My oldest memory of my family is when we use to live in a small home in Baldwin Park and I remember having Christmas with a really small tree but my parents made sure there were presents under the tree. We usually celebrate Christmas with other family members but that Christmas it was only us, our family in our home. Looking at that picture brings happy childhood memories.
A tradition my family has contributed not only to our small family but aunts,uncles, and cousins. Every time my grandma is coming to visit her children from Mexico there is a celebration that we do at least once a year. We celebrate the homecoming of my grandma who is a resident in the U.S but has lived her whole life in Mexico and moving is not an option to her. We celebrate with traditional Mariachi music and food. I think it’s a tradition we will continue to celebrate throughout the years; my grandma has great grandchildren who are part of the celebration.
My mom Olga Lidia Diaz
1. When and why did you decide to come to the U.S?
“I came here in April 1986 at the age of 20. I wanted to come and work because growing up we (family) never had money and we were always struggling and not able to purchase things I wanted, so I decided to come to work and earn my own money to support myself and send money to my mother and siblings who were in Mexico.”
2. Was it easy getting here to America from Mexico? Any struggles?
“It was not easy; it took 3 days in a bus to arrive to Tijuana and 2 more days to arrive to Los Angeles California. We traveled with a large group of people and before crossing the border they told us to leave all our belongings with them and they would then give them back once we crossed. We were put in a cargo truck with more than 100 people, it was hard to breath and our only oxygen sources were small holes on the bottom of the truck and it was really hot.”
– They were able to cross the border with no difficulties and they never got their belongings back, my mother only had the clothes she was currently wearing and when she arrived to her destination she had to borrow clothing from friends.
3. What was your initial goal when arriving here?
“To start working and go to school to learn English.”
4. What was your reaction when arriving here? Was it what you expected?
“I was scared, what was I going to do alone I would ask myself, I have no family over here. There was also the language barrier that made everything scarier. The homes were different, the city was different, and I come from a small town so everything was different. I was expecting it to be different so I was kind of ready for the shock.”
5. Your thoughts on President Ronald Reagan?
“He was a great president and I appreciate him for giving papers to your dad and I. We are able to work here legally and stay because of him and I thank him for that. He gave us an opportunity and we took it.”
6. How was it growing up in Mexico?
“It was hard I was the first daughter, the oldest which meant I had to help my mother with all the housework and my younger siblings. I wasn’t able to go out with friends I just worked all day long. I was never able to go to the movies, or to parties, all I ever did was work and care for my brothers and sisters. We also didn’t have money so we had to accept jobs that didn’t pay much; I use to wash the clothing of neighbors in exchange for food. I suffered from malnutrition and my nails from my hands started falling off the doctor said if I didn’t get medication or proper nutrition I wouldn’t make it. It was harsh but your grandma was strong and helped me pull through.”
7. Did you achieve all your goals?
“Yes, I have a stable job. Great family and children and we were able to purchase our own home.”
8. What was your first job when you arrived here?
“I worked in costura (sewing), your father and I worked together. We use to get paid only $100 a week and we would work more than 8 hours daily five times a week. A lot of the workers there were immigrants.”
9. Did you miss Mexico after arriving here?
“Yes, I missed my family I was home sick. Your uncle was here in California but I did not know were because back then in the small town in Mexico where we lived there weren’t any phones so we communicated by letters. I use to cry myself to sleep.”
10. What process did you have to go through to become a resident?
“President Ronald Reagan made an immigration bill; this bill had conditions that the person who was applying for permanent residence had to pass before being provided with residency. He gave an opportunity to immigrants to become residents under certain conditions. He granted amnesty to immigrants who were currently working in the U.S. At that time I was doing field work and my employers gave me a letter were it stated that I was employed with them and the type of work I did. I also had to go to a doctor and get a physical checkup were they did blood work to make sure I had no blood borne pathogens such as aids, I also had to make a payment for the paperwork. After that I made an appointment with immigration and I had an interview with them they asked me about my work, what I did, and how long I had been working there, after reviewing my doctors results and employers card they congratulated me and told me I was a resident and I was allowed to leave and enter the country once I received my green card, as soon as I received it your father and I went to Mexico for the first time after several years to visit our families.”