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 take 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 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 either because almost none of his friends were going to go. Nevertheless, his mother insisted. Although the instruction lasted only 6 months, because Fernanda had a gift for teaching in that time, and with only a few hours per week, she taught Mr. Bañuelos to read, to write, and she 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 the Escuela Primaria 16 de Septiembre. Since he loved books and learning, Mr. Bañuelos excelled in school right away. About two years later, Mr. Bañuelos’ father decided to bring the family to Los Angeles. Mr. Bañuelos didn’t want to come to the U.S. because he feared that he would never learn English. Besides, he loved going to school and he adored his teachers; although they were strict, they were also very dedicated. Consequently, he wanted to stay in Tijuana until he had finished his studies. Nevertheless, his parents didn’t leave him in Mexico for obvious family reasons, and because they sensed 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, California, Mr. Bennett, Mr. Bañuelos’ favorite Teacher, asked him to present the graduation speech in English and in Spanish. Mr. Banuelos didn’t want to present 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 had a fear of speaking in public. That’s why he was sure that if he were to present 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, the Teacher insisted; one week before graduation the Teacher, with his own money, bought him a suit and a pair of shoes. 

On graduation night, after Mr. Bañuelos finished his speeches, the audience applauded him warmly. The applause lifted him to cloud nine because he took it as a sign that, despite his fear, he had done well. When he left the stage, his friends congratulated him for his speech in Spanish. When he asked them about his speech in English, they told him 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. “They applauded you 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 and feeling like a failure, Mr. Bañuelos approached the Teacher to apologize. The Teacher smiled and said: “Well done. Congratulations!” Confused, Mr. Bañuelos uttered: “I don’t understand, I let you down.” Again, the Teacher smiled and said: “someday you’ll understand what you did tonight.”

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 ever do in Mexico, much less in the U.S. However, due to his origins, he felt like a fish out of water from the start of his classes because many of his classmates were from wealth. He also began to doubt that he was intelligent enough to be an attorney because after grading a few of Mr. Bañuelos’ writings, his writing professor told him that although she knew that he was trying, she didn’t think that he could learn to write like an attorney. She even suggested that he take up another career because if he didn’t improve, he would fail that class, and he would be expelled from the school because he was also struggling in other classes. However, relying on what he had been taught by his parents, by the young Woman from Las Moras, by the Teacher from Potrero Elementary, and by others that he met during his journey to Loyola, 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