Coming from an immigrant family has been hard because I’m the first to figure out everything in this country. For example, when I started school, I knew no English since everyone around me only knew how to speak Spanish. Coming from an immigrant family is sometimes hard because, from a very young age, I had to be the translator for my family whether it was at the dentist or clinic—when it came to filling out any paperwork, I had to take the responsibility of making sure everything was done correctly, even though I was so young.
I can’t go visit my family in Mexico with my parents because of their situation and it’s also hard to talk about my parents because I don’t want to give out too much information. Some of the hardships include financial hardships. Because they [my parents] didn’t receive an education, the jobs they work aren’t necessarily the best out there, but at the end of the day, they provide us with everything we need.
For me, being in this situation has made things harder than they should be. In school, for example, it took me a while to pick up English but because I was so young, I was able to learn it quickly. Then, when it came to thinking about going to a college or university, that was never really a thing [I could think about] because no one knew how to get me there or if they [my parents] could even afford to get me there. This has motivated me so much to work hard in school because I know it is not only a privilege to be born here but also a privilege to have the opportunity I have to have access to education. Because of the support of my parents and because of my hard work, going to college is actually a real possibility.
When people used to ask me “what are you?” I never really knew what to answer because I was raised by my Mexican family but I grew up in America. It wasn’t until high school that I learned about the term “Chicano/Chicana” which is a person of Mexican origin or descent. Coming from immigrant parents who come from a different background than the one I was raised in has forced me to take on two different identifies. In school, I am more like an “American,” but around my family and friends, I am a Mexican. It wasn’t until recently that I learned to embrace both at the same time and embrace what I really am: a Chicana.
If I could give any advice to other people who are immigrants or whose family are immigrants, it would just be to not let that title or that status define their limits and their capabilities because at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter where you come from, what you look like, or who you are. You can do anything you set your mind to. I’m not saying it’s going to be easy, because with that status comes a lot of obstacles; however, it’s not impossible and just know that there are so many other people in the same situation and that there’s help out there for people who want it. I am proud to be Chicana and thankful for all the obstacles I have overcome because they have made me who I am and they have made me stronger.
My fear is that they’ll take my parents away. That fear isn’t as strong now as it was a few years ago because now my brother and I could pull it off together. Obviously, as the older sibling, I would probably drop school in order to work and make money. Even though I feel like education is super important in my life, I would probably instead find two jobs to push him forward. If I got him forward, he could probably help get me out.
Having a family without anything motivates me to keep working hard, because, at the end of the day, I have no excuse not to become something much bigger than what they are because of the fact that they’ve accomplished so much with nothing, so it just motivates me to work harder. Not only do I want to show them that all their sacrifices were worth it, but I want to thank them for everything they’ve given me.
Coming from undocumented parents, you’re always scared to talk about them at school. People ask, “oh, where are your parents working?” but I’ve been taught from a young age to never share anything about my parents.
One of my fears was losing my family. I think that’s the scariest part, seeing the younger generation lose everything, even though they were born here.
What I want to say to them [conservatives] is that I understand where they’re coming from. Stereotypically, in Mexico, there’s a lot of corruption with the drugs and gang violence. I’m not even going to deny it, I don’t think it’s fair to generalize everyone else based on that minority. At the end of the day, thanks to a lot of these immigrants, Americans have food on their table, so it’s important to learn to respect people because they take the jobs that many Americans don’t want.
Education isn’t always the number one priority in our culture. It’s more like about getting a job and supporting yourself, but if Latinos do take advantage of it, then we can get more diversity in our schools. We’re starting to get a lot more Latinos into schools and universities and despite still being a minority, but this fact but it still means we can influence the future, and get more Latinos in important positions who can make decisions for our country and have a powerful voice.