Mary Gonzalez (aka Tia Chocolate) as a child
When I was 3, I ran away to school.
I learned to read when I was 2, thanks to a very intelligent and ambitious Mommy who yearned to be a teacher. By the time I was on to non-picture books, there were scores of other kids walking past our house down the dirt road. They came from all over beyond the hills, in their smart dark blue uniforms, their backpacks loaded, older sisters and brothers holding the hands of the little ones.
I stared longingly out our windows and doors, an only child who wanted to join in the fray.
"They are going to school, where they learn to read and write and study hard and go on to become teachers, doctors, lawyers, bankers..."
"I want to go to school Ma"
"You have to wait, you're too little...let's practice your handwriting today."
One day, I decided to follow them. I put my chanclas on, made sure my clothes were clean, and snuck outside when they passed. Eventually, one of the bigger girls noticed me...and she held my hand and let me continue (I'm sure she just wanted to drop me off to an adult in the village).
School was big, and there were a lot of children, but I remember Teacher Tecla giving me a seat and letting me stay in her Infant I class...when my mother found me, frantic and more than a little upset, there was a long conversation between adults, including the Principal.
I was allowed to come back the next day, with one of her brown purses and one exercise book and a pen and a pencil. School. It's all I ever wanted, and yes, I came in 1st that term, and never fell below 2nd place each term since.
Photograph courtesy Mary Gonzalez
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