I spent this past weekend in Atlanta for work. Atlanta is a great city, booming in the Film and TV Industry. Atlanta and LA are pretty much head to head in that industry right now. Not only is Atlanta a big city, but it is quite diverse with all sort of ethnic backgrounds, cultures and race. Every reason why people from all over the world make this city home.
It reminded me of my Dad and Grandfather. Both of which made their way to the US to make a better future for themselves and the Santoyo family. I can't begin to imagine all the obstacles and conflict they had to face as Mexicans in pursuit of the American Dream in the United States. But they did and I am forever grateful for the work of their hands and the passion in their heart, mind and soul. My Dad started in the lettuce fields of Hollister, California before making his way to Chicago. English wasn't his number one language but he picked it up as best as he could and eventually worked many city jobs in Chicago. I remember sitting in the backyard while he shared hours of stories of his journey from Mexico to the states. He never spoke negatively about this country, but was always grateful for the opportunities presented to him as a Mexican American with his initial limit in the English language. I still remember the day be became a US citizen, you could see it in his eyes of how proud he was. I know without a doubt that as a minority(at the time) living in the US, he must have faced discrimination and bigotry, yet he never spoke about it nor do I remember experiencing it. All he ever said was, " Remember that we must always work harder then everyone else." At the time I didn't quite understand it, but as I got older, mature and educated, I finally understood it.
It was the evening of Sunday, June 28, 2015. Atlanta's weather was immaculate. Clear evening blue skies with a nice warm breeze. From where I was sitting, I could see the skyline downtown. I was sitting on the pavement enjoying an ice cold margarita. The day had been long, but I felt full inside. Grateful of the things I get to do as an actor, artist and professional creative. I was missing my beautiful Wife and Boys when this random man pulls up in a fancy sports car and charges towards me. He points at a van that was parked directly in front of me. The van displayed a logo for a local Mexican Catering Company. He said, "Who's driving this van?" I looked up at him total caught off guard and not knowing what the heck he was talking about. He raised his voice and said, "WHO'S DRIVING THIS VAN! YOU SPEAK SPANISH? SPEAK UP BOY!" I felt something way inside my soul that I never felt before. I looked up at him as I felt the blood in my veins begin to boil. I responded and said, "I have no idea who's van this is, and I don't know who you are." With no regards towards my response, he stormed off and walked away practically stepping on my shoes. I stood there with no reaction, thinking I had to do or say something. I looked around and realized, well, I was the only Latino outside. With close to 25 others gathered outside when this happened, I was the only one asked in the most demeaning way who the driver of this random van was. I stood there speechless, slightly embarrassed and humiliated. I glanced over at the others hoping someone had something to say, and no one said a word. If there was a hole in the ground I probably would've crawled inside of it. I opened my wallet to pretend I was looking for something and remembered I had a valuable card inside of it. A card from my Dad's Memorial service with his picture on it. I decided weeks ago that I would always carry it with me. That evening it served as a beautiful reminder of who I am. I am the son of a great Mexican American father who made a way for a better life for me. A Man who loved God and his family. A Man who fought the good fight and left a legacy in our family. A man with perfect flaws. A man how loved this country so much that he invested 50+ years of his life to make it a better one. And he did.
I'm glad I kept my cool that evening, but part of me wanted to lay that dude out with a Pilsen Right hook! Thinking about it still bothers me. I get that feeling inside of not being an equal part of today's society, but rather an outcast. A tourist(alien) in my own home land. All lies of course! I don't know what that man encountered in his lifetime that still resonates highly in his heart. But there is always hope for tomorrow. Hope for better days. I'm looking forward to those. There is still a ton of work to do.