“Did you ever wonder about living anywhere else outside your hometown?” I innocently asked my father. “Yes” he replied. A middle-class family would often visit his neighborhood every six months and they arrived in a pick-up truck. They came from San Antonio, Morelos Chihuahua located in the Western Sierra Madre. This family had a farm and my father always wanted to live in a farm because he loved animals: chicks, cows, cattle you name it. He wanted this life, there was something in him that longed for that life. Their business was agriculture and they grew marijuana. They never noticed my father; they did not even know him, but for him it was the complete opposite. They were very mysterious because he would only see these people for three months every six months.
Until the age of fifteen years, he never traveled far outside his hometown – only to the neighboring counties. At the age of fifteen, he joined the Mexican Military. Him being stuck in one place was a foreign concept to me.
“I had good feelings about the U.S because I would often hear stories about America from kids I knew” he explained. By kids he meant 16–18-year-old neighbors. It was common wisdom, everyone just knew they crossed the border to work and then come back after a few months. They would bring back new clothes and a few hundred dollars which in Pesos currency was a lot of money.
“I did not know what the United States even was. I knew it by “El otro lado” or “el gabacho”, he concluded. It seems to me that his friends came for the American dream which for them was pretty “bling-bling” things, which from an outsider perspective is what the U.S whole heartedly is.
I wanted to dig more I wanted to know what were the factors that influenced his decisions to leave his country? “Well, give a better life to our family” he answered. It made sense since he did work two jobs for most of my childhood, and we lived okay, I mean I never noticed we lack necessities yet again I was a child. He wanted more for us. My parents had three children: my older brother Carlos, who during this time was 13 years old, my sister Edna, 10, and me – I was 5 years old.
“How did you come to the U.S?” I asked.
“The first time was in 2003 and I was thirty years old, two people “polleros” were the ones that crossed me over from the Nogales border. I went alone and it cost me $1,300 U.S dollars. It was 28 of us, and we walked eight hours through the desert and two pick- up trucks were waiting to take us to Tucson, Arizona. When I crossed, one of the two “polleros” told me to change clothes because I was wearing a new pair of jeans, new shoes, and a gold chain”, he chuckled.
He continued, “the ‘pollero’ really did me a solid here, he knew exactly what was coming, we would soon encounter robbers, so in good faith he decided to warn me since he does this for living. As soon as we arrived at Tucson, we were taken to a safehouse full of people. An abundance of food and spare clothes were provided. Suddenly, a Black American man arrived and yelled for a volunteer. I raised my hand, and he led me outside where we climbed up a very new Crown Victoria. I was instructed sit and duck down or lay horizontally if we encountered a ranger. We headed to Phoenix; he already had the address where he’d be dropping me off with a friend of my wife’s brother-in-law. He was the only contact I had that lived in the U.S. I was only in Phoenix for six months, I made some money and would send it back, then I returned to Mexico. One year later, I processed my passport and visa along with my family’s. My wife and youngest child and I decided to travel to San Jose, CA, to visit my wife’s cousin. At first our plan was to go on vacation but when we arrived, we stayed for 6 months then returned to Mexico for our other two children because we decided to officially move to San Jose, CA.”
Since then, we have lived in San Jose for eighteen years now. It was not easy for me the first few years; I can only imagine how it was for my father. “Did you ever experienced culture shock” I wondered. “Yes” he nodded with a smile that seemed like he was keeping the world’s funniest joke. He experienced culture shock when he realized that after many years living in the U.S he never knew any of his neighbors. In Mexico everyone knows each other around the neighborhood and would often times grow up together from childhood friends to old age, in big cities or in small towns people just know who you were and your family. Also, back home it is totally normal if someone comes to pick you up, when driving a pick-up truck and instead of opening the car door and buckling in, you’d nonchalantly hop right on the back of the trunk. It was totally normal, but here it is not. It is actually illegal because it is not safe at all.
“Was it worth leaving your family behind?” I asked expectantly. “Of course, it was” he nodded. When he decided to leave for America, he was already independent, and he had bigger fish to fry. For years he did not see my grandparents. Four years ago, he was finally able to help them process their visa, and they have visited and stayed three months each year since then. I still remember their bright teary smiles after being 10 years apart.
I swallowed the lump forming in my throat and decided to continue the interview. “Have you ever encountered a situation when your children needed aid (school, medical or financial support) and resources were not provided?”. He pondered for a minute and described that one time when I was in third grade, I was terribly ill for months. I had to undergo a surgery to remove my tonsils. It was so painful, and I had complications during the recovery process. We had many sleepless nights following the surgery. We were able to receive aid from the state and my surgery was free of cost. I asked if he had any further personal experiences he would like to share regarding this topic.
“Well, I’ve been having seizures since I was 18 years old. After several MRI scans, I was only diagnosed with Epilepsy when I was 34 years old. The test and neurological scans that I received were done for free because I was receiving aid from the state”.
“Have you ever needed medical aid and could not afford it and did not receive it because of it?” I further quizzed.
“No, because your mother would always seek and find free resources” he replied approvingly.
“How is living in the U.S impacted your life? How do you think your life would have turned out if you would have stayed in your home country?”, I queried. He looked at me for a few seconds while he recollected his thoughts. “I would be working in a factory since I did not have a higher education nor a high school diploma. I would likely have encountered difficulties in helping your siblings achieve a higher education since in Mexico there is a severe wealth gap, and I would not have been able to afford a college experience for you”, he acknowledged. Also, it would have been impossible for him to have been diagnosed with his illness due to the fact that the diagnosis, medicine, and resources to treat his illness are incredibly expensive. “I would not have been able to be a homeowner since my living situation was so limited” he rejoined.
“After all these years, what is one thing relating to this interview that you have gained after arriving to this country as an immigrant?” was something that I had in mind throughout this interview. He started listing, “I am a business co-owner of my company with my wife, our company made a profit of $350,000 in 2022. I have about 8 employees. I graduated college and received a BA in Theology at California Christian University this past Fall 2022. I am about to start an online master’s program at the Southwest Baptist Theological Seminary. I want to continue studying and maybe get a PhD if I wish, that is no longer impossible. Looking back, I’d never even imagine all my accomplishments and I know better things are coming. My children have received a higher education. My oldest son has a BA in Finance, my middle daughter a BA in Business Administration and my youngest is working towards her BA in Sociology. I am very blessed to see them achieve anything when they put their minds to it”, he sympathetically smiled.
I feel inspired to hear my father speaking about his tangible achievements he worked so hard for. It makes me more than proud that he not only worked extremely hard for a better life for his family but for himself too. Yet, relating to this interview, “is there something you regret the most after arriving to the U.S as an immigrant?” was the only thing left for me to ask.
“No, I do not regret a thing because my family is here with me, they are growing and living their own life as independent individuals. Not attached to worries that are so trivial. I do indeed care for my parents and siblings, and do have a strong bond with them, but my nuclear family is here it is you. This is what satisfies me the most and makes me understand that it was not in vain to have made the decision to migrate to a new country while having to forsake my own. I am waiting for the day I can be a legal citizen and return comfortably to my beautiful country, Mexico”, he smiled unapologetically.
The interview and narrative of her father was done by a community college student in Los Altos, CA.