Don’t lose sight of why you came. Whether you were driven by a career choice, the desire for higher education or simply being closer to family. Don’t lose focus. Let these goals continue to drive you, getting here is the first obstacle but it won’t be your last. By not losing sight of why you started you’ll soon get to where you want to
Is the American Dream still alive? If you speak to many of the
immigrants we spoke to, who came to this country with nothing but
grit, resilience, and a dream, they will tell you that it certainly is
As a part of our series about immigrant success stories, I had the
pleasure of interviewing Gisela Rocha.
Gisela arrived in 1992 as a scared 6 year old. She left Sinaloa, Mexico and arrived in Southern California. She has since obtained her US citizenship, graduated college, married, started a small business and bought her first home. All major milestones along the journey to live the American Dream. Her primary focus has always been uplifting others, she now does this through her business by giving back to the community that has in many ways helped raise her from a scared 6 year old to the thriving, mother, wife and business owner she is today.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you
tell us the story of how you grew up?
Scarcity, uncertainty and sometimes fear is what was normal to my
family before coming to the US. Culiacan, Sinaloa, most commonly known
for its drug business, offered very little for us outside of that world. We couldn’t beat them, we certainly weren’t going to join them so what to do? My mom was a single mother working 3 jobs. We shared an apartment with several aunts and uncles as well as my grandma, they all pooled their wages to make life as full and happy as possible but that often wasn’t enough. My aunts and uncles began coming to the US in search for work and to establish a life where they could thrive through hard work and an honest living.
Was there a particular trigger point that made you emigrate to the US?
Can you tell us the story?
By the time I was 5 all my family had come to the US. My mom left me with my grandma so she could come earn, save and eventually pay to cross me over. There was no way around it, Culiacan may have been where we started but it was no longer our home. Home is where your people are and we had no one left so a month after my 6th birthday we left it all behind.
Can you tell us the story of how you came to the USA? What was that
A yellow sweat suite with a white duck on it, that’s what I was wearing the night my grandma and I joined others in attempting to cross over through the hills of Tecate, Mexico. It was mid-May, dark, dusty and freezing. The grownups were all walking hunched over to avoid the spotlights that were routinely moving back in fourth. I remember ducking down as well, mostly out of fear because at 6 years old I wasn’t very tall. My grandma and I held hands tight until we made it to a road where a white car waited for us. A short lived feeling of relief came across me when I saw the road only to be replaced by fear and dread when I saw Border Patrol shining their bright lights on us. We were arrested and taken to a metal cell. Metal bench, metal bars, metal toilet, it was so cold. I kept asking if we could just go back home only to be reminded that we had no one to go back to.
My grandma fiercely argued with Border Patrol Agents asking them why
Americans were free to come and go into Mexico yet Mexicans needed
passports and visas to enter the United States. We didn’t get an answer but we did get sent back to Tecate. After a few days I was asked to choose between two names, I chose Cecilia. I thought Cecilia sounded beautiful and fancy. Just like that and with two fake passports in hand, my grandma and I were in the US.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped
make the move more manageable? Can you share a story?
My grandmother is and always will be the one who not only brought me
to this country but gave me the courage to move forward. From holding
my hand tightly in those dark and dusty hills to reassuring me all would be well as we spent the night in that cold, metal cell. She never let me forget that the fear and the uncertainty were temporary and that we were coming to a place where we wouldn’t live like that anymore. She carefully chose words that not only explained the situation to a 6yr old but also comforted her as well. That must have been hard. It’s a debt that can’t be repaid.
So how are things going today?
I’m now 34, the first in my family to graduate High School and College. I’m a mother of 3, a home owner and a small business owner. Above all, we have our health and we have each other so I’d say things are going pretty well.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
From the moment we arrived in the US a community embraced us. This
community grew, changed, and transformed but always was what has made
living here such a joy. My small business, UnTamed Natural Care, offers plant based, eco conscious and cruelty free skincare all under 20 dollars. Not only are Hispanics paid less, but Hispanic women are paid much, much less that’s part of the reason why UnTamed offers accessible pricing. Safe and efficient skincare should be more accessible to our lower income communities. We also continuously focus on our community by finding ways to give back. Most recently we’ve ran fundraisers and with the help of our amazing customers, aka our community, we’ve been able to make monetary and product donations to organizations such as the Kids in Cages Initiative, Su Casa, a shelter for domestic abuse victims, The Jackie Robinson Foundation, Habitat
for Humanity, The ACLU, The Lebanese Food Bank and more.
You have first-hand experience with the US immigration system. If you
had the power, which three things would you suggest to improve the
Efficiency, we need to focus on what works and what truly only makes
things worst for everyone.
Update the policies. So many policies are ancient, they need to be
reworked and adapted to current times and sociopolitical climate.
Lead with empathy, immigrants aren’t criminals and until the system
stops treating us this way nothing will improve.
Can you share “5 keys to achieving the American dream” that others can
learn from you? Please share a story or example for each.
1) Balance, find the balance in adapting to this new culture, your new
surroundings, the language all while holding on to your own culture
and identity. This balance will help you flourish in a new country
without feeling like you’ve lost yourself.
2) Don’t lose sight of why you came. Whether you were driven by a
career choice, the desire for higher education or simply being closer
to family. Don’t lose focus. Let these goals continue to drive you,
getting here is the first obstacle but it won’t be your last. By not
losing sight of why you started you’ll soon get to where you want to
3) Get involved in your community. Growing up I played sports,
volunteered at a local school and always did extra activities at
school. It made not just the process of immigration easier but it
helped me build a life I continue to enjoy today.
4) Education, learn from school, from others, from your own
experience. Take life lessons as serious as school taught subjects and
expand your mind always. Learning will only further open your mind and
help propel you forward.
5) Travel! I received my legal residency at 15 and by 16 I had become
President of the French Club at school and traveled for a week to
France. You may have chosen the US as your home, but remember there is
a whole world that you can learn from. The cultures, the people, the
sights, they will all open your mind and help you build a broader
understanding of how the world works.
We know that the US needs improvement. But are there 3 things that
make you optimistic about the US’s future?
We’re moving forward. In recent year new policies toward groups like
the LBGTQ community have been passed that are moving in the right
direction by promoting respect and tolerance. This means there are
lots of us here who are focused on the right things.
2021 marked the first time we’ve ever had a woman Vice President but I
am sure, not the last.
Protests, boycotts, sit ins. We’re still standing up for what’s right
and continue to have the freedom to do so, you can’t find that
everywhere else in the world.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC
funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person
in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private
breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this, especially
if we tag them. 🙂
The GOAT, Oprah. If I could get a lunch date with her and maybe an air
hug, that’s what dreams are made of.
What is the best way our readers can further follow your work online?
Online at www.untamednaturalcare.com and on Instagram
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!