Yes They Did
First generation Latino brothers build bright futures with Ph.D.s in history.
Gerardo "Lalo" Licon was a freshman at Inglewood High School when riots broke out between black and Latino students during a Cinco de Mayo celebration in 1990.
Gerardo "Lalo" Licón was a freshman at Inglewood High School when riots broke out between black and Latino students during a Cinco de Mayo celebration in 1990.
By his sophomore year, he belonged to a posse affiliated with an infamous local street gang in the southwest L.A. city during the '90s.
"I thought by the time I was 18, I would either be dead or in jail," said Gerardo, who graduated Friday with a doctorate in history.
His decision to hit the books not only drastically changed his own life path, but that of his brother, Gustavo Licón. Four years younger, Gustavo mimicked his older brother. When Gerardo considered gangs, so did Gustavo.
When Gerardo instead enrolled in Santa Monica College and began studying Mexican-American history, Gustavo began reading his older brother’s textbooks. On Friday, Gustavo also donned his cap and gown, earning his Ph.D. in history. In all, the College presented about 2,200 degrees during commencement: 1,800 undergraduate; 245 master’s and 170 Ph.D.
The brothers’ parents emigrated from Mexico, where their father left school in the first grade for fieldwork. Both brothers credit the Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán (MEChA) for educating them about their Mexican heritage and giving them the drive to succeed.
Gustavo was in high school working as a busboy when he was accepted into an Ivy League university for his undergraduate studies.
Regular customers who had never before acknowledged him slapped him on the back, saying, “Your father must be proud.”
“You can ask him yourself,” Gustavo remembers telling them. “He’s pouring your water.”
Gustavo’s father was a busboy at the same restaurant, and still clears and sets tables for a living. The brothers are deeply proud of their parents and humbled by their sacrifices.
“They always went without, so they could give to us,” said Gerardo, 32. “They did it all for the benefit of their sons.”
Related News Items
- Welcome New Faculty September 16, 2014
- Meet the 2014 Provost Postdoctoral Scholars August 28, 2014
- Dean Kay Appoints New Armenian Institute Director and Faculty August 18, 2014
- From Berlin to Baghdad? August 12, 2014
- Estebanico’s Turn to Speak July 29, 2014
- Sanchez’s Vision for Diversity July 10, 2014
- Life Goes On July 2, 2014
- Sanchez Selected AHA-PCB President June 24, 2014
- Great Expectations May 16, 2014
- A Case for Balancing Your Checkbook April 28, 2014
- From Melville to Medieval India April 3, 2014
- The Forgotten Holocaust April 3, 2014
- A Deeper Connection March 14, 2014
- Tales from Two Cities March 6, 2014
- She’s an American Girl March 3, 2014
- Gioia Honored for His Poetry February 4, 2014
- From China to L.A. January 28, 2014
- No Lie January 22, 2014
- A Banner Day January 16, 2014
- One Cool Cat December 13, 2013