Maria. Leon Guanajuato, Mexico.
By, Cynthia Castillo
Moving to America has made me the person I am today, the journey I mean. I would not be thesame person if I still lived in Mexico. I'd be an entirely different person.
We had to walk miles and miles in the scorching sun. I remember sand, endless sand and dirt. I vividly remember ducking down behind the roads and bushes so no one would see us. We hid behind bushes for long periods of time. I heard a lot of bad things that a child shouldn’t have had to hear. I heard people around me getting caught, yells of pain and gunshots.
In Mexico, I used to spend a lot of time with my extended family. In Mexico, things are very family-oriented. Most of what I can remember is being at my Grandma’s house. I was the first girl child in the family so I was very spoiled by all of my family… especially one of my uncles. I did briefly go to school in Mexico…that didn’t work out very well. I was actually only four years old. Things are different in Mexico and they accepted me. I was too young to even be in school, but somehow I talked my parents into enrolling me. That didn’t go to well. It was very difficult for me to follow directions. Shortly after that, we left to America.
I was very close to my Mom’s side of the family. I preferred to be with my Grandmother most of the time because she would spoil me. She would do anything in the world for me.
I remember when I was very small, I became very sick. I had a high fever and I was cranky. It was storming outside and the electricity was out and our only source of light was candlelight. I was crying and crying. My Grandmother was trying so hard to make me happy. So with only the candlelight, she started sewing me a rag doll. She finished and it was all crooked and the face was all distorted. It was kind of ugly but I treasured that doll, I loved it so much that I brought it with me everywhere I went. I lost it though… I don’t even remember how but I know that I was on my way here to America. I must have left it in one of the Taxis or buses.
I also had a close relationship with my Grandfather to. He loved to see me smile. He would do just about anything to put a smile on my face. He used to own this dry cleaning business and I would always be around there with him. He had this great big basket with wheels. He used to sit me in the front part of this basket and drag me around real fast. I used to laugh hysterically it was so much fun. I just remember watching all of the things around me zoom by.
My family in Mexico told me a lot of weird beliefs and stories. Well most families in Latin America are superstitious so I guess it wasn’t too weird. I was brought up to believe in a lot for those things. That must explain why I’m scared of everything now. I remember there was this one story about this woman. La Llorona. She was a beautiful girl living a lower class lifestyle. She thought she was better than everyone else and got married to a knight. The knight and she had 2 babies and somehow in the end he cheated on her. She took out all her anger on the kids and drowned them in the river. She eventually killed herself and to this day you can still here her crying for her sons. Supposedly if kids stay out late when they aren’t supposed to, La Llorona will find them and kill them.
Times were getting hard in Mexico and my dad couldn’t find a good job. Every job he found did not pay well enough to support his 4 kids and wife. He decided it would be best to go to America and make some money for us. He moved to America with some of his family. He was working a couple of jobs so that he could make enough money to send for us. After a log agonizing year, he had made enough money to send for us. He had worked very hard. He spent his days and nights working. I can imagine how hard it was. I ask why my dad wasn’t with us. Little did I know he was only trying to make things better for us…
In 1973, when my family heard the news that we were going to join my dad in America, they weren’t very thrilled. They did now want my mom to leave with four kids by herself. They didn’t want us to leave, period. We were such a part of that side of the family. They didn’t want us to go; they’d miss us too much.
In the he days leading up to our departure, there were a lot of mixed emotions. There was happiness, because we would be leaving to a better life; but also sadness, because we would be separated from each other. My mom would cry every night at the thought of leaving he loved ones. My aunts and uncles had begged for us to all stay. Most of what I remember is tears and sadness. My family was definitely the hardest thing to leave behind in Mexico. One of my uncles and I were very close. I must have been his favorite. He was very attached to me. The day we had to leave, he wouldn’t let me go. They had to practically pry his arms way from me to let me go. I vividly remember the look on his tearful face when we said our final goodbyes.
My mom, sister, two brothers and I all left on our way to America. This was actually very similar to the stereotypical transition to America of hopping the border. We took a never-ending bus ride to the middle of no where. My brothers, sister and I didn’t have too much of and idea as to what was going on. We were so little and all I could remember is thinking “I’m going to see daddy”. We had to walk… a lot. Never-ending sand and dirt is what I remember. At one point my sister and I were so tired we felt as if we couldn’t walk anymore. We refused to go any further, we had no energy. This one lady took to my liking and she was nice enough to help my sister and I. She carried me for a while, then I’d walk, then we hid. I heard many things a child should never have to hear. I heard yells of fear and pain. I heard the gunshots of people getting caught. I was so afraid and paranoid that I’d get caught. I remember ducking and hiding behind bushes to hide from border patrol and anyone that might cause us any harm.
My siblings and I were beside my mother the whole time, from what I remember. I wasn’t aware of this until later, but we actually got separated. We were going to take a taxi, but there wasn’t enough room for everyone. On the spot, my mom had to make a very nerve-wracking decision. She had a decision to make. Take a chance and leave us with the people in the taxi and trust that she could trust the people, or put us through more pain of walking and crying. No one was willing to give up their spot on the taxi. We were in the taxi with one of the ladies that was walking with us. She was to deliver us to the safe house where we would meet up with my mom. My mom was afraid that we would get kidnapped or sold. It turned out good. All I can remember is going to this nice house and playing on the swings.
My uncle had met us there at the safe house. We were all to stay in his house with his family of 8. I was very happy to see my dad. His eyes were filled with tears when he saw me. We stayed there in the crowded house for about a year. During that year, I was enrolled in elementary school. My mom got a job and after we had enough money, we moved into an apartment for our own.
I was feeling a little bit homesick. I missed all of my very close family. I didn’t even know how long I was supposed to be gone for. I didn’t consider it much of a change, because I still had all the family I needed. All I knew was that daddy was back and the family was together again.
When I started school, here in California, I was so scared. I didn’t speak a word of English. I cried a lot. I didn’t listen to what any of the adults had to say. Finally, the teachers got sick of my crying and they decided to transfer me into a grade lower so I could be in the same class as my cousin. I started paying attention to the teachers and I was learning to speak English. I was really behind in school because of that.
When we came here, my mom didn’t speak a word of English. She took it upon herself to take the first job she found. She had to marketable job skills so she took a job at a laundry mat. Her job was very, very hard. I just remember from the days when we would pick her up it was basically a sweatshop. She decided to take classes at night to learn to speak English. Once she got better at speaking English, she took a class to learn about being a medical assistant. She soon climbed up from that and became a medical assistant. My mom is definitely my inspiration.
In Mexico, life is so simple. Here, things are so materialistic. When there is a new pair of shoes, people have to buy them. In Mexico, a person is grateful to have one pair of shoes. I’ve lived here most of my life so I’m used to the materialism. It’s hard to tell if I’d be happier here or in Mexico. I think it was for the better though, that my family moved here to America.
Had I stayed in Mexico, I don’t think I would have gone to college. I’ve taken vacations back to Mexico and by the look of it and by looking and some of my cousins’ lives, I wouldn’t have gone. Moving to America has made me the person I am today, the journey I mean. I would not be the same person if I still lived in Mexico. I’d be an entirely different person.
I’m living the American dream I have a husband, and 2.5 kids the average family. I have a house and we’re about middle classed.
If there was one thing I could change, I’d bring my whole family with me to America.