Mario and Arminda outside their home in Muscatine

by Daniel Salazar
Thanks to the idea of the American Dream, thousands of people have migrated from their homeland to find a better life. This is true for many people in the U.S and Muscatine, specifically for two great people who have truly worked hard to get where they are at now, Mario and Arminda Ojarascas. Mario taught for 15 years and Arminda for over 23. Teaching for most of their lives in Mexico and then moving here was no easy task.

Luckily, I had the opportunity to sit down with both of them to hear exactly what they went through, who they are, and why they are here. Both Mario and Arminda grew up in Mexico. Arminda said that since she was a girl, she knew she wanted to be a teacher. When she would play with her friends, she would pretend to be the teacher in the classroom, but this dream of becoming a teacher was almost not accomplished. She tells me that in those days, women were not necessarily pushed to be educated, and if it wasn’t for the help from a loving mother, a hard-working father, and a caring priest she would have never gotten her foot in the door to become a great Spanish teacher.

As for Mario, he always had a love for mathematics and planned to be either an engineer or a soldier in the Mexican army. Unfortunately, the military at the time didn’t offer the benefits that he wanted, so he thought that that being an engineer would be cool. He started studying and made it clear to me that it wasn’t easy, “Here in America you get scholarships for being good at sports, there we do not.” While being proficient in things like basketball and soccer, it was his good grades that helped him get through. At the end of the day, he decided to be a math teacher and help people as much as possible.

After marrying, the couple had children, and this meant that no matter how much they loved to teach, they knew these kids would be their most important students of all. They decided to move to the United States to give a better life to their children and show them a different aspect of life. “We wanted to expose our children to a different culture and the resource to study here,” said Arminda.

A beautiful dream that any parent would have for their children. Arminda expressed how difficult it was for her to leave the school. Tears were shed when she told me about her departure from the school. She showed me one of the few remaining pictures of her as a teacher. In the picture, she stands behind a table while the children line up to wish her off. She tells me about the wonderful ceremony they had for her with friends and family in attendance.

After their move, the Ojarascas family found they absolutely loved Muscatine and all the people in it. They are eternally grateful for Muscatine taking them in with open arms. For awhile, Mario was able to tutor Puerto Rican baseball players in college on their math but had to stop to slow down a bit. Arminda volunteered at the elementary school but admitted that it was difficult not being the most fluent in English.  At the end of the day they still miss their students. Mario told me of a time they went for a walk by Colorado School. The children were at recess, and he stopped there holding his wife’s hand and said, “close your eyes, imagine we are teachers again, like the old days.” If the opportunity ever came up, they said they would love to teach again.

All in all it was an amazing experience to be able to speak with such wonderful people like the Ojarascases. I only hope that their wonderful story of love for each other as well as for the children does not go unrecognized, and maybe their story can inspire someone to continue their dream of being a teacher and people can know that as long as people like Mario and Arminda are around there is esperanza (hope) in the world.