Updated: Dec 18, 2021
My father was born in a place called Bluefields, in the Atlantic coast of Nicaragua.
My father was born in a place called Bluefields, in the Atlantic coast of Nicaragua. His four Chinese grandparents had arrived by boat decades earlier, at the beginning of the 1900s, with nothing more than their will to make it in a place so different to the one they'd left behind. They had arrived to Central America with nothing.
Upon arriving, the maternal grandparents borrowed one sack of sugar and one sack of flour from a town member, and started making sweet Chinese bread to sell in town. My father's paternal grandfather was a sastre but soon decided that selling liquor would be better business to sustain the family. It was a big family. This grandfather saved lots and worked extremely hard. And it showed. His son would later own the largest and most complete store in Bluefields, J.K. Siu. Many people in town today still remember it. None of these Chinese grandparents spoke Spanish or English when they arrived.
My father grew up happy, existing right in the middle of the Criolle, Cantonese and Spanish language worlds. Black, Miskito and Chinese joys and ways made up his Bluefields world, and his father's store, J.K. Siu, gave his parents and his 7 siblings a solid economic standing in town. So my father was the kind of child that had the opportunity to dream and play, with no major worries or obstacles to learn about life's many things.
When he became a teenager, however, his parents decided they would send him to Macao, China, then a Portuguese colony. The only one from his siblings to be sent to the homeland, my dad carried his father's first name and had no other option but to do as his father wished.
In Macao my father learned Cantonese, played lots of volleyball, ping pong, and excelled at school. Despite having arrived without speaking any Cantonese, he made friends and learned about his origins, his parents' culture, and ways outside of Bluefields, Nicaragua. He missed life in Nicaragua, and he missed his mother, however, whom he did not see for the entire four years of his high school in Macao. But he appreciated learning and living in China, a world so different to the one he'd known. His curiosity for these different experiences made his time in Macao without his family or parents, manageable, even exciting, he tells me.
And on his walks through the city, this ChinoNicaragüense highschool boy in Macao would often pass by magazine stands. Every time he could, he would purchase one specific magazine, The New England Journal of Medicine, which he read on his spare time. Medicine fascinanted him. He knew he wanted to be able to cure. First hearts, but then later in life, opted for specializing in the medical wonders of being able to bring life to this world, gynecology.
When he finished high school in Macao, my grandfather in Nicaragua sent to ask him what he wanted to do with his life. My dad told his father that he wanted to be a doctor. And so the father, my grandfather, sent him a ticket from Macao to Guatemala, where the best school of medicine in Central America existed at that time, despite the country already being at war. It was 1972.
I am grateful for my father and all the ancestors who came before him. They traveled far to make it to Central America in search of a better life for the family. I proudly come from their struggles, their willingness to make it, and their ways of learning how to live in this life.
Te quiero papá.
My father, sister, and I. Tela, Honduras 1984.
My father and grandfather, Bluefields, Nicaragua