A man was walking with us and the night we spent in the desert, he pulled out an entire roasted chicken and began to share with everybody. To this day I remain grateful for that man, he shared when he didn’t have to as he saw all of us suffering from lack of food.
Growing up poor, you learn to value even the smallest things, from a simple tortilla with beans, to a wonderful family.
My name is Lupe, (name changed). I was born in Zapotitlan, Veracruz in Mexico. I lived with both my parents and my 4 siblings – 3 girls and 1 boy. My house was close to a rocky road where there were rarely any cars. Every morning we would wake up to the truck bringing the tortillas, the truck bringing the milk, and the truck bringing the bread. My home was near harvesting fields where they would harvest sugar, coffee, and there was a lot of vegetation. They were so large that as hard as you tried you weren’t able to see the end. The harvesting fields were split up between the families and some of it belonged to us.
Every morning at around 6:30 am, all 5 of the kids would wake up and gather wood to make a fire which would help my parents with their necessities throughout the day. Afterward, all 5 of us would go to school together and come back together. I remember that almost every day on the way back home, the elotero, the guy who sells snacks, would set up outside our school. I remember the sweet smell I would encounter as I left. But I also remember feeling sad because we never had enough money to buy any of the snacks we wished for. There was only enough money for the necessities. Sometimes there wouldn’t be enough money to put enough food on the table for all 7 of us. The most common food we ate were beans and often they were 1-2 days old, but that was the only food we and we had always been taught to appreciate whatever was given to us by the man above.
Besides being poor, my dad was also alcoholic and he yelled at us often and wouldn’t let us go out. Sometimes we were even glad that he wasn’t home.
Considering my situation, I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to provide a better life for myself and my future family. I had always heard that the United States was the land where dreams came true. I was only 19 when I had made up my mind about coming to the United States. Although there was some uncertainty in me about my decision, I knew this was the right thing to do because I had many dreams and aspirations that I wanted to complete. I also knew that when I got to the United States it would be easier to help my parents financially and make sure they had everything they needed.
I had met my husband a month before we started our journey. I entrusted my life to him and I am very happy that I made the right choice. But the uncertainty in me surfaced once in a while asking “are you sure you want to do this?”, “This is a very serious decision”. Although I didn’t know what I was doing, It felt right in my corazón, heart. But I always wished there was a way that I could have also brought my family along with me. They are my inspiration and to bring them along would have been the ‘cherry on top’.
Remembering the day I left causes me pain and sadness. March 6th, 2002 was my last complete day spent in my beloved country, Mexico. On March 7th I took a taxi to the Mexico City Airport along with 2 of my sisters. The last image I have of them is their beautiful faces shedding tears of sadness. The only doubt I had in me was if I would ever see my family again. My feeling at this moment was like ‘abrir una puerta en la oscuridad y no saber para donde te dirijes’, opening a door into the darkness and not know where you are going. All of this was going through my head standing outside of the airport. I was waiting for my boyfriend who is now my husband. It may seem crazy but I had only known him for 1 month and I had already entrusted him my life, literally.
He had already been in the United States and I would listen with amazement to all the amazing stories he would tell about the United States. I waited for him outside the airport and after that moment we were stuck together like glue. ‘NO TE SEPARES’, Don’t separate, I thought to myself because he was my guide. He was the light at the end of the darkness I had to follow to get out. That was exactly what I did. After the plane we took to Tijuana, we met up with the ‘coyote’, he was the person who would help us cross. “O caminan o se quedan”, or you walk or you fall behind, the ‘coyote’ said.
Besides us 2, around 8 other people were walking with us. We walked the entire day through the hot desert feeling nothing but exhaustion, thirst, and hunger. Walking through the scorching desert with a double layer of clothes to protect us from the vicious thorns on the bushes. We walked 10 hours with one single break in the middle. Throughout those 10 hours, the two things going through my head were my family’s faces the last time I saw them and doubt. I was really scared and I was starting to doubt the decision I had made. As we walked we would see nearby towns and lights but somehow we would never get to them. There is one thing that I remember very clearly, a man was walking with us and the night we spent in the desert, he pulled out an entire roasted chicken and began to share with everybody. To this day I remain grateful for that man, he shared when he didn’t have to as he saw all of us suffering from lack of food.
The following morning, we couldn’t feel our bodies because of the freezing weather. We had slept in a shed-like thing on the ground full of pebbles. We walked a little more to a place they called ‘el aventon’, the ride. Here we waited for a truck where all 10 of us would lay on the seats in the back of the truck. The ride seemed endless and asphyxiating. After endless hours, we arrived at a house in Arizona. “Tienen hambre?”, are you hungry? the house owner asked us. I didn’t know how to respond without seeming greedy, but I didn’t care, “si, mucha”, yes, a lot, I answered back not caring how I sounded because I had gone through too much to care about people’s opinions. The lady gave us huevos con frijoles and té de canela, eggs and beans, and cinnamon tea. This turned out to be the tastiest meal I had ever had. Not long after our stay at this house. My husband and I got on a plane to San Jose, California. Why here? Because my husband’s brothers were already living here and established in this area. My husband had also lived here for about a year before he went back to Mexico.
My husband’s siblings were all living in a little, cramped, old rusty house. On March 8th, 2002 we were picked up by a very nice guy in an old truck. They called him ‘el tejano’, and he picked us up from the San Jose Airport and drove us to the house where my brothers in law were staying. I couldn’t stop staring out the window because there were so many new things. Instantly I knew that this was nothing like my hometown in Mexico, I knew everything would be different and especially the social environment.
The first couple of days and maybe weeks I spent inside the house cleaning, cooking, and doing the things that my mother had taught me to do. I was afraid of everything. Although I didn’t know how to cook very well, I would call my sister’s mother in law and ask her for some recipes. I realized that the more I isolated myself from this new society, the more fear my body would accumulate. Not only was their fear in me but there was also sadness in my soul. I would cry myself to sleep thinking I had made the wrong decision in leaving my family. It got to the point when I would be the only one in the house because everyone would be out working. This was when I realized that I hadn’t done anything for my parents who were the main reason I had come to the United States.
The day after I woke up and told myself, ‘hoy regresaras con la casa con trabajo’, today you will return home with a job. So I got ready and my only transportation were the functioning legs the man above had blessed me with. I walked all day asking people if they had a job they could offer me, but in Spanish, because I didn’t know any English.
Somehow I asked someone who knew Spanish and they said if I could be her nanny. I gratefully took the job and one intention in mind, to help my parents and my family back home. As I walked home that day I walked past the stores and through my eyes everything was expensive, but that was because I didn’t have a single penny to my name. This was my first job and my salary was $5 an hour. I also had given education a chance. I went to adult school so I could learn English and better communicate with people. School didn’t last long because 2 months into school, I gave birth to my first child.
Today I am much more economically stable supporting my family. I am very grateful for what I have. I owe everything I have to God. I have an amazing and humble family. Like most parents, my reason to live is because of my amazing family. I have a loving and caring husband and 3 great kids. I am very grateful and I almost believe my life is too good that I don’t know what I did to deserve it.
Everyone has challenges they have to endure but as a mother, the worst are when they revolve around your kids. When I was pregnant with my last child in 2016, I was very happy I was having another child. On March 21st, 2016 I wanted to surprise my 2 older kids with this amazing news, and that very same day I had an ultrasound scheduled to check up on the baby. Little did I know that this day I would receive the worst news a mother could receive, “ma’am something doesn’t seem right, we are going to have to run some tests.”, said the nurse. Once I heard these words come out of the nurse’s mouth, my heart sank. I break down and all that comes out of me are tears. This was the beginning of a very long pregnancy and many tests. There were so many that the names became unreal. Although the doctor kept telling me that abortion was a choice, I wouldn’t give up on God and my faith. I prayed and prayed until it became a habit. I never gave up and God brought to this earth a very healthy baby boy. Now he is the joy of our lives and I thank God every day for his presence. But that wasn’t the only obstacle I had to climb over.
When I arrived, English seemed foreign to me. But I was able to pick it up through the job opportunities I received. I was able to learn English without going to school which I am very proud of. I have also been able to find a job that I love, it may seem odd but my job is cleaning houses and I like my job because it allows me to make connections and meet new people from different countries and with different cultures. These people I work for also give me many opportunities and are very kind to me.
I still have many goals left to accomplish, but one I want to start working towards is buying a ranch that has a farm and many animals. I was always used to being around animals and I would love to have some of my own. But my kids are always first in my mind and I want for them to have a successful life and study and have a career in what they love. The thought of my kids leaving me to go to college hurts, but I know in the long run it will very much benefit them. Once all my baby birds fly away, I dream of one day going back to my family and give them the greatest hug they have ever received. I will dream on and on and only pray and wait for this day to come. Until then, I will continue to work hard for my family.
The interview was conducted and the narrative written by “Lupe’s” daughter.