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By Kathleen Hurd
We knock on the metal door of an ordinary village home, part of a row of ordinary family homes in San Juan Cosala. José Chavez welcomes us with a huge smile while a sea of heads peers into the crowded entrance. This family is an UVA family.
We crowd into the living room. José’s wife Anarita and seven of their eleven children welcome us to the happy relaxed chatter. The family is calm and self confident while we pepper them with questions. Laughter and happy chatter conceal the fact that one or other family member is constantly outside making sure the taco-making business does not slow down. No one is too young to work. Very proudly displayed in a corner of the living room is an ancient computer. The homework machine.
“I worked as a farm laborer like my father,” says José. “Although I did well at school, I only completed grade three. My parents needed my income. I planted and harvested corn before I was 10-years-old,” he states.
“He worked for 18 years without not one vacation day,” says Anarita.
“I used to watch the folks who came to the farm. Those with the best education had the best jobs and made the most money. Our family motto was—be the best you can be at everything you do—and to me being the best was getting the best education I could find for my children,” José said with a touch of pride.
The family operates two successful taco stands in San Juan Cosala. Everyone pitches in. The hours are long (until 1 am) and the work is very labor intensive. Competition is tough. Market share, competitive pricing, quality—daily price juggling. Only the best tacos survive in this unforgiving market. Listening to their business machinations I wonder why there are no aspiring MBA’s in the group.
Laura, an industrial design student, remembers going to the school at the local orphanage. “It was a good school—very strict,” she says. It is also a fee paying school. Tuition fees strained the family budget and eventually the children could not attend. They then plodded through the local schools. As the oldest child, José junior pioneered the family education effort (He is now a practicing physician on Colón near the Ajijic plaza). José is their role model and the younger children look to him before answering a question.
The leap from local schools to university is huge. Far greater than a family with a taco stand can afford. Very few local government scholarships are available.
UVA (university and vocational assistance program) and its predecessors have helped three Chavez family members to graduate (Carlos —lawyer, Aldo—engineer, and José junior— medicine). UVA has been serving Lakeside for almost 40 years (originally a Little Chapel Outreach program) Students are monitored on a regular basis and must maintain a GPA of 8.5 each semester. As an independent charity we have no fund raisers and all donations go to the students. For more information contact Sue Torres 766-2932 or Lynn Hanson 766-2660.