15 Apr

The Echoes of Many : A Story of a Mexican Immigrant

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     I was born in San Luis Potosi, SLP Mexico. I came to the United States when I was 14 years old in 1978. Like many, I came here to help my family back home.
     I came here illegally. I swam across the river. It was horrible, because it was the first black ice that covered that night. I walked in the woods for 4 days and 4 nights. When I was thirsty, I would drink any source of water I would find, even if it were urine. I had nothing else to drink or eat. I had to walk during the night because that was the only time where no one could see us. I eventually made it to my destination where I would soon discover more hardship.
     I came from a big and poor family of 10 brothers and sisters. I was the third youngest out of all my brothers and sisters and the only one to come to the United States. I knew I had to come to the United States to help them out. I needed to help my father and mother to pay for the house and many other things back at home. I remember watching my mother wash our clothes on top of a rock because we didn’t have a washer, I couldn’t help but be frustrated seeing that and other things. My first goal was to buy my mother a washer and the second was to help my father with the family.
     When it was Christmas, I remember seeing my friends play with toys they got as gifts, while my family had nothing. When I got to the United States, my uncle gave me stamps to send $5 to my family, which back then equals to 3 pounds of eggs in SLP. I sent my family money every Christmas so that my mother could buy gifts for my brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, and even to buy a piñata so that she could invite the neighborhood kids over so they could have a sense of belonging. I didn’t want them to feel the way I felt as a kid to receive nothing on Christmas.
     How was it living here back then? It was hard. I came here during the worst season. It snowed a lot and I didn’t know anyone but my uncle. I didn’t know the language, I didn’t know where to go, what to do… but I told myself that if I’m here in the states I’m going to take advantage and work hard and give my family everything I couldn’t have. So, I learned the language by speaking to people because I didn’t have time to go to school, I had to work.
     I started working at a hotel washing dishes, but I only worked there for a month. I told myself I could do better so I looked at getting better positions. I moved up to housekeeping and then I told myself I could do something better and did maintenance and engineering. I then noticed that I could get better money as a banquet server so I automatically applied and worked at different hotels doing just that. It was really hard at first because of the language barrier. I remember my first task was to ask everyone if they wanted coffee and serve them. In doing this, I accidentally mistook one of my bosses as someone important and I was able to learn from that mistake. Sometimes, I had to sleep in the hotel laundry because I didn’t have any sort of transportation to make it on time the next day. It wasn’t exactly the best of times, but I knew it would all be worth it just to know that my family at home wasn’t suffering anymore.
     Inclusive, I was hit by yet another wall. When my parents passed away, I couldn’t visit their funeral or grave because if I did, I wouldn’t be able to come back. I took off work without notice because I just couldn’t handle the situation at hand. I got fired. It took me about 3 months to find another job. That’s when I started working as a cook in the grill. People around me kept telling me to apply to be manager because I had the diligence and skills to be one. However, in order to be manager, I knew they were going to ask for my documents. Everyone insisted and wanted to give me the position, but I was too afraid to take that step so I just told them I didn’t want it and give it to someone else. I knew I had to do something about my situation.
     Soon after that, I went to go see a lawyer and that lawyer told me to bring everything to see an immigration officer. When I brought everything he basically left me stranded with the immigration officer and left me $2000 less. It wasn’t until later that the lawyer I believed could solve my case was accused of robbing many other undocumented natives and making up lies in other cases. The second time I tried to get an interview with immigration I had a woman accuse me of fraud because everything the previous lawyer had been accused of was thought of being falsified on my paperwork. She made me sign paperwork stating that everything I had filled out prior to my interview was a lie. She threatened me and told me that if I didn’t sign the paperwork my family and I would have been deported. I lost all hope after this situation. What kept me going was having faith in god and knowing that everything would be okay.
     I eventually found a lawyer who believed my case could be resolved. He helped me obtain my permit and then my residency, but I sure had to suffer a lot before receiving either. I couldn’t apply to many jobs because I was “illegal” even if I knew I could do the job better than the next. I had to work as a cook, making little pay, but it was enough to survive. However, after I became legal, I started working at different places and started receiving better pay. Now, I’ve applied to be a citizen and have to wait 5 years to be able to obtain it.
     I’ve been working since I was 14… I’m now 50 and still working hard for my own kids and wife. It’s still hard because now I have my own payments to pay for by myself. The job market is hard due to so much competition. In order to keep up with my bills, I have to work many jobs. I tell my kids that if I leave anything behind it would be their education. It’s the best investment to leave them because everything else could be replaced. I know they’ll be prepared the rest of their life because they will have an education. Knowing that, working all these jobs doesn’t feel as bad.

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