Two years ago, I came to your country looking for a new life. It was my desire to make things better for my family, for my children. In these two years, I have learned many things about people, yours and mine, and about living, or trying to live, in your country. These things have not been easy for me, but I have learned them, and I will not forget them. You see, I have read your newspapers and I know that some of you despise me and my people. I know that you do not want us here, in your country. I know that you are angry, for I can feel your hateful stares; and while I respect your feelings, I must ignore them. I must look beyond your intimidating glances and keep my mind’s eye on what my dreams hold for me and my family.
My name is Isabel María Hernandez and I came here from a river-town outside of Juchipila, which is near the middle of the state of Zacatecas, Mexico, roughly six hundred miles south of your Texas border. I was born into a very poor family, one that had nothing. My father was a farmer of corn, but the land was not his, so he had to give most of the money from the corn to the dueño. After my father paid the landowner, he would give the remaining money to my mother. She would then go to the mercado and buy what food and supplies we would need for the next several months. If you saw her walking, every time she went there, you would see my mother’s lips moving; nothing could be heard from her mouth, but you would see her lips moving, silently praying with each step that there would be enough money to buy what we needed; but there never was, and somehow, that did not keep her from praying the same prayer each time she went there. So, we had nothing.
We were only four children with my mother and father. I had learned from my tia, my mother’s sister, that there used to be three more children, but they had died before I was born. A fever had gone through our village and had taken many children with it when it left. This made my mother very sad. It was said that she did not speak for almost one year after they were gone, and I think she was still sad, even when she had the rest of us. You know, my mother’s sadness, her despair and emptiness, it was like the fever. It spread from house to house in the village. It touched everyone’s hearts and lives. Echoes of her misery were heard everywhere, even across the river where the Ocotillo had made their forest. We thought that the land itself held my mother’s sorrow.
When I was seventeen, I met Juaquin Gutierrez, the man who would begin the change in my life. He came to town with the rest of his family, all of them crammed into an overloaded pickup truck. They were heading north, going to the United States, where, if they worked hard and proved themselves diligent to their task, they would find a new life. Juaquin said there was work for the asking, and supposedly, they paid well. Even if it was not well by their standards over there, it was probably much better than it was in my hometown.
I wanted to leave our valley. I wanted to leave because it was filled with the sadness. There was no life there, only sadness and the remaining shadows of death. Can you blame me for wanting to leave? Can you blame me for wanting to escape the history of nothingness, for trying to start anew, for desiring to forge a new shape to my life and the lives of the children I would someday bear? Do you blame me?
If you are a mother and you dream for your children, do you dream that they will become corn farmers who know only hard times and unhappiness – or do you dream of better things? If you see a chance to take hold of a possibility for a better life – do you not reach out and pluck the opportunity before it flees, not knowing when or if it will return? I think you would. Then you ask me, “What about your country, your history and traditions, why do you leave them behind; why do you forsake them?” And now I ask the same thing of you: ‘What about them?’ Do you want to go there? Do you want to take your children with you and try to live? Are you willing to give up your comfort, no matter how temporal or long lasting it is, to go live where I have lived – where I was born? I do not think you would go.
Some of your newspapers and opinion polls say that we do not work in your country. They say that we only come here to bite into your system and see what we can get out of it without putting anything back. You say that we are taking your benefits and public assistance dollars when your own people do not get them. Have you never taken time from your very busy and important lives to see that, yes, we do work? Have you never seen that my people do the jobs that your people do not want to do? Do you remember the men who built the wall around your yard, the men who built the walls around all of the yards in your neighborhood? What about the men who bent the metal bars that now hold your swimming pool together? They were of my people. Did they have to beat-up someone to get those jobs? No. You say that there are laws that make your companies hire some of my people – so their quotas can be met. Very well, maybe there are some laws like that. But, I can tell you, there were no long lines of your people trying to get a job when the companies hired us to plant your vegetables or to harvest them and deliver them to your markets for you. We did not have to shove people out of line to empty the garbage cans in your hospitals or office buildings. Maybe you are too good to pull the weeds from your beautiful hotel gardens. Maybe you are too proud to wash the dishes from which your own people eat. Can you not wash out your own toilets or vacuum your own office floors? Or what about that nice little restaurant where you eat lunch with your friends every other week, talking about your new car or pool while my brother, not yours, scrapes your half-eaten meal into a garbage can? What about all of this?
Can you remove your eyes from staring down your noses long enough to see that your own people abuse your system the same way that you accuse my people of doing it? Can you see that? They did not risk their lives on troubled, dangerous highways to get here; they did not spend many sleepless nights wandering the desert trying to find the right path to take them to their dreams. These people were born here. These people just decided to take a ride on your system of benefits – they have taken the benefits – when a better life is all around them for the making.
My people and I are not asking for very much, we only desire a little help. If we are allowed some assistance, you will see that we will end up helping you and your rich country. You will have our children, my children, when they are older. They will help your country grow – become richer. Our children will serve in your armies and help defend your right to live where you want to live.
What do you dream for your children, that they will go to college and become big lawyers or doctors; become presidents of corporations or mayors of your cities? These are wonderful dreams. You are comfortable in your houses, dreaming these dreams. I am trying to become comfortable too, living in my home, dreaming much simpler dreams for my children. I dream that they have enough food to eat every day, and that they will be able to wear clothes and shoes that fit. It is my hope that they will be able to have enough food for their children when they grow up. I want them to be happy. When they have these things, then maybe I will be able to share your dreams, maybe then I will be able to see our children together, becoming doctors and astronauts and such.
Years ago, your country was built by people who were not born here. Ships used to dock in your harbors, full of people whose nationalities and languages would reach the hundreds in diversity. You, yourself, are probably born from a family who came from one of those ships. Yes, you say, but that was a time when the industry and commerce needed the immigrants to work in the factories and peddle the goods in the streets. Those people, your ancestors, you say, were responsible; they learned the language and contributed to society. So, now, years later, you see the benefits of those people coming here. If you will but give them time, you will see the same of my people.
Things are different now. Your country may not need my people, but we have been coming here in recent years because things have gotten worse in our homeland. Your ‘high-tech’industry and inventions have allowed us to know what better lives we could have in your country, the place that is still the land of opportunity; the one nation that still offers a better life, where my children can grow, can better themselves and our people as a whole. Your own Declaration of Independence says that all people are created equal and all are blessed by their creator with certain rights that must not be denied them. These rights are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. These things are available in your country – they are not so available in mine. When I was studying about your country, I read of your statue, The Statue of Liberty, and the poem that is written at its feet. The last verse of the poem says:
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!
I cried when I read those words because they so described me and my family…and I cried because I wondered where the people had gone who felt this way about my people. Are the words of this poem still true? Are we still welcome here, in your country, to breathe free, to find a home where dreams can be fulfilled, where our children can grow strong and live? Are we not welcome here? If you turn us away, where will we go, where will we make a better life? Where will my children be able to have a blessed life of opportunity…like your children?
An excellent piece from another perspective. I agree wholeheartedly with the sentiments here. I just ask that Isabel takes the time to assimilate to our language and become a citizen, legally, so that she can have a better chance at finding the opportunities that she seeks. You see, in her current state – she is limiting herself and her opportunity to pursue even greater happiness. Learn the language, legalize, and an entire new world of opportunity will emerge. No more hiding, no more cleaning dishes and taking out trash. This has been done for 2 centuries now, there is no excuse why it can’t continue.
October 20, 2009 at 9:17 am
Thank you for your comments, Jason, and I, too, agree that she will likely have better opportunities once she learns the language and is legally here, etc. My intent in this ‘story’ is only to show a glimpse of the desire or yearning for a better life that brings people here, even illegally or in an undocumented status. Life is so much bigger than our simple, or even broadened perspectives. It is incredible to look at the desperation and meagerness of some lives and know that the people esteem those and their lives as so much better than they were before they came here…. It’s hard to imagine.
October 20, 2009 at 9:55 am
You have masterfully painted that picture my friend. True art in words and thought. Thank you
October 20, 2009 at 10:36 am
Thank you, Sir…and you are welcome, too. 🙂
October 20, 2009 at 3:50 pm
This one is a difficult topic for me to find solid ground on. I know what Isabel describes is real, and I can’t fathom a life as horrible as that. I know that the majority of people living on this globe of ours will never experience a life that meets the quality of ours in America. I also know that her people have a unique opportunity that the others in other parts of the world don’t. She has the ability to trek through the desert and risk her life to get here, and even though she’s crawling through shit along the way, she still has that opportunity. The others in the world are thousands upon thousands of miles away and their lives may even be arguably worse than hers. Should we as the great nation we are accept and support ALL of those individuals who’s life and country are in shambles? I wish their life wasn’t as it is, but the reality is that there’s nothing I can do about it. What about the people living in our own country who’s life is missing that oh so desired “American” quality?
Isabel likely fits into the mold of the majority of illegals from Mexico who just want a better life and are willing to work hard to get it, but there’s a really large percentage of those who come here who really don’t give a shit. They wave their flags with ours underneath it and upside down. They march our streets and demand that we pay for them to go to school when our own children can’t afford it. They demand that we allow them citizenship when others from shitty countries across the world have to wait painlessly long amounts of time to get granted even a green card. Why is their struggle so much worse than the others living in third world countries? Why is it that they are entitled to more benefits than our own citizens can get? Why is it that when I drive through their neighborhoods I feel an extreme amount of anxiety because of the anger and hatred that is bred amongst their poverty ridden societies? I once almost had a tire-iron thrown through my window by a group of these individuals, all the while speaking in their native language so I couldn’t understand them. I had done nothing wrong, I just so happened to be white, or “whetto”, as they called me.
It seems to be more than just coincidence that when you hear about a police officer being killed, you can almost predict with something next to certainty that the perp was an illegal. This doesn’t leave you with a very positive feeling about their “desire for a better life”.
Many may be coming over here with the best of intentions, and that’s all fine and good, but what happens when they keep and keep and keep on breeding child after child, after child? Who is it that’s paying for those children to be born? Who’s paying for them to get their medication when they get a runny nose? Who’s paying to house them in jail if they commit a crime? Who’s paying for the food stamps they somehow have access to? We are….and that’s not to mention paying the almost eight thousand dollars it will have cost me to have one child….. and oh yeah, I live here.
There’s a good damn reason they come to our country, and I don’t blame them for that. I know that I would absolutely do the same if the shoes were reversed. But there’s a good damn reason we don’t want them here, too. That’s not to say that they don’t deserve a better life, and it’s not to say they shouldn’t be helped. What I am saying though is that it doesn’t feel right that we pay for them, and allow them to enter our country, when we won’t allow everyone else to come here too……also for good reason.
All of that aside, this was a very nice story, and the meaning of it was not missed, despite how my rant may have come off. This country needs people like you who do have compassion for those in need, and I think it’s commendable that you care so much about them. I read the book “Across the Wire”, and know from the account of the author what their lives are like on the other side of the river. That’s why this whole topic doesn’t have a very easy solution. Thank you for your story 🙂
October 20, 2009 at 4:16 pm
I know this is a difficult one for you, Nate, as we’ve had this conversation a dozen times or more. The meat of this story exists in spite of the arguments against people coming into our country illegally. It exists whether they come here from Mexico or China. I also think the crux of the story has to do with poverty and people wanting what they understand to be better than what they have, no matter where they come from or where they go. I’m not advocating opening our borders to the poor of the world and providing for them as they cannot provide for themselves. And for the sake of this story, yes, Isabel does fit into that group of people who want to work hard to have the better life. I’m not sure where you’re getting your understanding, though, of “the really large percentage of those who come here who really don’t give a shit.” I’m lost there. I believe you’re responding to the ones that you might have had bad interactions with or seen in the news, etc, like cop-shooters, etc. The Mexican cop-shooters don’t represent the documented or undocumented Mexicans who are here any more than the White or Black cop-shooters represent the groups from which they come…. There are bad guys of every color with tire-irons. Were the tire-iron boys here legally or not? How do you know? And how are these people entitled to more benefits than our citizens get? It’s poverty, not nationality, that gets them the benefits, and tons of Americans who live in poverty get those same benefits. While you have to pay the almost eight thousand dollars to have a child and the government pays for their children to be born, you have family members who have been on food-stamps and whose babies’ deliveries were also paid for by the government…because of the money they don’t make. And I rather like that you admit that you would “do the same if the shoes were reversed,” if you had been born over there and had the means to get here illegally if you didn’t have them to get here otherwise. Good for you. Maybe the story’s about you, too, then. 🙂 I’m glad you liked the story and that you didn’t miss the meaning, despite your rant. And no, the topic doesn’t have an easy solution. Not at all. Thank you for your comments, Nate. I’m glad you put them out there. Thank you. 🙂
October 20, 2009 at 11:00 pm
Nathan explained a few weeks back while we were having a drink at Applebee’s what the content of your new blog entry was about and suggested that I should take a read and leave a comment. I was hesitant to do so knowing my view on illegal immigration is harsh and has always been harsh. After reading a blog entry on such mattters I would have nothing positive to say, but on the other hand, a little feedback whether it is negative or positive is after all, constructive for both parties.
Nathan is right, it is not a coincidence that Arizona has some of the highest crime rates in our country. http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0004912.html There is no coicidence that Mexico has one of the highest murder rates per capita in the world. http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/cri_mur_percap-crime-murders-per-capita. It is not a coincidence my mustang was stolen by a bunch of mexicans and I know they were Mexican because I caught them in the act. It is not a coincidence that I was T-boned and my Mazda was totaled by a Mexican driver who spoke no english. Surprisingly enough I see no coincidence that the third party driver also involved in the accident spoke no English, both of which had no driver’s licsence to operate a vehicle legally. It made for a difficult time in collecting information. Maybe if they could read our road signs and obtain a driver’s license legally I would not of nearly come close to death. It is not a coincidence while hunting with my father in Nogales that he and I were almost shot by a bunch seemingly harmless Mexicans sitting along the U.S. border fence of Mexico. They looked like the typical type of Mexican that would cross the border for a so called better life flipping burgers to feed their over populated families, but this was different. They had figured out that they make more money for their family by running drugs across the border for the drug gangs. They mistaked us as competition in the area and opened fire with their assault rifles. It is no coincidence that we can not hunt peacfully down there withought a Mexican running up on us and ruining our hunting tradition. There is endless trash and junk littered all over the hills. Needless to say, our hunts there will end.
This may sound very bad on my behalf, but it is the honest truth. I do not enjoy or understand the Mexican culture nor can I relate to it. I do not find the language attractive. Driving through parts of Phoenix I do not feel like I am in American. The constant green, yellow, brown and black colors painted all over the mechanic shops is alienating to me. I get upset when I drive down an entire street and I cannot understand a single word on the signs. Daisy chain immigration upsets me. The increasing numbers of Catholics is upsetting. Immigrants working for almost nothing and undercutting the American is upsetting. They employers who employ lowest bid labor workers is upsetting. It is not a coincidence a white middle class American family wishes to move away from the culture. They are worlds apart.
It is illegal. How do you track the disease that any random illegal immigrant may bring over from their country? Who pays for the tracking and investigation of these diseases? How do you track the agriculture brought across illegally? How do you justify this to other immigrants from overseas who have been and still are waiting for years to enter the U.S. legally?
I would say I am a firm believer that humanistic sympathy and compassion only sends a struggling system deeper into peril. I believe that if you cannot support a family, you should not create a family of 10 and drag them across the deserts to America. Nothing will ever get done with sympathy because eventually every rule will be broken. The sympathetic spare the child molester from a bullet to the head. The sympathetic spare a murderer a hanging. The sympathetic spare the rapist from a gasing. The sympathetic raise the taxes on the tax payers so that burger flippers and law breakers can support 10 piece families. The sympathetic allow the cycle of chaos to continue when swift and stiff systematic laws should be enforced. We have our homeless veterans and legal citizens that need our help and we are shifting money to those who do not deserve it. We can not give a welfare check to the world.
To me immiration is a very sensitive subject, right up there with religion, both of which I protest. I may be cold on the subject, but I feel it is the lack of sympathy that allows some to think logically in solving such matters. Such as the marjuana issue. Voilence on our borders because Americans are addicted drug addicts who fuel the crime. I say uphold the law by a ten fold on the drug using Americans and unleash a military assault like no other on the drug czars and protect our borders like they were trying to sneak across nuclear explosives. I feel that immigration is just one piece of a complex puzzle of issues spread across the world of which I truly believe root from a bad seed of religion and culture. It appears the only way to uphold law and to dismantle religion is to be a cold hearted and unsympathetic son of a bitch. 🙂
P.S. The above ramblings are purely business and not personal. 🙂
November 8, 2009 at 9:11 pm
First of all, Mr. Dustin, I know your ‘ramblings’ are purely business and not personal. Second, I don’t expect everyone or anyone to share my opinion…not even my own family, wife, kids, etc…and you probably already know that you’re not alone in your difference of opinion.
I’m not going to argue against the ‘facts’ that you presented in regard to the crime rate in Arizona, the murder rate in Mexico, the drug trade and attendant violence along the border, the questions you posed about paying for the tracking of diseases from immigrants back to their country of origin, the agricultural products that entered the country without the USDA’s stamp of approval, or the length of time that people have to wait to enter the country legally. I’m not even going to argue against your thoughts on the Mexican culture, family system, practice of religion, the undercutting of wages, or the perceived improper distribution of federal and state monies to immigrants and their children instead of giving it to homeless veterans and others who are more ‘deserving’ of it. These and other topics represent your thoughts on what you see and read in the news. If you saw and/or read other documents or obtained your news from other sources, you might feel differently. If you had different life experiences, you might also feel differently. The animosity you have against this people might or might not be warranted by the context and extent of your experiences with them; I can’t say for sure, as I didn’t live your life, you did. I’m not going to suggest that I have answers to any of the problems you mentioned above and I’m not going to suggest that we should be sympathetic to every person who wants to be here, whether it’s for a better life through legal or illegal means.
My purpose in writing this story was simply to offer a different perspective – one that deals with the real people who wanted to come to our country to make a better life for themselves and their children. It would seem that one of our basic rights or liberties as a human, as a citizen of life, would be one of being able to live wherever we want to live, where we can pursue the freedoms and luxuries that life can afford us, wherever it is. Where would you want to live, Dustin, if you were born across the border and were daily bombarded with the images of wealth and comfort that you saw in the movies and on your TV as existing in this country as compared to the shit existence that you had in your own country of Mexico? Tell me, truthfully, that you wouldn’t be among the ones coming across the border illegally if you didn’t have the financial or other means to do it through the proper channels. I’d be right there with them and I’d bet that you would be, too…because you would want that better life for yourself and your family and your kids…all two, four, or nine of them.
Thank you for visiting and commenting on the blog, Dustin. I sincerely appreciate your thoughts and the time you took to share them. 🙂
November 9, 2009 at 1:37 pm