I just got back from a trip to Mexico where I heard stories from family members about times when American people thought they were better than them because they were American or because they were paying for something with American Dollars. As a Mexican-American and the daughter of a Mexican immigrant, I wondered why this was such a common thing. On the drive back home to America, I thought about how many times this has happened to my family and friends. My dad was denied proper service at a car retailer for his ethnicity. I have heard people whisper how my grandparents should learn to speak English because they are in America and people should speak the language of the country; but what they don't know is that I have more job opportunities for being bilingual. shhhhh, don't tell them, they might get mad. I know by using "they" as generally as I am isn't true but typing "the racist bastards who think Mexicans are less than them" is a bit too much.
The 2-hours from the town my grandma grew up in, to the border town is usually boring and full of me singing or sleeping, but this time I put myself in my photographer mentality. I took pictures of people in orchards, doing back breaking work with the sun beating down on them. I took pictures of the shacks made of plywood and small pieces of broken wood that people have to live in because they can't afford to buy a house because they can't get a job so they spend all their money on trying to feed their family.
While in line to cross the border, you will see people in wheelcars or with limps or with missing limbs trying to sell fruit or icecream or water or even to just clean your car just to make a few pesos. There are kids holding on to the hand of their mother who has to keep them from going to school because they can't afford to pay for the uniform or any of the other needed items. And yet I still hear about immigrants and how they are "stealing" the jobs of the "true" Americans when in reality, those "aliens" are just trying to do well for themselves and their family by doing the job that most of American citizens wouldn't do.
As I was waiting at the Mexican-American border, I thought to myself "is that it? is that really what is seperating people from living in poverty to the ability to get a job at minimum wage?" Driving across to the border took a bit longer than the next person for the ability to speak Spanish properly and the shade of our skin, but hey, what is another 10 minutes of waiting in the car while the border patrol asks us questions, they are just doing their job. Once my family was finally let into the country, I took pictures of the people in orchards, doing back breaking work wih the sun beating down on them. The only difference, these people have a paycheck; they are all Mexican.
One of my grandparents came into this country illegally, I'm not gonna lie and say they did all the paperwork and paid all the fees because they didn't but what they did do was get up at 3 in the morning, make lunch for themselves, and walk to the orchards where they would work picking or sorting or cutting apricots and the same with many other vegetables and fruits. I hear stories from my now American citizen aunt and how she used to get deported and the people who would drive her back would stick her in the back of a truck with no food or water and leave her on the other side of the border. The next night she would cross over again and figure out how to get back to the Central Valley.
These stories aren't just stories for me, they are a reminder that the reason I am here now and able to post this on the internet is because of my family's determination and hard work in the orchards. My dad is now a boss for a corporate plant and has meetings in Las Vegas and New York regularly. At a meeting a few weeks ago with bosses from other plants, they asked everyone what their first job was and my dad's answer was cuting apricots at around 10-years old so that he could buy himself the toys my grandparents couldn't afford, everyone looked at him astonished; unbelievable what hard work could get you to.
After being angry at the racist bastards for a few hours I thought about that border patrol agent and the other one that stopped us in California amd the lady who gave me attitude for having to translate for my grandma at the bank and how they most likely have a family who they want to do well for also. So why can't we all have the same rights to get a job and the same treatment even though the pigment in our skin is a bit different? Or that we were born just a few hours south? Why is this dollar worth less than that one? Why is a physically shattering job less respectable that an office job? What makes my famiy unable to live like American-born families? These are questions I ask everyday but have yet to get the answer too.
(pictures to come later, there is still some editing to do on them)
Created: Feb 19, 2014samanthavanessa Document Media