Strangers Help Me Over Hurdles (Mexico)

I was the only woman out of eleven men. Anything awful could have happened, but it didn’t because one of the main coyotes (person who helps others migrate) was my relative. The trip took four to five days. These days were some of the worst days of my life.

I was just a little girl who was living her life. I lived in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. I was about seven-ten years old when I lived there. While living there, I would look at the boats arrive at the station. I would get on big and small boats. I had a few friends in Puerto Vallarta. At the beach, we jumped in puddles. As we stepped on the water, huge shrimps would bite our feet. We would play with the shrimps and then we would remove the water from the puddle. Once the water was gone, you could only see the shrimp. Each kid took a few shrimp to their mother to cook.

After that, I moved to San Sebastián El Grande, a town in Jalisco. San Sebastián El Grande was beautiful. I had many more friends there than in Puerto Vallarta. We would climb trees in order to cut fruit, we made puppets using socks and performed short skits. We also played jump ropes, marbles, and many other fun games. I had a great life in Mexico. I never needed anything during my childhood besides my father. My father passed away when I was about four or five years old. Since my father owned land and had a lot of money, many men envied him. We are not sure who sent someone to kill my father but a man killed him.

Before I crossed the border for the second time, I never thought that I would. In my mind, I thought that I was going to stay in Mexico for the rest of my lifetime. I had a family in Mexico, I had a home and was economically stable. I did not want to leave Mexico but I had to because the father of my daughters was already on the other side waiting for me. He had left before me in order to find a job and a place where we could stay. My daughters also migrated, but they migrated with another family. They arrived at the same time when their father arrived. I felt despair because I was leaving everything again!!! I cried several times, I did not want to bring anything with me to the other side, I just wanted to stay.

I was forced to leave because the father of my daughters believed that we would have a better future on the other side. It took us four to five days in order for us to cross the border. We walked through the desert. At night, it was extremely cold, we would sleep in bushes. The coyotes only gave us water but they did not carry any food.

Being the only woman was extremely tough because I had to catch up with the men all the time. When they jumped the fence, I was not able to. To me, it seemed extremely tall. I would say, “Como voy a brincar eso, yo no puedo brincar eso” (How am I going to jump that, I cannot jump that). A man from the group told me, “Corra para tras y trata de correr y brincar. Yo voy a tratar de agarrarte de la mano” (Run to the back and try to run and jump, I am going to try to grab you from the hand). After that, I wanted to cry because I couldn’t do that. I tried three or four times but I couldn’t run and jump. I told Virgin Mary just like every other Mexican, “Por favor ayudeme, si no me quiere ayudar, esta bien. No hay ni un problema si quiere que me quede en mi bello pais”( If she wanted me to cross, then to help me and if not, then there wouldn’t be a problem; I would be willing to stay in my beautiful country). On the fifth try, I ran as fast I could and jumped at the same time, the man grabbed me from the hand and we both landed on the other side. I landed on top of him. As I landed on the other side, my ankle became stuck in the fence causing it to become bloody and swollen. Which made it difficult for me to walk. We were on the other side!

There were two coyotes, one of them left with the others and my relative stayed with me. My relative had people waiting for us in a van that was under a tree. Everyone entered the van and waited for me. As I walked very slowly with my relative because my ankle was swollen, we saw immigration officers walking towards us. I was panicking!!! In my mind I prayed to Virgin Mary, I said, “Por favor, Virgencita De Guadalupe, cuidanos y protegenos de inmigración. Por favor tape nos con su mando bendito para que no nos vean”(Please Virgin Mary, take care of us and protect us from immigration. Please cover us with your cape that way they won’t be able to see us). As the officers passed by, they did see us but did not tell us anything; they just looked at us and smiled, which was a relief to me. Once we arrived to the tree where the van was, we entered the van and left to a small house where we would all sleep and eat.

Every family came to pick up their relative. My daughter’s father was in Northern California waiting for me, he already had my daughters with him. Since I was related to the coyote, he took me all the way to Home Depot in my husband’s new city. We drove from Los Angeles which meant that it was a long car ride. As he drove me , I had time to reflect on how far I had gone.

I thought that my family would be welcoming about me arriving to America, but they were not. They did not help me at all, they did not give me clothing or food for my family. My husband had rented a house before he migrated. We lived behind a house when we first arrived, my niece lived in that same house a few years ago. The house next to the house I lived in belongs to my daughter and her husband.

In the same week that I arrived, I was walking to the store with ripped clothes.There was a lady talking to another lady who was pushing a cart full of clothing. The lady who was pushing the cart asked me, “Oye muchacha, vas llegando de México? No quieres esta ropa? La iba donar pero el lugar está cerrado. La ropa no está nueva pero si está lavada.” (Hey, have you just arrived from Mexico? Do you want this clothing? I was going to donate it but the place is closed) I nervously said, “ Si, voy llegando de México. Y si esta bien con usted, me puedo llevar la ropa?”(Yes, I just arrived from Mexico and if it is fine with you, Can I take the clothes?) “Si mija, llévese toda la ropa. Aqui esta mi numero de telefono por si ocupas algo.” (Yes mija, take all of the clothes. Here is my phone number just in case if you might need anything.) I was embarrassed about getting the clothes because in Mexico I never needed clothing. I did not use used clothing. I am grateful up to this day, but I felt embarrassed. I took the clothes. I used the same pair of jeans everyday. I took them off every day and washed them.

Ever since I crossed the border, my relationship with my brothers and sister has changed. We were all so close in Mexico but now, all we do is work. We are all so distant. It is rare when I visit them or when they visit me. My experience crossing the border and living in America has changed my perspective about family. I thought that family was supposed to help each other, but I guess not. People who are not related to me have helped me more than my OWN family!! I appreciate everyone who has helped me.

When the father of my daughters passed away, I thought that was the end for me. I did not have a job nor money to pay for bills including the rent. I had to move back to a cheaper neighborhood where we had started out. A friend of mine, helped me move back. I found a job and worked day and night.

I always tell myself, “Aunque tenga quatro paredes y un techo para proteger a mis hijas, entonces estoy bien” (As long as I have four walls and one roof to protect my daughters, then I am fine). My daughters and I stayed with a family that had an extra room. I told her my story and she let me stay there with my four daughters. Some of us slept on a small bed that the lady had donated to us, while the rest of us slept on the floor. There are many reasons that I believe others help you more than your own family. In America, family here is not family. Everyone is working all the time and never has time for their family. Once I got my first paycheck, I was going to pay the lady the rent money, but she refused to accept it. She told me, “No mija, quedate con ese dinero y compra cosas que ocupas. Ya que tengas todo lo que ocupas, entonces pagame, pero no te preocupes” (No darling, keep that money and buy things that you need. Once you have everything that you need, then pay me, but do not worry).

Today, I am really proud of my daughters. I did not cross the border for me, but for them. I want them to have the best future and I know they are. Thanks to their school, I am sure they will go far. I want them to work hard so they won’t clean houses like me. I want them to have a job where they get paid for sitting rather than breaking their backs and getting paid very little.

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