Crossing the Valley:

Struggling for a better life from Mexico City to Arizona


Mexico: Flag and Anthem

Aerial View of Mexico City


   The above picture is Mexico city where two migrants I interviewed no longer call this home.  Like so many migrants, Pepe and Martin left Mexico city for a better life in the United States of America. Their following stories are one of poverty, struggle and triumph.

Pepe aka Jose Cardenas is a thirty-seven year old man with a wife and three children he left Mexico City in 1994.  After several failed attempts at owning different business, he decided two migrate to the U.S. for a better life for he and his family. Before he made the decision to leave Mexico City  one of the business he tried was owning a taxi cab.  He paid $500 for the taxi cab and found that after he purchased the cab and started his business the local police wanted more money.  Pepe stated  the Mexican government controls everyone, which is controlled by the drug cartel.  I asked if he ever thought a person could be elected who could change Mexico's current economic and political problems  make a difference and he said very adamantly NO! Pepe stated that the Mexican government is strictly controlled by a couple of huge drug cartels who have all the power.  This is one of the main reasons he left, no hope for a good future for he and his family.  Like most immigrants Pepe had a connection here in the U.S., an uncle in Phoenix.  Much like D. McMurry's book In and out of Morrocco. In this book the migrants who left Morocco and went to Germany and other parts of Europe had some kind of relative that helped them migrate.  He saved $300 to pay a coyote to get him to Nogales Mexico from there he and his wife ran across the boarder into the bordering Nogales U.S. and blended into the population.  They then took a bus to Phoenix and got a job at a local carwash and has been working there ever since.  At the time he and his wife migrated they left their children with an uncle.  He went back down to get his children months later and eventually has helped his entire family, aunt's, uncle's etc. migrate here.  He is now going through the process of attaining his citizenship through labor certification, which is a process that you have your employer write a letter to the INS claiming you have worked and are a good person/employee for at least five years. 

Martin Mejia has a bit of a different story.  He left Mexico City when he was eighteen.  He didn't want to work for a very low wage and follow his fathers' footsteps working on the family farm.  He had seen his father work his entire life and wanted more.  He told me one story that gave him dream in his heart for a better life.  He was about twelve years old and saw a brand new American truck.  He had never saw anything like this, it was just shiny and new and represented to him what possibilities the U.S. could bring to him.   For Martin he paid a coyote $500 and had an uncle in Tijuana and one in Washington State where he ended up.  He migrated through Tijuana.  The coyote bring you to the border and show you the way across.  Martin hiked through the mountains for two days to get to Los Angeles and then took a bus to his uncle in Washington.  He met his wife, who was a citizen and married her.  He instantly became a citizen.  He now lives here in the valley and also works at a local car wash.  Unlike Pepe, Martin never sent remittances back to his family. 

After asking each of them their personal stories I started asking questions to both simultaneously.  They were much in agreement on every issue and very passionate.  I asked about if they ever have felt out of place or as if they didn't belong in the U.S. and they both replied NO!  Neither of them care to ever go back to Mexico. Unlike the book Voyages , there is a statement ,"that in order to understand an island village in Tonga, one must leave Tonga, or hwy in order to understand contemporary events in the United States, one must go back to places like Tonga."  The meaning of this is that we, people, can't see what we have or don't when we are looking around where we are presently.  They don't need to go back, they already know how bad it is and never wish to go back.   They neither one ever felt much of a language barrier.  They both learned English quite rapidly.  Very interestingly however, they both insist their children speak English but not at home.  They are very proud of their culture and want the same for their children.  I asked about how they felt and what they think about the immigrants that die in the desert, they both commented "they are stupid".  They try to cross in places they have no business crossing because they have no idea of what is on the other side.  They both agree you have to have a coyote to do this successfully.  I also asked what they thought about Operation Gatekeeper, they both said that this is making immigrants cross in less desirable places and can also be blamed for some of the deaths.  As in the article of the Arizona Republic, "Gatekeeper, is morality film",  this article states that this operation is forcing immigrants to more treacherous and hazardous conditions.

Much like the D. McMurry's book In and out of Morrocco, they are viewed as hero's if they succeed but if the migrants return to their home land they are failures.  Pepe and Martin told me if they had not succeeded and had to return to their native country they would be viewed as failures.







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