We did not know if we were ever coming back alive. It was all a risk we were taking, a risk we were willing to make.
I kept walking and walking through the desert. I did not want to stop, I could not stop. I had to continue — for my family, for myself. No me puedo dar por vensido. I cannot give up. These were the words running through my head as I was trying to survive in the hot desert.
My parents were very humble and we were actually blessed because my father owned a rancho in Michoacan, Mexico, that provided us with so many resources. From this resource, my father was able to put food on the table for my 7 siblings and I. I grew up adoring this rancho. I worked in it all day with my siblings. I took care of the cows, milked them, got the eggs from the chickens and helped my father plant crops. I remember the dirt on my feet as I walked, the fresh scent of cow milk and the chirpings of the roosters that woke me up every morning. I remember climbing the huge mango trees as a kid and walking around just to find a new adventure. I was the happiest and will never forget these moments.
However, it all changed when I thought of coming to the United States. My older brother had left Mexico to travel to the US. He wanted my other brother and I to follow his footsteps and actually paid for our whole trip. We wanted to take this opportunity and also provide our family with something better.
It was 1996 when I found myself crying when it was time to say goodbye to my family. As my brother and I walked out the rancho, my mother told us, “Cuidense mucho hijos, los amo” (Take a lot of care my sons, I love you). My father did not say anything to us, he just drove away. He was furious that we were putting ourselves at risk. I saw the frowns in his face and the tears that were forming under his eyes. He loved us and did not want us to die. We did not know if we were ever coming back alive. It was all a risk we were taking, a risk we were willing to make. I was just 19 years old when I traveled through the desert with a coyote (a person that knows every pathway through the desert). I was carrying a little backpack with my clothes and 2 gallons of water, along with a huge fear.
One day, as I was walking through the burning desert, I heard my brother yell, “Ten cuidado, hay una vivora!” Be careful, there’s a snake! I saw the eyes of the rattlesnake, I was not going to let it harm my brother or I. I had to be careful. Filled up with fear, I got the snake and stabbed it with a sharp object. It could have bit me. I could have died. I had to kill it in order to save my life and my brother’s.
When we finally arrived at the border, I thought things were going to get easier, but I was wrong. I had to wait 8 days in the border — without food and without any sleep. It was the worst week of my life. I eventually was able to cross and felt so relieved. Lo hice familia! I did it family!
We were so happy when we first arrived at my brother’s house. Everything looked so different. The streets all looked clean and we felt happy again. I did not know how to speak any English, so it was hard for me to get a job. However, when I got my first job, it actually turned out well. My older brother helped me get a job at a restaurant — as a dishwasher and person that organized everything. When I got my first check of $200, I immediately sent all of it to my mother and it made her really happy and proud of me. This was when I knew that everything else was going to be ok.
I experienced discrimination as soon as I got here. “You don’t belong here, go back to your country,” the white people would tell me. I felt strange; I knew I did not belong, but I arrived here and worked extremely hard to get to where I was. I was not going to leave just because they told me to.
Today, in 2017, I am happy to have gone through all that safely. My brother, who I came here with, has gone back to Mexico and has formed his family over there. I, however, have created an amazing and supportive family here in the United States. I want to keep on working hard to finally buy our own house — one that my wife and I can spend the rest of our lives in. I have accomplished a huge goal of mine. After living in the United States for 21 years, I have finally earned my green card and have gotten the chance to visit my parents back in Mexico.
My biggest goal is to make my daughters realize that hard work pays off. I don’t want them to work outside in the gardens like me, I want them to improve their lives and be important people in life — that is the thing that will make me most proud.
This story was written by Jennifer Sanchez, the immigrant’s daughter, a student in the Bay Area.