I chose to interview a Mexican immigrant named Jorge. I met Jorge in my Relationship Management class this past spring at ASU West. I will be putting the answers I received from Jorge into a story told from his viewpoint. I hope you enjoy reading his story as much as I have.
Dreams Do Come True
My name is Jorge, and I was born in Chihuahua, Chihuahua, Mexico. I lived with my mom and her mom, while I was growing up. My story starts with my grandpa who had been born in a town in Texas. Throughout his life he went back and forth to Mexico and the United States. He had eight children and one wife, my grandmother. Since, he was born in the U.S. he tried to obtain legal documents so his family could move to the U.S., for a better life. Unfortunately, all he had for a legal document was a baptismal document. This was not enough for the Embassy and they said he needed more proof. In this process my grandpa died. The case was closed, and he was not given legal citizenship. This left my grandma with eight children and no money. As my mother grew up she was very poor and wanted more for herself and her family. She knew of people and even some of her brothers told her of the money she could make in the U.S. These stories and the story of her own father’s mission created my mothers dream to move to the U.S. Once she had me her dream was put on hold for a few years, but eventually she did indeed attempt to make her dream come true.
When she came to the U.S. she went to Los Angeles all by herself. I stayed with my grandma until my mom got situated. My mom who was around 25 years old at this time found work as a fruit and vegetables picker in the fields. In time she moved up in this area of work and became in charge of finding contractors who would find people to help harvest the fruit and vegetables in the fields. Her boss became her boyfriend; he was also a Mexican national, and eventually they married. In 1989 she was granted amnesty because she was in the agriculture field. She then applied for legal status, and her green card. She became legal and then sent for me.
In 1989, my mom came and got me. I was 15 years old and was very nervous about the whole move. I did not understand exactly why I had to move away from my house in Mexico. I was happy there. I may not of had everything, but I never went with out food or clothes, and I was doing very good in school. My mom said that we will have better opportunities in the U.S. and a better life. We moved to Oxnard, California and I started going to high school as a 10th grader. After one year there my mom and her husband wanted to do something new because his business partner started spending their money behind his back. He sold his part and they moved to Phoenix, Arizona in 1990. I think they also chose this area because my mom’s brother also lived here. For my Junior and Senior years I attended Paradise Valley High School. Phoenix was different compared to Oxnard. In Oxnard I was not an outsider. There were a lot of Mexicans that spoke Spanish and so I did not have to learn English. When I moved to Phoenix I felt like a complete outsider. At this time there was not that many Mexicans and I felt that I did not fit in. I looked different and spoke different than the other kids. In school I felt tense and would in a way fake that I understood what the teacher was saying just so I could make it. I was in ESL classes and started to speak the English language. After I accomplished being able to speak the language I started practicing reading the language. This whole process was a struggle for me. Not only was the language a hard transition for me, but so was getting used to the education level, compared to Mexico. In Mexico, the standards were set at one level and they expected a lot more than American schools. If you did not pass in Mexico than that was it, in America if you needed a lower level course to graduate it was available and if you needed higher level courses that was available as well. For me this change was hard because I was used to trying hard all my life and here my only challenge was to learn the language, once I did that I was confused on what level I was in school.
My best experiences in moving to the U.S. would be being able to mingle with the Anglo society. I had no choice but to achieve, digest, absorb, and breathe the new culture. I had come from a totally different culture and became excited when I was able to communicate with the people who were different than me. In Oxnard, there were a lot of sub-groups where Mexicans stayed in one group, White people in another, and Asians in another. In Phoenix, everyone was not separated and once I learned the language I did not feel separate either.
My hardest experience in my migration to the U.S. was that I had to accept that I was an outsider. Not only was I different, but at this point in my life I was becoming a man and figuring out who I was and where I came from. The problem was that I did not feel that I knew enough of my homeland heritage to be proud of it. I felt that Mexico was a bad place because I was told that we moved to get away from the “bad life” that we had in Mexico. Now I am proud of where I came from and I am proud of where I live.
After I graduated I went on to college at ASU. I attended for one year and was given the opportunity to live with my grandma in Mexico and teach ESL classes. A private company paid me $7.00 an hour and I lived with my grandma for free. This was a great experience for me because I was able to teach a language to my people that took me along time to learn. I also was able to spend time in my homeland and started to understand why my mom moved us to the U.S. for a better life. After teaching in Mexico for one year I joined the U.S. marines in 1994. Once I was done with my time in the Navy I became a student at ASU West and I still am a student. I currently work as a server at the Princess Resort in Scottsdale, AZ and have two children of my own. I feel that I am making my mother proud because I am living the American dream and I am also making all my dreams come true!
Throughout the semester in my Migration and Culture class I have learned a lot about why people would want to come to another country even if they were not wanted and why they would risk their life in order to do so. Immigration goes on all around the world, but I have become extremely interested in Arizona’s Mexican immigrants, who come over here illegally and/or undocumented. Everyday in the local news there is something in reference of illegal immigrants. Whether it is that another local drop-house was found or that a local Wal-mart was found to have illegal immigrants working for them, the public is very aware of this growing problem.
After interviewing my friend Jorge who is from Mexico, I learned from someone who is from the other side of the problem why they do move here. I also saw the impact that Americans judgments against Mexican immigrants can have on young kid’s lives. Jorge was able to eventually fit in and become a College student, but there are a lot of other Mexican immigrants who do not fit in or become more than a minimum wage worker. I did not understand how this happened until I read Why Migration, by Saskia Sassen. This was a report on the America’s and it helped me to understand why people would risk their lives in order to work in the United States. Basically, immigrants have no choice because of the effects of foreign investment, and the promotion of export-oriented agriculture and manufacturing that occurs in the poor countries. The results of these issues are that small businesses are replaced by Home Depots or Wal-Mart’s and for instance people in Mexico do not end up making enough money to survive.
I was happy to hear that my friend Jorge’s migration from Mexico to the United States was not hard for him, in that he did not have to travel through the desert in the middle of the summer just to come and live here. Fortunately, for him he had a passport and his mom was a legal citizen. He did not have a hard time in becoming a legal citizen or coming in to the United States. However, at the ASU West Migrants, Justice, & the Border event I saw 205 cajitas that represented the lives of illegal Mexican immigrants who died in Arizona in 2003. That is an unbelievable amount of people who are ultimately doing the same thing his mother did, accept they are not as lucky.
Jorge’s mother, I feel was very determined to fulfill her dreams and was very lucky to have been granted amnesty, and because she did not have to work in an undesirable position for that long. In my class I read a book called, Disposable Domestics: Immigrant Women Workers in the Global Economy by, Grace Chang. This book brings light to what women immigrant workers face in today’s society. The author compares slaves from the past and shows how these immigrant women are modern day slaves. I was very happy to hear that my friend’s mother was not subject to such horrible conditions that were explained in this book.
I have often wondered how it must feel to go to another country and not being able to speak their language. I know that I would feel very out of place and stupid. When I heard that Jorge moved over here when he was 15, I felt bad for him. Not only because he did not know our language but also because he was in High School where kids can be cruel if you are different and it is a time where teenagers are just figuring out who they are. If they are told they are not good enough, sometimes they believe it. I was very happy to see that he overcame this challenge and then went and taught Mexicans in his homeland. In the United States, some people disagree with having billboards, signs, or other advertisements in Spanish. Some people believe that if you live in America you should speak English. Another article I read during this semester, Passport Photos, by Amitava Kumar addressed a piece of the language issues.
As this semester comes to an end and as I reflect on my interview with Jorge, I have come to the conclusion that Immigration policies in our country need to be changed and made to address the specific issues that Mexicans face. The article, Justice on the Line – The Unequal Impacts of Border Patrol Activities in Arizona Border Communities that was put together by the Border Action Network confirms that something needs to be done to protect the human rights of Mexicans. All humans need to be protected and the Civil Rights of all people in our country need to be protected regardless of where they come from.
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