Raising Immigration Awareness

October 19, 2007
By Guadalupe Quintana, Avondale, AZ

(My Recent Speech for the Diocese of Phoenix Raising Immigration Awareness) non-fiction

-Raising Immigration Awareness-

Hello. My name is Guadalupe and I am very honored to be here standing before a great group of people whom I believe in to pursue justice among the migrant population, which is currently repressed and discriminated against, and whose goals, even small ones, sometimes seem impossibly out of reach. This is a subject that I feel very strongly about and I am only further impassioned by such a great opportunity to speak to a group of like-minded people, and what better to illustrate the gravity of this issue than speaking from my own life experience?

I was born here, in this beautiful state of Sonora, in Oregon. My parents were never wealthy, and were always struggling to give me, their first child, a better life. My father came from a large family of fifteen, so providing education to each was a luxury, not a priority. Luckily, my father was one of the few who did experience the hardships of working for barely enough money to survive while simultaneously attending school. Similarly, my mother also experienced a life full of hardships and struggles. She came from a background where men were dominant over women and of ‘machista’ views. No bikes for girls, no shorts, no pants, and various other irrational injustices that have thankfully been done away with, giving women just as much freedom as men.

Although this is part of my ancestral culture, and everything my parents experienced, it is crucial that people who are oblivious to what it means to be an immigrant understand the different backgrounds and cultural obstacles from which these people come. Anyhow, for me, at least, my life in Mexico was what I believe shaped me into the young woman who I am today. What I remember most about my time in Mexico is the period which I spent living in Nogales, Sonora. I was about three years old when my parents finally moved to Nogales due to a job my father had acquired as an environmental engineer, and although he made many valuable contributions, such as creating a map for Nogales, his efforts were not rewarded sufficiently to support us, his family. I remember we lived in a small, humble house in Colonia Las Torres, and situated right behind our house was my playground, a junk yard of old taxis and other cars in which I found entertainment. I had no siblings yet, but I loved walking up the hills with my mother every morning while my dad was at work. Believe it or not, an old orange, seatless bus that had been abandoned in front of our house was made into our bathroom.

Our house was composed of a solid four-walled room with a small kitchen and room for a bed, therefore the bus fulfilled our laundry and bathing needs. It was difficult to obtain warm water or even step out into the cold to walk into our house during the winter, but even more difficult was the walk up the hill to find the outhouse. I remember the times my mother would cross the border, with me in her arms, to take me to what was to me a magical place, McDonald’s. I was introduced to these American pleasures only a few times a year, because it was difficult, as you can imagine, jumping a fence and spending your weekly earnings on a greatly craved happy meal. But our endeavor for a better life approached around 1994, when I was four years old and almost ready to enter school. With our newly acquired visas, my mother and grandmother took me with them to Eloy, Arizona for our first real trip to the United States. Somehow my grandmother ended up selling tacos at a parade booth the week of and eventually it turned into a weekly trip. This is when my new life, our new life, began. My mother noticed how much better life was here, at least economically, and told my father about it.

Just like most immigrant parents do, my father had to sacrifice his passion and education for a job in which he was not interested or ready for, but at least it supported his family, his priority. I remember quite well that life was not easy for me at all either. I was enrolled in ‘American’ school that same year we moved to Eloy, Arizona. I did not speak English, which was the first of many challenges I experienced. I missed the freedom I had of roaming the hills every morning in Nogales. Also, at first, we moved in with my uncle’s family where I also experienced many hardships that, I believe, helped me mature and become strong very rapidly. I overcame the intimidations, harassments and dominance that my older cousin had over me. This is when I realized that the transition from my old home to this strange one was going to be difficult. For instance, I experienced a few cultural clashes between my cousin and I. Him and his family were by far better off than we were economically, and at that time, I had no processions of toys or clothes like he did, and in very condescending ways he made himself superior to me by taking advantage of my status and submissive self. I cried almost every night when my mother went to work and left me with him because he would push me off the bed and keep the warm sheets away as if I were some infectious person contaminating his space, which in his mind, I don’t doubt I was.

At five years of age, it was too much for me to take and I informed my mother of it. We moved as quickly as possible and by that time, my mother and grandmother had already found a small place in Stanfield, Arizona were they would sell tacos every weekend. I would accompany them in their long nights every weekend from evening until early the next morning. It was difficult but better than being in the presence of my cousin. The place was cold and deserted, right outside a bar where I experienced many fights and was prone to crimes committed by intoxicated people. This was all very strange and nothing at all like peaceful Mexico. It was like a place full of bizarre and maniacal people. The atmosphere was very different. During those first few months I slept inside a screenless television box and at times the luxurious torn and abandoned chair given to us by the bar owner. My father came to us about three months later and began working at a dairy farm in Casa Grande.

My younger sister was born here around the time my father arrived. From then on, we adjusted to this new world quite well. I learned English very quickly and I became passionate about astronomy and from then on set my career goal on becoming an astronaut. My younger brother was born here too, when I as about nine years old. I began receiving a private education, along with my siblings, when I entered 6th grade at St. John Vianney Catholic School. Until that time, there had always been at least a few children with me at school who spoke Spanish or came from a background similar to my own. Once I enrolled at SJV, however, I, as well as my peers, rapidly noticed how physically, economically, and culturally different I was from everyone around me. I noticed that the problem was that most of the people in America, especially young children, are not exposed or not culturally aware of others around them. People do not take the time to realize why immigrants go to the United States, but rather focus on a more utilitarian view, with respect to the American economy, or so they say. Anyhow, I then began my high school career at Bourgade Catholic where I’m currently a senior with high aspirations to attend college.

Ignorance and cultural oblivion are extremely common among my classmates. During class discussions about solidarity and immigration, I have noticed that they attack immigrants in disrespectful and irrational ways, but I know they’re ignorant because they have never taken the time to analyze the issue in depth and walk in our shoes at least. Furthermore, my father finally bought our house about three years ago, and has moved on from a dairy farm to his own business. Life is certainly better there, or is it? There are still many challenges and obstacles that I, as well as thousands of other non-citizen immigrant students, have yet to overcome. We have hope in our hearts, but we are constantly repressed by laws that prevent us from paying for college, by news reports, discrimination and lack of understanding as to who we really are and what we truly desire, which is to achieve our dreams through college. With great power comes great responsibility, and we need those with that great power to be responsible with their actions and open their minds and realize how much they are affecting immigrants with their irrational laws and decision. We, the students, are young people with immeasurable potential and hope, regardless of our background, we represent our parents, and through our education and actions, we thank them for everything they’ve done for us. I feel that the United States is my home. I have lived there ever since I was four, began my education there, made friends and learned. My family and I have made it very far, and even though I am the only one out of my siblings without rightful citizenship, I will attend college and I will prove that my people are here for life and for opportunity. The sky is the limit, and for me, the stars are the limit.

Similar Articles


This article has 0 comments.


MacMillan Books

Aspiring Writer? Take Our Online Course!