A Perilous Journey, Hard Work, and a Better Life (México)

I was determined that I would make a better life for my family, even if I had to risk my life.

I come from a large, hard working family. By Mexican standards we were comfortable, but that comfort came with the price of constant hard work. We lived under the rule of a corrupt president, who took more and more of our income in taxes. Just as I stepped into adulthood, at age 19, I got married and soon there was a baby on the way. I was working so hard to support my new family, but I could not get ahead.

I grew up in a family of seven children. Life with my five brothers and two sisters in México, could be wild and crazy, but always filled with love. Living with my family was crazy yet filled with love. I was el bebé de la casa”, the baby of the house”, and my brothers loved to wrestle with me, pinning me to the ground, then laughing in victory. Please, don’t get me get started with my annoying sisters, who  would come into my room going through my things. Sometimes, they would break things, making me so angry I would just leave the house. My family filled me with laughter but at the same time they made me shed tears of frustration.

In 1982, Carlos Salinas De Gortari was the president of México. His nickname was, El Ladron,“ The Stealer”. His presidency was hard for everyone. He was very corrupt, over-taxing the common people, while living like a king himself. Even though our country was in the wrong hands, I did not always feel the pressure of his corruption as I grew in my home. I always awakened to los gritos de los gallosthe cries of the roosters” in the morning, which I loved for the feeling of normality it’d give me. The air in the house was always warm and welcoming because my beautiful mom would always make atole for breakfast, filling the air with smells which drew me to the breakfast table with my family. At seven in the morning I had to start my one hour walk to school. I would always arrive just in time to sing el canto del país antes de las clases, “the country anthem”). Until this day, that song is marked on my lips with pride. I’m proud that I’m Mexican and I would still die for my country. At noon, I had to walk another hour home in order to eat lunch and join my father en el campo, “the field”. Together, we worked cutting and picking crops to sell, in order to help our family survive. My life was in a never ending cycle of hard work, and little money. 

Until 1992 when one of my oldest brothers, Juan, told me about the the country, across the border of México, called America. His description of the land and it’s opportunities sounded wonderful, and I was determined to go to this amazing country where I could make a stable life for my wife and children.

I was 20 years old with a wife and mi hijo my son”, Xavier, when my brother told me it was possible to go to America. I tried to earn enough money on my land but in México life was getting harder. The jobs I would do came with little pay and that wasn’t the life I wanted to offer my wife and children.  Since I was old enough to make my own decisions, I decided to leave for America knowing it was either el camino a la muerte or una vida mejor” the path to death or a better life”. 

My plan was to send my son and my wife money and later when I had settled down in America and bring them to America as well. Before I left I said goodbye to my parents. My mother started crying but between her cries she was able to tell me,”Que dios te cuide “May God protect you”. My father, being el macho “the man”,  just gave me a pat on the shoulder but I knew that was his way of saying te amo hijo,” I love you son”. As I walked away from mi tierra ”my land”, in my black outfit, I was able to hear my heart beating underneath my shirt, scared to death, knowing I was heading on a dangerous journey to a foreign country. My face started to sweat and until this day I do not know if it was because of the burning sun or because I was so frightened. I was completely alone, and as I got in the car to go to the airport I prayed, “ Dios cuidame por favor,  “ God , please take care me”,  hoping he heard me. 

 My journey began on an airplane to Tijuana. Once I was there, I met with el coyote who was helping me get to America. He told me to watch for the signal he would give me to go to a certain hotel, and wait for darkness.  At the hotel, the group traveling with the coyote rested in order to get ready for the long path ahead. As our journey to cross the border to America began, I was scared to death because I could hear the animals from a distance. Trembling, I saw snakes near me. Along our dark journey, I could never really relax as I was terrified as our group moved through the darkness with the coyote in the lead. I was always alert for me and for my fellow travelers. When daylight arrived, it was even more dangerous. We had to hide ourselves from la migra or any other human being who could spot us, so we barely moved from our hiding place. Daylight was la noche “the night” for us, but it was impossible to rest, due to the sun beating on my skin. The sweat from my forehead fell towards the dirt and the desire for water increased each day. I was so thirsty, that I could barely could feel my tongue. 

The first thing I remember doing when I arrived was eating at a McDonalds. I ate two burgers because I was starving  and the burger tasted better than I imagined. I also remember drinking so much soda that I thought I would explode. When I had food in my stomach, I was able to breathe the American air, and suddenly I felt free and alive. The roads felt softer beneath my shoes,  the buildings around me were modern and incredible to see. Within a few seconds I fell in love with America. 

Soon I was able to see my oldest brother, Miguel, again. I recognized my brother the moment I saw him. He looked older, and his weary eyes looked tired, yet he still had the energy I remembered. He gave me a roof over my head for the next few years of my life, which gave me time to get settled in East Palo Alto, my new city. In those early years that I lived l with Miguel, he not only gave me a roof over my head, but he found my first job for me. He also shared his wise words about life in America. I will always be so grateful to him.

 I was happy to be with my brother, but my happiness was overshadowed by my inability to speak English. Not knowing how to speak or understand English made life hard. The language barrier left me separated from American society and gave me extra time on my hands to miss my wife, son and my Mexican culture. I started missing las tortillas de mano “handmade tortillas”, the fishing time at the river with my friends, and especially eating meals with my family every day. I even missed fighting with my sisters, and making my mother mad when I brought “chicas”( girls) home. I missed everything about my old life for the first six months. However, I slowly started to learn the language and find my way in learning the culture of the United States. Slowly, my life improved. I was able to improve my English, and get a job with fair pay.

 Today, I’m glad that I could be my own boss. My dream was always to run a small business and today I’m allowed too. I work in construction and the feeling of building new homes has been my life. 

I’m proud that I made the decision to cross the border because it has changed my life, and the life of my family for the better. Crossing the border allowed me to offer my children a more promising future. I’m glad to see my children grow up in a country where people are treated with respect, regardless of their ethnicity. In America, my children have so many opportunities and I know they will accomplish more than I have been able to accomplish. I look forward to celebrating the success of my children in a country that offers them so much.

This story is based on an interview by a high school student at Eastside College Prep.

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