“I didn’t want to walk more, but I wanted to be with her [mom],” Eder Moises (10)

Dibujo hecho por Ada Alejandra (12), hija de Ada. Image drawn by Ada Alejandra (12), Ada's daughter.

Dibujo hecho por Ada Alejandra (12), hija de Ada. Image drawn by Ada Alejandra (12), Ada’s daughter.

I grew up alone on the streets of Choluteca, Honduras. I define myself as a warrior, because I have worked and fought hard to be with my children who have finally arrived from Honduras. I’ve been strong and persevering to withstand this pain that has burned inside me for 7 years.

“Until the 1960s immigrant women outnumbered men … In 2010 There were 96 immigrant men arriving for every 100 immigrant women.”
American Progress. March 7, 2012

Year 1984: I started working at only 13 years of age preparing and selling enchiladas, taquitos, and other snacks. Life was hard; there was no work in Honduras and at 16 I was already a single mother. I decided to go to America for my children, my only motivation. I had to leave them with a friend.

“During its decade-long” dirty war “against Suspected guerrilla sympathizers, the Honduran military kidnapped, tortured and killed dozens of people, confident That the Armed Forces’ enduring grip on power meant That They would never be held responsible.”
New York Times. December 21, 1995.

My first job was babysitting. I lived in the master’s house, but I felt like an imprisoned girl. They were good people but I wanted to be independent. The following year I started selling tamales and rice pudding in front of the office of Day Labor Program of San Francisco (DLP) and The Women’s Collective, which was how I became a member of The Collective 5 years ago.

“In the aftermath of 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) passage, unions began experimenting with immigrant worker organizing, and found that foreign-born workers proved highly receptive to such efforts.”
Lera Web. Fall 2007.

I had tried to return to Honduras to be with my children. As a single parent I felt very lonely and sad. Bringing my 4 children [10, 12, 19 and 20 years old] was too much money. I decided to be positive, and I took out a loan.

Alexandra (12) and Joseph (19) were arrested by immigration in Mexico. Alejandra had no identification; she was a minor. Joseph decided to stay with her. I was desperate and confused. I explained to one of the workers in the program and she sent the right information to the Consulate of Honduras in Mexico. My daughter could have been arrested for who knows how long in jail.

“After a transfer from Border Patrol concrete holding cells, children filter into a variety of facilities, from dingy, frigid cells to rural shelters friendly.”
 Latin American News Dispatch. September 2, 2010.

My kids suffered like me crossing the border. With constant hunger and exhaustion, they slept under the trees for three days praying to God to end this. Finally I met again with them in the Christmas season.

“According to a Commission report, of the 90.000 children apprehended by the Border Patrol along the southern border in 2007, roughly 10.000 were unaccompanied minors.”
Latin American News Dispatch. September 2, 2010.

I believed in the American dream, earning enough money to dress nicely and have a big house, but our reality is that we are together and we live in a modest home. This is the real dream that achieved with strength and perseverance.

By: Ada Ortiz, Women’s Collective member, and Jullie McNamara, volunteer.

Translation: Jullie McNamara


Migration Stories


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.

Historias de migración


Por Ramiro Serrano

—Año 1969—Nací en la ciudad turística de Puerto Vallarta, México. Ahí crecí en una familia de 8 miembros. Vivíamos en casa de mi abuela  materna, mis padres fueron muy pobres y mi abuela contaba con su casita antigua y una porción de 6 hectáreas de terreno de la mejor calidad para cultivar. Sin embargo, esto no era suficiente para sostener a la familia.

“En el año 1960, la mujer mexicana tenia más de 7 hijos, pero en el 2009 ese número se ha reducido a 2—esta disminución pronostica una tajante reducción en el número de trabajadores jóvenes que buscan venir a los Estados Unidos”.
23 de abril, 2012.Washington Post.

Ingresé a la escuela primaria en el año 1975, siempre tuve buenas calificaciones. Mi padre pasaba grandes aprietos para sostenernos económicamente. Por ello empieza a buscar distintas formas de generar más dinero y decide irse a los Estados Unidos a trabajar para darnos una mejor vida.

“El país no ha podido tener una solidez económica duradera como la que vivieron nuestros abuelos de la segunda mitad de los cincuenta hasta mediados de los setenta. México tuvo una estabilidad que duró aproximadamente 20 años (1955-1975), cuando el tipo de cambio fue de 12.50 pesos por dólar. Estos años de equilibrio no se han vuelto a repetir”.
México, mayo del 2004. Departamento de Economía (CUCEA).

El no tener documentos le dificultaba mucho progresar. Entendía el idioma pero no lograba lo que quería. Por aquellos tiempos no existían ayudas para la gente necesitada. Pese a ello, el seguía yendo y viniendo, perdiendo la cuenta de cuantas veces la patrulla fronteriza lo deportó.

“Aproximadamente, el 20% de deportados en el 2010 dijeron que no intentarían regresar [a Estados Unidos], a diferencia del 7% en el 2005. Según, el nuevo Pew Report, en el 2010, 6 de cada 10 deportados dijeron que intentarían volver en 7 días”.
23 de abril, 2012. The New York Times.

Sufría mucho por las detenciones y perdidas de empleo. Pero siempre lograba sobreponerse. El nos contaba que encontraba cadáveres por el desierto de Arizona y otros estados al cruzar la frontera. Eso no nos desanimó ni a mi ni a mis hermanos para venir a Estados Unidos. Aquí hay muchas oportunidades para progresar.

“En los últimos nueve años, agentes de la patrulla fronteriza en Arizona han encontrado más de 1,800 cuerpos—todos restos de personas que murieron tratando de cruzar la frontera a Estados Unidos”.
6 de octubre, 2010. NPR News.

Tomando en cuenta lo que mi padre había sufrido por venir sin documentos, yo venía con visa. Pero no deja de ser difícil encontrar empleo sin tener permiso de trabajo. Le doy gracias a los programas de jornaleros, en especial al Day Labor Program de San Francisco que nos sirve de refugio mientras esperamos por un trabajo de manera temporal. También nos donan alimentos, nos dan clases de ingles, servicio médico, todo de manera gratuita. Estos centros de trabajo y ayuda comunitarias son una bendición, nos salvan la vida.

“En un acuerdo histórico firmado el mes pasado entre el AFL-CIO [Federación Estadounidense del Trabajo y Congreso de Organizaciones Industriales] y la Red Nacional Organizadora de Jornaleros, más de 40 centros de jornaleros en todo el país prometen trabajar en conjunto con distintas organizaciones para mejorar los derechos de los trabajadores en el lugar de trabajo, apoyar la aposición de leyes anti migratorias punitivas y promover una reforma migratoria comprensiva hacia la búsqueda de la naturalización y la igualdad política”.
2 de setiembre, 2006. People’s World.

Arte: Murales en la cuidad de San Francisco, California. Calle 24th y Liliac.

Fotografía: Maria Pia Kirk Berastain.