By Ramiro Serrano
—Year 1969 — I was born in the tourist city of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. There, I grew up in a family of eight. We lived in my maternal grandmother’s house; my parents were very poor and my grandmother counted on her old, little house and six acres of land to provide for us. Her land, however, was not sufficient to maintain the family.
“In 1960, a typical Mexican woman was expected to have more than seven children, but by 2009 that number had dropped to just over two — a decline that presages a sharp reduction in the number of young workers seeking to come to the United States.”
April 23, 2012. Washington Post
I enrolled in elementary school in 1975, and I always had good grades. My father used his social standing to provide for us economically. But he began to seek different ways to generate income and decided to go to the United States for work, to give us a better life.
“The country has not been able to maintain a consistent and strong economy like the one in which our grandparents lived from the mid-fifties up until the mid-seventies. Mexico had an economic stability that lasted approximately 20 years (1955-1975), when the currency exchange rate was 12.5 pesos to the dollar. Those years of equilibrium have not returned.”
May 2004, Mexico. Department of Economics (CUCEA)
Not having documents made it difficult for him to progress. He understood the language but he did not achieve what he wanted. In those times no help existed for impovershed people. Despite that, he continued coming and going, losing count of how many times the border patrol deported him.
“About 20 percent of deportees in 2010 said they would not try to return, up from 7 percent in 2005. Still, in 2010, six in every 10 deportees said they would try to re-enter within seven days, according to the new Pew report.”
April 23, 2012.The New York Times
He suffered a great deal because of the detentions and subsequent loss of employment. But he always managed to recover. He would tell us of the skulls he’d find in the Arizona desert and in other states while crossing the border. That didn’t discourage any of us to come to United States; here there are many opportunities for progress.
“Over the past nine years in Arizona, Border Patrol agents and others have discovered more than 1,800 bodies — all remains of people who died trying to get into the United States.”
October 6, 2010. NPR News
Taking into account that my father had suffered for coming without documents, I came with visas. But this hasn’t stopped it from being difficult to find employment. I’m thankful for labor programs, especially for the San Francisco Day Labor Program, which gives laboreres a refuge while we wait for temporary work. Also receives food donations, as well as provides both English classes and medical services for free. Centers like the Day Labor Program, combined with help from the community, is a blessing. It saves our lives.
“A landmark agreement signed last month between the AFL-CIO [American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations] and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network of over 40 day labor centers around the country pledges the organizations to work together to advance the workplace rights of all workers, to oppose punitive anti-immigrant laws and press for comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship and political equality.”
September 2, 2006. People’s World
Art: San Francisco Mural in the Mission neighborhood. 24th St. and Liliac St.
Photography: Maria Pia Kirk Berastain
Translation: Maricruz Gonzalez and David Weinstein.