As a descendant of Mexican and Portuguese immigrants, I am deeply alarmed by our ongoing divisiveness and lack of ability to recognize the common threads that connect us regardless of our skin color, country of origin, age, or sexual orientation, and I can no longer remain silent. My tall stature, lightened hair and lack of a Mexican accent, make it difficult for most people to identify me as a Latina and I have flown under the discrimination radar for most of my adult life. However, this wasn’t the case when I was a child, and my skin was tanned dark chocolate brown from working in the fields.
I grew up in California’s Central Coast on a dairy farm. This rich farm country mostly relies on Latin, primarily Mexican immigrants to tend to the thousands of acres of lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, strawberries, and more. As a child, I worked in these fields alongside undocumented workers. And like them, I learned to fear the border patrol, commonly known as la migra.
I was about 10 years old the first time they came to the bean field where we were hoeing weeds. Suddenly everyone around me dropped their hoes and started running, shouting “La Migra, La Migra!” I saw men in uniforms getting out of trucks running towards us.
I dropped my hoe and began running too. My heart was pounding with fear and tears gushed down my face as I ran through the fields. I knew those men wanted to hurt us, but I didn’t understand why.
After running for what seemed like hours, we hid behind a large water truck. I was out of breath as I whispered to the woman hiding next to me, “why was LA MIGRA chasing us?” And she replied, “We’re illegal, we were born in Mexico and don’t have papers, and if they catch us they will take us back to Mexico, but you’re safe.” I didn’t understand what she meant. Thankfully we weren’t found. And later my little group of escapees explained that I was safe because I had been born here and they had been born in Mexico and didn’t have papers. I was so confused. I looked like them, why would someone in a uniform want to take them away because they were born in Mexico? My mother’s parents were born in Mexico. They were my friends, and I didn’t understand nor did I accept that I was somehow better than them because of my birth country.
When I spoke to my mother about my terrifying experience, she explained that there were complex rules about who could live and work in our country. And La Migra could take any of my friends back to Mexico at any time. And like my grandparents they were willing to live with this risk to give their families a better life.
I made a comment about the evil Migra wanting to hurt and separate my friends from their families, and she sternly explained that they were just doing their jobs and not to hate anyone.
My mother was an extraordinary human that understood, that most racial discrimination is learned at home and passed from one generation to the next. The seeds of hate are planted in our hearts, and rarely examined because it’s part of our family story. She had the insight and grace to know that my personal encounter with La Migra was not a justification to start building a long list of people that it was ok to hate, she made this unacceptable for me, and thankfully I listened to her.
From that moment on, I knew one thing to be true, we are all the same. I don’t care what color you are, what country you grew up in, how old you are, or who you choose to love, you are my brothers and sisters, and we are all part of this giant human race, and I’m not better or worse than any of you! I still remember my prayers after that experience, wanting my friends to be safe and not taken back to Mexico. Today, my prayers and hopes have been upgraded to peace, acceptance, and love for all.
For those of of you who have chosen love and acceptance for all, thank you! Together we can elevate our humanity!
#onehumanfamily #radicalacceptance #wearethesame