Paco carries a small black notebook, ready to capture his poetic musings. Trained as an accountant, he attended university in Mexico and worked in a bank for thirteen years before arriving in the United States. Paco cultivates his poet’s zest for beautiful words while managing a Vermont dairy farm. He is earning money to pay his daughter’s tuition in Pachuca, Hidalgo, Mexico. Paco is an English Language Learning student at VAL.
He admires the writing of Mario Benedetti (1920-2009), an Uruguayan poet, novelist and journalist. Benedetti was a member of the famed Generacion del 45, an Uruguayan intellectual and literary movement, whose members launched their careers in the years 1945-50. Interestingly, Benedetti spent the early part of his career working as an accountant.
Paco arrived in New York City in April 2017, carrying photos of his parents and his daughter. He learned from a friend that there was work in Vermont—on a farm. Paco, who grew up in a city of 277,000 people, embraced the opportunity as part of his adventure!
“I needed a job,” Paco said. “I never worked on a farm before. In the beginning, I didn’t speak English. I was in the milking parlor, then, in the maternity, where I helped calving cows. After two years, I became the farm manager. I check all the jobs for the guys to make sure they are working well, following the protocols. I check all the machines to make sure they are working well. If there’s a small problem with a machine, I can fix it. If there’s a bigger problem, I can call the mechanic.”
Paco’s ability to speak Spanish and English is helpful in his work as some of his co-workers benefit from receiving direction in their native tongue. He’s able to teach the “new guys” the skills they need to be successful on the job. His math skills, from past work as an accountant, come in handy when analyzing milk production data.
“My boss is kind,” Paco said. “He speaks some Spanish and, now that I’m learning English, I can express my opinion in meetings.”
Learning to speak English well and advance educationally is a challenge Paco has taken on with the same work ethic he applies to his job. He earned his GED in 2020 and earned a diploma in Everyday English. He also participates in agricultural webinars via the University of Vermont Extension Service.
“I want to speak English well,” Paco said. “Then, maybe, I can find a good life. I can say I feel happy here. The people around here are pretty kind, but the language is a huge challenge. Joy (VAL ELL Teacher) and Charlene (VAL Volunteer) are very patient with me—it’s very much appreciated.”
“All of my ELL students come with unique backgrounds and stories, but Paco’s is particularly inspiring,” Joy said. “I am constantly in awe of his progress and determination to improve himself on so many levels. He requested incorporating poetry into our lessons and as you can see from his poem, Migrant, his talent is outstanding. I get the chills every time I read it!”
Paco’s dad, Francisco, advised him years ago, “Si tu decides ser un empleado, está bien pero deberás ser el mejor,” translated as, “If you decide to be an employee, it’s fine, but you must be the best.”
Paco has been writing poetry for about twenty years, first, in Spanish and, now, in English. He never took a poetry class. Words just come together, revealing his poet’s voice. His recent poem, Migrant, appears below.
By Paco M
Migrant – that’s who I am, because that’s how he names me
a society that was commissioned
to create borders, so as not to mix
as if he was afraid, without knowing why.
Yes, the one who has left home
to find a way to reach
his dreams regardless of the distance
that he has to travel to achieve them.
I am standing, without feeling
any fatigue, even when my body
screams inside me to let it take
a breath that I do not get.
I am a migrant because I keep the illusion
and the longing to return home to my people
with their voices telling me
Don’t worry anymore, in your heart, you are at home.