In 1978-79 the year before I taught at La Memorial High School in Edgewood and wrote for the Westside & Southside Suns for a brief stint, I taught at Pearce Elementary School in Southside ISD. I was a Migrant Reading Teacher, pulling students out from their regular classes during the day and working with them in the Library.
One day after finishing lunch duty in the cafeteria I was walking down the hallway back to my designated teaching area when one of my second grade migrant reading students passed me on her way to her regular class. She paused for a moment and said “Hello Mr. Walker” in her sweet voice and then took me by surprise by asking me, “Mr. Walker are you a Bolillo?”
Not knowing how to respond, since I wasn’t familiar with the term at the time, I answered, “Graciela I am not sure but I will get back with you later on it, ok?” She smiled and nodded and walked on to her class.
Immediately I marched into the teacher’s lounge down the hall looking for a fellow teacher, preferably a Hispanic teacher who could tell me the definition of a “Bolillo!” I had no idea if it was good or bad. All I knew was that Graciela believed me to be one.
Mrs. Guzman, one of the 1st grade teachers was in the faculty lounge and I told her one of my students asked me the question if I was a “Bolillo.” Her answer was short and to the point. “In English it means a piece of white bread. I answered with a puzzled look on my face. “You mean she is calling me a piece of white bread?” Mrs. Guzman laughed and replied, “It is another word for ‘Gringo.’” She then asked me, “How did she say it?” I answered, “What do you mean?”
She explained, “Did she casually just ask the question are you a ‘Bolillo’ with a smile or are you a ‘Bolillo’ with a little snarl on her face as if accusing you?”
I answered that it sounded like an innocent question to me. Mrs. Guzman smiled and informed me that Graciela was using it as a term of endearment not an insult. Boy was I relieved!
The more I thought of it the happier I got. Graciela said I was a “Bolillo,” therefore it was so. For the rest of the year and for many years later when I taught in the predominately Hispanic community, I referred to myself as the “Bolillo.” I was also referred to by other Hispanic words but I am not at liberty to share those particular ones with the reader!!! I am just kidding.
Later in my teaching career at La Memorial in Edgewood, La Techla, in SAISD and in 12 years in Harlandale ISD I was able to learn so much more about the Hispanic community.
I learned to appreciate the rich culture and write about those in the Hispanic community who do so much for the community as a whole.. We are all in this together.