Emily is 15 years old she returned to Mexico last year with her family. She wrote the first part of this story in Spring 2017 while living in Tijuana, Mexico. In July 2020 she updated her story to tell us what life is like in Tijuana during the pandemic.
My name is Emily, I’m from the busy city of Tijuana, Mexico. I lived in Mexico for six years before I moved to California with my mom, dad, and my only brother. The only thing I remember about living in Mexico those six years is preschool. My mom and dad wanted my brother and I to have the best education we could get because they know how hard it is to survive and get a job without a good education. From what I’ve seen, most of the public schools in Mexico aren’t good, so we were enrolled in a private school. I liked that school, every classroom was painted a different color and it made the school look vivid. The playground was very small and it was inside a huge cage where the kids couldn’t get out. There would always be special assemblies where the students would dance and sing and perform plays. The bell would ring, my brother and I would be picked up by my mom, and she would take us home. My family lived in a small house that my dad had built in a gated community. The living room was small and I remember that my brother and I would be watching television, see our dad coming through the front door, and run to greet him.
One day, my dad started packing our things and crossed the border multiple times to bring our belongings to what would be our new home. I don’t remember being excited to move and I know that I didn’t think much of moving. We moved because my dad had gotten a work visa. He took the opportunity because he wanted my brother and me to learn English and lead a better life free of bad influences. We moved into a small but pretty one bedroom apartment that I shared with my mom, dad, and brother. After a year or so we moved into a bigger apartment in the same complex. My brother and I were enrolled in kindergarten and the years went by quickly. Elementary school was great, I loved my teachers and they loved me. My parents said that I learned English in a couple of months because my kindergarten teacher was bilingual and she focused on helping us with our English. My parents wanted me to be in extracurricular activities so I was enrolled in soccer and softball and since then I loved sports. I was always a shy person in school and it didn’t help that it was around this age that I began to notice that I was different from most kids. Kids would ask me where I was from, it always made me uncomfortable when their expression showed pity when I told them I was an immigrant from Mexico. They would sometimes ask if I was an illegal immigrant. Some kids didn’t understand what a work visa was and assumed my dad was the stereotypical Mexican immigrant that worked in the fields or cleaned houses. Even though my dad worked for a good company, they were partially right, it was hard for us to live in Moorpark. We could barely afford the basic expenses. There was always food at the table and I will forever be grateful for my parents’ sacrifices to keep us above the water. It was because of this that I felt I couldn’t be friends with some people. I wasn’t like them, plus I was scared of what they would think of my different lifestyle.
Middle school was better though, I got into all the honors classes and I always tried my best to get good grades. I made amazing friendships throughout middle school, they were all people that accepted me for who I was and we encouraged each other to be great people. I kept playing soccer through middle school as well, I loved it because my teammates were awesome and even though we started off as a terrible team, we became ventura county champions. We moved houses again but this time to a somewhat isolated area where all the Mexicans lived. I hated it, it was small and ugly. I didn’t want to tell anyone where I lived because everyone at my school referred to it as the ghetto and it hurt to know how inconsiderate some people could be. Some people at school already made racist jokes and I didn’t want to give them another reason to keep making more. My brother and I shared a room but this time it was also part of the living and dining room. It was hard to get used to living in a tiny garage sized “house” but my parents were always supportive and we all adapted to the change as best as we could. Even though eighth grade was the toughest year I had my entire time in California, it was still the best in many ways. It was when I was really coming out of my shell and I was starting to prepare to be a freshman in high school. I would regularly ice skate, go to the park, watch movies, and have the best times with my closest friends. I went to cross country practices and soccer try-outs at the high school I would attend that fall. Of course, that was before we found out we had to move.
It was a day in June when my dad called all of us into his room and told us that his work visa had been denied. I don’t know why but I had already felt that news coming weeks before. Even though I sort of already knew, it’s not something you can prepare yourself for. Being forced to move in such a short period of time and leave everything you grew up with for nine years behind was pretty devastating to say the least. My family cried for what felt like the longest time. One of my friends was in a different country when I found out so I couldn’t tell him in person that I was going to move. It made it easier because I didn’t want to say goodbye to anyone, I just wanted to pack my things and go because goodbyes are hard. I told my best friend that I was going to move when we were walking to the park together. Three of my friends were also there and it was really hard to watch them cry over the news, I felt like my life was falling apart. Sure, I would make new friends and start a new life in Mexico but I didn’t want to move. It was July 23rd, 2016 when we got into our caravan and headed south to a new life, culture, and society.
When my family and I got to Mexico, our family came to the border to help us transfer our things and then we went to my grandma’s house. We moved in with her and we’ve been living with her still up until now. I like it here because it’s bigger than the house we lived in at Moorpark. Upon arriving, we had to look for schools, we went to three schools before enrolling in one. I liked how to the school looked when we visited it over summer. Even though there are cons about living here, such as the poverty and different education, I feel like I actually fit in. I’m treated differently than I was in the US. People are much friendlier to me and we have a lot more things in common. So after 9 months of being in Mexico, I would say that I’m coming to terms with it. There will always be new friends, new schools, and new opportunities no matter where I go.
UPDATE JULY 2020
Surely no one has been exempted from the effects the Corona virus has provoked worldwide, I sure haven’t been. Before the pandemic, my daily routine consisted of being dropped off at school in the mornings and using public transportation to get home. This apparently simple routine allowed me to see my friends throughout the day, have class in a classroom full of people, and in general: interact with other people in person. In Mexico, the pandemic struck particularly hard in Tijuana and CDMX due to their large populations and poor capacity to deal with such an abundant amount of cases. Although all of this has been going on around me, I’m fortunate enough to be able to stay home and continue receiving an education online. In the beginning of the pandemic, my entire family was able to stay and work from home.
For the most part, I have adapted to the way my life is in Mexico, I have made new friends, modified my goals, and achieved great things. My admission tests for the Universities I was applying to were postponed multiple times because of the pandemic which worried the class of 2020, being that we will start our University career a couple months late. The worst part of the pandemic has been the uncertainty that it has brought into my life, my family hasn’t been affected by the pandemic, but there’s always a lingering feeling that something could go wrong, especially in a third world country where the precaution and resources that we have for situations like these aren’t the best.
Despite this, the temporary halt that this has caused in my life has given me more time to spend with my family, and with myself. After reading this, I hope someone can agree and see at least one positive thing this mess has left us with. I have been able to spend more time with my pets. (Have heard no complaints from my dog)
Most shops are reopening now as the country prepares for what is going to be “la nueva normalidad”, also known as the “new normal”.