Jeaninne Escallier Kato

Jeaninne Escallier Kato – Speak a New Language

If You Don’t Live Your Dream, You’ve Lived Half a Life

I grew up in LaHabra, California, an Hispanic neighborhood, but never truly learned to speak Spanish. It was my dream to learn the language and to love the Mexican culture.

What made you decide to finally realize your lifelong dream?

In the schools where I taught, Spanish was the student’s primary language. I made the decision to learn Spanish. So, in 1999, at age 45, I entered a community college to learn Spanish.

I realized I needed to be around Spanish speaking people to truly learn it. I went to Mexico every summer to immerse myself in the culture.

It was here that I became totally submerged. I started a dance troupe, wrote Manuel’s Murals, (a children’s book about a boy who loves to paint murals) and started an annual Cinco de Mayo dance festival at the school with the help of the Mexican parents. I even took folklore ballet classes – the traditional Mexican dance – for two years so that I could work with the Mexican-American women in the community.

The little dream I had of learning Spanish changed my life.

What were the obstacles you faced?

My energy and momentum was on fire. I didn’t have obstacles. I was excited to learn something new, especially a language. When I’m in Mexico I take Spanish lessons there. No one told me I couldn’t meet my goals.

How did you feel when you finally accomplished your lifelong dream?

It was surreal. I am now Mexican. I was teaching the students the history of their culture. Parents would thank me, ‘for caring, seeing who we really are, for loving us.’ It was like a drug high.

In 2003 I went to the National Palace in Mexico City where Diego Rivera’s murals are displayed. For eight hours I sat in front of the murals, in awe and bowled over by his talent. All of a sudden I heard a voice in my head that said, ‘Teach the children [about Diego Rivera].’ I need to write a children’s book about this!

I went to a café and started writing Manuel’s Murals based on Diego Rivera’s art. That was surreal. Right here among them is their history and these kids are not getting it.

Frida Kahlo was Rivera’s wife and a master artist. I went to the house where she lived with Rivera and the house where she grew up. As I am walking in the garden, there were three elderly women, they looked like little nuns with shawls wrapped around their heads. ‘Did you know her?,’ I asked. They said, ‘Yes, and just like you, she didn’t have any children.’ Then they drifted away. It was prophetic. How did they know that I didn’t have children? It was Frida Kahlo guiding me to the journey I’m on.

What advice would you give to others who are contemplating finally living their dream?

If you don’t live your dream, you’ve lived half a life. If you don’t at least try or take steps to live your bliss, you are not living a full life.

I truly believe I was meant to follow this journey. It was my trek that was carved out for me before I even knew about it.

Everything happens in our life for a reason. I didn’t waste one minute. Even the mistakes I made in my life weren’t wasted. That’s when you learn to take another road that takes you to your dream.

We all have negative thoughts in our lives that make us doubtful. Go for it.

To read more about Jeaninne and her book, Manuel’s Murals, click here.


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