Crossing the Valley  
Trellissa's Bio

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The Journey to



The women that I interviewed works with me in a restaurant, her name is Brissa Rivera.  She is twenty two years old, and her dream is to be a police officer.  I met her almost a year ago we worked in different departments for the first six months that I knew of her.  One day long before we ever did the interview she saw that I was reading this book on immigrant families and she got very interested and started reading it.  Then she told me that she remembered a similar experience when she came across the border.  This is when I asked her if she would tell me her story for a project in school.  She was more than happy to tell her story.  She came over to my house to do the interview and we sat in my dining room I had a camera man there helping me video tape the interview.   


What was the push or pull that brought you over to America?

           “My mom, she barely had any money, she was always working.   She got sick of it.  So she decided to come to America.  She just left us with my grandmother with like $500 in her pocket.”


 What was the trip cross the border like for you? 

             “In November of 1988 we packed all of our things and took the bus from Mexico to Nogales.  It took three days on the bus to get to Nogales.  We lived very far away.  We lived in Xalapa Vera Cruz.  It

Map of Veracruz

 was just horrible.  Throwing up, you know you are not used to being on the bus.  Just driving and driving, mountains, it’s horrible.  When we got to Nogales it was probably one or two in the morning.  My dad was waiting in Nogales because he was a citizen, so when we got there he was waiting for us in a hotel.  The guy, I think they are called coyotes, the ones who get the people over the border, were in the room already waiting for us.  So snuck into the hotel where nobody could see us.  One by one went into the hotel where nobody could see us.  We got there and they started talking about how much it was going to be.  Because they charge per person.  I think it was going to be one thousand dollars per person.  Which was my mom, my brother, my sister, and me.  Then they talked about how we were going to cross, who would be waiting for us, and what we would do after that.  They said it would be early probably five or six in the morning.  Then we all went to sleep.  They woke us all up and said hurry hurry lets go, the lines are clear, the lines clear.  We were running around grapping our things.  I just remember that.  In Nogales there is this huge fence to cross the border that separated Nogales from Arizona.  The fence is cut into a little hole and we just jumped over it.” 


You guys could have just done that by yourself

“Yeah, the coyotes watching the fences for immigration and patrols.  I remember getting to a parking lot and we ran into a KMART.  That was the first thing I saw was Kmart, I remember thinking wow!  Look at all these clothes and shoes.  The American experience.  They told us to calm down and pretend like we were shopping. They didn’t want people to know what they were doing getting all excited.  We had a car waiting outside for us and it was a very small car.  I remember sitting at my mother’s feet in the front seat hiding.  My sister and brother were in the backseat the same way.  So all you could see from the outside were three four adults.  This way cops wouldn’t think anything.  Because kids will bring attention.  It just looks like adults driving in a car.  Usually when you saw kids you think they are crossing over.”

How does Mexican hold on to there culture?

            They want you to date inside your race.  “They definitely prefer a Mexican man.  I was married to a Puerto Rican and my mom had a big problem with that.  When I was in Mexico I already had a boy my parents wanted me to date when I got older.  He used to follow me around and take care of me because that is what my family and his family wanted us to do.  Down there, once you are married, you are always married. Here if you don’t like your husband, you can get rid of him.”

One thing about Mexico is that they are a very close-knit family.  That is one thing that she keeps alive.  She visits her mom on a daily or at least three times a week.  Her brother helps the family out by watching the kids while she is at work.

What was the hardest adjustment when you came to America?

            “The American food. Hamburgers, French-fries.  In Mexico only rich people to the drive through.  We make everything.  Everything is done by us.  It can take four hours to make beans.  Here you go to the store pick up a can and open it.  Always-homemade food.  Down there I never ate pizza.  At first we got sick.  We weren’t used to it.  We liked homemade food.  At first they would take us out to get us used to the food, but we just wanted homemade food.  After a while my dad just stopped working and took on the mom’s role, so he would cook.  My step dad was a very good cook.”

Is there a difference in cultural expectations between Mexican Americans, compared to Mexicans in Mexico?

            “The Mexicans who came from Mexico who live here now are much more liberal.  They have been Americanized.  Mexico is much stricter. You would never see a woman smoking or drinking or having sex.  They always cover up the bad things. It’s very image oriented.  It’s very hush hush.  Here people will do anything they want.”

How long did it take to receive your legal papers?

            “My mom didn’t put my papers through immigration at first because she didn’t have any money.  The bought herself several years.  Then she became a citizen; my dad made her a citizen through marriage.  We just adopted a routine like everyone else and didn’t think anything of it.  That’s the last thing you think of growing up.  Who cares if you don’t have any records?  Then there was this trip to Paris through school and I came home and asked my mom if I had a passport.  Her mom said you don’t have a passport.  I asked how do I get one.  Her mom said you need to put in an application to immigration.  I said well lets do it.  She said it costs $1,500 dollars.  I said oh, she said finish your class, but you can’t go on that trip.  After that my mom put in my application because she got a good tax refund.  It took almost three years to get a response.  I was thirteen when we sent in the papers, and sixteen when we got a paper saying our application was in.  And we would notify soon and got one after that.”

            An article in US News and World Report states that the new immigration law passed January 1977, would reduce the number of legal entries from Mexico from forty thousand to twenty thousand, excluding minor children, spouses, and parents of American citizens.  The expected outcome of this policy was to put more pressure on families to reunite illegally rather than wait years for their visas to move up the queue (Chavez 2001).  Being away from your loved ones is difficult for anybody, as a migrant in a new country not knowing the language or the culture makes it even harder to cope.  This is why waiting a minimum of three years to get their citizenship is not always an option they are willing to take.

            Undocumented immigrant helped to boost America’s economy.  “Beginning in the late 1970’s, the supply of low-wage jobs in the United States expanded rapidly, while the labor market became less regulated.  Such tendencies facilitated the incorporation of undocumented migrants by opening up the hiring process, lifting restrictions on employers and typically lowering the cost of labor” (Sassen 1992).  This makes it unfair to the honest workers who are trying to make a better life for themselves.  They now have to work harder for less money, under poor working conditions, they are bound to get sick.  Without the government keeping tabs on treatment of workers the employee’s will have a harder time staying well enough to keep a job.      

Did your teacher treat you different after she knew you weren’t legal?

            “Yes she did.  She treated me different in a better way.  She would give me extra attention because she already knew we were immigrants.  She knew I didn’t speak English very well.  She even learned a little Spanish to keep up with me.  All my teachers helped me.  I would learn English from them and they would learn Spanish from me.  She would teach us more and work with us a little more.  She was like that to all her Spanish-speaking families.  She would have us translate for the parents during parent teacher conferences and always explained what she wanted to do for us.  She made a special class for us.”

Do you have any funny stories about becoming Americanized?

            “I was in a store once and the cashier who was Mexican asked the white people that were behind us if she could help them, pretending not to know Spanish.  So my mom called the manager and explained what happened, and she was fired.  Later that week I saw her at my friend’s house talking Spanish, and stopped and stared at me.  She denied being the cashier at first. But then she finally admitted to being the cashier and apologized.”

            Often times I think Americans tend to blame other people rather than take accountability for the things that we have done wrong. “Some accuse immigration “restrictions” of veiled racism and xenophobia, of scapegoat immigrants for social ills” (Clark 1997).  Americans blame the immigrants for the economy going down, the rise of taxes, and the increased rate of health care.  Perhaps American should point the finger in the opposite direction and wonder what can be done differently so that the immigrants can stand on their own feet instead of trying to keep them in poverty.  The laws recently passed in Arizona that restrict bilingual education aren’t helping immigrants to get the knowledge of jobs and skills in order to have and keep a job.  Consequently, “understanding that language, especially English, has been used as a racial weapon in immigration” (Kumar 2000).  Without the English language in America it is difficult to get any sort of help or employment.  Without bilingual education Arizona is only hurting itself by not allowing people to get a proper education, so they can stay out of trouble or off welfare. 

How do you think some stereotypes fit and that some do not?

            Mexicans stereotype worse than any other against their own type.  But some stereotypes are very true.  The stereotypes that Mexicans come here and stay on welfare is basically true.  Not all immigrant Mexicans, but a lot do.

            In the U.S. News and world Report on April 1977, they wrote an article called “Border Crisis: Illegal aliens out of control?”  The text does not say illegal immigration is out of control.  It is the immigrants themselves who are out of control.  At issue is whether these “invaders” abuse the welfare system, displace citizens from jobs, and turn to crime (Chavez 2001).  A typical Americans stereotype is that the only reason immigrants come here is to mooch off the welfare system or sell drugs.  But most come here to make an honest living.  It makes the majority of hard working Mexican immigrants look bad when people come and stay on welfare.  The part about them taking up the citizens jobs, doesn’t pertain because most the Mexicans that work hard are the laborers of the country.  Due to lack of education they do not have the opportunities to   move up the ladder to the higher paying positions.

What does the American dream mean to you?

            “That anything is possible.  In America you don’t live under the governments’ thumb.  You are free to do as you wish.  In Mexico there are only two classes of people rich and poor.  There is no mid point.  There you cannot own your own things.  In America you can own a car, a house.  In Mexico you never get anything for free.”

            People from that have traveled to other countries always say that Americans don’t know how good they actually have it.  I have been to Mexico and it is no walk in the park.  It is understandable why people come here.  To everybody the American dream is similar but unique.

Return to course homepage Interesting facts about JALAPA, XALAPA, or HALAPA, a city of the state of Vera Cruz, Mexico, 70 m. by rail N.W. of the port of Vera Cruz. Pop. (IQOO), 20,388. It is picturesquely situated on the slopes of the sierra which separates the central plateau from the tierra caliente of the Gulf Coast, at an elevation of 4300 ft., and with the Cofre de Perote behind it rising to a height of 13,419 ft. Its climate is cool and healthy and the town is frequented in the hot season by the wealthier residents of Vera Cruz. The city is well built, in the old Spanish style. Among its public buildings are a fine old church, a Franciscan convent founded by Cortez in 1556, and three hospitals, one of which, that of San Juan de Dios, dates from colonial times. The neighboring valleys and slopes are fertile, and in the forests of this region is found the plant (jalap), which takes its name from the place. Jalapa was for a time the capital of the state, but its political and commercial importance has declined since the opening of the railway between Vera Cruz and the city of Mexico. It manufactures pottery and leather.