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The all-encompassing term Latino implies a sameness to a growing Pasadena population that is, in truth, extremely varied. The extent of that variety can be glimpsed in short profiles of just a few of the city's Latinos. : 'I always try to improve myself and show people I can learn. I like to influence other people.'

December 08, 1991

Bernice Rojas, a senior at Pasadena High School, is part of the so-called new wave that some Latino activists see entering the United States in increasing numbers.

Born in Guadalajara, a bustling Mexican industrial city of 3 million, Bernice lived there with her mother, a textile factory worker, her two sisters and a nephew until her mother moved the family to the United States several years ago to get education for her children and higher pay for herself.

"We were poor in Guadalajara," Rojas said.

They are poor in Pasadena too--five persons sharing a one-bedroom apartment on Lake Avenue.

But Rojas, 18, plans to attend college and become an environmentalist, specializing in engineering and plant genetics.

Active in school engineering and business clubs, and her Baptist church, she also tutors small children at El Centro de Accion Social, the city's main Latino political and social service organization, and belongs to Chicano student group known by its Spanish acronym, MEChA.

It is a full calender for the teen-ager who, until three years ago, could not speak a word of English.

Her activism comes from her desire to improve the Mexican-American community in Pasadena, she said. She grows angry at the sight of graffiti and the indifference and apathy of some American-born Latinos.

"I always try to improve myself and show people I can learn," she said. "I like to influence other people and tell them, 'You can do it. Go ahead. You have hands and you have legs.' "

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