I was 13 when I first started working in my hometown though only me and her remember when and where. I remember I came back home with a bag of veggies and tortillas for lunch and felt amazing to contribute to the table.My reward was a simple hug of understanding I will never forget.
When I came into this country, I was 16. Working full-time at a Japanese restaurant, part-time advocate,hustling my mother’s divorce and trying to finish high school with a bang. All of that meant being a grown-up,study late at night, which unfolded on the 3.7 GPA I finally brought back home with a diploma on my graduation, along with our month’s rent and food covered for the week.
At 18,the blazing sun of the desert burned my face as I worked in construction, putting in question the reasons why I didn’t make it to College. I remember walking my sister to the bus with tears in my eyes, praying that one day she will never have to suffer for either work,food, or education.
Sometimes, I will hear my inner voice while reading a book , trying not to forget the knowledge I once craved tell her in anger “Why do I have to work? Why isn’t he paying for my food?
My mother, will read my mind, perhaps ashamed or guilty, hugging me in tears & telling me “todo esto es pasajero”, “you will get your reward”. I will go to my closet-sized room, Hoping her magic will transform into a full-ride scholarship next moring.
The years left her hands and I took flight to the city of Angels for more work.I hid my diploma and las ganas de atender la universidad. Work became my study group, my class room, my life-lessons. my friends.
I became an expert on survival. With my Associate’s Degree on “resistance of this system” with an emphasis on Joteria.
I never stopped sending them dollars.
14 years later, I’m still here. Standing with dignity as a worker. Insisting, with no papers to legally work or diploma to validate my experience and existence. Just like today, cashing my first check and Sending my first coins to mi Jefita, just like the first time at the Carniceria.
The sun is growing brighter to this beautiful realization. This is the blessing that continues to bring joy to my face in times of war and genocide. She’s still by my side. So when i get my next job, I will always think of her, as my abundance.That mentor that (I have always known) visits my dreams, telling me to wake up and fight back.