IMMT Student Celebrates Mexican Heritage — My UACCM Story

To recognize Hispanic Heritage Month, IMMT Student Adan Morales Hernandez shares his background, culture, and passion for technology.
male student standing in front of equipment
IMMT Student Adan Morales Hernandez

Adan Morales Hernandez immigrated to the United States from Mexico and quickly found an interest in technology. He has not only found a home but has thrived as a student in the Industrial Mechanics and Maintenance Technology program at the University of Arkansas Community College at Morrilton.

In many ways, his life story is typical of the American saga about immigrants searching for opportunities and joining a melting pot. At a young age, he learned English, and he adopted new traditions common in the U.S. But even many years after his immigration, his native culture that emphasizes community still drives him, and he is interested about issues that affect Hispanic Americans. 

His story is increasingly common at UACCM, which has a growing Hispanic student population.

Student's journey to the US and where he calls home

The Hernandez family lived in a little town of some 1,000 people in Penjamo, located in the central Mexican state of Guanajuato. His family made a living much like everyone else—they were farmers—growing corn and raising livestock. The school is small, with a classroom dedicated for each grade and the same teacher covering all subjects. People who want goods not available in the local stores go to the nearest large city located 30 minutes away. But the community gathers at a constantly-lively, open-air plaza, where goods and socialization are packaged for consumption. There’s nothing quite like it in the United States.

Adan and his father first came to the United States when Adan was in the fourth grade, for economic reasons and for a better life. At first, Adan’s transition was hard. He didn’t know English. He couldn’t speak to his teachers or classmates, and he had a hard time making friends because of that language barrier.

“It was just a new world for me,” he said. “I had a teacher who taught me a little bit of English.”

But his family had a change of plans that year. When his brother joined them, their father decided that Adan needed to go to Mexico to be with their mother. He continued English lessons, but driving to the nearby city proved challenging financially, and he couldn’t keep it up. 

Then in the 9th grade, he returned to the United States to be with his father and brother again. He learned English through the ESL class at Dardanelle High School, but before he could speak conversationally, he relied on pulling out his phone and communicating with Google Translate.  However, the teachers helped him, he said, and he found ways to expand his vocabulary. He searched for words in reading assignments that he didn’t know, wrote them down, and looked up definitions. Doing so developed good habits; even today, he still enjoys pulling out his phone to learn new words.

Only recently did his mother arrive to the United States to join the rest of the family. Her migration was challenging after living in Mexico her whole life—just like Adan’s, who helps her by speaking English and translating.

Native culture is something that he cherishes

Adan also still finds ways to celebrate his culture. They eat the same food. His family still celebrates traditional Mexican holidays like Cinco de Mayo, a day of celebrating a victory at the Battle of Puebla, although it has less to do with the party atmosphere that Americans have adopted. In Mexico, families gather together, eat, and celebrate the Mexican nationality. 

Much of getting used to the United States involved adapting to a different climate. He jokes that it is much more humid in Arkansas, which took getting used to. Then there are different holidays. Mexicans celebrate Christmas differently, he said. 

“Usually on the 24th, they will stay up all night,” he said. “And the family from the United States goes to Mexico and will stay there all December.” 

With family in Penjamo for Christmas and staying over the New Year, usually the town will gather at the plaza for a game of soccer or volleyball, where the older people will play against young people. Per tradition, Adan’s cousin will host a cookout for some 100 people, where those now living in the United States will get to socialize with their family in Mexico. 

But what Adan misses the most, other than his family, is how people tend to be outside more. People are always outside playing soccer or other games in the street, Adan said. 

“I used to go out and play in the afternoons and go play soccer with friends—here it’s just weekends maybe. People here are usually working all day,” he said. “Here’s it’s the same schedule every day. In Mexico, it’s different; you’re working but you’re socializing with others.”

A first generation student

Adan got interested in technology thanks to his high school. Not only was it something that he enjoyed, but he believed it could lead to a possible career. 

“I worked in the East Lab for two years in high school, and I liked working with technology,” he said. “I got to work with drones and coding. I worked with videos for school projects.” 

His experience led him to the Industrial Mechanics and Maintenance Technology program, which prepares students in general multi-craft maintenance and automation. 

“Right now we’re doing motors and systems, and I think that’s pretty cool,” he said.

Although he’s not exactly sure what the future holds, he’s enjoying working on his associate degree now and plans to get a bachelor degree. As a student, his instructors say that Adan is exceptional.

“On Adan’s first day, he was like a duck on water,” IMMT instructor Brian Lum said. “On top—looks calm and collected, but under that water—little heart and feet are going a mile a minute. His body language was poise and chill, but his eyes and smile showed he was eager and excited for his new chapter in life.”  

He is an active student and only submits well thought-out lab reports and assignments. “He is one of the first to reach out and help other students when they are needing additional help,” Lum said. “Heck, he is even helping me with my Elementary Spanish assignments.” 

American immigration policy rounds out his passion

As a young person in the Hispanic-American community, he can’t avoid current events. He feels that the attack on immigrant communities is troubling. Among the talk about barriers, he notes headlines such as an Immigration and Customs Enforcement raid this year against mostly Latino employees on a Mississippi food processing plant. 

“It was almost 680 people who were deported. It’s sad that those kids came home and their parents aren’t there anymore,” he said. “Those people came here to have a better life—to help their families in Mexico. I know people who have been here for 20 years, 15 years, 10 years, and they only come here to help them and send money to their parents and their family.”

His personal beliefs are not only drawn from his personal experiences as an immigrant himself but from his friends fearing deportation. One such person is a recipient from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a policy enacted to allow certain undocumented immigrants who entered the country as minors to avoid deportation and be eligible to work or go to school. This woman was born in Mexico and came to the United States at six months old.

“She was sent back to a country that she doesn’t even know. She doesn’t even know the culture. She only knew the pictures of family there,” he said. Ultimately, Adan’s friend stayed in the United States.

Comments

  1. I love this! Adan, I hope you continuing doing well and thriving here in Central Arkansas. Your story is inspiring and I am glad we get to read about it. Good luck with your classes!

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