Daniel Argueta is a second generation American and a Chicano/Latino activist. His parents migrated to the United States from Guatemala a decade before his birth in Hayward, California. His father came first, following in his own father’s footsteps. Daniel’s mother came later. After earning their citizenship (and following Daniel’s birth), the Arguetas returned to Guatemala with their three sons. Financial setbacks compelled them to consider leaving again. Reluctant to uproot for a second time, Daniel’s father asked his two oldest boys where they preferred to live. “In the United States,” they said. The family could return under one condition, the father explained, if the boys promised to attend college.
After living in Florida, the Arguetas settled in Kearns, Utah, where, Daniel says, his parents worked several jobs and left their kids “unattended.” “Summer times we did whatever we did. My parents couldn’t be around, so we grew up with other [minority] kids like us. We wanted a feeling of belonging and getting something we never had before. It all comes down to economics, so we joined [a local] gang. Being in a group,” Daniel went on, “you’re not alone. You now have people who will stick up for you, so you’re not fighting alone.”
Daniel and his brothers were more fortunate than other young gang members—they avoided arrest and prison. His older brothers joined the U.S. army, became medics, and then Utah police officers. Counselors, teachers, and Chicano/Latino leaders brought Daniel back from the brink. They helped him become proud of his roots, his heritage, and the Chicano struggle for equality. Their support helped Daniel channel his anger into activism. Today, Daniel heads Utah’s newly formed Brown Beret Chapter, an organization that appeals, he says, “to the have nots.…, the people that feel like they have been left out. I feel like we can represent [them]. We’re the group that will say: ‘We welcome you how you are. You don’t need to change to be in us. You don’t need to be a good kid. You don’t need to get good grades. You just need to be willing to listen, and we’re not gonna be here to judge you or anything. We’re gonna be here to support you, [and] we can build off that.’”
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