I grew up in Mexico most of my life. People find that difficult to believe with my non-existent accent and general ‘American’ lifestyle.
Cd. Juarez is across the border from El Paso, TX. Some people think crossing the border means driving from Orlando to Miami, but it’s more like driving from Downtown Orlando to Disney.
I was born in El Paso, TX, my mother insistent that she give birth in the United States and not in Mexico, as my father wished. My mother, also born in the US and raised in Mexico, knew that I’d have more opportunities and privileges as an American citizen. My quality of life has so much to do with her decision.
I loved living in Juarez for most of my life. I went to school in Mexico until the 3rd grade, most of that in a very strict private school. The American world was fairly foreign to me, with the exception of both my parents having professional jobs in El Paso and the occasional shopping trips.
When I was 7 , my dad then announced he had gotten a job as an accountant (his lifelong profession) in Dallas, TX and we’d be moving. My sister and I were pretty terrified. We didn’t speak a single word of English and knew this would be a foreign world to us. So we left our house in the care of family and off we went to pursue the American dream.
We moved to a beautiful brick house, with a picket fence and nice neighbors. We had a nice house and neighborhood in Juarez too, but not by American standards. My dad would be working downtown and my mom found a job at a local community college as a secretary.
My first day of school I think I cried the whole time. They had made me repeat the 3rd grade so I could just focus on learning the language, and because I had started first grade at 5 in Mexico. I was scared out of my wits. There was one girl in my class that spoke a tiny bit of Spanish and helped me a little bit, but mostly I just watched the clock until my ESL (English as a Second Language) class. At first that was hard too, but within a month, I started picking up the language. When I’d go home my mom would read Dr. Seuss to me and make me watch cartoons in English and help translate. At the end of the school year, I was proficiently speaking English and ended the year with Straight A’s.
I spent one more year at that school, going to ESL just a few times a week but mostly staying in class. We wrote a book titled ‘ Magic School Bus goes to the Rainforest’ and built our own rain forest. To this day, my ESL teacher has been one of the most influential people in my life. I later looked her up and sent her my college graduation invitation, something she helped to make a reality.
My dad’s company was sold off and after a few months of looking for work, we decided to go back to Mexico. It was so difficult, having adjusted to the lifestyle and the culture. Although we went back and lived primarily in Juarez, we rented an apartment in the US and stayed with family during the school week to continue our US education. It was a much different school experience in El Paso, and I had a hard time getting adjusted again. But after a while I found my place and went on to finish elementary, middle school and high school in El Paso.
I then thought I’d leave for college, but I decided to stay at The University of Texas- El Paso. I loved my college experience there and wouldn’t trade it for the world. I lived with my parents during that time and our great relationship today has a lot to do with that decision.
My parents still live in Juarez, Mexico. It’s so great to visit now, eat all the delicious food and spend time with my family. Most of my extended family still lives there and it’s so fun when we all get together. Although I don’t speak Spanish on a daily basis, it all comes back to me when I am around them. I consider myself both Mexican and American and am extremely proud of my heritage. Overcoming obstacles like language, culture, socioeconomic barriers are all things that drive my running. Continuing to eat all this wonderful food makes me run!