Speak Up!: Finding My Voice Through Hope, Strength, and Determination

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9780451472748: Speak Up!: Finding My Voice Through Hope, Strength, and Determination

In Speak Up!, radio icon Eddie “Piolín” Sotelo opens up for the first time about his humble beginnings and the long, hard road to finding purpose and achieving triumph. Drawing upon his strong family values and his unflinching work ethic, Piolín recounts his very personal and resilient story—how a once undocumented immigrant rose to become the voice of a generation and a symbol of hope. Through intimate, uplifting and engaging real-life accounts, Piolin shares profound inspiration, wisdom, and guidance with his legions of fans and listeners who are searching for their own paths to success and happiness.

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About the Author:

Eddie “Piolín” Sotelo is the #1 Spanish radio show personality, earning top honors from the National Association of Broadcasters and the Radio Hall of Fame. He has established himself as one of the most influential Hispanics and an advocate and voice for millions of listeners.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

PROLOGUE

Throughout the history of the world, there are people who stand out because their mission in life is to inspire and touch the lives of many. These are human beings who do not expect life to take them on an uncertain journey: they are the ones who shape their own destiny through hard work and perseverance.

One of these people is my friend Piolín. Eduardo Sotelo was born in Ocotlán, Jalisco, Mexico, and at a very young age, he made the difficult decision to leave his family and friends behind and to forge a new destiny by traveling to the United States. Like many of our immigrant brothers and sisters, Piolín worked very hard once he got to this country, while at the same time continuing his studies and completing his high school education. With such a desire to succeed, it’s no wonder that he has held so many jobs. Among them, one of his favorites was being an emcee at quinceañera parties. That’s where he discovered his passion for expressing himself, and he decided to pursue his calling. Cultivating his talents, he started from the bottom of the ladder, reading the news on an AM radio station. But gradually he began to climb the ladder and move on to bigger and better opportunities. His great talent and dedication led to him attaining the most coveted position for a radio host: having your own morning talk show in one of the most competitive markets in all of Spanish language broadcasting, the West Coast of the United States. Thanks to his popularity and the large audience he drew, he managed to have it broadcasted on more than sixty stations coast to coast. This is a great moment in his career. But beyond his success, what impresses me about Piolín is that he decided to use his voice on the radio and his convening power to support immigrants. He became the champion of all Latinos, he fights daily to expose the injustices suffered by immigrants, and he advocates with personalities and politicians to raise awareness and bring about meaningful change. Thus, he has become not only a citizen of Mexican origin, but a true representative of the entire Latino community, and an example to all immigrants who come here to make positive contributions to this country. During his career, it is worth mentioning that—in addition to interviewing important artists and celebrities—he has also hosted President Barack Obama and the First Lady Michelle Obama on his program. Visits like these establish the level of importance that Piolín has as a leader of our community. Comprehensive immigration reform may still be far away, but it still has supporters behind it: people like Piolín, who know how to reach the heart of the people not only through political messages, but also with a good sense of humor that alleviates the harsh realities of life led by immigrants who struggle daily to get by in this country.

I, who have had the opportunity to get to know Eddie “Piolín” Sotelo, can attest to the fact that he is a man with faith in his heart. That inner peace is what helps keep him going despite the many changes that life throws his way. He, with his great sense of humor, knows how to find the silver lining in any situation. I wish my friend all the best as he embarks on this new stage of becoming an author, and hope that through this book, you—his audience—can learn more about his life and career. Stories of surmounting all odds, like the ones Piolín tells here, are how you win the battle for immigration reform, while at the same time setting a positive example for a new generation of immigrants all around the world.

With much respect,

EMILIO ESTEFAN

INTRODUCTION

When I look back on the path I’ve traveled, I am amazed by the places I’ve been, the obstacles I’ve had to overcome, and the many joys that God has given me. But most important, I have learned from the experiences I have lived through. That is what I want to share with you in this book, and that is what made me decide to write it.

The lessons I have learned in life have helped me to be clear about the values that guide me: my faith in God, the solidarity I feel toward others, the value of an education, and the relentless pursuit of my dreams. I always consider these priorities when I have a decision to make.

From my family, I learned the value of togetherness. Through our daily lives and from knowing the sadness of being separated for long periods of time—first, when my dad and older brother decided to come to the United States, and then later, when I followed in their footsteps, leaving my mom and little brother behind—I learned just how important the concept of family is in each of our lives.

My faith has always been present in me. But it was only through the truly tough experiences, the ones I endured here in this country, that I finally understood the immense love God has for me and I could feel His constant presence. So, little by little, I grew closer and closer to Him, until I finally accepted Him into the depths of my heart. And it is thanks to God, the values that I learned from my family, and the sincere, unconditional love I have for my wife, María, that I now have a family of my own who makes each day fulfilling and makes me want to get better each and every day.

The challenges I experienced when I first arrived in the United States only made me stronger and drove me to pursue my dreams with an even greater intensity. But they also taught me how important it is to be informed so that you’re not easily deceived, and about the enormous challenge the majority of the immigrants in this country are facing, and how important it is that we stand firm to improve our situation. Immigrants are people with a powerful desire to succeed and to contribute each and every day to the greatness of America through their hard work.

The time I spent filled with anxiety and stress, when I was very nearly deported for having used false documents, made me realize just how important it was to share my experience with others. I wanted people to learn from what I’d gone through, so they might avoid the same problems that I had. And that is why, once my immigration status was resolved, I began using my radio show as a means for sharing what I’d learned and seeking experts to help others with immigration issues.

That same desire to share my experiences is what made me want to write a book. I’d been thinking about it for several years, driven by listeners and even some friends and relatives, but I didn’t have the time or even an idea of where to begin. But in 2013, I finally decided to do it: to face this new challenge, to remember my past, to write it down, and to share it.

The result of all my experiences is in this book, which you have in your hands. I hope that what you read in these pages inspires you to keep moving forward, to find the answers that you need, and to never, ever give up.

CHAPTER 1

No matter how hard I ran, I still missed the bus. It had been a rough day, like almost every day since I started, but I didn’t normally miss the bus to work at the photography studio, one of the several jobs I had. Maybe, if I hadn’t spent those extra minutes talking to my friends, telling them that I really had to go, that I couldn’t stick around talking about soccer practice, I would have made it.

Oh, man, I missed it, was the first thing I thought when I saw the bus pulling away. I had a long wait before the next one arrived, so I decided that the best thing for me was just run to the photo lab, which was located on Main Street in Santa Ana, not too far from where I was. That way, I’d get there faster than if I just waited. It was raining, but I didn’t care; it was better to get there as fast as possible. But as hard as I ran, I still showed up a half hour late to work. I misjudged the distance, and to make matters worse, I was soaked.

My dad was going to be furious! He worked with me there at the lab, and so I decided to sneak in through the back door into the darkroom so nobody would see me showing up late. Or that’s what I thought. As soon as I closed the darkroom door, there was a hard knock on the other side. It could only have been my dad. It was all but impossible to open the door to the darkroom without making noise, because blinds were hanging on the back side of it. I did everything I could to make sure it swung as quietly as possible, but I wasn’t successful.

“What’s up, Dad?” I asked.

“Come out,” he immediately replied. He sounded really upset.

Unwillingly, I stepped outside.

“What time did you get here?”

“Well, I’ve been here awhile.”

“No. No, you haven’t,” he replied, very firmly, and then he began to shout: “You know what? With all the things you are doing, you will be a nobody!”

“What are you saying?” I asked, confused.

“I’m saying you will be a nobody!”

He was so angry that he looked as if he was about to hit me. He didn’t, but his words hurt so much that I would have preferred that he did.

It’s true, at that time in my life, I was juggling many things at once, a bunch of different odd jobs that seemed to have taken all the hours in the day. But what my dad didn’t realize—or didn’t want to realize at the time—was that I was trying to find something, a direction, the best way to help my family. I even worked through the weekends, and my only distraction was going to the Laundromat on Saturdays. There, I’d also check out the bulletin board to see if any job opportunities had been posted, and make friends with anyone who could offer me work. I was seventeen at the time, and all I wanted was a way to make ends meet. My dad was fully aware of that, and I just couldn’t believe what I was hearing from him.

“You know what?” I shouted, though I really wanted to shove him, hit him because of the pain he was causing me. “I’m gonna make you eat those words! I’m gonna be somebody!”

As I said that, the tears started to flow, and since I didn’t want him to see me cry, I turned around and went back into the darkroom. I slammed the door behind me and bawled my eyes out. I lay down on the floor and turned off the light. What a nasty thing to say to me, I thought, over and over again. Maybe it’s true, maybe I never will make something out of my life, I said to myself, once I had calmed down. But then I realized that wasn’t true. Even though I was doing a thousand things at once that didn’t seem to be going anywhere, deep down in my heart, I believed that I could achieve many things in life, even more than my father—or I—could imagine. I can’t explain it, but at that moment I felt that clarity and that conviction. So I dried my eyes, opened the door, and went to see my dad.

“I’m sorry I yelled at you,” I said. “I think we need to talk.” But I couldn’t even begin to speak before I hugged him and we both started to cry.

“I’m sorry I missed the bus,” I explained.

“I’m sorry too, m’ijo,” he replied, “but we have so much work to do. The owner is always complaining because I can’t get it all done myself.”

And with that, we began working immediately. There were photos that needed to be enlarged, and there was no time to lose.

My father had been upset because of the pressure he had on him. He needed to do things right at work and provide for his family. And while his words were hurtful at the time, I will always be grateful for what he said to me that day in the darkroom, because ever since that moment, I knew I’d be putting all my efforts in what I was doing to become someone in life. I’ll always remember what he said, for the rest of my life, I said to myself. I was convinced. What my dad told me then was no longer something negative, but had become something eternally positive. It pushed me to get better each and every day. I still remember it, and it continues to be a source of strength.

Every time I’m faced with a difficult situation, every time I feel afraid or uncertain when dealing with a new or unfamiliar challenge, I remind myself of what my dad said to me that day, and that helps me find the self-confidence and desire that has allowed me to get to where I am today.

Despite all the challenges and obstacles I’ve encountered in my life—and there’ve been more than a few—this belief that I’ll be able to succeed helped me find the wisdom to overcome them. At the end of the day, that’s what life is: a series of challenges that we need to overcome, that we can learn from, and that give us an opportunity to better ourselves each and every day.

That’s why I came to this country, to this world. Better yet, that’s why we all came to this world: to succeed!

PART ONE

CHAPTER 2

When we were little, my older brother, Jorge, and I spent a lot of time playing together. We were good friends with big imaginations. Sometimes we’d take Popsicle sticks and pretend they were airplanes.

“Ay, let’s go to the United States!” we’d say.

To us, the United States was the place from where people came back with new sneakers we’d never seen before. Everything was there and everyone who lived there had the money to buy whatever they wanted.

From the patio, we’d watch planes flying in the sky, and asked ourselves, When will we be able to go to the United States?

*   *   *

The house where I was born was a rental. My parents, my brother, and I all lived under that roof. It was a simple brick structure located in Riveras de Sula, a humble neighborhood near Ocotlán in the state of Jalisco, Mexico. To get to school, we had to walk along the side of the road, where there were normally more people than cars, but the few that did come flying by kicked up so much dust that I thought, Why bother taking a bath if I’m gonna end up this dirty?

Our house was an adobe structure with a tile roof, like most others in the neighborhood. Not far away was a eucalyptus forest, a nursing home, and a brickwork yard, and the passersby had to contend with stray dogs and horse-drawn carts delivering milk in enormous metal containers. The street right in front of our house was on a public bus route, and every time one drove by it spit out a cloud of smoke that engulfed everything and kicked up so much dust that it was impossible to keep it from getting everywhere. However, my mom went about cleaning everything just the same, and I remember saying to her once, “Why do you spend so much time cleaning if more dust is just gonna come in? It doesn’t even matter if we close the door, because it’s gonna find its way in somehow.”

Not far from the house were a few dirt soccer fields where I’d play with my friends, and just beyond them—near Lake Chapala—was a neighborhood that was home to many fishermen and known as Cantarranas because it lay along a river from which frogs would emerge every night and start to sing. This same river passed behind my house, and since the neighborhood streets weren’t paved, every time it rained, the house would flood. Many of the storms came during the night, and I don’t know if it’s because I got used to them or if I’m just a heavy sleeper, but I remember from time to time that I wouldn’t know that it had rained until after I’d woken up. I didn’t need to look out the window or leave the house to confirm it because the water was almost level with the bed.

...

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Descripción Penguin Putnam Inc, United States, 2015. Paperback. Estado de conservación: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. InSpeak Up!, radio icon Eddie Piolin Sotelo opens up for the first time about his humble beginnings and the long, hard road to finding purpose and achieving triumph. Drawing upon his strong family values and his unflinching work ethic, Piolin recounts his very personal and resilient story how a once undocumented immigrant rose to become the voice of a generation and a symbol of hope. Through intimate, uplifting and engaging real-life accounts, Piolin shares profound inspiration, wisdom, and guidance with his legions of fans and listeners who are searching for their own paths to success and happiness. Nº de ref. de la librería ADB9780451472748

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Descripción Penguin Putnam Inc, United States, 2015. Paperback. Estado de conservación: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. InSpeak Up!, radio icon Eddie Piolin Sotelo opens up for the first time about his humble beginnings and the long, hard road to finding purpose and achieving triumph. Drawing upon his strong family values and his unflinching work ethic, Piolin recounts his very personal and resilient story how a once undocumented immigrant rose to become the voice of a generation and a symbol of hope. Through intimate, uplifting and engaging real-life accounts, Piolin shares profound inspiration, wisdom, and guidance with his legions of fans and listeners who are searching for their own paths to success and happiness. Nº de ref. de la librería ADB9780451472748

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Eddie "Piolin" Sotelo; Ezra E. Fitz [Translator]; Emilio Estefan [Contributor];
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