A letter to immigrant fathers

Thank you, Papá

Rosa Gómez

More stories from Rosa Gómez


A photo of my parents in 2019, Oscar and Theresa Gómez.

I am the proud daughter of a Honduran immigrant. 

In my short 20 years of existence, I have learned to appreciate the dedication my parents have to our family everyday. 

I remember my dad waking up early, despite having only been in bed for a few hours because of working the night shift, to make us breakfast before school. He would watch for the school bus from his bedroom window so we would not have to wait in the cold Minnesota winter.

I remember him coming to read in his broken English to my fourth grade class about Celia Cruz, volunteering during lunch and watching me in the school choir. 

I remember him rearranging his work schedule to take us to appointments and pick us up from school when we were sick. 

I remember listening intently to stories he would tell us about his life in Honduras. 

I remember being snuggled on the couch and him reading us a book about princesses, while we watched in awe as a little projector showed the dancing images on the living room wall.

I remember waking up every morning on my birthday to fresh red roses on the table. 

I remember him bringing me food when it was just too hard for me to get out of bed. 

While we may have not always understood each other, our love has always remained steadfast. 

My father’s immigration story, similar to so many other young people who risk their lives for a chance in “el norte,” is one that deserves to be remembered and honored. 

He has made, and continues to make, immense sacrifices to give me and my siblings the opportunities that he didn’t have. I will always be immensely grateful for the endless amount of privilege that is afforded to me, that ensures I will never endure the same hardships he did.

Hispanic Heritage Month is a time for me to reflect on my family’s story and to voice my gratitude to my father for everything he has done for me. 

His story is what makes my family what it is. It is why we are strong, hard-working and a beautiful representation of the heritage that we proudly carry. 

This month is an opportunity for me to celebrate my identity as a first-generation American. It’s a chance to take pride in the culture that has been passed on to me, and it is also an opportunity to navigate my own identity.

Having always existed in predominantly white spaces, it has been a growing and learning process to be proud of all that I am, proud of everything that makes me what I am. 

Every moment of pain, joy, celebration, growth and beauty is what has shaped me into the individual that I am today. 

I am simultaneously latinx and have also felt the pressure to be more “American.” I have struggled with imposter syndrome as I have had to navigate my, at times strained, connection with my culture. 

In many cases, I have felt deprived of the ability to speak my language, to connect with my people and to embrace what this country deems to be Hispanic. 

Despite this adversity, I feel drawn to continue to work to claim the Spanish language as my own and to continue growing in my relationship, to embrace the heritage that flows through me. 

Everything I do, everything I have accomplished and all my goals have been shaped because of my family. 

So, Papá, since I know you are going to share this with your coworkers, here’s a list of things for them to know about you. The world deserves to know what treasure exists among them.

Thank you for making me who I am.

Thank you for uprooting everything you have ever known, to plant new roots for your family. 

Thank you for standing by while I navigated my teenage angst and didn’t always show how much you mean to me.

Thank you for teaching me the importance of hard work, dedication and thinking of others before myself. 

Thank you for working incredibly hard to make sure I have always been safe and comfortable. 

Thank you for letting me sleep in your bed when I was too scared to be alone. 

Thank you for driving me to school everyday –– and now –– never hesitating to drop everything to pick me up from college. 

Thank you for always making sure I’ve eaten and for cutting up my fruit.

Thank you for singing to us on our birthdays. 

Thank you for coming to every school performance, dance recital and spelling bee.

Thank you for marrying my beautiful mother, who has planted the seed of social justice in her children. 

Thank you for making me laugh, even in the midst of the hardest moments. 

Thank you for showing us what love is.

Thank you, Papá.

Gómez can be reached at [email protected]