Appreciating Diversity (Mexico)

My life was about to change. It could be for the best or for the worse but it was a risk I was willing to take.  As a child, I lived in a little one-floor house with 2 rooms. Located in the hills of a valley. The valley was located near a small city called Veracruz, Mexico. There were house neighbors, and we had to walk miles and miles to get to the city.

Our 1st room was our parents and my smallest sister of 2 yrs. The 2nd room was my 3 other siblings and me. My parent’s bedroom had one bed, a cradle for the baby, and a little wardrobe for storing their clothes. My room had one bed where we all slept. Sometimes I slept on the floor next to the bed when I felt too crowded in the bed with the rest of my brothers. One very small kitchen connected to the living room. The kitchen consisted of a stove and a fridge. That was it. That was all we had. To be honest that was all we needed. We didn’t need any riches to be ourselves or to love our family, we could get all that without the fortune.

We lived in a valley so our back/front yard was miles and miles big but only had dirt. (was very dry) It usually smelled like food, baking because my mother would always be cooking and she cooked deliciously. Even though we did not have enough money to buy a lot of food we would pick fruits and vegetables so our mom could cook. For breakfast, we ate the best tortillas de harina con frijoles flour handmade tortillas with beans.

At the age of 6, I started to work in the fields. My dad would take me and my siblings out to pick fruits from trees or to pick up trash, it all depended on the season. Some days were as hot as mid-June summer day. Some days were so hot, that a popsicle could melt in a few minutes under the sun. I felt the top of my hat soaking wet as I took it off. Wiping my forehead as sweat drops fell down the side of my face.

We got paid the same as my father but sometimes the boss would give us a little extra since we were younger. I remember I always looked forward to that day of the week. After we got our money I and my brothers would change the bills for coins that we would later use in the town arcade games. Even though it’s not right to have kids work we had to do it because if we didn’t we wouldn’t be able to survive. Plus it wasn’t that harsh of a job.

We did not have much money for a family of 7 so we had to find another way. I decided to come to the U.S because I had heard that over here there are way more opportunities and more jobs. Recently many relatives and friends had moved here and they had changed their entire lives. Not drastically like becoming a billionaire obviously but definitely better than the life we had back in Mexico. They were able to get a job and start a family in their own home. I dreamed of this. I wanted to be the next one to win the giant prize of the lottery ticket.

At first, of course, I didn’t know whether I wanted to or not.  I mean I was leaving my entire family and, well, I didn’t know if I was going to be successful. Like everyone else, leaving your family is something very difficult, but then when I kept thinking positively and how I was going to be able to help my family, even more, I got excited and couldn’t wait. “Cuidate y no te metas en problemas muchacho” Take care and don’t get in any trouble young man, my mom said “Te extranaremos mucho” We will miss you allot. Her words circled in my head the entire movie. Those words brought warmth and home to me.

My last days I knew I was gonna leave so I was trying to detach myself from my life there and I had to get ready to change my life forever. Of course, I wasn’t going to forget everything but I wanted to be the most “ready” I could so that I could really focus on my life and helping my family.

We had what they called a “coyote” that was going to bring us here if we paid him. So we did because a friend had recently moved and had used this method and made it to the U.S. I was worried obviously that something would go wrong. What if we got caught? What if this was a scam? What if I didn’t make it? These were the questions I asked myself daily and while I was leaving. I tried to think positively and not think like that but they were always in the back of my head.

While I was on the way here, I felt homesick which was exactly what I didn’t want to happen. I barely had left and I was already missing everything. I tried to think of it as an adventure or a movie and I was on my way to a new life. Everything I did for them, my family, so I thought I am not leaving them, I am just looking for help. I remembered telling my younger sister “this is not a goodbye, this is a see you later” and I kept repeating those words over and over again. That actually brought me strength thinking that if I got to the U.S the sooner I would be able to see my family and hug them again. That was the mentality I tried to always have.

Going from my house to the border was one day.  We traveled by car. One of my father’s friends took me to the border. When we got there we slept in a hotel near the border. There was a man, the “coyote” waiting for us in a white van. He told me to get in the back signaling to the trunk of the vehicle. I noticed that there were another 5 people beside me wanting to also cross the border like me. To think that we were 5 super different people all in the search for a better home  Then the man nailed a wooden board to hide us.

We traveled on the road for about 2 days when we got to a checkpoint. I remember there were officers that would check the truck. The man had told us he would knock 3 times and that would mean that we had to be the most silenced ever. Shortly after we came to a stop we heard the 3 knocks come rapidly from the front of the truck. We didn’t see the officers because of the wooden wall covering us. The officers must not have suspected nor seen anything because in less than 5 minutes we were on the road again.

After that, we traveled 1 more day and we were here in the U.S. Como estaba cansado! I was really tired! I thought. We had been on the road for 5 days already. I was starting to lose my hope, but I resigned to let this get in my head. I had to keep going. I had too!

When we arrived I was so relieved that I  had made it. I couldn’t believe it, we had made it! The first thing I did was admire the beautiful country. As a friend was taking me to the house of a relative I just kept looking at the buildings and parks we kept passing by. I wanted the time to freeze, I wanted to stay in that moment forever admiring everything.

I was first brought to Mountain view with a friend that had also come from Mexico. I lived there for the first 4 years I got here, I was 17 when I had barely gotten here. I started my first job there as a waiter for a restaurant. Eventually, my sisters came from Mexico and we moved to a different city in the Bay Area.  I was so excited to see them, after 10 years of not seeing them, not being able to hug them.

I became a  cook for a restaurant on the Peninsula. I got the job thanks to a neighbor that had told me they were looking for more people.

Now, the best thing is to be able to be with my family. That was all I ever wanted, I wanted to come here to establish myself then be able to get enough money to be able to bring all my brothers and sisters here to live with me. One of the best things that ever happened to me here in the U.S is having my children and my own family because all this time I thought about my siblings and my parents that I didn’t think too much of myself. Then I got here – I met my wife and we had 2 children.

I was able to give my family and my kids a better future, and I gave them a better childhood than me. I just didn’t want them to suffer for food as much as I did as a kid. I also wanted them to get an education and go to school. Thanks to God and everyone that helped me I am able to do this to this day. My favorite thing from the U.S is probably the diversity in this country. So many people come to this state from all over the world for a better future. I think this country is beautiful and it should be shared with everyone. Knowing that my children will grow here and have the best life I can provide them with, makes me very happy.

This interview and the narrative written from it, was done by the immigrant’s granddaughter, a high school student.


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