My abuela picked cotton to survive in this country. Whenever I accomplish anything in life, I think about this fact. I remind myself where I come from. I remember to be grateful.
I thought about my abuela when I listened to Dolores Huerta speak on Hillary Clinton and immigration rights at City Hall. Like Huerta, I am a Chicano, a person of Mexican descent born in America. But the plight of Latino immigrants has had a significant impact on my life.
“Her record in terms of supporting immigrants and the Latino community is not just today,” Huerta said. “It has been there many, many years.”
I just moved to New York City, and I heard Huerta speak on my first day as a New Yorker. I still haven’t gotten it through my head that this is my home now. I remember the first time my parents took me to New York when I was eight. We rented a limousine to take us for a short ride in the city.
We weren’t struggling, but we weren’t the kind of people who rolled around in a limo. I remember being fascinated by how the ceiling lit up, how the seats wrapped all the way around the inside of the car like a booth. I was so excited that I kept getting up and sitting in a different spot.
Years later, my mom explained that limo ride to me. “I wanted you to ride in one,” she told me, “so that when you grew up and saw someone riding in a limo, you wouldn’t be impressed. You’d think, ‘I’ve done that too.’”
Looking back, I see that my mom was constantly preparing me to never let anyone treat me like I was less-than. I can’t help but think it was informed by her experiences as a Mexican-American, as a woman who grew up poor.
I wouldn’t know what poverty looked like at all were it not for my abuelos’ house: always too cold in the winter and too hot in the summer, buckets set out on the porch to collect rainwater, everything always creaking, splintering, and falling apart.
My abuelos’ sacrificed to give my mother a better life. She did the same for me. I am proud to be living testimony of their efforts. I am proud of the values they have instilled in me. I am proud of my achievements, because I know that my achievements are also theirs.
More often than not, this is all that immigrants are looking for when they come to this country. They are looking to make their children’s lives a little better, a little easier than their own. To make a life for their children where they won’t have to struggle in the same way.
This is why I’m so passionate about immigration rights, and why I’m so scared of the possibility of letting any of these Republican candidates near the White House.
It’s also why it matters to me that so many immigration activists like Dolores Huerta and advocacy groups like the New York State have put their trust in Hillary.
Like my mother wanted for me, I want a future where immigrants won’t have to think of themselves as less-than in this country. Where they can build a better life for their children. Where they can see their grandchildren live comfortably.
It’s a principle worth defending and worth fighting for. We need to make sure our next president feels the same way.
(AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)