I blog because I can write my own history and not sit back while others construct me as the “other”
My parents came to the United States as naive 19 year olds from Chinantla, Puebla in Mexico. They both had less than a third grade education but worldly ambitious. Nevertheless they quickly assumed jobs that other low wage workers take up. To this day, my father has been working for 30 years as a cook at a seafood restaurant while my mother has worked mostly at sweatshop factories sewing expensive dresses for DKNY and Calvin Klein for less that $3.25 per hour.
I was born and raised in the Bronx to my undocumented parents. This was 1984. The Bronx was burning and there was a rampant crack epidemic. Yet for my parents, the Bronx represented an opportunity very different from the hard toil that is rural subsistence farming. With enough remittances and several border crossings later, my parents were able to bring my other family members to the Bronx, and soon enough I had family I could celebrate birthdays and holidays with. When the 1986 IRCA laws passed, only some of my family members qualified, including my own parents, which saved us a life of living in the shadows but not for the rest of my family.
I never got over the close calls either. My grandfather and uncles were detained by INS and sent back. I almost got my mother detained as well, when her sweatshop was raided and she hid us in a clothing bin. Another sneeze and I would be telling a different story. Yet I grew up, telling everyone that my parents were aliens and carried green cards so that they wont go out of space.
However, socially awkward I was, I excelled in school and translated the US to my parents at hospitals, parent teacher conferences and the immigration law offices. I was able to receive a quality education thanks to scholarships and gifted programs in the inner city. While I graduated from my high school class, I could not go to Stanford, because my parents needed me and we couldn’t afford my leaving to California. I am the first in my family to graduate from college, though in a major that my parents still don’t understand its practical use: English Lit and Women Studies. I don’t either, honestly.
Now that I am grown up, I have fallen in love. First, with organizing. La Marichola is a term endearment given to me by the youth from Esperanza del Barrio, a community-based organization that organizes street vendors in East Harlem, NY. They were youth just slightly younger than me, same Mexican towns actually, but didn’t benefit from the 86 amnesty because their parents came to the US too late to qualify. We valiantly organized a NYC Mexican Youth Conference and organized on behalf of the Dream from 2004-2007. We staged press conferences against the NYPD for criminalizing youth. We were militant and unafraid. Without organizational support, at our parent organization, however, members from Suenos del Barrio helped create the NYSYLC. Our fight continues till this day.
I fell in love a second time. His name is Gabriel M. We met collecting petitions on behalf of the Dream Act in 2005. Maybe it was his love of computers or sappy Cuban revolutionary songs or our mutual love for the taste of morning dew of rural Mexico. Yet there was a problem. Gabriel is undocumented. It has been a daily struggle to stay together as the fear of separation is always present. Yet, we have grown up together throughout these years and I have learned that love takes a lot of compromise and sacrifice. Gabriel has given me his all and we continue to dream of a day when we can plan for the rest of our lives free from fear. I don’t fight for passage of the Dream Act only for Gabriel. He is in the struggle too, very much in his own way. I fight together with him. I fight with my younger cousins who are also Dreamers and with immigrant youth, allies and friends. Together we are building an immigrant youth movement. We need all the talent, resources, skills, sacrifice and heart that we can get.