New York I am here! I have been in limbo all summer long trying to decide if I should stay (in AZ) or if I should go (NY). To this day I still cannot believe that I made up my mind (finally) and chose to go to Columbia. It’s bitter sweet when I think about my move here. Although I am anxious and excited to be here, my heart feels heavy knowing that the fight continues back home.
I have been here for two weeks, and in those two weeks my transition to New York has definitely had its ups and its downs. I’ll admit I have had my share of meltdowns due to the financial stress that Columbia brings (trying to get financial aid to start) and having to find a place of my own. I have been faced with self-doubt several times thinking that the path that I have chosen was too great of a risk. During my melt-downs I have found myself calling my best friends and telling them that I was done with school and was going to book the next flight home. I wasn’t finding a place; the places that I thought I would get would be rented out before I was even able to bring in a deposit check (that’s NY housing for you). To this day I still haven’t found a place/ room that I can call my own.
I have been couch surfing for the last couple of days, and am currently living with Nuvia my friend of four years that I met through MEChA de ASU who is also starting her MA program at NYU. Although Nuvia and I are in different programs and in different schools we are there for each other and talk to each other about our stresses and anxieties dealing with the move to New York. I thank my hermana Nuvia and her sister Margie for letting me not only crash with them, but welcoming me as familia. Nuvia and I have gotten closer here; we recognize that all we have in this strange city is each other. We stay up and study together, and we have been getting to know Harlem more and more. I hope to quickly find a place to call my own, the semester has started and I feel that I must plant my roots somewhere.
So far school has been the only thing that is normal and fun for me. I am in love with my courses, and find myself smiling with excitement when looking at the syllabus. When I think about everything I will learn and the tools I will come out of Columbia with, I know I made the right choice. My program has the best instructors when it comes to Human Rights. Several of them have made GIANT changes for minority and displaced people in different countries across the globe. I am currently taking an International Human Rights Law, Race & the Law, Migration & Education, and Post 9/11 Immigration Policy classes.
I have made great bonds with some of the mujeres in my program. Anna and Christine are two amazing women who I have really bonded with since our orientation. Last week when I told these girls that I was feeling homesick and felt like I had to go home, it was Christine and Anna who told me not to go. I have told them many of my peers about Arizona and the human rights crisis back home. In convincing me that I had to they would now tell me that I must stay because the issue back home needs to be talked about in the academy. I am extremely thankful that I was guided to them and the other group of women that I surround myself with at Columbia.
When I am most down I call my mami. She is the strongest woman I know, and every day I aspire to be like her and have the courage and strength that she does. I make sure to call her when I am most calm, because I do not want her to know that I am having trouble out here, I do not want her to worry about me. I always have thought of my mom as being a magician because there is something in that soft but strong voice that just makes my problems melt away. She constantly makes me laugh with her Mexican mothering ways, those of you who have Mexican mothers know what I am talking about. She will call me and say “mija debes de viver en Harlem junto la escuela, tu nunca has vivido done neve y tienes que estar cerca” or “hija no andes caminando tan noche en las calles” and finally “hija estas comiendo bien?”
Although you might be thinking she is over protective, you might want to think again. My mom is my first professora, and she has taught me the most about feminism and about being a strong, smart, dignified self respecting woman. She has taught me the value of hard work and sacrifice and what it takes to get what you want and to move a family and community ahead. I think about my childhood a lot here and remember her working 20 hours a day (yes 20), just to get her four kids though school because she wanted us to get a better life and have more opportunities than she ever did in Zacatecas Mexico. I imagine the 16year old girl [Elena] who decided to cross the “border” and come to a country that was alien to her in language and in culture just to send money back home to the family that was struggling to survive. I think about all of the human rights violations that I have seen her go through when she was over worked, or when she was not paid what she was supposed to be paid (because she spoke Spanish, was a migrant, and a woman). My mom and my family are the reasons I study human rights, they are the reason I organize, so that NEVER another family is robbed of their pay because they speak a different language. So that NEVER will a mother who has left her abuser be threatened with losing her children because in being a single migrant woman she might not be able to raise her children in the eyes and “standards” of CPS.
I remind myself every single morning when I wake up that it is my duty, and the duty of all of us Xican@s to carry out the sacrifice that our parents did for us. We must recognize that our parents came with a dream in mind. They have risked and continue to risk their health and lives to give us a brighter day. They face criminalization, racism, sexism and classism so that we can have a roof over our heads and a warm meal that they know we wouldn’t always have in Mexico. We must continue to get ourselves ahead so that we bring all of our family and gente ahead.
When my friend Nelda asked my mom what she thought I should do my mom responded “yo no le digo nada, yo quero que viva y haga lo que quera. No quero que haga algo que no queria y lluego viva su vida pensando que pudia ser mas con su vida.” Those few words stick to my soul, and will forever remind me that I have to challenge myself and move forward.
I am honest in writing about my obstacles about my experience so far; I do this not to gain any pity or sorrow from anyone (if you know me personally, you know that is the last thing I want). I write with vulnerability, the same vulnerability that makes me human. I am not going to lie to you all and tell you that it has been easy and that this opportunity has been given to me. Nothing in life has ever been given to me. I have had to fight twice as hard being a woman and daughter of a migrant just to keep my head above water. I write with the most realness and sincerity that I possibly can put in words so that you all know how much I want this education, not just for me but for my community in Arizona. I know that I will look back at this blog two years from now and see that these struggles have made me stronger with time. I also write with complete honesty because I know that somewhere out there, another young Chican@ is going through the same thing/ or about to start a program in a university where they feel as alone as I do. There are many of us who feel alone but shouldn’t, I would like to think these feeling are perfectly normal.
It is easy to feel like giving up when you feel alone in a big city and you know you have a loving family waiting back home and a community who has my back. Arizona will be there, my community will be there, and the struggle (unfortunately) will be there for when I come home. I know I can’t go back, not yet, not without infiltrating the IVY towers and bringing back the pedagogy back home to the people.
I have felt the warmness and support from everyone, and I thank you all for that. Mujeres have been the backbone and the love and support that I have desperately needed this past summer and continue to need. I have great Xicana mentors such as Michelle, Rosalee, Marivel, who have been in my shoes before. These mujeres know what it is like to be the first in their families to go to college, and go away for their masters. It is these mujeres whose love and brilliance motivate me to be another member of the Xicana Chingona club (it’s not a real club but I’d like to imagine it is). Furthermore respeto is needed to be given to the pioneers of the Xicana Chingona club, las meras meras who paved the road for us to even be here mujeres like Gloria Anzaluda, Xerri Moraga (thank you for your contribution and support), Celia Rodriguez y las otras who have dedicated their lives to challenging the institution and the machismo in movementos.
I would like to thank the mujeres in the struggle who continue to believe in me and are even pushing me to get a law degree after my masters (one degree at a time mujeres). These mujeres have pushed me to see what I can be and see more in me than I see in myself at this time in my life. From La Puenta to Alexis, Justine, Diana, Leighanna, Juliana, Leah, Caro, Vania, Victoria and others [you all know who you are] I love you all and thank you for everything.
I know this blog is long, heck it could be longer. I recognize that these opportunities are not given to everyone and I must reflect on whom I am and my history to keep grounded and know where I need to go. I dedicate this blog to the mujeres in my life, the community, Puente, and more than anything my herman@s y mi mami.
Que Viva La Mujer! Y Que Viva la Xicana Nation!
Special Thanks to Those Who Have Contributed to by Education:
You all are the reason I have books this semester <3
Rita Urgujo- Ruiz
Carlos & Alexis Garcia –Aguirre
Melanie & Jesus Cervantes- Barraza