I was born in Guanajuato, Mexico in 1998. My mother had me when she was only 17 years old. Growing up I didn’t have much. I was mainly raised by my grandparents from my mother’s side and I was living in their home. My father would leave every six months to the US, which gave him time to make enough money to come back and see us.
By the time I was three years old, I remember getting on a bus alongside my parents and it was night time, barely anyone in sight and only a few gas stations still open. When the bus made a stop at a gas station I remember my father getting off and buying “snacks” but he didn’t come back on the bus and as a child I liked to ask a lot of questions and I sat in the seat asking ¿Dónde están mis abuelos? My mother would reply después venimos and I would just nod. Little did I know that the reason we were on the bus was to cross the border, a new direction, a new life.
Sadly, I do not remember the dangers and hardships that occurred between that bus ride and getting to the house of suffering. In psychology, it is said that when something is so traumatizing and such a terrible experience your brain refuses to remember it.
I came to the US and ended up in Detroit, Michigan, I don’t remember what it felt like getting here but, I can say this, the home was rather large and had a huge side yard where my grandfather from my father’s side had an area filled with peach trees. In that home lived with my grandparents, three other uncles with their respective families and of course me with my mom and dad. Little did I know that my parents and I would be placed in the attic. A small room; all white and one bed. To me this all seemed normal, what could be better than living with people of your own blood. What could be better than family!
I remember many times I would wake up before my mother and my father went to work. I would be as quiet as possible to get downstairs where my cousins were watching TV. As quiet as I tried to be, my mother minutes later would come downstairs and I could see her from a corner where nobody else could. Her teeth clenched tight, her face red and her eyebrows pointed down. I knew that stare and at only 4 years of age I knew I was in trouble for sneaking out of the room. But they are my family they should protect me what was my mother worried about?
Many times, my family didn’t feel like family. My dad would get into arguments with my uncles all the time and my cousins were really mean to me.
One time, when we had a party at that house, most of my cousins were into Power Rangers and my cousin who was the son of the owner of the house had a DVD of the Power Rangers. All my cousins sat there grouped together as close as they could be to the television until an aunt would say “not to close” and since I was young my favorite color was green and I was standing in the back when everyone was picking the Power Ranger that they wanted to be, I decided to raise my voice a bit and said “I want to be the green one” and my cousin would say no, and I said ok I will be the red one and again he would say no. And I would say then which one can I be, and he would say “none you don’t belong here”. And I was very emotional, and to make matters worse they would tell me “and if you tell on us it will be worse for you”.
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers TV Show. Haim Saban, Shuki Levy.
Both of my parents were treated poorly by my extended family. They would be called names, blamed for purchasing "expensive" (read: healthy) food, forced to pay high water and electric bills despite using very little, not be allowed to use the washing machine, and more.
When we finally moved out, the feeling was different. I started to feel empty. Our new house was two stories and it was just us--me, my mom, and my dad. My parents would take me out to stores and would try to buy me what they could, but it was never enough. My mother tells me today that when she would walk me to school the “paletero” (paletas man) would be standing outside the school and my mom couldn’t even buy me a one dollar popsicle. And I wouldn’t really mind especially because she would give me excuses like “maybe tomorrow” or “there’s too many people” or “I didn’t bring money today”.
Later, my uncles from my mother’s side started renting in our home. One day, I walked into the living room and they were watching wrestling, specifically WWE. And I was amazed, my eight-year-old eyes lit up as I saw the superstars coming out with their entrance music, the good guy coming to take care of the bad guy. There I was sitting with my uncles watching this new discovery and my uncles would say “You like this nephew” and all I could do was nod.
I remember going to K-Mart and seeing wrestling title belts like the ones on TV and I wasn’t even attracted to the main title--like world champion--I was attracted to one called the United States Championship. Every Christmas, I would put on my letter to Santa, that I wanted that belt. I didn’t care about any other item and I even wrote in my letter that I would be a good boy if I got what I wanted.
It took me years to realize why I wanted that title so badly. I was undocumented for most of my life and that title gave me a sense of citizenship, a sense of belonging. I had the belief that if I had that title in my hands and around my waist I would not only feel like I belonged, but I would feel free. Free to do whatever I wanted, free to confront family, free to just be me.
United States Championship. WWE.
That’s one of my personal values, freedom. We hear stories all the time about undocumented immigrants being harassed or oppressed even by their own families or the people they find close to them. We hear about domestic violence on a daily basis, people being lied to, and false promises about being “accepted” into the country or false promises. As immigrant advocates, we fight for people to be free, we fight for people to have a voice, to empower them to go on with their lives with or without documentation. Freedom shouldn’t be correlated with documentation, freedom should be accessible to every human being. Freedom is not a privilege; it a right. And as immigrant advocates, we fight so our clients don’t feel empty or insecure about going out, because they are just as capable and free as anyone.