Rebecca Heine

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Rebecca Heines, better known as Becca, recalls her experience on her class trip to Guanajuato in March of 2018 as part of APPLES Global Course Guanajuato (GLBL 390 Latin American Immigrant Perspectives). She explains how various factors influence education in Trancas compared to students in North Carolinian schools. Becca also discusses how her visit to Casa del migrantes impacted her understanding of immigration in Mexico. In this interview, she explains how she was encouraged to learn from everyone she encountered, despite difference in opinions. She describes her journey as very positive and hopes to visit Guanajuato again soon. Both Rebecca Heines and Carolina De Leon are student interviewers working with the New Roots/Nuevas Raíces Oral Histories as part of APPLES Global Course Guanajuato at UNC Chapel Hill. This interview was conducted as part of this course and is intended to provide background and context about some of the individuals who conduct oral histories for the New Roots collection. Their inclusion in the archive is optional and does not impact their grade. Students also travel to Guanajuato, Mexico over Spring break. Carolina de Leon is also volunteering at El Centro Hispano throughout the semester as part of a service-learning requirement to build relationships with immigrant communities. This interview is the 2nd of 2 interviews. The 1st interview focuses on Becca’s work as the mentorship coordinator of North Carolina’s Service Learning Initiative (NC Sli) and a bilingual navigator at the University of North Carolina hospital in Chapel Hill.



Carolina De Leon: [00:00:03] So I’m here today with Becca, again. Today is April 23rd. Becca, do you consent to this interview today?

Becca Heine: Yes, I do.

CD: Perfect. [00:00:18] So Becca, how was your trip to Mexico?

BH: I think my trip to Mexico was really great. It was a really good balance of activities where we learned a lot about migration and just had fun activities so we didn’t get too burnt out from learning all the time. Before this trip, I knew a lot about the experience of immigrants once they reached the U.S. but I hadn’t really seen it first-hand the other side of that experience, which is the families and communities they’re leaving behind and how those communities deal with the comings and goings of people. I think that this trip was really full circle for me. I got to learn about the other side of everything that I hadn’t been exposed to before.

CD: Awesome. [00:01:31] So how did you feel when you came back from Mexico?

BH: Coming back from Mexico felt a little bit overwhelming at first cause I got back and I was really nervous about letting this experience fall through my fingers and not carrying it with me as I move forward. When I got back it was the first time that I had personal time in a week. I tried to just chill by myself for a little bit and reflect through my thoughts and read through my journal entries and add anything in that I hadn’t time or I’ve been too sleepy or distracted by other people to add. I definitely felt nervous that I was going to forget important details or not effectively apply my experience in the best way to my life and studies moving forward.

CD: Okay. How was your experience with the children of Trancas?

BH: [00:02:57] My experience with the children of Trancas was really interesting. When I first saw that we were going to be teaching English classes I was skeptical and honestly it was one of the things I was looking forward to the least because we had learned a lot about “voluntourism” and I’ve learned a lot about it previously and I was feeling a little nervous that it was going to be like that and I didn’t really want to convey that to Trancas community. But once the principal of the school seemed really excited about us coming in I felt a little better about it. It ended being a lot more interesting than I thought it would be. My group was with the younger kids and we played this game where everyone got in a circle and we passed the ball between each kid. Each kid took turns telling us about what family members they had in the U.S. and what they knew about the U.S. We got to learn a lot more about their interactions with the U.S. and their families’ interactions, which was super interesting. A lot more of them had immediate family in the U.S. then I was expecting. Going into this I was very aware that Trancas has a lot of men go from Trancas to the U.S. for job seeking purposes. I think seeing it first hand and seeing that almost every single kid had a close family member that was gone, and some of them for many years was something that I was not expecting to see first-hand. Teaching English to the children of Trancas was really interesting in that way.

CD: Okay. [00:05:23] After teaching English classes in Mexico, what do you feel like were some of the disadvantages that the children might have had?

BH: I think that like I said before, the vast majority of the children had multiple significant members of their family missing. I think that it’s really hard to grow up without a complete support system and feel like a large portion of your support system and someone you care about is far away. I think that can have negative implications on other parts of your life such as education for example. I think that would be a disadvantage that children may have.

CD: What about advantages? Did you notice anything compared to the U.S. that the children in Mexico might have an advantage over?

BH: [00:6:45] I think from my one-day experience in the school, I felt a greater sense of community than some of the school environments that I had been a part of and witnessed. For example, everyone coming together of all ages and playing soccer. Not all ages, but there was a greater age range on the soccer field than I had experienced in my school. I think there is a greater acceptance of differences. One of the classes had a girl with special needs in it and in the U.S, from my experience, a lot of time they’re pulled out into their own separate class. There seemed to be a joint responsibility that all the students, even though they were six, were taking care of this girl. If the teacher was busy and the girl needed help with something, they would come and run over to help her with what she needed. I think that learning how to work with and care for others and love others who are different from you is a really important skill. I think that the children’s early exposure to that could be an advantage to them in the future on how to be a better member of the world.

CD: Awesome. What are some challenges that Mexican parents face in Mexico that you may have noticed?

BH: I think that a lot of these parents are single parent households with one parent working in the U.S. being far, so I think that that comes with a lot of difficulties. If the one parent is busy, they don’t really have another person to help them care for the child at home unless there’s other relatives around. I think that makes one large challenge. For example, the neighbor of our host house, there’s a little girl who’s 5, her dad left after she was born and came back four years later. The mom essentially raised an infant and toddler by herself for four years, which is definitely a difficult experience and requires a lot of commitment. I think that it definitely poses a large challenge to Mexican parents.

CD: [00:10:11] What is one thing you miss about Mexico?

BH: I miss a lot of things about Mexico. One of my favorite things to do is talk to people I wouldn’t normally talk to and learn from them. I got to do that every day in Mexico and it got me out of my day-to-day routine. It’s so easy to not put your day-to-day routine, I’m going to learn something new today manner, obviously I do but when I’m just walking from school to class sometimes I’m not being aware of looking around, I’m just trying to get to class. I think that I miss out on taking in a lot of my surroundings and I think it was really fun for a week to be observant and take in as much as possible everything around me and I really miss that. I also really miss the food because it was yummy.

CD: What is one thing that you didn’t like about Mexico or about the trip? Anything you want to say about that? If you don’t like that question, we can skip it.

BH: I think that I didn’t eat that many vegetables because we weren’t allowed to eat certain things in case it was washed with unfiltered water. Normally, my diet is very different and more vegetable based when I’m here so that took a little while to get used too. [00:12:18] A lot of people on the trip were feeling sick because of stuff they ate. That was definitely one of the harder aspects of the trip. Also, I get antsy sometimes when I was cooped up in that van for a long time. I was like, I need to get out and run. I was kind of nervous because I didn’t know if it was socially acceptable but one night I just did it anyway. I heard I was talked about in the town; someone’s host sibling came back and said “there was this girl running around”. It was a very happy balance between getting out of your comfort zone and out of your routine but also keeping certain aspects that make you feel like a happy sane human. Finding that balance was definitely difficult at times. I was trying my best to find it on the trip. When I was abroad in Ecuador, I could find that balance better but when you’re moving around and don’t really get to stay in a place for more than a couple of days, it’s a lot harder to figure out that balance, out of your comfort zone but still within a certain amount.

CD: Would you consider attending the University of Guanajuato after visiting?

BH: Absolutely! We did that tour and I was like “oh my gosh, if only I had time in my schedule to do a second gap/ abroad semester”. The University of Guanajuato seemed really cool and the girls who were giving us the tours and the random people we met who went to the University all seemed really nice. I think that would have been a really cool experience, definitely very different from my experience in Ecuador. All my friends in Ecuador live with their families and very close to campus. The girls we met didn’t, they lived in a house together and I’m sure a lot of the people there do live with their families. Maybe the majority, I don’t know. I think that it would have been a different experience and I would have probably learned a lot of different things about the Mexican culture that I don’t know. It was really cool, I’m glad we go and to do that tour. That was one of my favorite parts of the trip.

CD: Did you learn anything new about migration/immigration on your trip?

BH: I think one of the things that I learned about that was most interesting for me was when we went to casa del migrantes, the first full day of the trip. After I read the itinerary, this was the part of the trip that I was most excited about in advance just because I had read this book in one of my classes two years ago, History of Latinos in the U.S…

CD: Who was your professor?

BH: I can’t remember. I read this book that talked about riding the train rails through Mexico and the experience that migrants had with that. Before I read that book, I hadn’t really thought of it as Central American people are also technically not supposed to be in Mexico and they get deported from Mexico. Obviously that makes sense, but we only hear people crossing our border and that’s a very egocentric perspective for me. I was kind of embarrassed; I didn’t realize that obviously they are not allowed in other countries too. I think that that book definitely shaped my interest in immigration and kind of got me started. I think I took it sophomore year and that’s when I became more interested in it. [00:16:55] The book talked about some of the very difficult experiences that Central American migrants face even in Mexico and the crimes committed against them because they are so discouraged from reporting them. People take advantage of the fact they’re so discouraged from reporting them because they’re afraid of getting deported or not want to complete their journey. The book talked about sexual violence against women, different robberies, and things like that. I thought it was interesting and I remember that one of the things that struck me was how the coyotes would give condoms to the women that they’re transporting and tell them if someone tries to approach them in a sexual way that they shouldn’t even resist and try to give them the condom to use so they didn’t spread STDS. To me that was very interesting that women would just go on this journey knowing that that was a risk they had to take and being okay with that. In their minds it was worth it that some kind of sexual violence would happen to them during this journey. This acceptance of crime committed against people who are at risk position because they can’t report crime I think is very interesting how other people take advantage of peoples weak spots or conditions for their own personal gain in whatever way, shape, or form that may be. I thought that was really interesting because it was the first time I learned about the Central American migrant experience. In Mexico, I had only known about the experience of people once they came to the U.S. so for me that’s why I was really interested in la Casa del Migrantes because I had heard a lot about it and how people rode the trains and had to find places of shelter on the way. I had read about some of these types of safe houses in that book which very much sparked my interest in immigration. To go to one myself felt very full circle for me. I think one thing that really surprised me was the map that they had on the wall. I can’t even imagine how long it took to create this map; it must have been completely word of mouth like where is safe and not safe to stay, they must have heard through people who passed through. The map has railroad lines and different shelters that were safe in regards to human trafficking and different things. It also had mapped amenities that each shelter provided. I didn’t really know that this laid out system had existed. Honestly, I thought it was incredible someone had taken the time, a group of people, because you couldn’t single handedly undertaken that. It reminded me a lot of the Underground Railroad, which is really interesting. It’s like these safe houses spread by word of mouth, pathways that people can go. I thought that was really interesting and I hadn’t really known about that before. I had known about some aspects of it but I didn’t really know how well organized it was, literally mapped out. For me, it was the most interesting part of the trip to be exposed to. I thought it was interesting.

CD: What was your favorite location or event that we did?

BH: I think that one that I just talked about; the complete immigration related learning experience. Everything is tied to immigration, but the fun thing we did was Guanajuato city, walking around. We went to the salsateca that night and chilling out a little bit more on the last days and taking in more of the culture. I think that was really fun.

CD: Did you accomplish any personal goals in Mexico?

BH: I think for me when we took the time to write out our personal goals in class, [00:22:13] one of my main ones was to remember that you’re not above learning something from anybody else. I think sometimes it’s easy for someone to start talking about something that you kind of know something about, maybe not everything but some awareness of it. Then you start to tune out what they’re saying. Or someone starts talking and you feel like you know more about it than someone else then you don’t fully listen to them. I think that’s something everyone does. It’s something I’ve been more actively, something I’m trying not to do. I think that social situations have become a lot more interesting and especially on this trip it helped me a lot to take the time to listen to people. Even if I don’t agree with what they’re saying, you can still learn something from their perspective. For example, at the hacienda, a lot of us didn’t agree with what he was saying. But we’re still learning about what he was saying and another side of an issue, which is important to understand. No progress can really be made if both sides of an issue are not understood completely. I think that my goal was to try to just keep an open mind and remember that everyone has something to teach me in some way, shape, or form. Also, I tried my best to do that on the trip and I think that I was reasonably successful. I’m sure there were times I was sleepy and zoned out, but I think that I did a honest attempt at that goal.

CD: The last question, [00:24:05] would you go to Guanajuato again?
BH: 100%. It was so fun! I hope I go again. I don’t know when I’ll be able to but I definitely would like to make my way back to Guanajuato without a doubt.

CD: Thank you Becca, I appreciate your time.

BH: Thanks for interviewing me.

23 APRIL 2018