Picker Pride: How My Hometown Helps Celebrate My History

September 15th through October 15th is Hispanic Heritage Month. Join us as we celebrate and share stories from our colleagues in the Juntos Employee Resource Group. Today, hear from Megan Ysassi, Curation Specialist, her story of pride and embracing her family’s past to enrich her present. 

Twenty miles west of Corpus Christi, Texas, is the city of Robstown. It’s here that I learned what it meant to have pride. In Robstown, embracing the pain of your past is at the town’s core, and Robstownian’s showcase the history of its community members being cotton pickers. Driving into the city, you can see the roots and historical legacy that the town and its people were built upon. The cotton ball is a prominent symbol of pride—from the high school mascot to locally owned businesses, the cotton symbol acknowledges the history of many Hispanic migrant farm workers in the South Texas region who worked hard to make an honest living.

So what does it mean to be a cotton picker and have picker pride in Robstown Texas? For the Rodriguez family, it was a means to an end—the way to put food on the table and clothes on the backs of their 8 children. It also meant showing their daughter, Christy, what it means to make the impossible possible for a household. For the Ysassi Family, it was working the fields to provide for their children and give them a better future, but it also meant showing their son, Raymond, that there was no substitute for hard work. For Christy and Raymond, my parents, this meant showing their daughters that despite adversity, challenge, or lack of means, you can achieve anything you put your mind to. The sacrifices of those who picked and their tireless efforts make them my heroes and the reason why I choose to tell this story every year. 

In the time I have been at OpenSesame, I have been in a community that encourages me to reiterate to myself the core of embracing diversity. To me, this is realizing that your own thoughts, understandings, and experiences will not match with those around you and that is what makes the spaces we live in unique and beautiful. So today, as we continue to celebrate Hispanic heritage month, I say to you: be encouraged; stay curious about other narratives and other people’s lived experiences.

My family’s history as migrant workers was hard lived, but growing up in Robstown—where the community made the choice to view it as a legacy of pride and perseverance—taught me to value our past. Every one of us has a choice. We can curse the dark and hold on to the pains of the past or we can turn on the light. I’ve chosen to shed light, to celebrate our Hispanic history, culture, and the contributions of those who came before me to make it possible for me to be where I am and who I am today.