“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
The plaque at the base of the statue of liberty reminds us what this country stands for. As an eight-year-old crossing the border, I ask my mother “Why are we going to the United States?” She responds with the only answer she can give, “If we stay here we’re going to starve to death.”
My mother, my sister and I immigrated to the United States from Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco México in 1992. My father had left to the U.S. a year earlier in search of work, leaving my mother to fend for herself. During that year, my mom worked as a hotel housekeeper and a waitress. Her decision to leave México and reunite with my father in the U.S. did not come easy. Our family was literally starving to death.
Upon arriving to San José, California, my mother, sister and I faced a huge cultural shock. We did not speak the language, nor did we know anyone here, besides my dad.
The year is 1993
I pledge allegiance. Everyday I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America… one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty, and justice for… This is my home now; it’s no longer “mexicanos al grito de guerra, y retiemble en su centro la tierra”. I miss my friends, especially my best friend, Carlos. My sister is my only friend now; we sit and eat our school lunches together; I don’t like the corndog very much, the taste confuses me. We watch the other kids play foursquare and tetherball. I feel bad for the ball, forever bound to that pole. I miss my trompos and my canicas.
I miss my teacher, Sr. Gómez. I miss learning in Spanish, now I sit in class struggling to understand what is going on. I like listening to my new teacher sing; “this land is your land, this land is my land,” “Old Macdonald had a farm, e-i-e-i-o,” “and bingo was his name-o.” I wonder how Clifford got so big. He reminds me of Susuqui, except that she’s not red. We couldn’t bring her. I’m sure she’s been waiting for us next to the front door of our house in México for the last three months. My sister and I speak English, but really it’s just Spanish with our version of American accents.
Eventually, my mother started working at a Méxican food restaurant, and my father worked in whatever job he was offered. It has been 20 years since we first set foot in U.S. ground, and we are very thankful to the opportunities this country has given us.