My mom and dad come from the same small village in Mexico. Tuzantlan is a village within the state of Puebla, with just over 1000 inhabitants. It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that there a more people from this village living in Yonkers, NY, than there are in the actual village. Tuzantlan relies on its farmable terrain to remain afloat. My grandparents from both sides of my family were all farmers. Farming is the path of most of my family members prior to my parents' generations. It is what I would be doing right now had my parents not decided to leave Tuzantlan one day with no more than 1000 pesos.
My parents met at school. They went to the same elementary school, the only school in Tuzantlan. They both had to stop going to school after the fifth grade because they had to start working. Poverty was prevalent in our family - it seemed like an endless cycle, endless until my parents' generation came about.
It was like a coming of age ritual for my family. Anytime an aunt or uncle got married, their honeymoon destination would be a one-way ticket to New York via a shady truck through the Mexican border. My mother was the youngest of 12, meaning that she was the very last one to get married and thus the last one to make it to America. She married my dad at the age of 19 and less then a month later she was in America, thriving for the success and happiness that this country had promised.
She was young, ambitious, and very naive. She had a lot to learn, not only about this country but about herself. After a couple of months of being in New York, she became pregnant with me. Five years later she became a single parent. No English, no money, no family to support her. Even with all these obstacles, not to mention the systematic oppression that she faced as a Mexican immigrant, she still became the amazing parent that she is and was able to do it all by herself.
Growing up, it never really fazed me, the fact that I didn't have a normal family. My mom worried about the risk she was taking, of being in this country as an immigrant. She worried every day that she might be deported and forced to return to a country that she no longer had any connection to. She never made this apparent to my sisters and I. It was a fear that she hid in the back of her mind, hoping that it would not affect us.
My mom had many hopes for us not only as a mother but as a mother that had faced so much adversity for us to be where we were. She never said so, but in my mind, I knew that my accomplishments would serve to validate every struggle, every part-time job, all the sweat and tears that she powered through. She expected us all to graduate high school and then to eventually graduate from college. She had no idea what this meant, being that she only went up to the fifth grade.
I was the first in my immediate family to be born in the United States. Then I became the first to graduate high school. And now I am the first to have attended college. If I were to stop right now, I would have still accomplished so much more than what is expected. As a first generation American, I have to make sure that my success and the success of my sisters is paramount.
In the end, I have to repay my mom for everything she sacrificed for me to be standing where I'm standing right now.