110 • pearls around the neck
- Did you work too?
Yes, I started working when the youngest was three. A neighbor took care of the children. I had an
income, more independence. I was working in a clothing factory. I liked it. I put some money aside. I
worked for a long time. And then I bought two tickets to go visit my mom, my parents, with my kids,
- Leaving the United States is easy enough but how did you enter the territory again?
My sister-in-law, who was a lawyer, got my children across with her own children’s birth certificates.
Not me, I stayed a little longer. I found a smuggler and did the same as the first time except that this
time around, I didn’t do the part with the truck, I walked all the way, two days and one night, with a
group of people. The smuggler was the husband of a cousin, I trusted him. (Pause)
I was living in a really nasty neighborhood in Los Angeles, really ugly and dangerous. You’d hear gun
shots. It was the era of heroin, the first Latino gangs. Ugly. I took my kids to school every day; we
walked, I was expecting the third.
But one day, a man attacked me right at my apartment door. I had the little one in my arms. The man
put the gun up to his forehead. He started crying, he could feel the cold gun against his skin. The man
wanted to come in and he hit me. We fell down. A neighbor, a black man, heard the screaming and
came. He hit the man and the man ran away. That’s when we decided to move, to leave Los Angeles to
- Yes, a lot of Mexicans left California in the 90s to move to South-Eastern states.
My brothers and some of my cousins who lived there said everything was so beautiful. So we went. We
found work and a small apartment. We worked hard. Very hard, really very hard. I don’t remember my
kids from that time, I forgot them. I was working in a residential hotel, cleaning after people checked
out. I saw everything… The dirt people leave behind after their stay… I did a bit of everything, even wall
painting. On Saturdays, I did construction work: laying bricks, selecting metal fittings, transporting
concrete, anything as long as it was work, and all this in a world that was exclusively masculine. I could
take it, I was young, my body could follow. We were putting money aside.
We went to Mexico, seven years later, for our summer vacation. That was the dream of my life. We went
with two legal kids and one illegal, plus me, still illegal. We put everything into a van and drove for
three days. We stayed in Mexico for a month. But coming back, we couldn’t go through California. It
was difficult, dangerous business, nasty, nasty. We went through Texas.
My sister had warned me that it meant going through the desert, that the desert was what it was and
took its share of victims… We had to go through Ciudad Juárez. She suggested that I use her passport to
get through like everyone else.
We hired a smuggler who was a corrupt Mexican journalist who had switched to this activity. Thanks to
his contacts, he got false papers for my husband. The smuggler said he was going to drive the van with
all our things. My husband crossed the border walking in front of it. The smuggler was right behind
with the children in the van. I was supposed to go in a taxi. They all got through. Then it was my turn.
The rest of the family couldn’t wait for me, it all was a question of timing. So they went to the airport
and took the plane.
I crossed with immigration papers, without problem. We made it through Ciudad Juárez; then I got in
a truck with a lot of other people and we started driving across Texas.
After three hours, there was a security check, another super inspection, in Texas, with a highway patrol.
An immigration officer came in. He said: “All those who have passports, get out. We are running an