…making sacrifices is also important to growing as a person, and becoming the best possible version of yourself.
Maria was born in Durango Mexico. She was the youngest of 11 siblings, who all lived in a tiny pueblo on the outskirts of the city of Durango. They had very little money, and living far away from any grocery stores with no real form of transportation other than a train, made it very difficult to get by. The boys in her family worked on their family farm, laboring all day in the sun. Unfortunately, the farm was not self-sufficient, which made life even more difficult for the big family.
From a very young age, Maria was forced to work hard in order to provide for herself and her family. At the age of 17, she had already given birth to her youngest daughter, and was providing for her by running a small pastry shop outside of an elementary school. The father was not around, he had taken advantage of Maria and left her with her baby and no support.
Maria’s mother was also very religious, she only allowed Maria and her sisters out of the house if they were working, or going to church. Maria’s daughter recalled to me that “Even though times were tough, my mother was just happy to be with her family.”
Maria did not have a chance to get an education because she had to work constantly as a young mother. She felt like she could only support her family for so long, and decided to follow her brother’s footsteps in immigrating to the U.S. for job opportunities.
Maria had to leave her young daughter behind in Mexico, because her agreement with her mother was to make money in the U.S. and send it back to her family to help support her daughter. Maria left for the U.S. at age 17, with not much other than the clothes on her back and a bit of food for the journey. She went by bus, and described it as being cramped with hundreds of other Mexican immigrants. The trip only took a day and a half, but it felt much longer.
She had no papers, and nothing to get her started when she made it to California. Maria’s brother was waiting for her when she arrived, which made it a lot less scary on that first day. She lived with her brother and worked within the family, babysitting for her nephews and other family members that had already made it to the United States. She experienced a lot of culture shock being in a new place and not speaking any English.
She experienced feeling judged and looked down on when she would try to speak English in front of people, so she remains pretty shy at new jobs and social gatherings to this day. She met her husband a few years after moving to the U.S., and they have been able to provide for their three children.
Her oldest daughter still lives in Mexico, and she is still not able to go back to visit because there are many complications with her papers. Her mother died a couple years ago, and she was never able to say goodbye. As difficult as it was to leave her home and never return, Maria is happy with the life that she has been able to create for herself and her beloved family.
When I asked her daughter what her biggest life lesson to the next generation would be, she said “Making sacrifices does not cause long term happiness and doesn’t fix all your issues, sometimes it can cause more damage than repairs. But making sacrifices is also important to growing as a person, and becoming the best possible version of yourself.
Always be grateful for what you have, my mom has made sure that I take advantage of all the opportunities given to me by her sacrifices.”
This interview and the narrative that came from it were conducted by Charlotte Lindsay, a student at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA.