- Jun 2021
I used to give my mom crap about that, because I was like, "Why couldn't you just start your life right here? What's so wrong about this? That you put us through all this stuff that we have nothing over there?" And then I realized when I came over here—I actually cried, because I'm like, "Damn, she did all that for us to have a better life."
Time in the US - Family
He was telling me it was 3,500, but the landlord was keeping 2,500 and giving him 1,000 of it. And I had found out, because the own landlord lady told me, and I had to move and I had to lose my job.
Return to Mexico - challenges - economic well-being Family relations - father tricking him for more money
I told my dad, "Dad, remember the last time you told me that it was this," he started laughing like in my face, like, "Oh, what are you talking about?"
Returning to Mexico - being reliant on his father - being alone- untrusting of father
That was it. I still got the paper. I got all my voluntary departure, everything.
Leaving the US - voluntary departure - Separation from family Feeling like a burden to his family
And that's the day I got caught up with the blunt in my ear and the security caught me. From there on, I had to go to court fighting the cases and then basically I just like—
Time in US - encounters with police - arrest Drug - taking drugs
Yeah, I still feel like I am. Sometimes it just hits you. Sometimes you're just alone in that bed and then everything just comes at you all at one time, and it sucks. But I tried to fight it as best as I can, because I know out of all these bad things that I'm going through, something's got to change.
Time in US - mental health - feeling despair - depression
So that was our rainbow child, Eli, and that's when I started going downhill, because my stuff got denied. I didn't have the privileges that every normal US citizen gets to have. So I had two kids, no way to provide for them.
Time in US - employment - documentation
When you smoke, it makes you feel like nothing is important. All your problems go away basically. And it was just like a coping mechanism to just go on every day with my life. I felt like if I didn't have that, there was no point. My life was whack.... There was one point in time that I had to smoke before I do something fun.
Time in US - taking drugs - coping mechanism - addiction
I don't like to be high because I used to fight a lot. I would always see that when I would smoke, I would always get beat up. This is an everyday thing fighting, because you have to. You are in the wrong hood, you're wearing the wrong color, you're going to get beat up.
Time in US - drugs - taking drugs - affiliation with gangs - fights
So sometimes when I do stupid stuff, I still have that mindset of a kid. It's weird. I don't know how to explain it. Just like I did a lot of stuff, because I felt like I got robbed of that time. So it's like, "You know what? If I go to a party and I get drunk and this and that and I get locked up—Oh well, I'm still young."
Time in US - childhood - memories
At that time, I just wanted to do good for my family and try and grow up, because I always took everything as a joke. I feel like I'm still 18 and I'm 26 already. I feel like I didn't have a chance to live my childhood.
Time in US - falling in love - having children
So every time he would tell me to do something, I'd get so mad. I just want to punch him in the face. And it sucked, man, because he would always try to tell me stuff—he would do it for my own good.
Time in US - family - step-parents - discipline - anger towards stepfather
Slowly I started saying because of one decision that she had made, all our lives got messed up, even if she wanted to or not, point blank period. But then I didn't think on both sides.
Time in US - homelife - family - mother - anger
One time I remember my friend went into a gas station and stole some cigarettes, which is—how do you grab the cigarettes in the back counter? And I was with that guy. Fights. I also loved fighting. It's just a way of me just getting my anger out.
Time in US - crime - fights - theft - gang affiliation - comradery - arrests - time in the US
And I liked it, because my parents would have to suffer. That's the sucky thing about it. Looking back at it now, I put my mom through a lot of stuff, and it sucks.
Time in US - Homelife - family
When you have kids young, you think you want something, but you don't know. It's just like you think you like the person but you don't like them.
Time in US - having children - hoping for a better life for them
I had barely started working for the Solar Spot and she kind of gave me motivation to do better. When you have somebody, you want to take them out and do extra stuff. So you're like, "Yeah man, I got to get this money."
Time in US - Falling in love - finding motivation to do better
I passed all of them except for my math. My senior year I actually passed it, but I didn't graduate. I just would go to school, literally eat lunch, just get out. It got boring for me and I was really good. I should have never started.
Time in US - education - dropping out - not graduating
The cops looked at that and they're like, "Wow, you're so young, but yet still you're family orientated."
Time in US - Caring for family - considering family in different circumstances
And then when I had my first kid, I was like, "Nope, I'm not going to give him the life that I have." And he was a big motivation. My first kid was a really big motivation to just get on it.
Time in US - having children
And it sucked because other people looked at my potential and I put myself so low that I didn't even look at that. Every time they're like, "Dude, you've got so much potential." And I'm like, "Yeah, right dude, what are you talking about? You just trying to butter me up man."
Time in US - immigration status - lost opportunities
I feel like I kind of took the burden of kind of being the man of the house that, that kind of just wore me down. So my brothers and sisters seen that and I was kind of like the black sheep, but I was like an example. Like, "Oh, don't be like him." So I feel like I wasn't there to help them, or to actually guide them like a big brother should, but at least I was like, "Okay, don't be like him." You know what I mean?
Time in US - homelife - family
I didn't really have a relationship with my family. When there was a family events or anything, I felt like an outcast. I would never go to them. Christmas, I was always in my room. Every little... It's just weird man. Everything messed me up. I feel like traumatic. Just the trauma of everything.
Time in US - homelife - family - mental health
It was gang members. I used to hang out with people that they didn't care for themselves. I remember walking into my friend's house and the house was just like, "Oh my God." It was like a tornado went in and I usually don't hang out with people like this.
Time in US - Gang affiliation
We didn't know what to do. There was no... Just got to go back to the old things that we were doing. But luckily, I was able to cut hair and do tattoos, and I was able to get by.
Time in US - employment - job - responsibility
They gave me a work permit. They gave me everything that I needed. I even got my taxes one year [Emotional]. I got $3,000 back, put my taxes on my wall, like I'm really doing it.
Time in US - fitting in
She signed us up, but the people that were doing all the paperwork for us basically lied to us and basically committed fraud, because they told us that through this for certain we were going to be able to get papers, because we went through some kind of a violence.
Eligibility - application - fraud in the system
I was telling the nice lady from earlier, Anita, that once you get used to it, once you think that you're from there—that was my mistake, because I started not caring—you just start doing stuff that if you don't have papers you should know you're not supposed to do.
Time in US - sense of belonging - fitting in - documentation
No, they haven't reached an agreement, but it's this new dream. If you had known that all you had to do was keep going to school and you could get a social security card and you could have a path to citizenship, would that have made a difference, do you think?
DACA - Eligibility
I wanted to do better for myself and for my family, and I felt like that was like a big motivation right there. That push you just need, because you see stuff and you're like, "Dude, I hope that when I have kids, they don't have to go through that." And yeah, that was the push that kind of—
Time in US - family - having children
So I would always try to focus every little bit of energy on my schoolwork, trying to be the best at it, because I wanted to show everybody even if you don't got nothing, there's still something. There's still something to fight for.
Time in US - employment - job
So I look up to that man a lot, because he's done a lot of sacrifices. At the same time, we're like the push he needed. So we both helped each other out.
Time in US - homelife - family - stepfather - role model
Yeah. My stepdad. She got with a guy before that and had a kid and then she got married to my stepdad.
Time in US - homelife - stepfather
Yes. A lot of them. A lot of things. If we didn't do, they probably would have had to do, because if it wasn't me, it would've been the next one. And they did have to go through that stuff too, in a way, because sometimes I couldn't do it, because I'd be in school doing something really, really important.
Time in US - siblings also take responsibilities - employment
So sometimes I would have to miss school, sometimes I wouldn't go to school. So then it was chaos.
Time in US - education - employment
I was the only one that talked English, and it was just hard.
Time in US - learning/speaking English
I used to cry sometimes, because I would wake up at 5:00 in the morning. I'm like, "Dude, I'm a little kid I don't deserve this." You know what I mean?
Time in US - childhood - memories
I was used to it at least, because growing up my mom didn't have a job so she couldn't provide for us even if she wanted to, because she's illegal. So what we would do is we would make fake CDs, and every morning I would just wake up, go to different little towns and stuff, sell CDs.
Time in US - homelife - taking care of family - employment - job - responsibility
So I opened the door and my little brother rushes in crying. And then, I don't know, by the grace of God, they left us alone, but they told us that we had to be in school, this and that.
Time in US - encounters with the police
We didn't have papers. On top of that, we're not from there. So we don't have papers. Not papers, but you know how you have to get the medical shots. We had to redo all of that stuff. So my mom got the shots, did all the immunization records and all that stuff.
Time in US - immigration status - being secretive - in the shadows - healthcare
So, I was thinking like, "Why do you want us back? You say you didn't want us.” Little did I know all that. She told me all this stuff that happened and I just started busting down and crying. And I was always mean to my little stepsister too. But once I learned about how my dad, when she was a newborn, put her in the closet with my mom—got my mom butt naked and put her in the closet—and left her there and then took us to Texas… I used to be mean to my little sister, but after I heard that, I was just like—me and her just got close and stuff.
Time in US - homelife - family - violence
So yeah, those two years being away from her, my dad had lied to us and said that she didn't want us anymore because she had another kid on the way. And yeah, my dad didn't care. He just lied to us and said that my mom didn't want us.
Time in US - keeping secrets - abuse - separation - family
So I remember I prayed to God. I prayed to God. I was like, "Please God help me. I don't want to steal from this man. He's really good guy." And, oh dude, this is crazy, because I look in my pocket—I had the chips in my hand and I was acting like I had money.
Time in US - living situation - abuse - lack of food - theft
And that's that right there... I could see why single mothers and people that just don't have any help, why they stress, or why they go through all that stuff, or why they treat their kids bad and stuff, because it’s hard taking care of kids. I remember not having anything. On the last day of the month, I opened the freezer, and there's nothing in there.
Time in US - homelife - caring for siblings - abuse
He took us to Texas for two years. We were actually on the news as missing children. If you look me up, I have all our photos. We were gone for two years, and the reason that they found us was because my dad was actually trying to rob a wheel store—rim store.
Time in the US - homelife - domestic abuse - kidnapping
My dad was already in the States. But a couple of years passed after we crossed the border, my mom and my dad didn't get along, and my dad was really controlling and abusive.
Time in the US - homelife - domestic abuse - seperation
I was like, "Damn, why do I like Taco Bell?" But yeah, I remember I came in a Taco Bell and I had thorns from the cactus stuck in my feet and I remember they got infected.
Time in the US - childhood - memories - crossing the border
It was a hotel casino. And the security stopped me and they told me, “What was that?” And since it was marijuana was illegal they told me I had to go to jail. So I went to jail. I stayed a day—
Leaving the US - reason for exit - drug possession
But I looked for a job. I was blessed to find a job actually with my stepdad. My stepdad did all the solar stuff—solar panels.
Time in the US - employment, job - Homelife - stepfather
It kind of messed me up, got me depressed a little bit. I started hanging out with bad people, doing the wrong things, and I dropped out my senior year.
Time in the US - Immigration status - being secretive - lost opportunities - sadness, disillusionment
I could see them--that they were advancing in life, and I was still in the same spot. So I asked my mom if I could get a job, and that's when she broke it down to me that I wasn't even from here. And that was right there like a slap in the face.
Time in US - immigration status - being secretive - lost opportunities
After that I got to the United States and I started going to school. I didn't really know English, so that was kind of tough, but I picked it up quick, because kids out there are just like—or kids anywhere you know how they could be.
Time in US - picking up English - education
I was in kindergarten when I crossed the border and, yeah, I remember it was tough. I remember we didn't have any water, and the coyotes had beer and I was so thirsty and they kept telling me, "No, you don't want this. You don't want this." But I was so thirsty, I just took a drink and it was the best thing in life.
Time in US - crossing the border -fear, coyotes, exhaustion
Once you realize that it's not really how you were taught to believe, or not for you in that case, I feel like a lot of kids just give up and lose hope, because it's already hard as it is. Not being able to get a job and still trying to do things right without breaking the law. And then when you realize it's never going to change for you, man, you just like, "Whatever. Okay." Or, "If I can't get it like this, I'm going to get it like that."
Time in US - losing hope loss of dreams
So, yeah. Hopefully I'll find something. They actually told me they had some openings here, but if that doesn't work out, I know I could always go back to Teletech. Hopefully something's got to give.
Return to Mexico - looking for employment
I passed all of them except for my math. My senior year I actually passed it, but I didn't graduate. I just would go to school, literally eat lunch, just get out. It got boring for me and I was really good. I should have never started.
Time in the US - Dropping out of school - higher education
And my mom was—I feel like a lot of Mexican women and men, they have something against black folks even if you want to or not. I feel like that's racist too, because my mom would always be like, "Why do you hang out with them? Why do you do this? Why do you do that?"
Homelife - family relations - disillusioned expectations
It's just I just wanted to fit in kind of, not feel like I wasn't as good as them, because I felt like I was always inferior, because I didn't have the things that they had.
Fitting in - belonging - feelings of inferiority
And she ended up telling me all that happened, because of that we decided—well, my mom decided—that she wanted a better life for us. So we ended up crossing the border to Arizona. It actually took us three days.
reason for coming to America - economic prosperity, a better life
And it took a whole month for the cops to come to my house. So I was with my two little brothers and my little sister was born by that time. She was like three, four. We stayed a whole month with nobody just by ourselves in the house. And I remember this—
fear from the violence inflicted on them by father caring for younger siblings escaping the violence and being alone
And I remember it was me, my mother, my two little brothers—my sisters weren't born at the time—and the two coyotes, the people that cross you.
crossing over to the US - migration from Mexico
When I was really young, I had gotten accident that required surgery and I needed to get that surgery done, so when I went to the hospital and get it done there was actually a couple of people from a criminal organization that were supposed to, I guess, kill somebody in there. I remember this like it was yesterday. I had a little breathing mask on and the doctor was telling me to breathe when he counted the eight, I could just hear the gunshots.
before the US - family, healthcare
- dropping out
- leaving the US
- taking drugs
- mental health
- higher education
- moral conflict
- voluntary departure
His wife or his ex-wife was Mexican. He spoke perfect Spanish, so he and my mother were very—they would joke around. It was extremely funny to watch because when other people were around, this big, big figure would joke around with my mom and everyone would be like, "Oh, my God. What's happening?" But my mom was just that kind of person. His sons, I actually grew up with. I know his sons, extremely handsome, very educated people, very, very, very nice. I visited their home quite a few times in Hyde Park. They were great people.
Time in the US - employment
With my parents? My mother, yes. She doesn't like to talk about it. The older I get, the more she opens up, but it's not something that she likes to talk about. It was never in front of us, it was behind closed doors. I thank my father. He's a piece of shit, but I thank him for at least having the thought of not wanting to traumatize us. So yes, it was behind closed doors, but the more I get out of my mom, it was a lot of emotional abuse as well, a lot. I think there was some physical abuse. My mom's never touched upon it, but that's what happened. And then we got to Chicago.
Life in Mexico - Domestic abuse Migration from Mexico - Domestic abuse and divorce
Yes, my dad hired somebody to find us. My mom really did not leave any trace at all. She just pretty much left like a thief in the night, literally [Chuckles]. They eventually tracked us down and I got a phone call. We got a phone call. I think it was one of my grandparents who answered. Very reluctantly, they handed over the phone and it was my dad and I remember crying. I remember being hysterical. I remember being like, "Oh, my God. This is my dad. He's here. This is my dad. He's not gone.” It's weird, but I thought it was two different worlds and, in this world, I no longer can have my dad. That was the way I started to cope with it. The States were not my dad and this is where my dad was, so we were on different planets now. It was not something that was possible.
Time in the US - family - father returns for children
Yes. There came a point. We were in the [Pause] process of getting our permanent residency card in order to be able to go to school, and the lawyer let my mother know that me and my sister—my other sister—were not going to make it because once you hit eighteen, you're no longer under the case that you originally filed, so the best option for us would be adoption. We would be adopted by an American citizen in order to get our American status fixed, and that was something my mom and I contemplated for a long, long time, and she was going to go through with it, but my dad put a huge stop to that and was like, "That's not happening. You're stupid. That's not a thing. These are my kids. You're not letting that happen."
Eligibility - permanent residency - adoption
My mom, she started working for this store [unclear] and she was doing her design school, and they specialized in Muslim attire and my mom was like, "You know what? I'm going to be independent," so she moves aside. She starts her own thing, and she starts making a bunch of clothes.
Time in the US - family - mother employment - designer
Mr. R. is the best teacher I have had and he changed my life. Mr. R is a beautiful, beautiful, beautiful human being. [Pause] I had a lot of teachers that would not … They would question me and they would ... All the stuff that I would write, they would question if I was okay mentally because of all this darkness [Chuckles] that I would write about, because a lot of my stories or a lot of my poetry was extremely dark. I don't think that's a bad thing you know. I think that's just trying to get rid of the … it's a catalyst. You're trying to get rid of everything that's inside of you, and that's how I did it.
Time in the US - mentor - teachers - education
I was fascinated by human tragedy—extremely fascinated by human tragedy. There came a point where all I read was about the Holocaust, children's tales, Anne Frank's tales, and The Book Thief. I have a signed copy of The Book Thief because it is one of my favorite books ever. Have you read The Book Thief? [Exclamation] Great. I haven't seen the movie. Don't ever want to watch it [Chuckles], but the book … I don't know. [Pause] I don't know why I'm so fascinated by human tragedy [Pained Laughter]. And the Black Plague, huge thing. I got really into the Black Plague. That was about in the 1400s where Mr. Shakespeare was around and when Mr. Niccolò Machiavelli was around, as well. Yes, I was into history, historical fiction. I was into everything.
Time in the US - pastimes - interests - human psyche - human tragedy
I grew up with Harry Potter. Grew up with Tolkien, grew up with Eragon, grew up with the series for the Lady Knight, grew up with the Chronicler. Grew up with all these fantasy books. I grew up with them.
Time in the US - reading - pastimes
I think in fourth grade was the first largest book that I read. It was the Bram Stoker's Dracula, the big one. That was the first biggest book that I read, and then I had an obsession with Roald Dahl. Roald Dahl was my thing. I loved Roald Dahl. The BFG, the Twitches, the Witches, all of it, I loved it. I loved it. I loved it. Matilda, Matilda. Oh, my God. I loved Matilda. Roald Dahl was a huge thing -- as well childrens’ books -- but I was also reading adult books at the same time. Around this time is when I started getting my obsession with the Holocaust, with all this tragedy.
Time in US - passing the time - reading books - learning - education
In Miss S. class, I remember there were two boys who were nice to me, J___ and— what's his name? Sorry. I still know him. He's still a good friend of mine. O___. They both kind of spoke Spanish, so they kind of helped me out as well, but I wasn't allowed to speak to anyone. The teacher was not having it … She was extremely strict. I think she was the kind of teacher that should not have ever taken up teaching as a job because some people just don't have the vocation. Is that the word in English? They don't have that in them and I don't think she had it, but they helped out a lot. J___ and Osvaldo, thank you wherever you are now. I know O___ is getting married soon, so yes.
Time in US - Fitting in - making friends - primary education
I respect my mother a lot. She started going to design school for designing clothes and it’s pretty great.
Homelife - mother starts working - employment
Yes, [Chuckles] very sarcastic. Did not speak a lick of Spanish. Not one sentence. I don't think she knew how to pronounce anything, and she was as WASP [White Anglo-Saxon Protestant] as you can get. This woman would get extremely frustrated with me—extremely—and I didn't know what was going on. To me, it was a completely … [Disgusted sound] it was mind-boggling how I could go from—I knew how to read and write in Spanish. I was a pretty smart kid. I knew how to read and write in Spanish at six years old. So I go into first grade and I can't even understand what my teachers are saying, so it was extremely frustrating and this teacher found it extremely frustrating as well, so she would lay me down face down half the day on the magic carpet where she would read stories to everyone because she didn't want to deal with it anymore. I told my mom—
Time in the US - education - primary school - learning English -
Within three to six months. It didn't take that long … immediately kind of. I think one of my uncles took it upon himself to take care of us, and since my mom … my mom at the time, we did not know she had a tumor in the back of her brain. Right where her brain stem is, she had a huge tumor there and we had no idea. Nobody knew. She doesn't remember a lot of this. I don't know if it's because of the emotional trauma or because of the tumor, but once we got to Chicago, it was evident that something was wrong with my mother and she started going to the doctor.
Homelife - family taking care of each other Mother and need for medical intervention
She had short, short hair. My sister's hair was up to her waist, and my mom just shaved it off and her name was Jose now, and it was a game. I didn't know what was happening, of course. We arrived to ____ California. We arrived at an apartment that we were sharing with about eight other people—my grandparents, my sisters and I, my mother, my uncles, then eventually my uncle's wife.
Time in the US - living with family - homelife - employment
The apartment that we moved into in California was a one-bedroom apartment. It was a big complex and I remember it. There was a pool in the middle and there were a lot of families like us that shared a one-bedroom apartment. And there were eight to twelve people in this one space, and we were trying to find something bigger, but it was impossible.
Time in the US - living situation
Of course. I grew up fairly wealthy in Mexico. I had a big, big house. I had two German Shepherds that ran around everywhere. I had a playroom, my own room. I had a great childhood. I went to private school. It was amazing, so to go from that ... My dad and I were inseparable. I have extremely fond memories as a child, and I remember I didn't want to go to my own room. I would sleep on top of my father. That was my place. They had to buy a king-sized bed because I would not leave my father's side.
Life in Mexico - childhood - memories
My dad's family is on the wealthier side and a little bit on the powerful side, and my mom has no money nor connections, and she's poor. When they were divorcing, by the end of their marriage—I think it was the most awful marriage that I've seen—he was threatening her with taking us away and completely … you know she would never see us ever, so like a thief in the night, she grabbed my two sisters and I and she moved us to the States.
Before the US, in Mexico - Childhood, memories - migration to the US - Domestic violence
- primary school
- fitting in