"Shire Bright like a Diamond"

Narrator: Karen
Born in Tulpetlac, Mexico City
Interview: Ana
Spring 2021

On My Way to My Journey

My father was the first of our family to come to the U.S. on January 17th, 2005. He had only come to the U.S. to work for a few months because he had lost his job in Mexico and needed some help, which his uncle had offered him to come and work for a few months so he can earn enough to stand by for a few months.

 

My father did not last without us, as we had always been a pretty close family. He eventually ended up asking my grandparents (his parents), for a loan to help us reunite in the U.S. for a better future and of course we did. We--my oldest sister, my mom, my youngest brother, and myself--end up flying to Tijuana.  It was a very scary city for what I remember. It was a sad city to look at. A lot of poverty, homeless and drug addicts.

 

My two-year-old brother at the time was the very first one to cross the border and see my father after months of not seeing him.

 

I would finally see my siblings and my dad. I was happy to, but I did not realize I had to leave my mother behind until she dropped me off at a parking lot and gave me my last hug. 

 

I jumped in a blue car with five strangers. I remember seeing my mother’s face. She looked really sad and worried, I remember not wanting to let go of her, but I had to if I wanted to see my dad again. I was only nine years old when I was on my own without my parents, waiting to see them again.

 

I was a child who would never forget anything, I remembered every single thing that happened or that was said but as I heard that day those strangers giving me a fake name, a fake address, and a fake age, my mind went completely blank and the only thing on my mind was my mother. 

 

I got too nervous so I could not cross that day. I ended up getting dropped off technically passed on to someone else to take care of me and take me across the border to see my dad, and the house I stayed at was the worse experience a nine-year-old can go through. The lady hated kids. As much as I try to remember her name, she is a blurred in my brain, but I will never forget how she treated me. Her son was a drug addict and sleeping there was a nightmare. 

 

I had one meal a day and it was just fries, and I could not cry or she would go and yell at me, threatening me to hit me if I did not stay quiet. All the time I was there I spoke to my mother only once, and I cried my eyes out wondering when I would ever see her again. Thank God the next day I was able to cross the border with someone who was nice, and patient and who actually liked kids and understood what I was going through.

 

I was finally able to cross and was able to see my dad and siblings for the first time in a long time. My mom had gone through a lot to cross as well but she was finally able to, and we were all finally reunited.

The Struggles of Us Immigrants

 

I remember the first day going to 4th grade with one of my cousins. My uncle dropped us off at the school bus stop, we lived in Santa Ana and we went to school in Garden Grove, so it was a long drive.

 

At the end of the day, I met up with my cousin and he told me to get off on the first stop, so I listened little did I knew, I was lost. I got off the stop that my cousin told me to, and I did not recognize that place at all. Sadly I did not know the language so I could not communicate with anybody. 

 

I was lost for a few hours on the street, crying, and scared until someone found me and the place that was there was able to get a hold of my uncle. The moment he arrived I was so happy and relieved that I finally saw a familiar face, but his face was angry, when we got to the car. He got mad at me and asked me why did I not listen to my cousin. Instead of getting welcomed I got yelled at.

 

As the days went by the stress between the families started rising, I remember my parents, my uncle, my siblings, and I sleeping in one bedroom all squished like sardines. There were constant arguments between my dad and his uncle over anything.

 

Soon, my dad earned enough money to move out and we never spoke to them again, I had officially passed to 5th grade, and we were living in a new house and in a new city that is when we met Moreno Valley, which we had never left until this day. I was only 10 years old when we moved to Moreno Valle. It has been a long journey, but I will never forget the freedom I felt when we got to this city.

After High School... What was Next?

I had always been a straight A student since I first started school. I was very dedicated to my education but the moment I went to high school that is when everything went downhill. I started hanging around people that smoked marijuana and drank at school. We were only fourteen years old, but we thought it made us cool. I would go to parties every weekend. I always had a new relationship that would only last about a month or less. I was living a life my parents were disappointed in, but I did not care I was living my moment, and now I look back and I regret every single choice I made back then.

 

When I hit the age of sixteen, I was a junior in high school. I went through so much that year. I got in a pretty bad relationship that caused me to have problems in the school I was at and in the school that he was going to. It also caused me for half the school to want to fight me. I was getting threatened all the time, and the bullying never stopped.

 

I felt I had hit rock bottom, but I did not know what it was until one day this guy that always wanted to date me came out of nowhere and hugged me from the back and pointed a knife against my throat. He whispered in my ear if I did not date him and dumped my boyfriend, he would kill me. 

 

I was in such a dark moment at the time that I did not think about what I said and told him to do it. He let go of me and that was the last day I was in that school. I end it up transferring to the other school that I had issues at for my senior year, but I actually got my grades up and I was able to graduate on time with a GPA of 3.5. It was something I have not seen since middle school I felt accomplish. Summertime came after graduation and I had signed up for community college, and it was time to pay the tuition and units, unfortunately due to my legal status I was not able to get financial aid or any type of grant to help me pay for school.

 

My parents were the only ones working and my tuition was more than my house’s rent, I was asked by my parents with a disappointed look on their faces to make a choice, either it was my education or a roof over our shoulders and of course I chose a roof over our shoulders. I was so jealous of my friends they were going to school and working, living a life I once dreamed of and ignored the fact that I was not that privilege here in the U.S.

My 20’s: The Limbo, My New Life


I remember getting the mail at the end of 2016 and seeing a letter from immigration.

I was nervous. The worse things crossed my mind. I ended up growing the courage to open the letter and it was a letter with my work permit in it. I was finally able to work, it was one of the best days I had in a long time. I started job hunting like crazy. A couple months later, I got hired at my very first job for 3rd shift, at a warehouse. Unfortunately my mom had gotten laid off, and it was just my dad and I working, so I chose to get a second job. I was working my night shift from 11 pm until 4:30 am, and my second job was from 12:30 pm until 8:30 or 9:00 pm, my night shift job was from Sunday night until Friday morning, and my day job would vary but it was five days. I technically had no days off.

 

I went off working like that for half a year,. I came to my senses when I realized I would only sleep five hours a day, I started falling asleep standing at my night job but the one thing that made me quit my night job was when I fell asleep while driving at a curb. That night was one of the scariest moments I had lived. I decided to quit and luckily enough my mom got a new job.

 

I renewed my DACA permit but the timing was the worse. That was when Trump decided to terminate DACA. There was no renewals nor was there new applications, and my record was still there. I had to get proof there was nothing under my record from that day, and there was nothing there a year later to my luck. Unfortunately, my renewal was not sent to me on time and I ended up getting terminated from
my job on December 13 , 2018.

 

I was starting all over again, I had no job, I was not in school, I was just a stay-at-home person, until I was given the opportunity to go to school for phlebotomy, which I had to pay off my pocket, but it was worth it. I was able to get certified. 

 

A few months later I came across an amazing man who supported me in every step and pushed me to move forward, this man became special to me in every aspect possible. I decided to go back to school full time and   I started at Riverside Community College for my very first year of college. I am currently working full time as a phlebotomist and going to school full-time, while also managing my spare time with my boyfriend and family.

 

I decided to started picking up my broken pieces the moment I started school in 2019 and now I am growing stronger and stronger, I am finally doing what I wanted to do, better myself as a human being and “Shine bright like a diamond.”

This oral history was completed in Professor Melanie James' English class in 2020-2021. The oral history is shared with the narrator's permission and has been edited for length and clarity, as well as to protect the narrator's privacy.