, arithmetic, and instilled in him a great love for books and for learning.

EVEN THOUGH HE DIDN’T WANT TO COME TO THE U.S. BECAUSE HE WAS AFRAID THAT HE WOULD NEVER LEARN ENGLISH, HIS PARENTS DIDN’T LEAVE HIM IN MEXICO BECAUSE THEY SENSED THAT A FUTURE WAS WAITING FOR HIM IN THE U.S.

In time, Mr. Bañuelos and his family moved to Tijuana where he received formal schooling for the first time in his life at Escuela Primaria 16 de Septiembre. Since he loved books and learning, he excelled in school right away. Two years later, his father brought the family to Los Angeles. Mr. Bañuelos didn’t want to come to Los Angeles because in the schools in the U.S. they speak a very strange language that he feared that he would never learn. Moreover, he loved going to school in Tijuana, and he adored his Teachers; although they were strict, they were also dedicated. Therefore, he wanted to stay in Tijuana until he had finished his studies. However, his parents didn’t leave him in Mexico for obvious family reasons and because they knew that a future was waiting for him in the U.S.

IN THE U.S., A WISE AND NOBLE TEACHER TAUGHT HIM TO OVERCOME HIS FEARS, AND TO FIGHT AGAINST THE IMPOSSIBLE

When Mr. Bañuelos was about to graduate from the Eighth Grade at Potrero Elementary School, in El Monte, Ca., Mr. Bennett, Mr. Bañuelos’ favorite Teacher, asked him to present the graduation speech in English and in Spanish even though Mr. Banuelos didn’t want to give the speeches at all. Since he had been in the U.S. for only about two years, his English skills were still very poor. Moreover, he was terrified of speaking in public. That’s why he was sure that if he were to give the speeches, he would fail and make a fool of himself. Besides, his parents didn’t have the money to buy the suit nor the shoes that he would need for the speeches. However, one week before graduation the Teacher, with his own money, bought Mr. Bañuelos a suit and a pair of shoes. 

On graduation night, after Mr. Bañuelos finished his speeches his friends congratulated him for his speech in Spanish. When he asked about his speech in English, they commented that they had not understood much of it because of his accent, and because he stammered. “What about the applause?”, he asked. “They applauded because you had the guts to get on that stage knowing that you were going to make a fool of yourself,” they commented. In tears, he approached the Teacher to apologize. The Teacher smiled and said: “Well done!” Confused, Mr. Bañuelos uttered: “I don’t get it, I let you down.” Again, the Teacher smiled and said: “you’re going to go far someday, and what you did tonight will help you get there.”

THANKS TO ALL THAT HE LEARNED FROM HIS PARENTS, AND FROM PEOPLE THAT HE MET DURING HIS JOURNEY, HE GRADUATED FROM LAW SCHOOL BECAUSE HE FOUND A WAY TO OVERCAME VERY DIFFICULT OBSTACLES

In 1982, Mr. Bañuelos began the study of law at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, something he never even dreamed that he would have the opportunity to do in Mexico, much less in the U.S. However, due to his origins, he felt like a fish out of water from his first day at Loyola because many of his classmates were from money, and from the best universities in the U.S. Moreover, after a few weeks at Loyola, he began to believe that he wasn’t cut out to be an attorney because after reviewing a few of Mr. Bañuelos’ writings, his writing professor suggested that he look for another career because, although she knew that he was trying, she didn’t think that he could learn to write like an attorney. Additionally, she warned him that if he didn’t improve, he would be expelled from school because he was also struggling in other classes. However, because of what he was taught by his parents, by the young Woman in Las Moras, by his Teachers in Tijuana, and by his Teacher at Potrero Elementary, he found a way to persevere. As the months went by, he raised his grades in all his classes, and his writing improved so much that in his third year of school, which was his last, he was chosen as one of the 30 best writers in his school, out of hundreds of candidates.

MR. JESSE J. BAÑUELOS’ EDUCATION AND PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE