The Man of The Hour

2012 Freda Rumford June 2012

By Freda Rumford from the June 2012 Edition

I have been sitting at my computer for quite a while, staring into space, looking for inspiration on stories to tell of Manzanillo. One thing will not leave me alone but it is not about Manzanillo, so really, I shouldn’t write about it but I will.

What has happened to make me so impressed with this item that I simply have to tell you? It is probably one of the most touching and heart warming things that I have witnessed for a very long time and concerns a very young Mexican gentleman, Cali. He was born in a very small town not far from Autlan, Jalisco, Mexico. He did tell me the name of the town but with my memory being as it is at times, I just cannot remember it.

Many years ago, twenty five in fact, he left his home in Jalisco with his parents, brothers and sisters and travelled far away to the United States, where he eventually arrived at Anacortes, Washington. Years come and go and Cali eventually becomes a part owner, manager, and cook in a small but excellent family restaurant. He has a family of his own now, a wife and small children who he loves with a passion and for whom he wishes even better lives and opportunities than that he has had himself.

Enter into Cali’s life then, a retired American teacher who offers to teach desirous local adults English as a second language (ESL). Teacher leaves his business card in restaurants and cafes and talks to the staff who do not have much English, offering to teach them English in whatever spare time they have, completely free of any charge.

Cali, hearing of this through his family, decides that this is someone he needs to meet. He does speak English, not necessarily grammatically perfect and with a very slight accent, but feels that this may be the person he has been looking for to help him towards the next step that he should take. Cali is now in his early 30’s and knows full well that to have any other career apart from his current situation, he needs to obtain citizenship in the U.S.A. He is legal, has had many green cards and work permits renewed over the years but now is time to make the solidarity and commitment for his children sake.

The two eventually meet and Teacher, greatly impressed with the manner and desires of Cali, agrees to tutor him through the required steps needed for citizenship; knowledge of the countries origins; the Constitution; the ability to speak and write fluently in English; the oath of allegiance; the desire and pride of belonging to a great nation. Over several months, the two meet, Cali driving miles to Oak Harbor each time and painstakingly he learns to write and learn the English alphabet, answer questions about the Constitution and to the sing the national anthem. He is nearing readiness. Not once does he miss a lesson although others taking the same course do so. His drive is infectious and Teacher is becoming more and more impressed with the calibre of this young man. Now talk is turning to what Cali needs for the future journey, what he wants to do once he has his citizenship.

Talk eventually runs the gamut of careers but one thing is definite, Cali wishes to go to College or University. Probably, he thinks, to do computer engineering. When the inclusion and discussion of economics arises from the list of options available at the State University however, his interest really perks up showing that this is a subject he is keenly interested in. This then could be what he works toward. Which level would he prefer to attain? Probably a Master’s degree or a Doctorate in the subject would be hard work but having noted Cali’s determination, desire and work ethic, Teacher is convinced that this young man has the ability to succeed at whatever course and level he sets his mind upon and tells him so.

Cali is now reading and writing English very competently, can answer all the required questions needed by the Citizenship Board and is eager and willing for anything that follows. Currently he owns and works full time at the restaurant, many times doing overtime, looks after his three small children and yet finds time to eagerly learn all that he can from Teacher. Perhaps here is a good place to advise the reader of this small story that Cali has never had any formal schooling in his entire life. He has managed somehow to slip through all of the cracks and become totally self taught in Spanish as well as English. All of this has been changed in just a mere few months with Teacher. Spanish is not Teacher’s forte but he was able to ensure that Cali’s English improved dramatically.


I was privileged to be invited to go to the citizenship ceremony in Seattle. On the day in question there were fifty-two applicants from twenty-five countries. Of them all, Cali stood out as his pride in what he was accomplishing showed. He was beautifully dressed in neatly pressed slacks, a light blue shirt and tie. His fellow Americans should be proud to have such a keen, bright, earnest and proud young man now among their number. That Cali will become a fine upstanding brilliant addition to his chosen country; can only be a matter of time. This is one young former Mexican man who has found the desire and the required encouragement to go after his lifelong dream. He has left Mexico but Mexico should be proud of him also. I personally am just so proud to have met him and now be able to call him my friend.

I wish you the very best of luck in the pursuit of your dreams Cali. One day I know I will be able to say “I knew him when—-!”


A few days after the ceremony, Cali and Teacher are at it again, sitting in the back of a restaurant, their heads together. Only this time the subjects of discussion and study are English composition, grammar, syntax, and just basic reading and writing practice.


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