My first memories growing up were being in line to cross into the United States and my mom telling me “Sit down, otherwise the border patrol is going to give you away.” Without knowing it perfectly, he knew that I was from the United States and my parents were not.
Before I was born, my parents decided to have me in the United States, to give me better opportunities. They are originally from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, the city on the border with El Paso, Texas.
I never saw anything different or something wrong with the situation. It was something super normal. From a very young age, I knew I had to study in Mexico to one day finish my studies in the United States.
I learned English after my Spanish, or I learned it simultaneously at the same time, I don’t remember. Here only Spanglish is spoken. At the border, it is very common to hear someone mention something in English instead of Spanish or refer to situations that only those on the border would understand.
It was very normal for me to cross every couple of weeks to buy things at Walmart and Ross, due to the accessibility and prices they offered back then.
And that’s how my life became. I was not wholly Mexican nor completely American. Even to this day, I am neither from here nor from there.
But let’s not rush.
When I finished high school, I enrolled in a community college in El Paso so I could get my studies. The reason I went to a community college first was that they might charge me more for not having a US background and because my parents thought I needed another push. So it was. Every day, I got up at 5-6 in the morning so that my mother would leave me on the bridge and I would walk across, alongside all the students around me and the workers. When crossing, which depending on the dates, could take an hour or more (or less), after that I took the bus to my school. All the teachers knew who were the ones we crossed; our sweat or tiredness was seen on our faces.
So it lasted a long time until I had a car and even so I got up very early to queue for the car (which depending on the season, could take 1 to 2 hours in the morning). For me, all this was always normal.
When I transferred to a university, I decided to go a bit far away. My mornings turned from getting up at 5 in the morning to making it to the bridge at 5:30 and being the first to arrive and cross. When crossing, around 7:10-7:30 I took the freeway and drove for 40 minutes to Las Cruces, the neighboring city of El Paso, located in New Mexico. And just arrived at my class at 9 in the morning. Crossing Mexico – Texas – New Mexico, just to get to my classes. Not every day obviously.
This was my life on a daily basis through my college years while working and doing projects. For me, it has been my life since I was 16 years old. I have never been able to explain it openly because for me it is something routine. I can do it without blinking (not obviously) but something that becomes a part of me.
Upon graduating from college, I kept crossing over, in my struggle for work and seeking to make my life here in the United States.
And here I am, two years after graduation, working for a local newspaper in El Paso, TX. At my work, they already know that I continue to cross every day and it is normal. It doesn’t make me any less American or Mexican for choosing to live in both places.
I have the experience of living between two cultures, being in the middle of both parts. I can see the good of what it is to live between the two cities and I can see the bad. I can take a lot of racism and non-physical hitting from people, and I can take love from other people.
During my first few years of crossing daily, I never thought there was someone else like me living and experiencing what I had. I realized that I was wrong. Doctors, professionals, teachers, children, students, everything and everywhere, cross daily into the United States to work or study, and then return home. My home has never been established anywhere, because it never belongs. I am not from the United States or Mexico. I am not more American nor more Mexican. I am pieces of each place and I am still making peace with it.