For a series we’re calling “Letters To My California Dreamer,” we’re asking Californians from all walks of life to write a short letter to one of the first people in their family who came to the Golden State. The letter should explain:
What was their California Dream?
What happened to it?
Is that California Dream still alive for you?
Here's a letter from Sarah Stroe, a second-generation San Francisco native, to her grandparents:
To my grandparents, all of them:
I don’t know if you had a California dream, but I know you had dreamt of a place where dreams were safe to grow.
All my grandparents immigrated from Europe after World War II to South America, fleeing the discrimination they faced as Jews. They settled in countries where they could get visas and start new lives in industries they had never known, learning a new language, climate and culture, and constantly striving for more, or at least different.
They made their way to California, and they took opportunities that were presented: one grandfather worked as a tailor in San Francisco, eventually opening an art gallery. My other grandfather re-completed his medical training and opened a doctor’s office in South Central Los Angeles.
They raised their children to both appreciate their roots and absorb their new homes. When my parents met, they were brought together in part by their similarities, grounded in history that was shared and known.
I was raised in a Jewish household with a blend of cultural particularities: salsa in our matzo ball soup at Passover Seder, a mixture of Spanish and Yiddish peppering family conversation, an entire avocado as an after-school snack.
I feel California in my blood and in my bones. I work for the city of San Francisco, and I am proud every day to serve some of the most vulnerable Californians as a social worker in a county hospital. My California dream is a California that embraces its history as a safe haven for immigrants, that loves and celebrates difference and takes pride in the ever-changing and mixing landscape of Californians.
We’d love to see your letter to your family’s California Dreamer. Maybe it was a parent, a great-great grandparent or maybe even you were the first in your family to come to California with a dream. Fill out the form here and share your story with us!