September 13th, 2013

Interviewers: Joan Unsicker

JU: Good Afternoon. My name is Joan Unsicker. I am here today, Wednesday, September 11th, 2013, to talk with Mrs. Irene Barnes, for the Mclean County Museum of History Latino History Project. We are conducting this interview in the home of Mrs. Barnes on 1017 W. Taylor St. in Bloomington, Illinois. So first Irene, Mrs. Barnes, can you tell me the date of your birth?

My day of my birth is 2-21-49. February the 21st, the year 49.

JU: Where were you born?

I was born in Mexico . . . the state Zacatecas.

JU: Do you have any other family members here in Bloomington?

I only have two nieces and one nephew

JU: Here in Bloomington…or in McLean County?

In Bloomington. And I have another nephew in Texas and another niece in Georgia, and another niece in Oklahoma, and like three, three or five nephews in Texas. But they’re only nephews!

JU: So you have a lot of family in the United States. And you said that you have some relatives here in Bloomington?

My nephews! The sons of my sister, my youngest sister. Okay two nieces and one nephew.

JU: Could you say their names, please?

Veronica Favila, Sonia Hernandez, and Martin Hernandez.

JU: Could you give me your full name?

Maria Irene Barnes. In Spanish, my Spanish name, Maria Irene Perez. . . Maria Irene Barnes, but my, name, name before I was married was Maria Irene PerezJU:


JU: Now Barnes?


JU: Can you tell me who in your family who was the first to arrive in McLean County?

Me. I came here in the 70s, no in the 80s . . . 83. I don’t remember exactly, but my son is 37 and he was 6 years old when we came here to McLean County \[1982\].

JU: And did you come, just you and your son? Or were there other family members with you?

Only me and my son.

JU: You said you were born in Zacatecas?

I live in Texas before, in El Paso, Texas by the border. In Juarez.

JU: And can you tell me why you came to McLean County, why you came to Bloomington?

I came here because I was a single mother. I met Carl, my husband, Carl Barnes, and I came came here to live with him because he is from Decatur, Illinois.

JU: And so when you came here…so he was in Texas?

Yeah, he was in the service, in the Army. And I met him there in Texas, El Paso, Texas. He was in the uh, uh, Fort Bliss, Texas were the army is, el army…Fort Bliss, Texas is like a little town, little place, where the soldiers are that live, pero ese en El Paso, Texas. And I met him at my work.

JU: Is he from here?

Ah yes. He is from Decatur, Illinois.

JU: So that’s the reason why you came here, when he was finished with the Army?

The army, and then…he asked me to get married. And we didn’t get married, but I followed him after he came here. And then we get married later….Maybe two years later.

JU: So when you came here from Texas, did you go to Decatur or did you come here to Bloomington?

I came to Chicago, because I flew from El Paso to Chicago. I have friends. So, I want them to know my husband. Because I didn’t . . . I wasn’t sure if they . . . I didn’t know his family. So I wanted to make that they know my husband. So that way I can be more safe \[Irene laughs\] because I didn’t know. You know? Cuz, you don’t know. I know him there, but I didn’t know his family. So I stopped in Chicago with my friends because I live before in Chicago —my older son is in Chicago. . . But I went back to Mexico.

JU: So you came to Chicago, were born in Mexico?

\[From Juarez\] I came to El Paso. Later I went and lived in Illinois for maybe two years, in Chicago. Then I went back to Mexico and then I needed, because I was a single mother, I need to get a better life for my son. So I came back to El Paso, Texas, and then I met my husband. Then I came here with him. But I already knew how the weather was and everything.

JU: I see. That was about 1983, around that time?


JU: Can you tell me the town in Zacatecas where you’re from?

Juan Aldama. It’s the name of a hero. It’s a hero’s name, a historical name….Juan Aldama. Aldama is his last name. Juan is his first name.

JU: So, when you came here then, you settled in Bloomington with your husband, Barnes, who became your husband. So at that time, were you alone . . . the only member of your family here?

I was the only one. It was very, very difficult times cuz I was the only one. . .

JU: So you came here, and you didn’t know anybody except for your husband, Carl Barnes?

It was difficult. Well it was very difficult. I was like “Oh this town is empty. Nobody is here!” I was very lonely here! At that time, it was not much people. I mean Mexican. It changed a lot. Right now I like this town. At that time I was kinda sad.

JU: At that time there wasn’t a very big Latino population?

No, it was maybe, like, I don’t remember how many families. But maybe like less than 12-15 families. I am not very sure exactly, but there wasn’t exactly many families, Mexican families. So we get together at Western Avenue –Western Avenue, the community center . . . Yes. It was there we went and played basketball, and uh, like birthdays and dances. We go there. And Sunday was church. We celebrate the Virgin de Guadalupe and it was . . . the church never was full. And we didn’t even have a priest. Uh, I think one priest was coming from Pontiac, sometimes. But it was, like . . . once a month \[Spanish\] mass. We never had every Sunday.

JU: I see. And which church was that?

Its St. Mary’s the Catholic Church, St. Mary’s here on Jackson Street.

JU: The same one you go to now?


JU: But at that time, there weren’t many Latinos?


JU: Were there other people who went there, non-Latinos?

Americans? Yes, but we had the mass in Spanish, and it was —we were not much.

JU: Oh, I see. Only once a month was there a mass in Spanish?

But we go. I was like, “Oh, I don’t want to go in the mass in a Spanish . . . but in English!” Because then I realized that if I can watch the television in English, then I can go, go to the English mass. And I start going in English; the mass for the English.

JU: So that sounds like when you were first here the Western Avenue Community Center and St. Mary’s Church…were like your lifeline?

My life- yes! \[laughs\] I talked to people. American people were great and are still great for me. This place is very, very friendly.This town is very friendly. It is! There is very friendly people. American people are . . . they are the best, to me. And I think for everybody. But I wanna say I am talking for me. You know? But I think most people think that we are very grateful, that you guys are very friendly, nice.

I think it’s because our families, my mother and all family members from Mexico, my mother, she used to tell me, because my mother used to sell clothes at home in a small village, to sell clothes. A lot of the times we were alone and my mother used to tell me whenever the people come in and asking for me, whenever people come, let them come in and offer something to drink and something to eat. So she always tell us . . . to drink with her friends.Because, we maybe don’t know them, but they are her friends. And my mother treat real nice my friends too. So I think it had to be with the traditions, you know, to be good with people.

JU: So you brought those traditions with you from Mexico. JU:

That’s the way you were raised. Can you tell me about celebrating the Virgin . . .

Ah yes! In Mexico, we celebrate the Virgin of Guadalupe. So Father Francis, he is the one who, I don’t know if he started doing it, but when I came here. . Father Francis was a very enthusiastic priest. And he loved the Spanish community. So he even didn’t know much Spanish, but he tried very hard to speak Spanish. And he get us together. He used to call us on Saturdays, “Irene there’s going to be mass in Spanish tomorrow!” Sometimes “Father, I need to work, I work Sunday!” “Okay! You can come Saturdays!” And he was, he was my hero, but he is not here now. He is very nice priest.

JU: Were there others besides the Virgin de Guadalupe celebrations?

Quinceañeras! Now I don’t remember when we started doing the fifteen, the 16th of September— the Independence Day in Mexico. This coming Sunday is going to be Kermes. We call it “Kermes” It’s going to be . . . they are going to put in stands, food stands, traditional Mexican, from Mexico. Mexican food to collect money for celebrating the mass of the Virgin of Guadalupe . . . Its kinda funny to me. It’s like we get together sell food and help to sell food to collect money to later give away again the money that we collect. Because they prepare food and give to all the people that come into the church. It doesn’t matter who. And after that, the mass, they go into the school, the area, and then prepare, they put it there for everybody . . .the 12th of December this coming year, every year. But the sixteenth of September we collect the money. And we celebrate and it’s kinda fun because we get together and we eat every kind of Mexican food. And they play, they have bands and in Spanish, you know, and kids play all kinds of activities!

JU: You are talking about Kermes?

Hmm hm.

JU: There are a lot of children there.

I don’t know how you call it? The one year they had these games were they put like a chair up there and then they drop you to the water. Like a swim pool. What do you call that?

JU: I think it is called a dunk tank. You throw a ball to the target and the person goes into the water.

One time I did it, because I collect money.I tell them, “You want to me to be out there?” “Yeah” “Well I want you to have to, have to pay me.” So I collect like thirty dollars. And then I have to go in the tank with my clothes! \[laughter\] I remember my clothes were dry clean. It was a black, black skirt . . . and a Mexican blouse, and I sank in the water! It was a good experience because I never had done that kind of experience. So I sat in there \[laughter\] in the water and I was soaked! But I bring clothes. So I come and change my clothes.

JU: I hope it was a warm day!

It was a nice day! It was a nice one, a nice day. So I always remember that like “Oh my god! I remember this!”

JU: Can you think of any other celebrations that are traditionally Mexican?

Oh! In Mexico, they celebrate the fifth of May, Cinco de Mayo.

JU: And they do that here too.

The Mother’s Day is very, very, very big. Because Mother’s Day the students they go in and give a serenada. You know what that means serenada? . . . They take guitars and sing by the doors at night. In the morning, very early?JU:

. . . But sometimes the mother comes outside and says thank you and sometimes no.We did it one time here. Mr. Deutsch, one of the persons that plays guitar at the church, and some young kids from the church, they get together and we went to every-every people that we know and sing the songs for the Mother’s Day. And it was a very good experience because we do this thing in Mexico. So we feel real happy we did it here.


JU: Nice. So you have just sort of brought that with you then?

A lot of traditions we do here. And the games . . . in the Kermes, sometimes we do a lot of games that we used to do in Mexico. Like to collect money they get these two people they find kissing like couple. In Mexico, they used to do that. If somebody find a couple hiding in the dark and they think no, it’s not nice, they take them to jail. And jailer say, “Okay, you guys have to get married. Why are you doing this?” So, they make them be married. And we was playing, doing this game. Like we find, see these people talking, you got to get married. And they put \[on\] the handcuffs, and then they have to give some money to get themselves out from jail. Its collected for the church! So it’s a lot of stuff like that.

JU: Oh. Is there a name for that?

No, it’s just doing similar things that they used to have years, years ago, before, you know, when people was more conservative. Now it’s different. People were very conservative, in the old times. With everything you know. And we do something else. . .We celebrate Christmas and we make posadas in the houses, like with the church. We get together and I say “I take one posada” . . . you know what posada means? When Joseph and Mary were looking for a place to live . . . . Because Jesus was about to born, and they cannot find a place, a meson, you know. Meson is like, hotel or place where to stay; a house. And, in Mexico they, they put the Virgin Mary and Joseph and, and they like holding up and then people walk in the house and ask for meson, for house, if they can live there. And they say “You know, we don’t want him here, we don’t know them.” Like in the Bible you know? This is like a play.

Mesón is the place . . . Joseph and Mary was looking for, a place to stay because they wasn’t from Jerusalem. They was from, Bethlehem. So we play that. And after that when they finally say “Yes, we accept them!” Because you are gonna welcome them. It’s just a play, and then they let them come and they start to pray the rosary. And then you treat the guests with food, like some buñuelos? You call them, call them, souvenirs? What do you call them? . . . like flour tortilla . . . but they’re sweet. They make it here in America, but I think they’re like sopapillas? But it’s sweet. And then chocolate, sweet chocolate.Food . . . candies. They give to the kids bags of candies.

JU: And that celebration is the Posado?

Umm hm.It’s what we do.

JU: And that’s where you take the statues of Mary and Joseph and you carry them from place to place?

The statues are, uh, uh. Hmmm hmm. Yes.

JU: And when do you do this?

In December one week before Jesus born….but usually we do this in the church because we, we are not allowed to take the statues home. But in Mexico, they do it outside and by house because they have small statues. So they can walk with the statues outside the houses. And then, after that, the make piñata and give candy to the kids. It is good because in the play, when the kids are younger is when is the good memories for them . . . and then they have good memories and they learn something about God, you know, about Jesus. It’s just a good way to teach the kids.

JU: I have heard the name posada but I had never known what that is.

It’s because posada means place to rest. Somebody has to let you in to stay because you don’t have a house, because you don’t have nowhere, you can’t find a hotel, you don’t find no place. So I let you in. I give you posada. \[laughter\] I will give you posada. This is your house. \[chuckles\]

JU: So when you came here in 1982, in order to make the food for Posada and for they different celebrations that you have, were there grocery stores that had what you needed?

There were not. We didn’t have no Mexican stores. I remember I call my friend in Chicago and I say, “I don’t know. I don’t see no tortillas. I don’t see nothing.” And then, because I came here in August . . . So I call my friend and she was “Do you see Mexicans?” And I said “No. I don’t see anybody. Maybe if we have Mexican, maybe they try.” And later I meet one family, when I was in the Kmart. Because Kmart was one of the stores where most of the people go there. Like now, Wal-Mart. And I went there and I met this family. They was white and my husband told me “They’re Mexican!” I said “They’re not. They’re American.”But they were white, blue eyes, the husband and wife with light green eyes, and the kids white. And my husband said “They talk in Spanish!” and I can’t believe it. I say “No!”So I went and asked them “You talk Español, yes.” And they were my first friends.

JU: So were they Mexican?

Mexicans, because some people from Mexico are white. But not much. Not many people white. You know most of us are dark, like me. But a lot of people from the state of Jalisco, Guadalajara . . . there is people white. But where I’m coming from, there are dark people. So I was like “No, they’re American.” . . . They’re still my friends. Her family, when you look at their family, looks like American. But they’re not. You know? Because people, the people that came to conquer Mexico, the Spain people. You know, from Spain? They got family white blood from Spain. They white. \[chuckles\] So, I didn’t know they’re not Mexicans! And so they was my first friends. And then they told me the rest of the people \[Mexicans\] that was here. I learned of the others. And most of them, the first people that are here, that are still here; they are down from my state…. Zacatecas. Yes, but they’re from different towns. Because my state is kinda, is big. Like almost like Texas. It’s big. My state where I lived. It’s in the middle of Mexico. It’s in the center. It’s here \[rolls out map and points?\] Here. It’s big.

JU: So a lot of people who now live in Bloomington?

From Zacatecas. Yes. But I think more from Michoacán. There’s a lot of people coming from Michoacán too. From here \[points to map?\] the south. More south.

JU: So when you came here, your husband found work?

Oh! The reason we came here, because . . . I didn’t come with him, because he wouldn’t marry me. I said “Oh you go first and find a house and find a job, and then I coming.”

JU: So you were unsure?

In El Paso, Texas. He’s from Decatur and then he found work here in State Farm. Security.And that’s why I ended up here. In other words I was in Decatur and I don’t like Decatur. I am very blessed. \[laughter\]. Yeah. Bloomington is better. 100%! \[laughter\]

JU: So, when your husband then found a house, where was that house in Bloomington?

In Monroe . . . nine hundred and twelve Monroe, by Allen Street?...Yes, it was my first place, where I living.Then I live in Allen . . . the second \[house\], like two houses up. Two blocks up and to the corner. And then here only\[She has lived in only three places in Bloomington. The first at 912 Monroe, the second around the corner on Allen Street, and the third where she currently resides\] only.

JU: So, so there is only three different places. But they have been the same neighborhoods. So you have always lived in this part of town. And so, when you moved to your first house on Monroe street. Were there other Hispanic people that lived there?

No, I moved because I lived in a small apartment. And it was too small and, I talk with this Mexican girl and she was going to move into Texas and she was “This is good apartment,” because it was a two stories house. And then, because we didn’t have a truck, we only have our car. So I was “Let’s move there!” So we moved . . . \[from the apartment on Monroe to the one on Allen\] the house next we lived on Allen street with Monroe on \[around\] the corner. And it was a house apartment. It was more room for us.

JU: And you had your son who was eight by then?

Yes. Eight years old. And he grow up, and \[went to\] school. He had more attention with the teachers, social workers. They are great. All of the people here, they are great.

JU: Which school did you take him to?

Irving. And then he went to Bloomington Jr. High and then he went to Bloomington High School and then he went to the ISU.

JU: So he has always stayed right here in town?

Hmmm hmm. He’s living with me, cause I don’t let him go. \[laughter\]

Yeah. He wanted to move when he was a teenager. He wants to move when he was eighteen. And he kind of wanted fiends with him and I said “No. No. No.” And he was like “Yes mama, I need to know . . . I need to be by myself. I need to know the older world!” So he moved in only to Olive Street down there. And I was crying and I didn’t let him move, take his clothes. I said “Okay, but you are not taking your clothes out! I am going to do your laundry.” And so every day around lunchtime, he comes and takes a shower and eat with me lunch. Because I was, by the time I was working in Wesleyan, we had almost already fifty minutes for breaks. So I was coming home for lunch and I eat with him. I never let him go!

JU: How old is he now?

Thirty-seven . . . He had a girlfriend, but right now he’s not. He’s not thinking in marriage. He’s happy. He says “Mom, I’m happy.” I said “Okay.” I remember when I birthed him. You know? If he want to live here with me, its fine….He help me. I mean he is my life. I am living free is why I don’t want him to move. He help me with payments and everything and he is very responsible. So…

JU: So he’s a lot of company for you?

Yes \[chuckles\]

JU: So, going back to when you first came and you used to go to Kmart a lot. You couldn’t find the traditional things like tortillas.

Oh! Oh yeah! I witnessed people that was doing trips to Chicago and buying big quantities of tortillas or meat or whatever we want, we need. We call them, “I need one box of tortillas. I need meat, chili” . . . all the stuff we didn’t find here. They brought it back to us and we have what we need. Or some people went go Chicago but it was more easy to buy for them because you are going to spend like maybe $30 and $25 in gas and you buy from them, even if they give you, they the raise the price a little bit, It wasn’t much. So people coming and go to bring stuff for us…all the things to make Mexican food.

JU: How did you make a piñata?

We brought them from Chicago. And then later I think we had like one Mexican store and you could be like “Bring me one piñata” and they would bring you one. I don’t remember when the Mexican stores appeared.

JU: Because, now there are two or three.

Maybe more than three. There can be. . . There is one by Kmart. And then the one that is on Main Street, south. We got that one here on Market. And they probably have another one somewhere.

JU: There used to be one in downtown Bloomington.

Ya! La Chiquita. They call it “La Chiquita.” That means “the small.” \[chuckles\] Yeah, yeah they close the store. I don’t know why. . . Maybe they wasn’t like making much business cause they didn’t get meat. You know? And most of the people they go for meat or tortillas and everything together and they must go and visit one store only.

JU: And the big stores now have everything. They have and they have bakeries.

Everything. As a matter of fact, sometimes I have friends in Bloomington. And sometimes when you go back to Mexico you cannot bring everything. So one time I was very embarrassed because “You didn’t even bring us candy.” And I said “Yes I have some,” because I was very embarrassed. . . And because now you go to Mexico, you have to pay for one suitcase $100. They weigh your suitcase. And they let you bring one. But then in the airport they charge you $100 for one suitcase, an extra one. So I don’t bring much because I still pay for the extra suitcase. It’s too much now.

JU: When you first came here did you have any family pieces or things from your home in Zacatecas? Do you have anything with you that you brought that was very special?

Well when my mother passed away Ibrought her childhood dress. When I went for three weeks, I brought, like a Mayan calendar….sombrero, rebozo. Do you what I mean, a shawl. I have a dress from Maya, from the Yucatan, for the Mayas. And yes . . . I started thinking more of Mexico when I came here to Bloomington. \[laughter\] Because when I was in Texas, I really didn’t miss Mexico. After I came here, I became like . . . . all of the songs, you know? Like the country songs, like Americans that like the country songs, country-western songs, songs. I am the same with Mexico. I like the Mariachi music.

JU: But in El Paso, I bet it was a lot like living in Mexico.

Yes. Even in America they talk to you in Spanish. You go to the store, your neighbors talk and are like “Oh! You don’t understand me!” you know? Oh, I learned more English here than when I was in El Paso. I really like English because I always was like to learn another language, but no problem. If you don’t know English, you fine. Right here, we have to learn.

JU: When you came here you had to learn English?

Hmmm hmm. But now, a lot of American people speak Spanish. They learn more about us, and it’s good. I like it.

JU: How did you get your job at Wesleyan? You said you have had it for twenty years.

The first job that I have had was at the Holiday Inn, for this couple, the first couple that I met. When I work, I liked to work. I always work. So I cannot find a job and my husband didn’tknow much people and maybe was shy. I don’t know. But my first job was for this couple, Mexican couple. And then, I worked seven years there, in the hotel.

JU: What kind of work did you do there?

Cleaning. Cleaning rooms in the hotel. And then later, we didn’t have insurance because my mother was sick and I lost my insurance because they told me that I was going very often to visit my mother. I went three times a year and I really, really I care. But my mother was more important than anything. I lost the insurance. They keep on telling me when I come back “You don’t have insurance.” And I was like “okay”, at the Holiday Inn. And then my husband was working for Borklund. But this person, he was a plumber, Dave Borklund. And his wife was in the business administration office. And his wife know me very well, and she like me very well. And she knew that I was working very hard. And she was, “I am going to try and get you a job at Wesleyan. Because you can have good insurance there and they can pay you better.” And so she tries . . .

JU: Now she worked there?

Yes, but now she is retired. She was my angel. Yeah, because she was looking after me almost all of the time. Even when I get hired and I go with all the papers or something like that, I am going to have to fill it out for the insurance or whatever. And she was always like “they treat you good Maria?” I said “ Yes.” And, you know, sometimes . . . when you start working, sometimes you are not going to like everybody. But I didn’t want to sound like . . . She did enough for me to say “Oh! This person is giving me problems.” I said “No, everything is fine!” . . . I just want to be responsible and not depend too much on her. I was very grateful that she help me. And one time I tell her “Don’t worry about it. I am doing okay. You did a lot for me.”

JU: Your husband worked for the plumbing company?

Yes. And through my other friends, I met. . That is why my husband met Dave Borklund. Through friends, you know? And then Yvonne Borklund she is a beautiful person. And she recommend me in Wesleyan. Thanks to her. I start working in ’92….My son, my other son was two years old. I have a younger son. He’s in the army. Uh, he’s twenty three.

JU: What kind of work did you do there?

I clean the dorms. Right now I only have one dorm because they take away one dorm from me because they want to use it for the fraternity. They left me only one but I go and help one person in the morning to clean, but I only I have one building right now, Kemp Hall. It’s the international, building. They have different students from different places. From Korea, from Japan, from different place, Africa. Sometimes they even have from Egypt. Different. It’s a very nice to work with the students and they are very respectable. I cannot ask for better people. I can go in the mornings and, everything is in place. My husband is more, more, dirty than that house. \[chuckles\] because I can’t mess it up, but they have everything. I come in the morning and it’s like they don’t have nothing, only the garbage where it belongs. Everything good.

JU: So they make your job easy for you?

They make it good. Since I start working there, they are very good. I think it’s because I start telling them, when sometimes they \[make\] excuses. “Oh we, we make a mess” They used to just pile the dishes because they cook on weekends. And I tell them “It’s okay. This is your house, you guys. I work for you guys. This is your house. You pay a lot of money. Don’t worry about it. It’s okay.” And I think when I started telling them that “it’s okay” and that I’m working for my money. If it wasn’t for them I would have no job, this kind of stuff. Maybe I make them guilty because they stop doing messes. \[laughs\] So everybody now, they good. That place, you work there. If they give parties in the weekend and put everything in the garbage. And you maybe find papers if they have a lot, but not much. It’s very antique house too. It’s very old house. And it’s got a ghost and all this kind of stuff.

JU: It has a ghost?

Yes, the Lady Red, and this is true. But the lady like me. I never have no bad experience.

JU: Oh so the ghost is nice to you?

Yes. \[laughter\]

JU: Okay, there was one last question I would like to ask you. Can you tell us any special story or experience that you have had since coming to Bloomington?

Well the most beautiful experience I have had is Yvonne Borklund. It’s if it wasn’t for her, I probably wasn’t working right now. I am sixty five old and I have problems with my back and my job is not too hard and the people there is very good and very, very, considerate, very nice. It’s the best place for me to work. When I am thinking I want to retire, I cry because I don’t want to retire. But my experience that I have . . . When I went one time to visit my sister in Texas and I went to the airport and I get to Dallas, Texas. The plane left me there because I was taking a small plane to another town because I went to El Paso, Texas and I was supposed to take one small plane to Odessa, Texas and then from they were to come and get me. I lost my plane ticket because the plane from here was late. \[Here she is describing a trip to Texasduring which she missed her connecting flight in Dallas and had to stay overnight in a hotel until the next day when she rebooked to El Paso where someone picked her up. During the stay in Dallas no one would talk to her or help her and she was very upset\].So, I ended up going to this hotel. And it wasn’t a pleasant experience. It was like, I compare this town to the people in Texas and I never noticed, because I lived in Texas, but I never noticed the difference. Because I tried talk to people, but people not many to pay attention. . . And then I had like tears and I said, “Nothing is better than Bloomington!”…and what I have in my memory was I went to see my mom when my mom was sick. And take my little one with me, he was two years old. \[Here she is describing the return trip from Texas. She booked a direct flight to Chicago, then to Bloomington. When she arrived in Bloomington, strangers offered to help her. This gesture made her appreciate how kind the people in Bloomington are compared to those in Texas.\]And that time I made sure that I took the straight \[flight\] I take the plane in Chicago instead of the small plane, so that way I don’t have to wait for nobody. So I take the small plane from Chicago to here, to the Airport and I was waiting for my husband, and I knew he was coming soon. But I was sitting here and this couple, and I had my baby in my arms, and this couple come and ask me “Do you have a way home?” And I said “Yes, thank you.” And I never, I can never forget that. And since then, I said this is my home for me. I don’t want to go nowhere. Sometimes, my family, my brothers are just looking at me because it’s like “You should retire and come home” and I say “No, why?” I said. I don’t tell them that is my house; this is my home because I don’t want them to feel bad. I say “it’s different if my sons go with me. I am going to miss my sons.” But it is not really. It is both things. But really, I don’t feel comfortable in Mexico anymore, like here. Its cause it’s been so long time that I am living here. All of my friends are here. And when I go to Mexico, I have no friends no more, and my town is empty. I mean it has a lot a people but I feel empty. You know? And to me I feel more happy, because when I go to Mexico, I miss my mother, I miss my father. My brother is not there; my friends that used to live there are not there. So this is Mexico for me. \[Laughs\] This is my house.

JU: Bloomington is Mexico for you?

Yes. This is Mexico for me. Or the United States; this is my home.

JU: Well that’s very nice to hear.

I cry before because I was missing my family. But now when I come in, I cry for happiness. “Now I am home! My house!” \[laughs\] Because you never really notice until you go somewhere else, another city or something, you never notice the kind people here. People is kind, but you don’t notice because we’re used to it. When you lose something, you don’t know what you have until you lose it, person or something like that.

JU: Well is there anything else you would to share with me?

Well I just blessed that I came here to the United States and just want to say the name of my aunt, the sister of my father that she is the one who brought me here to El Paso. She passed away but I still thank to her that she is the one who brought me here to United States. If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t have this life.

JU: Well Mrs. Barnes, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me. And I know a lot of people will enjoy hearing your stories.

I hope they understand! (laughs)

JU: I understood everything!