I never felt alone in Mexico. In America, there is a big emphasis on independence, everyone must struggle on their own and be successful on their own. It makes us want to socialize less and makes us want to focus on our busy schedules and our work.
1. What perspective do you wish non-immigrant Americans understood about your journey?
Personally, from my experience, I learned how difficult it is to become documented, I had the opportunity to come to the United States because my wife was able to get papers, I had it easy compared to other immigrants that need to sacrifice a lot and yet not get the proper documentation they need. Many immigrants don’t have the same luck as me in getting into the country safely and then be recognized as American by the government, which then people in society take notice of and devalue their identity and experience.
2. Did you have any fears before coming to America?
No, because my country had a lot of corruption, death, and overall dangerous
situations, that I no longer felt fear surrounding my daily life. I was used to situations being unexpected, and I knew my family in Mexico needed my help to become financially well, so I took it into my own hands to obtain a better life for me and my family.
3. Who were the people who saw you off? Is it hard to keep in contact with them now?
The people who saw me off were my cousins, my mother, my sister, and your mother’s side of the family. I said goodbye to everyone in Uruapan and traveled by airplane to Tijuana from there we traveled by car. It was hard to keep in contact with everyone before, due to technology not being as advantaged as today, now its easier to text them, to video chat. Although it’s definitely not the same as before, first moving to America I wasn’t able to talk or see my side of the family for around 6 years. My mom would visit me yearly, but the connection I had with my family, was gone for a long time.
4. Was there a misconception you had about America that you realized was false?
Every person has a different story and experience when it comes to America, I had the illusion that I was traveling to a different country without corruption. Living here for 28 years and I’ve realized what I was trying to escape is also here, and it was very disheartening to realize a lot of the problem I had in Mexico, I was able to find here. I also noticed how in my workplace I tend to be discriminated against because I don’t speak the language fluently, I had coworkers and my boss doubt I could do my job correctly and efficiently due to how I spoke. And I’ve been able to demonstrate them wrong and show them I won’t have to be fluent in order to be successful in what I do.
5. How did your family feel about you leaving your home country?
They all felt sad, no one wanted us to leave and some even became angry with me because of my decision. I had a good job in Mexico and many of my family members told me why to leave when you have a good thing going on here.
6. What do you miss about your home country?
The food, I miss the people and how the culture is over there compared to here, I never felt alone in Mexico. In America, there is a big emphasis on independence, everyone must struggle on their own and be successful on their own. It makes us want to socialize less and makes us want to focus on our busy schedules and our work. I always had time for my family and they always had time for me because we lived close and the community aspect is a lot stronger.
7. How is American life different? Do you prefer this lifestyle compared to the oneyou had back in your home country?
The lifestyle in Mexico is a beautiful thing, I always felt there is no competition and the relationships I made were genuine. In America, I haven’t been able to find that same feeling of community and there is always a sense of competition and the desire to be better off than someone else. There’s too much focus on individualism and not enough on community which I think is really harmful, especially when you look at politics and corruption and how individualism plays a big role in discarding the poor and criminalizing minorities.
8. Do you feel accepted as an immigrant (or American) in the United States? How does your viewpoint reflect your sense of belonging?
I still consider myself Mexican, and I’ve noticed how my last name changes the way Americans treat and view me as a person. If I introduce myself as Mexican people tend to see me as less than, and when they ask about where my last name came from I tell them from Basque, from Spain they think I am white, and treat me as an equal. My viewpoint of belonging here…I don’t think I feel like I belong, I remember being pulled over by a cop car and a police officer thought I was a suspect and treated me like a criminal, he told me to get out of my car and pointed a gun at me, searched my car with little notice to how I felt. Once they realized I was the wrong guy, they simply said “sorry, wrong person. You can leave now”. They act like that won’t traumatize a person and we still see it happening in this country.
9. What was the hardest part of adapting to American culture? Do you think you have assimilated or do you still have your roots and traditions?
I think the hardest part of adapting is the lack of community, and celebrating traditions I grew up within Mexico. There’s a lot of holidays I haven’t been able to celebrate because America has their own holidays that overshadows our own. I still feel super connected to my roots and traditions, I still have foods and recipes my mom used to make for me, that reminds me of life in Mexico and gives me a sense of nostalgia.
10. Reflecting on your journey to a new country, what is something that you vividly remember? What part of your experience has left a big impact?
Something I vividly remember is traveling by bus from San Diego to ModestoCalifornia, it was a dirty and old bus. On the first day of living in America, I was uncomfortable and it was a moment where I thought how did I get here? I used to work for a good company and I used to feel free and it was a moment I knew things were going to change. Once I got to Modesto, I had lost my luggage as well, and most of my things were gone it was a discouraging moment. Coming to a new country with most of my clothes were gone, coming in an uncomfortable bus, my first experience was awful and I’ve compared it to my other vacations and journeys, and never felt that way about any of them.
Something that changed for me as a result of this interview was understanding where my deep sense of community comes from, knowing that it’s okay to depend on others, and that individuality is only seen as a good thing in America and not other countries remind me that it is okay to want to feel connected and depending on others isn’t problematic. This exercise increased my global citizenry because I believe I am prepared to understand the differences between cultures and appreciate how people from different countries operate within their own societal norms.
This interview was done by the subject’s daughter.