Interviewer: Caitlin Barlow
Language of Interview:
Date: Apr 12, 2006
Note: Interviewers questions are in bold italic
What is your name?
Where were you born?
When were you born?
The 22of January, 1946.
When did you come to the United States?
Why did you want to live in the United States?
Well, because the life is easier. . . more comfortable and there are more opportunities.
How did you come to Bloomington-Normal?
I came here with a permit. In a plane.
And, who did you come with?
With two of my children. One three year old son and a one year old son.
And your husband was here?
He came first in 1963.
He worked here in Bloomington-Normal?
He has worked here for 35 years.
Tell me about your first impressions of Bloomington-Normal.
Ok, my first impression was that, well, my husband got a job immediately when I arrived. We started to save money. Even with five children we were able to buy our first house; thanks to God.
How did you describe Bloomington-Normal to your family in Mexico when you arrived here?
At first when I arrived, well, I felt a little sad because, well, it was a new, different city for me. I didn’t have, I didn’t have people. I was alone, no friends, no one. No one besides my husband, my mother-in-law, my children, and that was all.
Were there many Latinos who were already here in Bloomington-Normal?
When I arrived here it was completely clean. There wasn’t anyone! (Laughter) But, right now there are many, many Latinos.
Were there any people who were useful when you first arrived?
Yes, yes. Various people helped me to learn English. They gave me transportation for my children to go to the doctors for vaccinations. Because it was here that I began to drive and learn English. With their help, principally, after a while I learned a little English and I learned to drive and get along on my own.
And who were these people, your neighbors?
There was José Peña. [Spelled Pena in original typed interview.]
Peña? [Spelled Pena in original typed interview.]
José Martinez, Cristina Deutsch [spelled Deutch in original typed interview], and other people. In reality, I cannot remember all of their names. But, thanks to them, also. They helped me so much with my children.
Were there any institutions that were useful, like the church or the Western Avenue Community Center?
Well, the Western Avenue I went to programs that they had for speaking…well, only for speaking.
And are there any memorable experiences of your life in Bloomington-Normal, good or bad?
Well, of everything. You know, one has a little of everything. Lots of memories of different things.
Anything that is very memorable, one memory, or are they all the same?
What types of duals (wrong word choice on my behalf, I am not a native speaker) did you find when yo arrived here? Maybe that is the wrong choice of word, one moment.
Okay, who is José Martinez?
José Martinez is a person who was working in the Western Avenue. It’s been many years. He also helped me so much with my little children. He drove me in a car to the vaccinations. Very loving, very loving, this person.
And, also Cristina Deutsch? [Spelled Deutch in original typed interview.]
Cristina Deutsch, Soccoro, helped me to arrange my citizenship papers. There were questions that she helped me with. Very well. They are all important to me. Or, it could be the whole world is good with me. Very good.
There was some confusion about Peña. But, yes, it is José Martinez.
7 April 2006
What is your name?
Did you find a job that you liked when you came here to Bloomington-Normal?
Yes, I found a job. Yes, yes, easy.
Easy, and how did you find it?
The first it was because of various people. I communicated to them. I gave them my application. I didn’t have problems.
What type of work?
Oh, I did a lot of things. I worked in restaurants, in beans, in apples, in hotels, in the CBC with my husband.
A company of corn seed.
And the apples and the beans?
The apples, picking the apples.
Okay, in farms that are close to here?
Yes, a little far from here. The bean, also walking the bean. Very far sometimes or close.
I had to leave my children alone.
Yes, because I was very alone here. There were no people. There was no place to leave them. And, well, also I didn’t have any money to pay. It is the truth. Sometimes I would take them wwith me to walk the beans. I would leave them sitting underneath a tree.
Did they like it?
Yes, they were so little. They liked to be there under the trees. They brought their lunches.
Thank you, was it difficult to find food that your family liked?
No, my children were accustomed to everything. Mexican, Mexican food, American, they liked everything. They never had a problem.
Was there Mexican food in the stores at first?
Well, yes, there was some Mexican food. But, sometimes we went to Chicago and we brought from there a sufficient amount of food. We put it in the freezer and when it was finished we brought it from another area. Easy. Very easy.
What do you miss about Mexico?
Well, now in reality, I am here. I have all my family here, but now they are elderly and some have died. In reality, now I live here. All of my life is here. What I miss right now are the two sons I have in Mexico. I have sisters, brothers all there, but what I miss are my sons. They are so far. Now, yes. It’s this way. But, before I was happy because everyone was here. But, my sons are gone, they sent them away. It was very difficult for me because there was a lot of family (was not able to understand, crying) these chamancas (crying) they didn’t know that they changed the laws and they took my sons. They were taken to Mexico and they had their families here, their sons. And, they took them to Mexico. This is what I miss. Sometimes it makes it hard. It makes it difficult that they did this that they took fathers from their sons because the sons were so little. It was very difficult for them because they were children who arrived here when they were one years old. They had all of their lives here and they were sent (crying) many years they had made their lives here and for them it was very difficult to go to Mexico without knowing anything, without speaking Spanish, without having lived there, with nothing. But, thanks to God, they keep going. But, they had to leave their children. They were separated from their children. This is what I miss. This is what I miss. But, in reality, I go to Mexico for a month and I then I want to leave. It hurts, but what do I do? Truth, it is difficult. This is difficult for me. But, when they were little they were happy, thanks to God.
What challenges did you find raising your family in a different culture than when you were a little girl in Mexico?
They came here. I brought them here, I came here and the oldest was only seven. So, here, they started their lives. In Mexico, well, they were only born there, and I brought the little ones and here they grew up. Here they went to school. Here everything.
Thank you, are there any American customs [spelled costumes in original typed interview] that you like?
Oh, customs [spelled costumes in original typed interview], well for me everything, everything is equal.
Okay, are there any American customs [spelled costumes in original typed interview] that you don’t like?
Well, I am not accustomed to going out much, I am not accustomed to have many friendships. But, I don’t miss it. I am always in my house. My sons, my daughters, and all, we are very communicative and we are always together. We almost never visit anyone. We are always together. We don’t go anywhere else.
Okay, good. How was Bloomington-Normal when you lived here?
Oh! I was alone, alone. There were no other families when I arrived. And now, there are too many people.
Okay, a little more. Were there any material objects that you brought when you came here?
Like clothing, food.
Well, now I don’t have anything from there. Well, when I came from there I didn’t bring anything. And, after I got my papers, we started to go to Mexico because I had to wait 12 years to get my passport. I never left in 12 years until I had my passport and we went to Mexico. I started to bring little things, but everything is gone now. In reality, in Mexico no, it’s that. I had photos, I have some. A numbers of things. I don’t remember what year my house burned. And this burning destroyed everything. It burnt my house and everything was finished.
Yes, well, this is life. There is sadness, and there is happiness. It’s is sad to remember things, right? But, this time, yes, I had things from Mexico, photographs of my children, and they burned. Completely, all of the house.
Oh, thank you. Now, I have nothing.
Tell me about your experience becoming a citizen. The citizenship test.
When I became a citizen?
And, why did you do it?
Because, we became citizens because we began seeing on the news in Spanish, we start to see that they were going to take away the status of residents and that all residential people like us had to become American citizens in case they discontinued the residency. I talked with my husband and I said let’s go and do this because I really don’t want to lose my papers. We suffered a lot to come here. We suffered a lot to have things and in reality, I don’t want to live any differently than this. This was ahy I became a citizen because I was good and with those men there taking these. We would have lost everything and if the family is going to lose, I said, “no.” We became citizens. This was the thing. This was the problem. This was the thing that started it.
Thank you, when you worked with apples, which towns?
No, I don’t remember. It’s been many, many years.
Is there anything else that you would like to talk about your experiences?
Well, we have had many experiences. Many sad messes and many experiences. And now, the only thing…that we are sad is my sons that the government took and sent to Mexico. There were the two in, it’s been…2000, in 2000 was when they were forced to leave. They wanted to keep fighting the case, but they couldn’t because the two men when they knew immigration wanted a very big fee, then they were tired. They had many problems. You know youth? You know youth? Well, I was very sad in this time because a lot of things happened to mine, mine, mine. In 2000, they were forced to go to Mexico. And well, I wanted to keep fighting buy they said “no.” Now, I don’t want to fight more because I said to my sons in reality, I don’t have money for you both. If I am going to fight for one, I am going to fight for two. Because two of you are my sons and I want a lot for both of you. I am not going to do nothing for one or the other. No more for one and less for the other. If they are going to send them to Mexico, what am I going to do? It was so burdensome for me. Like I said, they were told me more or tell the fee was $30,000 dollars for each one. This is why we could not fight. From where do you maek $30,000 dollars for these men? Immigration sent them to Mexico and now…But I believe that my sons would have fought if we had had enough money. They would have stayed here. But, I couldn’t. Because we didn’t have the money. We didn’t have anyone’s help. My sons also said, “Mama, you can’t pay so much money.” It was so heavy. And I miss them so much. Yes, I miss my sons. But, what can I do?
Do you know if this is common in other families? To have separated families?
No, it is sad to have separated families.
Oh, yes, but does this happen to other families you know?
Well, like I said, I don’t…Yes, I know people, but I don’t talk with anyone. I don’t know. But, it is good; I don’t like to have communication about these things because people need their privacy. For this reason, I don’t know…But, it is very sad to have it happen. But, what can I do? Where there is enough money for the chamacos’ fees the only ting that I know. I hope one say I can do something because they have sons. They have their sons. I don’t know if they can get a pardon from the president. I don’t know, right? I ask what I can do. But you that through all you need to live.
Green is the most important color.
I know that Mexico is very hard. In Mexico, there aren’t comforts. For this reason, people come here. There are not enough jobs. There isn’t anything. For this reason, Mexicans come here. And, these chamacos without knowing Spanish, without knowing anything about Mexico. They were born there and nothing else.
What is Chamacos?
Chamacos? Children, young people, right? But, now they are not young. They have their age. They are big. Mexicans are very united. We have had many experiences. Of many things, there is some of everything in life. One passes through a good time and one passes through a bad time. It is beautiful to live and keep going. When I came here there were two, three people. I was alone, alone. But Normal, also, Normal. There were not a lot of people. And, now how is it?
I believe there are 100,000 people.
Very, very big. Incredible. When I came here I was so alone. There wasn’t anyone.
Did you live in this area? Was in countryside?
No, when I arrived here I lived in West Front. Here on Washington. In a very little house. Later, I bought my first house on new 15th. Later, thanks to God, working hard, my husband and me, because the children were little, all of the time. Saving my money. My husband working a lot. We paid for that little house and we bought it. We bought it and we were living there a time and this was the house that burned. It burned completely. But, thanks to God, all of my children lived. Material is not important. Family is important. I put everything in order and continued living. And, the very large family bought a house there on Aaron. And, when I bought it, all of my children left. And left me alone. Well, the house was much, much, much too big for me and my spouse. So I bought this little one. And I came here and I am happy here. It is very little, but I am content. My daughter lives in that house there.
She lives here. I rented there. And I lived in Aaron Court. A year ago I moved here and she bought here as well.
Yes, here I see the children coming. The 4th of July, we are all united. No more than my two sons. We miss them. The fourth of July everyone comes here. It’s filled with the big family. Very happy. Yes, very happy. We are all united. No more than the two. We miss them. Yes. Because in Mexico, they work so hard. Working, working, and saving and saving. True. For the family. But, I have luck. I hope that one day I can do something, right? I try because in reality, the nine brothers I have…had, well, all have died. Now, they aren’t here. Three sisters are dying. My aunts have died. It’s that, because I say, everything ends…I only here. None of my family and these men there lives alone.
Do they live close?
In a house I have. Where I used to live. It is very difficult like I said. They grew up here. Grew up. They have bad luck. I couldn’t do anything. If this happens to may people, I don’t know. I am very, I like to be here, nowhere else than in my house. We are people who pass time working, working, working on the house or in the yard. We work to buy houses. We never pay anyone for anything. My husband and I, we work to buy houses. My children help us a lot. We help each other like that. It is beautiful. We are united. Everyone helps a lot. They are stories that are wonderful to remember. Also, there are sad ones.