Nereida Almeida

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Nereida Almeida is an undergraduate student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Almeida's family comes from different parts of Mexico, her mother from Tampico, Tamaulipas and her father from Guadalajara, Jalisco. They lived in several different U.S. cities but settled in Charlotte, N.C. where Almeida has lived her entire life. She has attended school, but with little hope for a future with a higher standard of living than that of her parents. Eventually, she decided to attend college to pursue a professional career and improve her economic standing. The central theme of the interview involved perceptions of gender, expectations of gender, and gender roles, and how these change as a result of transformations in family dynamics. Questions were asked focusing on family relations; professional aspirations and goals, both of Almeida and of her parents; and Almeida's experiences with gender-related conflict between her and members of her family. Her parents’ temporary separation was explored in depth, as were comparisons between her self-perceptions and professional convictions before and after college. She repeatedly mentions differences between Mexican conceptions of manhood, womanhood, and adulthood more generally. Only a few stories surfaced about time visiting family in Mexico, leaving more room to delve into daily life in Charlotte, N.C. Very few theoretical questions regarding gender perceptions and expectations were asked. The themes that arose most prominently included family dynamics and how they transform over time, strained familial relationships, education or lack thereof, and changing self-perceptions, convictions, and attitudes held by Almeida and her family members.



Nick Johnson: Alright. This is Nick Johnson, interviewing--
Nereida Almeida: Nereida Almeida.
NJ: Today is April 8, 2013, time approximately 1:34 p.m. Nereida, thank you for agreeing to be interviewed.
NA: You're welcome.
NJ: So, let's start by you telling me a little bit about your family's decision to come here to the United States.
NA: Well, on my mom's side, my grandma came to the United States--my mom's the youngest of four sisters--and my grandma came to the United States when my mom was five or six years old. So my grandma brought two of her daughters to the United States and they finished high school here in California. And then my mom and one of her sisters came to the United States when they finished their high school and were already, I guess you could say, "professionals." Like, you know, they had jobs. My mom was a secretary and my aunt was a teacher. My mom was probably like twenty years old, she said, when she came. Nineteen or twenty. And she came just to be with her family. That's the main reason that she came. And my grandma came, you know, because they lived in Tampico, Tamaulipas, which is on the east coast of Mexico, and so they were like, dirt poor. And my mom and her sisters lived with my great-grandma, who had a few of her kids living with her. And it was just a lot of people in a really small house.
And then my father: his mom came to the United States--they were living in Guadalajara, Jalisco, which was on the west coast of Mexico--and she came pretty much for the same reasons, except she came when her kids were a little older. My dad is one of five children, and he's the second youngest. When he came--. Well, when my grandma came to the United States, him and his younger sister stayed with their oldest brother, since he was already married and all that stuff. So they just stayed with him, and then they came over just because they just wanted to be together. But his oldest brother stayed in Mexico; he still lives there, but everybody else came over here too. And then my parents met in California. They got married. They lived in a little rinky-dink apartment.
NJ: What part of California?
NA: East Los Angeles. They said they lived in a one-bedroom apartment, where you could be in the kitchen and the bathroom at the same time because it was so small. And they moved. My father drove to North Carolina with all the stuff that they owned or whatever, but along the way, he had to sell a bunch of it because he ran into car troubles and he needed money and this and that. And he ended up staying with one of his cousins in North Carolina. And then my mom flew over, when he was established. And then I came along. And then, for whatever reason--I don't know why--but my father stopped talking to his cousin, so then they moved out and got their house or whatever.
NJ: Close to Charlotte?
NA: In Charlotte. Yeah.
NJ: Yeah. So, are you a native of North Carolina?
NA: Yeah.
NJ: And you were born in Charlotte?
NA: Yeah.
NJ: Cool. What do your parents do for a living?
NA: Well, my mom lost her job recently. She lost her job in January, but she used to work in this company where they used to make the cassette string and make the cassette frame, and they would pretty much make cassettes. And then when those got out of--well, cassettes and VHSs--and then when those got out of style, they made CDs and DVDs. And they would make a lot of, pretty much, like Joel Osteen stuff. Do you know who that is, the preacher?
NJ: Joel Osteen? Yeah. He's a preacher, a very fundamentalist evangelist preacher that is really known in the media, correct?
NA: Yeah.
NJ: Okay.
NA: Yeah. And so they would print a lot of his preaching things, and pack them and ship them off so that they could sell them. But they closed down her department, so she's not working right now. And then my father is a butcher at Sam's Club in Pineville.
NJ: In Pineville. What kind of higher education experience did they have, out of curiosity?
NA: My mom finished high school, well, in Mexico, and she went to--. I guess it would be like trade school where she got certified as a secretary and all that. But when she came to the United States, none of that was valid anymore. So she got the GED equivalent, but I think for that she just had to prove that she finished high school. And I don't even know if my father--. I think he finished high school, but I don't think he ever had any higher education than that.
NJ: What do you see yourself doing in the future?
NA: Well, after I graduate from UNC, I'm thinking about taking a year off to get some experience working in the Department of Social Services.
NJ: UNC's Department of Social Services?
NA: No. I want to move to another state, just because I've lived here forever. But I mean, during my time not in school, I'll probably do the Department of Social Services in Charlotte, just because I've already talked to a few people there. And it's a bigger city, so I know it has a higher demand. And then after that I want to go back to school to get my Master's in Social Work, just because social work’s a lot more flexible. Well, the degree is, anyway. And so from there, just maybe go into counseling or maybe the School of Social Work or something.
NJ: That sounds wonderful. What do your parents think of your education?
NA: My mom's really proud of me for it, and she always tells me how proud she is. But my father doesn't really ever say anything, just because, I guess, since they're more traditional Mexican, he kind of stays out of the kids' business. You know what I mean?
NJ: Why do you think that is?
NA: I think it's just because in Mexico, men are supposed to be the breadwinners, and women raise the kids and deal with the kids and everything with the kids and the house and stuff. Plus, we're not really that close. It's just kind of like, "Oh, you're in school. Okay."
NJ: Before coming to UNC, what did your typical day look like? What you did for fun, what home was like, et cetera.
NA: My senior year of high school, I think, is the year that I did the most stuff. I was in JROTC, so I'd wake up in the morning, eat breakfast, go to school--.
NJ: What is the "J" of the JROTC?
NA: Junior.
NJ: Oh, Junior.
NA: Yeah.
NJ: Right. Okay.
NA: And go to school, then stay after school for JROTC events. I was also on the volleyball team.
NJ: Diverse.
NA: Yeah, either practice or do JROTC stuff. And then go home, eat real quick, go to work; which I worked in a similar job doing what my mom does, except we would print flyers for Family Dollar--all the flyers for when there was a sale and all that stuff--and make the little price tags. So we would print those off and stack them up and all that stuff. And I'd work there until 11:00 or, as I got older, 12:00, because I had my full license by then, so I could stay out later.
NJ: Right. Right.
NA: And then come home, eat, go to sleep. Do it all over again.
NJ: And those were on weeknights that you worked there, or just the weekends?
NA: Yeah, weeknights.
NJ: Weeknights.
NA: Yeah.
NJ: Until 11:00 or 12:00.
NA: Yeah.
NJ: That's late.
NA: Yeah, but I mean, at the time, I didn't really have homework like that, or I would do it in school. And then I had just got a car, so I had to make insurance payments and all that stuff. So I was paying bills. And my parents went through a phase where they were separated for awhile, so I would give my mom money.
NJ: Sounds like you had a busy time in high school.
NA: I was busy.
NJ: What would you do for--not necessarily extracurricular activities, because you mentioned JROTC and volleyball--but for fun, just passing the time, on your days off?
NA: I would just chill, go with my friends, go to Taco Bell. We always went to the same Taco Bell spot, so whenever we'd get there, they'd already know our order and be like, "The usual?" And we'd be like, "Yeah, you know." Or we would just go driving around, or chill at somebody's house. Or sometimes they'd come to my house, because my parents wouldn't usually be home when I got off of school. So I'd have an hour, two hours, to myself, so people would come over. And then I usually tried to avoid my parents, during that time, so whenever I knew that they were going to come home, I'd leave and go find something to do. I also had friends that went to other schools, so I'd hang out with them. Or I had a friend that works at a tattoo shop, so I'd go chill at the shop or something. I found a lot of stuff to do.
NJ: So you found a good balance between school and work obligations and--.
NA: Yeah.
NJ: Being able to spend time with friends and stuff.
NA: Yeah.
NJ: That's good.
NA: Because there wasn't always work. It would come in waves, so when there was no work, I had to find something to do.
NJ: Right. So, in line with that question, what was your father's day like, if you can recall?
NA: So he was under a different manager back then, so he had a pretty consistent schedule. He'd get up at 4:00 in the morning and shower, get ready, eat breakfast, and then go to work. And he would start work at either 5:00 or 6:00 in the morning, depending what day it was. And he'd get off work. He'd go, I don't know, to a store or to one of those car junkyards and stuff, just to go, I guess. I don't really know. But he wouldn't get home until maybe 3:00 or 4:00 in the afternoon, just because he had to be there when my sister got home from school. Or if not, I was there. And then he'd come home, put all his dishes in the sink from his lunch and stuff, and then he'd just go lay down and watch TV, get up eventually, take a nap. Yeah.
NJ: And your mother? What was her day like?
NA: My mom would wake up--. She always said that she would always wake up when my father woke up because he made a lot of noise, which he did. So she'd be up but she wouldn't officially get out of bed until like 6:00 in the morning. And then she'd wake me up; you know, I'd be getting dressed and she'd make me coffee or something in the morning. And she'd wake up my sister and make her breakfast and get all her stuff together, and then put my sister on the bus, and then I would leave to school. And she'd go to work. She worked from 7:30 to 4:00. And then she'd come home and she'd start making dinner, wash the dishes, start cleaning the house. And then occasionally, she'd just sit down and watch novelas on Univisión. From 7:00 to 9:00 was her novela time. But she would usually end up falling asleep some time during that time. But then my father always woke up. He would take naps and he'd get up late at 8:00 or 9:00 at night, and he'd eat dinner. So she would make him food and bring him his food, and he'd have tortillas and all that.
NJ: Can you describe to me a little bit about your family dynamic, what it's like? First, actually, you said you had a sister. Is she your only sibling?
NA: Yeah.
NJ: Okay. So it's just you and your sister?
NA: Yeah.
NJ: Okay. So what is your family dynamic like?
NA: What do you mean?
NJ: The relationships between you and your parents, you and your sister, your sister and your parents.
NA: You mean currently or back then?
NJ: Let's start with back then and then talk about now.
NA: So, back then, I didn't talk to my father at all, just because we never really had a good relationship. And as I started getting older, I started noticing a lot of things that I had a problem with: him and his character. Like, he was an alcoholic, and I didn't like the way that he would talk to me and my mom or my sister when he was drunk. And it was just annoying. Too much. But I, at the time, I was close with my mom and then when my parents got separated for a few months, she didn't talk to me and she would hate me. Everybody said that they could see her hate for me in her eyes and all that stuff, because she essentially blamed me for their separation. But my sister, we always tried to keep her, I guess, closed off from all that. So everybody would always pretend like everything was fine. And then it wasn't until I started college that me and my mom started getting along a lot more, and it was only because I pretty much told her, "I'm an adult now. I don't really need you anymore. I'm going to do what I want to do regardless, so get over it." And then after that, she's been really cool ever since.
And my sister? She kind of is my father's favorite, just because he always takes her out, he always buys her stuff, he always--. He has a picture of her on his phone and all that stuff. And me and my mom are more closer. She talks to me on a regular basis every day. But whenever I go home, me and my sister, we talk but every time when I first get there, she always tells me how jealous she is of me; because every time I go, I get so much attention from my mom. And I'm just like, "You're here every day. You get attention; you just don't realize it."
NJ: Why do you think you get more attention?
NA: From my mom?
NJ: Mhm.
NA: I think it's just something that I've noticed in general. When a lot of Hispanic moms don't see their kids for awhile, they're just like, "Oh, my baby! I haven't seen you in forever. You've grown up so much. You look so different." This and that, blah blah blah. "Do you need anything? Do you want this, that? Do you want your favorite food? Do you need clothes? Do you need shoes?" And I'm just like, "No, I don't need any of that." And she's like, "Okay, we're going to get it anyway." Just stuff like that. So I guess my sister sees the immediate attention, but she has it all the time. She just doesn't notice it.
NJ: Can you tell me a little bit more about your parents' separation, if you're comfortable?
NA: Well, there was an incident right before I started my senior year where I was sexually assaulted, and my parents were just--. They weren't willing to accept that or believe that. So I was at a point where I felt uncomfortable with my father being at the house. I ended up going to the doctor and all that stuff, and social services asked him to leave the house. So my mom was really pissed off about that because at the time he was only a resident, so she was like, "You don't realize that he could get deported for this," and I'm just like, "Nothing's happening. He's not going to get deported." So she was mad about that. And it was only for a few months; it was like October to February.
NJ: So they were geographically separated, but were they legally separated as well?
NA: No.
NJ: Okay.
NA: They just lived in--.
NJ: In different places.
NA: Separate houses. Yeah.
NJ: Okay. Well, thank you for sharing that. I had another question. [pause] Oh. How do you think that adulthood changed things between you and your mom? You mentioned that when you came to college, you saw yourself as more of an adult, and so you took more of a stand for yourself. Maybe I'm getting that wrong, but how do you think that adulthood change the dynamic between your mom and you?
NA: Well, I think that it was definitely more like American adulthood, because to her--or in Mexican tradition and Mexican culture--she always used to tell me, "You live with your parents until you're married. And then you go live with your husband." So I was just like, "I don't like that." And the fact that I'm coming into college, I'm already going to be living by myself, so I feel like that shows a lot more independence because I'm not really relying on my parents or a husband. And I'm working, I'm paying my bills, I'm going to school, I'm providing for myself, and I feel like that was something that, to her, was just, "Oh, shit. You really are a little adult." Or something.
NJ: Maybe an American adult versus a Mexican adult.
NA: Mhm. I feel like that was just like an initial culture shock that she got over and she was just like, "Oh, this makes sense."
NJ: Do you feel that your parents are uncomfortable with the agency that you have?
NA: I think some things make them uncomfortable, like now that I just turned twenty-one. And like, "Well, I can go to a bar and I can go do this and that and I don't have to ask you for permission." They're just like, "Well, yeah, but you're still in school and you're still a student," and this and that. And I'm just like, "I'm not going to become an alcoholic or something. Calm down." Because I don't even like drinking like that. But I don't know. It's just certain things that I think makes them uncomfortable, like if I tell my mom, "I can go get married now without your permission," she'll get aggravated. Or if I tell her, "I can go get a tattoo without your permission," that really pisses her off because she's just like, "No, you're still my child."
NJ: Do you find that those things happen a lot, those incidences?
NA: Mostly just because I bring them up because I think it's funny, to see my mom be like, "No." [makes retaliatory noises] I think it's funny, because my mom's really little. My mom's like five foot even. So when she gets mad, I think it's cute. She's just little.
NJ: Shifting gears a little bit, how would you describe your family's social presence in the community?
NA: I think it's nonexistent.
NJ: Nonexistent?
NA: Yeah. We know our neighbors. Not even by name, just from my like, "Hey, how you doing," from our backyard and across the street, but just because our neighbors have been there a little longer than we have. Everybody else, all the other neighbors have constantly switched around and this and that, so they don't really--. No, they're not involved in the community in any way in Charlotte.
NJ: Are your parents religious?
NA: My mom is a lot more religious than my father. She goes to church every Sunday. She's Christian. And she takes my sister to church every Sunday. And my father says he's Catholic, but he only ever goes to church when he goes in Mexico, which hasn't been in over six years.
NJ: Wow.
NA: Yeah.
NJ: When he does return, even though it's been a long time, he goes back to Guadalajara?
NA: Yeah.
NJ: Yeah. And your mom, does she go back to Tamaulipas?
NA: Uh-huh.
NJ: Okay.
NA: Yeah. She's been to Guadalajara too for when I had my quinceañera, but she doesn't really like going to Guadalajara because she says that my father's side of the family is a lot more like--they play a lot more pranks and stuff--and they're a lot more like, “Say what's on your mind,” and aggressive.
NJ: Direct.
NA: Yeah, and she doesn't like that. In her mind, I guess, as a woman--or as a Mexican woman--she has to be more conservative and more like, "Well, that's just how it is. Just accept things how they are."
NJ: Would you say that her family is like that in general? Do they foster that kind of attitude?
NA: I think some of her family is. I know that one of my aunts, who I get along with really well, is like, "Say what's on your mind. Don't take no shit from nobody. I'm a woman, I'm a single woman, and I'm doing it by myself." But one of my other aunts, the oldest one, she got divorced, like, five hundred years ago, and she still has her ex-husband's last name. And she's like, "We were married, so we're always going to have that tie. You were my first and only sexual partner. That's it." And then my other aunt: she just keeps everything to herself, but she does a lot of things, I guess you could say, as an independent woman. But she keeps her problems to herself; she keeps her children's problems to herself. And my mom does that too--she keeps her problems to herself, she doesn't let anybody know whatever's going on in the house, ever--but at the same time, she addresses things that come up that she feels need to be addressed. She doesn't just push them off to the side like my other aunt does. So it depends. My mom's kind of--I don't want to say balanced because it's not really balanced--but she's a little bit of both.
NJ: I understand. So, regarding your family's social presence and how nonexistent it is, does your mom--. Is she comfortable with members of the church that she attends with your sister?
NA: I mean, she's comfortable with some of them, but just the ones that she's known forever or that she's friends with and has that trust with. But other than that, she doesn't really talk to that many either other than, like, "Hey, how you doing?" Just because I feel like that church, or a lot of churches in general, tend to gossip. So she doesn't have her business out there like that either.
NJ: I understand. What kind of neighborhood do your parents live in in Charlotte?
NA: Well, when we were first moved there, it was the 'hood. It was the 'hood. It was a Crip neighborhood, so there was always people gang-banging, there was prostitutes up and down the street. A woman and her son, I think, were murdered three houses down.
NJ: Wow.
NA: Yeah. It was the 'hood. Like, literally the 'hood. We were the only Hispanic people on the whole neighborhood, which the neighborhood goes in a big U, and our house is here [indicates on the table] and it has a street like that [traces grid map on table] and then another path. There was a time where there was police up and down our neighborhood every day almost. And they cleaned up all the drug people and got them out of the neighborhood. The houses on our street were remodeled and are rented out now and stuff, so now it's just, I would say, an average neighborhood, I guess. But it's not an upper-class, white neighborhood, or a neighborhood where all the houses look the same. It's still lower-middle class, I would say.
NJ: Is there a lot of opportunity to connect with the community that your parents just don't take advantage of, or is it kind of isolated?
NA: Yeah, I think it's kind of isolated, because I know that there was a time where they were trying to start a community Crime-Stoppers. But that never went anywhere. I don't think it even happened. And our community doesn't really ever do anything, just because of the reputation that it has.
NJ: I see.
NA: And on the main street, if you go further down the street, is a bunch of apartments--apartment complex after apartment complex after apartment complex--and every apartment is associated with a different gang or type of people, so it doesn't really mix well.
NJ: I can imagine. It sounds like, though, that you were able to connect with members outside of the community through your high school.
NA: Mhm.
NJ: Is that true? Okay.
NA: Yeah.
NJ: Since high school, how have your personal convictions evolved after coming to UNC, if they have?
NA: What do you mean?
NJ: Like in terms of what you want to do with your life, or what you strive for.
NA: Oh, they've definitely changed.
NJ: Yeah?
NA: Yeah.
NJ: In what ways?
NA: When I was a senior in high school, I wasn't even thinking about coming to college. I had the mindset that my parents had pretty much gave me, like, "Once you graduate, you're just going to start working forever, until you die."
NJ: Oh, gosh.
NA: Yeah. And I had a counselor that actually attended UNC, and he was the one that told me to apply and he was really pushing for me to apply. So I did, and I got in. And I was just like, "Okay, well, I guess I'm going to college."
NJ: That's great.
NA: Yeah. And when I first came to college, I was like, "Well, I guess I could be a doctor now or something." But I took chemistry and that was just, you know.
NJ: I was there myself.
NA: Yeah.
NJ: Chemistry major.
NA: Yeah. So then I ended up taking Psychology 101, and I liked it. And I was like, "I could see myself doing this." And then I got involved with One Act and HAVEN and all that stuff.
NJ: Other programs that prevent interpersonal violence.
NA: Yeah. Yeah, and I was like, "This is so perfect."
NJ: Right.
NA: I got really into it. And so now that's kind of something that I'm going towards and working towards.
NJ: Which would eventually lead to the Master's of Social Work.
NA: Mhm.
NJ: Right? In tandem with this question, how have your self-perceptions evolved since you were younger?
NA: I think that now I see myself as having a lot more say in what happens in my life. And I see myself as a lot more--well, I guess you could say--independent, but I see a lot more possibilities for my life than I did in high school and before.
NJ: What kind of possibilities did you see for yourself while you were there in high school?
NA: In high school?
NJ: Mhm.
NA: Just working as a, you know, like Burger King or McDonalds or--. I saw myself having a job like the one that my mom had, where it's nothing but colored women working, their manager is a white male, his manager is a white male, the main boss is a white male, and you stay baseline forever. You don't really get--.
NJ: No room for growth.
NA: Yeah. Right. That's pretty much what I envisioned when I was in high school. I was like, "I'm going to have a shitty life." Just working like my mom, growing old in the same job.
NJ: But you ended up changing that?
NA: Yeah, drastically.
NJ: Going back to times when you were growing up and learning things about yourself, can you remember times when your parents may have taught you something based on your gender?
NA: Yeah. My parents used to always enforce the fact that I needed to learn how to clean and cook.
NJ: Was that both of your parents?
NA: Mhm.
NJ: Or one or the other?
NA: Both, and I feel like it was a lot more brought on--[brief interruption here, where a man enters the room but quickly exits]--enforced, I guess, by my father, just because he would always say, "You need to learn how to cook and clean so you can get a good husband." And my mom would always--. My mom would tell me, "You need to learn how to cook and clean so that you don't get a husband like your father." And I was just like, "Okay."
NJ: Wow.
NA: So I was confused. A lot.
NJ: That would certainly be confusing.
NA: Yeah.
NJ: Any other examples that you can think of?
NA: My father, till this day, he is always telling me I need to take care of my sister because--. Well, when I was younger, it would be like, "Because you're going to have kids one day, and you need to learn how to take care of them." But when my sister was born, I was eight years old. So I was in no position to be taking care of another child, especially because I was like, "I'm not going to have a kid in the next year or ten years."
NJ: Right.
NA: That I found really frustrating, because I was like, "That's not fair. She's not my child. I didn't decide to have her. She's not my responsibility, as a child." You know what I mean?
NJ: Right.
NA: And now, they try to push it on me, or at least he does, but I'm just like, "Nope. That's your kid." You know?
NJ: I think you've already answered this a little bit, but do your parents ever talk to you explicitly about plans for your family in the future, if you decide to have one?
NA: My mom avoids it. She doesn't want to think about me having kids, I think, because now that I am in school and that, I think, she sees the possibilities that I have also, she doesn't want children to hold me down or to limit me. Because I think that she partly thinks that children limited her because she always wanted to go back to school to learn English officially and learn some kind of small, short career that she could do to get a better job for herself and to put on a résumé. But my father would never let her because he always said, "Well, you have to watch the kids." And even though she could've gone to school--because he got off work early and he could watch us or watch my sister--but he just never let her. So I feel like he used us as an excuse. You know what I mean?
NJ: Yeah.
NA: So I think she just doesn't want me to have that happen to me. And she doesn't think about--like, when I bring up marriage or something--she's just like, "Well, you have plenty of time for that." I think, for the same reason, that she doesn't want a partner to hold me down, or to try to limit me or something.
NJ: Was it always that way, or do you find that that changed when you went to college?
NA: I think it became a lot more serious when I came to college. But when I was in high school or younger, if I would've even thought of kids or brought it up, she would've been like, "Shut up. No, you're a child. Stop."
NJ: So she would've taken the same attitude, but it would've been for a different reason, maybe?
NA: Yeah. She would've been like, "You have way too much time for that. No, that's way in the future." And now it's just like, "Well, this is actually a little closer, but still. Don't push it. Don't try to bring it sooner than it needs to be."
NJ: Right. Kind of the opposite of that question, can you remember any conflicts you and your parents had regarding gender or expectations of you based on gender?
NA: Well, I think a big conflict for me that I used to always try to rebel against was my mom would always try to get me to serve my dad: put food on his plate, put it in front of him, put tortillas in the tortilla holder, put it in front of him, and bring everything to him. And I hated doing that. Because I was like, "He's a grown-ass man. He can do it by himself." It was something that they used to try to enforce, like I said, because they were like, "Well, you're going to have a husband one day, and he's going to need you to do that." And I'm like, "No, he's not." Like, no.
NJ: Any other conflicts that you can think of?
NA: My mom thought I was a lesbian once.
NJ: Tell me more about that.
NA: So, I had a best friend at the time. She had an issue with her boyfriend who she was living at the time. And she ended up--. I was like, "Well, just come stay with me. Whatever." I had a big bed and I was just like--. I was hardly there most of the time anyway. And then my mom--it was when I was in college, it was my first year of college--my mom wrote me this seven-page letter about how I was going to burn in hell and I needed to repent for my sins and all that stuff because I was a lesbian. And then at the very end, she was like, "But I love you, no matter what." [laughter] I was just like, "Are you kidding?" And I called her and I was just like, "I'm not a lesbian. I have a boyfriend. What are you doing?" And she was just like, "Well, I didn't know." And I was just like--. That's something that she would not have accepted.
NJ: Evidently, it would've been a huge problem.
NA: Yeah.
NJ: A seven-page letter problem.
NA: Yeah.
NJ: Is that rooted in her conservativism?
NA: I think so. That, and because she's Christian. You know, the whole "you're not supposed to be gay" thing.
NJ: Right.
NA: Also because in traditional Mexican culture, it's just not accepted. It's considered terms to be shunned or disowned.
NJ: Not so different, I suppose.
NA: Yeah.
NJ: Thank you for sharing that. How do you think your family conceptualizes their roles due to gender?
NA: I think they think of it as--. To them, it's normal; but to me, it's like an old-school TV show, where the woman takes care of the kids, cleans the house, is always shown in rag clothes--because she's been cleaning--with bleach stains. And the man goes to work, comes home, watches TV, chills. Everything is brought to him. And my sister's--. I feel like she's not at an age where she can distinguish all that. Plus, every time I go home, I tell her, "You don't have to do this if you don't want to."
NJ: So you are encouraging your sister to develop her own rules and regulations?
NA: Yeah.
NJ: That's good. Why do you think that is, in terms of your family's expectations?
NA: I think it's just because my mom, she never really had a father figure because her father died when she was really young, and he left my grandma when she was pregnant with my mom. So since she was raised with my great-grandma, that was just what she saw. That was the influence that she had. And from what I've heard, my great-grandpa was really mean. He wouldn't really interact with his kids or her sisters very much, so I guess that's why she doesn't really try to push my father into interacting with us because she's like, "Well, that's just not how it was." And my father: his father died when he was young too, so he didn't really have a father figure other than his older brother. And he was already married, though I guess he saw the way that he treated his wife. So I think it's just all that they know. They don't know any different, and I don't think that they would be open to any different or understand anything other than that.
NJ: Like your sister might be?
NA: Yeah.
NJ: Yeah. Interesting. So do I have this correct? It was your mom growing up in a family of five women, and--.
NA: Four women.
NJ: Four women.
NA: Four women, plus--.
NJ: I was including the great-grandmother in there.
NA: Okay. Yeah.
NJ: And then the great-grandfather.
NA: Yeah.
NJ: And that was the only male in the situation?
NA: Well, she lived with her uncles also, who were my grandma's children, or my great-grandma's children, which was--I don't know if it was three or four of them--.
NJ: Okay.
NA: But she saw them more as cousins or something than uncles, because they were closer to her age.
NJ: How often do you get to visit family in Mexico? Have you ever gone?
NA: I haven't been to Tampico since I was, like, seven, just because it's really hot. So hot.
NJ: I know Tamaulipas borders the U.S., correct?
NA: Oh, I think it's--I don't know--it might.
NJ: I think it does.
NA: Yeah, I think so.
NJ: Is that where Monterrey is?
NA: No.
NJ: No. Okay. Sorry, got my geography confused. Was it more towards the north or the south?
NA: It's in the dead center of the Gulf of Mexico.
NJ: Oh, I see. Okay.
NA: Yeah.
NJ: Yeah. It would be hot.
NA: It's hot and humid all the time, and I just can't deal with that.
NJ: Mhm.
NA: But my cousin--well, I don't even know if she's my cousin or my aunt--but she has come up to visit a few times. And I talk to my cousins over there through Facebook, because they have Facebook now. But I've been to Guadalajara a lot more. The last time I was there, though, I was fifteen.
NJ: Okay. So it's been awhile.
NA: Yeah.
NJ: One last question, I think, and then we'll wrap up. And it's a little tough, so take it easy if you need to. How do your goals align with your parents' expectations of you?
NA: I don't really know what expectations my father has for me, other than graduating college and getting a job. So I don't really know too much from his expectations, but as far as my mom's, I think that her expectations are for me to reach my goals, whatever they are.
NJ: Whatever they are.
NA: Yeah. And as long as I take care of her eventually, she's just like, "Well, whatever." And I feel like as long as she feels that I'm happy with what I'm doing and that I love what I'm doing, that she'll be more accepting of it.
NJ: Is taking care of her eventually something that will be required of you?
NA: No. I feel like it's just something that I want to do for her because--not even so much from high school and stuff--but in these last few years that I've been in college, she's been my biggest supporter and she opened her mind to so much more when I came here. And I appreciate that, so I feel like I can somehow pay her back or take care of her when I'm older.
NJ: Do you think that the expectations your family has of you would be different if your gender was different?
NA: Yes.
NJ: In what ways?
NA: I feel like my father would be all about me going to college, and he would've pushed for that from the beginning. And I feel like he would've tried to put me in a different mindset as far as what I should expect from women. You know, things like that. And I feel like my mom would have--. Well, I don't really know if her expectations would have changed, actually. Not now, but maybe if it was two years earlier, it might have. I don't know. I mean, she would be proud of me regardless, but I think then she would have expected me to take care of her in the future.
NJ: Oh, interesting.
NA: Like, you know what I mean?
NJ: Because of the idea of the male as the breadwinner.
NA: Yeah. That, and because I feel like she feels like men are always going to be promoted faster and always going to be given a higher role in anything, just because that's what she's seen in her work, where she used to work. She'd be like, "You could potentially own a business, so now you can take care of me."
NJ: Higher potential.
NA: Yeah.
NJ: I see. Would you like to go back to Guadalajara at some point?
NA: I think so. It's really nice and it's really cool, but with all the stuff going on with the cartels and stuff, I'm scared to go. And I've been able to go. My grandma has offered to buy me a ticket, and I can go. But it's just something that I don't want to go by myself right now, because I know that even though right now, here in the United States in Chapel Hill, I can see myself as independent--.
NJ: Right.
NA: Nobody's going to ever mess with me, but if I go to Mexico--. I mean, I know people who have been kidnapped who we've never heard from again. So I'm just like, "I don't want to risk that."
NJ: You know them personally?
NA: Yeah.
NJ: Wow.
NA: Yeah. So I don't want to put myself in a potentially dangerous situation and be ignorant about it or something.
NJ: Right.
NA: So I'd just rather not go until it calms down.
NJ: Well, I hope one day it does.
NA: Yeah, hopefully.
NJ: Well, Nereida, thank you again for agreeing to this interview, and I really appreciate you coming in and talking about your experiences. So thank you again.
NA: You're welcome.