SBS 301 Cultural Diversity/Prof. Koptiuch         Fall 2015       Personal Memory Ethnographies

Haley Fouts

Things We Did Not Realize

When I was sixteen years old I was in a relationship with a Hispanic male, whoís family had a strong sense of Mexican culture.  He was my neighbor growing up, and our families had known each other for around ten years at the time. Through the course of our relationship there were many things we had to learn together, this being both of our first relationships. Learning how to combine our families so they could be more familiar with each other was not always easy, for my family or his.


Things I Did Not Realize:

Just after our two year anniversary in November his family was going to take their annual trip down to Nogales, Mexico to visit their extended family (aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents all lived in the same city in Mexico).  I had asked my parents if it would be okay for me to take that vacation with them, fully supervised the whole time (since I was still young), and the vacation would be free of charge. My parents quickly declined my request with no explanation. I told my boyfriendís parents that I was unable to go and I wasnít sure why, but that I didnít want to ask my parents again since they seemed angry about it. So his parents decided to reach out to my family to ask again on my behalf. My parents told them no and wouldnít give them a reason.

Initially I was so angry, hurt, and frustrated. I immediately thought this was my parents being just so closed minded about me vacationing with my boyfriend, and taking our relationship to the next level. But later in life I realized some things.

The United States Border of Arizona and the Mexico border in Nogales was full of tension is the early 2000ís. Up until 2006, there was no physical border separating Arizona and Mexico. In 2006, under orders from President George Bush Jr., the United States started planning a wall between the United States and Mexico, specifically in Arizona, to help prevent immigrants from illegally entering the United States. By late 2006 and early 2007, 600 miles of the wall had been built. The project was later terminated due to funding, as the wall cost over two million dollars per mile to construct. Since talk of building the wall, and its construction, there have been increased crime rates near the border. Many believe this is due to the tension of the border, and the citizens no longer being able to freely roam. Much of this violence has been directly related to violent crimes committed by gang members. From just December 2009 to May 2010 there were 149 murders near the border. Given this information it was understandable why my parents at the time thought the area was dangerous. The crime in Nogales was rapidly rising and violent gang related crimes were constantly in the news for the border town.


Things They Didnít Realize:

            Every year my family and I take a trip south to Nogales, around Thanksgiving or Christmas time, to see my parents, brothers and sister, and their cousins. I had asked my son if he wanted to bring his girlfriend along because I thought it was time she met our family, and this was the only opportunity she would get to do so until next year around the same time. I grew up in Nogales, so I know the city very well.  So I approached her parents and they told me she wouldnít be able to vacation with us. I explained to them how she would be fully supervised by me and my husband, and the kids would never be out of our sight, and how this was a really important and exciting opportunity for their daughter to get to know more about my family and our culture. I was still denied.

I always thought that choice of theirs had something to do with the location. Not because of the location, but because of safety. Nogales is a large city in Mexico, and it is close to the U.S. / Mexican border. The city is often in the news because it is so close to the United States, and because certain parts of the city (just like any major city) have higher crimes rates than others. The murder rate in Nogales is equal to or less than (depending on the year and months) the crime rate in Phoenix, which is where we all were living when that incident occurred.  The crimes that always made the news were drug smuggling related, or gang related, but most major cities have these issues.

I didnít realize that perhaps her parents were just so wrongly educated on the city that I grew up in. Yes, my hometown was on the news for many crimes. But I donít think they took into account that all cities have crimes, all cities are so diverse. From 2011 to 2013 there were no murders in Nogales, and minimal violent crimes, which is why the border city has been greatly left out of the media. Cities often go through hard times, and my city was just in the media more because of the border, Nogales was as safe and as dangerous as Phoenix.

The Things We Didnít Realize:

Many years looking back, I have realized many things, to make this incident stick with me. Growing up after that, I picked up more on my parentsí hostile views towards Mexico. From not being able to vacation there even with my own parents (and still I never have been to Mexico), to their constant down talk about the Mexican culture. Now being older I have always wanted to reach out and apologize to my ex-boyfriend's mother, and sincerely thank her for the invitation to bring me along and to learn about her hometown and culture. I still wonder if she had known the true reason I was not allowed to vacation with her family. Now knowing, I do understand where my parents were coming from, but I do not agree with their choice. I wish my parents would not have said no, not even knowing what that city was like, due to them never being there before. I think cultural awareness is so important now.

Return to Personal Memory Ethnographies homepage