Ana Laura Medrano

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Ana Laura Medrano was born in Chihuahua, Mexico and moved to Washington, North Carolina when she was eleven years old. Her father was a U.S. resident and traveled frequently between Texas and Mexico. Medrano and her mother received travel visas through her father's company. Medrano attended high school in the U.S. and enrolled at Beaufort Community College before transferring to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. This interview begins with an overview of the Medrano family and their reasons for moving to the United States. Medrano discusses the difficulties she faced integrating into the United States, but suggests her experience was much easier than the path for undocumented immigrants. Medrano also talks about her work with the Latino community in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro area.



Elise Stephenson: This is Elise Stephenson and I'm here with Ana Laura Medrano. It is April 19,2011. How are you?
Ana Medrano: Hi Elise. I'm good. How are you?
ES: Let's start with a little bit about you. Where are you from?
AM: I am originally from Mexico but then I migrated here with my family when I was 11 years old and I have lived here ever since. I moved in Washington, NC and now live in Chapel Hill because of school.
ES: So, your family still lives in Washington?
AM: Yea, it's Little Washington, NC. It's about two hours from here but like I said, because of school, I am now living here, in Chapel Hill.
ES: And, tell me about that migration experience.
AM: It was very tough. I can actually say it was the toughest experience I have ever gone through. It's because, you know, I was eleven years old. I feel likes it's a transitional moment. My house was there, my grandparents, my cousins. I'm very family oriented. And so when Dad was like, "OK, we're going to move to the US," being a little kid, I did not know what that meant. I was like "OK, you know, let's go, it's going to be fine." I did not know what to expect. Once I moved here, I realized that OK, first of all, I don't speak English. Second of all, I was used to being in the top of my class in Mexico, and then I move here and then people are treating me like I'm stupid because I can't understand what's going on in school, and things like that and also my family, that was very rough. I couldn't see my grandparents, my cousins, I didn't know anyone and obviously I made friends, I'm friendly, but it was still rough. I think the language barrier was the main problem. Just because I was very outgoing when I was in Mexico and I feel like all of that was cut off when I got here. So it took me like a year to get used to things, you know, going back to normal so I could be myself. But first I would cry like every night and it actually made Dad think about going back, because he was like "I didn't think it was going to be this hard on them." My sister was four and my brother was five. But it wasn't, for them, it wasn't tough, because they were little. They got used to it. But for me, it did not, it was hard for me. But once I did, I was fine.
ES: How long did it take you to pick up English?
AM: Well, I guess, I moved here when I was eleven and I think it took me like a year to fully be able to carry on a conversation like I'm doing right now. I was fine, but during that year I was taking ESL classes once a week and then doing Rosetta Stone, like the CD course, so I will picked up words. I will learn phrases like "the girls jumping" or "the boys jumping" so once I learn something with the Rosetta Stone and I go to my class and practice it and my classmates were very helpful, they knew that I was learning and they were very helpful with it. And then I would read books like Clifford and the AR (Accelerated Reader) books and my teacher would set time aside from her schedule and my teacher, when everyone was doing their AR, their reading, she would sit with me and read so she would help me because I would learn all those books. So, I started off with simple phrases and then it built on it but to be able to carry a good, good conversation I
would say it like maybe took me about six months but to say I was definitely confident with my English it was about a year, and to be competitive in school it was about a year. [Pause]. Yeah.
ES: Why did your parents choose to migrate?
AM: So Dad grew up here in the United States; he grew up in Texas and then when he went back and married Mom you know like when I was little it was fine for him to come back and work here because that was where his life was.
ES: Right.
AM: But then once they had my siblings things were tougher because you know he decided he did not want to leave his family that long because he would come here for ten months and go back and stay with us because that's how his job would work but then he was like "OK, I don't think I like this" and he was missing all the important moments that were happening with our family so finally he decided to just sign a contract here with the Carolina, Coastal Carolina Gen, and I think he signed the contract for, I don't remember but you know, he was able to bring us here so basically it was because of that and also it was my parents wanted us to learn English. Dad was fluent and he wanted us
to have that experience. And, the intention was just to come here for three years and then go back home but obviously that didn't happen, [laughter]. It's like every other family that comes here, they're like "we're going to go there for two years" but you know, you end up staying. So yeah.
ES: So your Mom wasn't a US citizen but your Dad was?
AM: Hmm, right.
ES: You guys were because he was?
AM: No, no, no. But actually, we were not actually that. It's a little crazy, so when I moved to here, me—Mom and I—were tourists. We moved here as tourists.
ES: On a tourist visa?
AM: So we overstayed our visa and, so, like I guess immigration calls that, we weren't legal technically. On immigration sites it is out of status because you came here legally but you overstayed. My brother and sister came here on the other hand without having any documents. And, while we were here, Dad became a citizen. So Dad was, sorry, Dad was not a citizen; Dad was a resident. And then he became a citizen once we
were and because of my brother and sister's ages they were able to become citizens as well but I wasn't. Like I'm a still a resident and mom is too. We have to take the citizenship exam, and I plan on doing so this year. So it is a little—
ES: So you are a resident that is technically out of status?
AM: No, no I'm a resident, I'm fine. I've got the residency but because I was eighteen I think, over eighteen, when, I don't remember, something to do with my age when Dad became a full citizen but my brother and sister automatically became citizens but I'm not.
ES: You oldie! Well, tell me about your family.
AM: My family, OK, we are very close. I have two siblings, Annabelle who is right now sixteen and my brother who goes to Science and Math (high school). He is going to be eighteen. And then, my parents. I don't know. I feel like I'm very proud of my siblings. They both accomplish a lot. Like it was tough coming here because even though Dad did go to school here and everything he's always been one of those people
who has always been like "Do it on your own Ana. That's the way you learn. Everything I've done I've had to learn it on my own." It was hard because Mom didn't know how the American school system worked so like when I was trying to apply for colleges like my parents didn't know how to help me out. I didn't know about the SAT. I didn't know all these resources existed and so it was very tough for me, like extremely tough, but now I feel like my brother and sister have it easier because my parents had to go through all of that with me and so you know I feel like they are accomplishing big things because of that and I'm happy that they are, that it's not as hard as it was on me. Like I said, my family, we are very adjusted to living here, so I think my parents still plan on going back and to retire because Dad, even though Dad grew up here he stills wants to go back, back to Mexico. Sometimes on the weekend he'll listen to Mexican music and you can tell he wants to go back to his country. My siblings, I don't feel, like well, my brother is very adjusted to here, very Americanized; I don't know if that is the proper term. So I don't think he will. But, my sister, I also doubt it but I feel like all three of us, I don't know why but she's the one who—if all three of us were to go back, she would be the one to be OK, and I have, I don't know, I'm not going back, I've decided that. I love Mexico and it's always going to be my country but I can't say that it's my country and the US isn't. I don't know, I feel like I'm a part of both and I'm used to being here. And I don't want to go back. I don't know. It's difficult to have a family that like, some want to go back, some want to stay here; I don't know, it will all work out. Yeah.
ES: You described the college application process as being very difficult but you got into a top school. How was that decision making process, to even decide to go to college as a resident?
AM: That was never a question in my family. My family has always pushed me to aim high and to go to college and my parents, even though Mom—Mom finished high school in Mexico and she has a very good job just to have finished high school. She has a job with an accounting firm and then Dad was always here even though he didn't finish college. He was supervising plants. They knew—even though they didn't go to college—they knew full well where college could get you because they were working among people who were educated. So my parents always pushed my siblings and I to work hard and go to college. Like I said, it was hard for me to go through that application process and stuff, because they pushed me so hard I would. When I got to high school, that made me enroll in the AP (Advanced Placement) and the Honors high school classes and I was doing well in school and I was able to be like "I can do it." So I followed the university pathway and that was with the intention of going to college one day and it did not click that I had to apply. My boyfriend at that time was applying to Campbell University and he said "You should've applied to Campbell" and I was like "OK," but I didn't know anything about Campbell University. I didn't know about anything. I just knew I wanted to go to college so I said "OK, I'll apply." But at the last minute I said you know what, at the last minute, "I'm not going to Campbell." And my parents were like, "What why not?" and everyone was like "Ana, you are going to a four-year university and you finished high school successfully. You can go to a four year college. That's what we expect you to do." And I said "Nope, I'm going to the community college." And Dad--that was really upsetting for Dad because he thought I was going to be like everyone else
we knew, that just went to a two-year college and just stopped there, getting used to the routine of being home and never—like, basically gave up. But I told them "I won't do that and I know what I want to get out of this." So, yeah, I went to Beaufort and all my friends went to Campbell, well my closest friends, and then after two years I was like "OK I'm done. I have to get out of here." I feel like when I left high school I was very motivated and 1 knew what I wanted but being in the community college, there were so many people being so many different ages, I feel like people I wasn't being challenged enough and I feel like I don't like this. I don't like the person I'm becoming. So I decided to apply to Carolina and the reason why was because, it was mentioned earlier, I was really involved in high school, and one of the things that I did during high school was Summer Ventures in Science and Math. And once I did that we came here to visit Duke, UNC, and I think NC State, and other colleges, and I remember being on campus and being like "I want to go to this school one day." We went to the Dean Dome and I didn't know where I was. I just knew it was a university and I wanted to come here, so obviously when I had gotten to Beaufort I was aware of what was going on around me so I knew about universities. I researched a lot and talked to people, so I was fine. So I was like, "OK, it's my turn. I'm going to Carolina because I said I want to go there and that's where I want to be." I applied to other college as well, but once I got the acceptance letter I was like "Nope. That's where I'm going." That's how I got here.
ES: Cool. What is your current involvement with the Latino community here in North Carolina at UNC?
AM: OK, so currently, one of the things I'm doing is— so there are two things I'm doing right now. One of them I'm doing local TV show called Conexion Carolina. We try to bring awareness into the community but we try to do it in a fun way. So the program takes place in Durham, Chapel Hill, Carrboro, all the local towns here and we try to do things that we know the community will enjoy. So we go to the Latino radio station, we go to church in Spanish, that a lot of people go to. We've done~we went to Goldsboro to do like an event that involves migrant families and how we can help them out. So, it is very close Latino community because even though we're on TV, people are aware of things going on and how people can get involved. It's just about what fun things you can do in the area. It's specifically in Spanish. And obviously, we have English interviews sometimes but we'll translate those and it's just so the people watching can know what's going on around them and that's our goal, our primary and that's one thing I do outside. I'm also involved with LINC {see references). That stands
for Linking Immigrants to New Communities. One of the coordinators for the ESL classes that we have at Abbey Court in Carrboro, and we have them two days a week,Tues and Thurs from 7:00-8:15 and this semester has been pretty successful we get from I think it's an average of eleven students per class which is pretty good., sometimes we get more, we have had up to seventeen and this semester we had I think six as the minimum one day so, yeah, that's what I'm doing, LINC.
ES: Tell me more about LINC how did the program get started?
AM: OK, so Link was started by one of my friends here—two of my friends here on campus. I became involved with it because, they actually started it last year and I met my friend who said come to the meeting and so I started, and so the main thing was ESL classes. And so I started volunteering and I would just go and tutor someone and they really enjoyed it, and this year they've really expanded it so this year they have different problems. We have the Know Your Rights program which is to bring awareness, to bring the community members. So we have events like teaching them legal terms or bringing the Latino cooperative—that happened once. They try to bring programs they know Latino people are interested in. The other program is mentoring in Carrboro high school and right now it's targeted at mostly Latino kids and I know they are trying to expand it. It is mostly to help kids get to college, like me that know about the SAT and are basically in the same situation that I was when I came here. So that's really neat that they have that. I did that last year but because of time constraints I don't have time to do it this year, and we have the ESL classes that, like I said they continue to be one the primary focuses of LINC because that's what we started with. My friend approached me at the end of last year and she was like, "Hey so I know you did something like this back in your community. Would would you like to coordinate this again?" I was like "sure" and so that's how I started. I'm very happy. Like I said, we have about twelve people that come every day and we have a great group of students. We have a great group of Carolina students that come and I think that this year has been different because we bonded and I feel that the students feel that as well, and the tutors. We encourage them to exchange phone numbers and that way they can have a bigger expectation and know they are coming and it creates a better connection. Like last year, we weren't as—we didn't have that connection. We didn't encourage people to contact their students. I feel like it's going really well this year. I'm very excited about it. I don't know what else to say!
ES: What obstacles have you run into with LINC in terms of community involvement? Last year, you mentioned—last year it wasn't as good because there wasn't as much communication between the student and the tutor but what other obstacles?
AM: I feel like the main obstacles we could fix—and by we I mean the coordinators—we are definitely more organized this year. I feel like we keep good track of the tutors, and the student's progress. If like say a student doesn't come one day we'll call and say them later and say "hey, are you ok?" We want them to know it's not only a class to come to but it's also a community to come to. This year we've been very busy and we haven't had any events for our tutors and I wish we did. I really hope that changes next year just so the tutors can bond too because I know the tutors know their students well but they oftentimes the tutors don't know other tutors well. So I feel like that would just be a better bonding experience. Another obstacle that we've run into is student participation or attendance and that happened last semester. And that was probably because we didn't encourage that connection between tutors and students. Last year the students didn't have their student's number or we weren't consistent with putting them with the same student. Oftentimes the student would say "Oh, well I don't know who my
tutor will be today so I probably won't go." Or whatever. But now they can expect someone that they know to be there and I think they really like that. They know and they think that we care, and that's true. What else? I think that has been the biggest obstacle. I can go and if no one shows up, obviously I'll be disappointed. But ok, maybe something happened and they can't come. But, if a tutor shows up and their student is not there, I feel bad. Or the same thing, if the student shows and the tutor doesn't show up, ahhh. Another thing—this doesn't happen so much this semester—but last semester, a lot of tutors wouldn't come and I can understand that because if we weren't having regular
attendance than the tutors would get discouraged. So in the beginning, you can expect that; you can't expect the program to be great from the start. We need to do advertising. We need to let the public know we are out there. So I feel like if the UNC tutors are able to withstand the first two weeks without tutoring anyone and without getting discouraged, I feel like it can be a very successful program. I feel like that's what it was this year because tutors were able to stick it out and wait until we found someone that they could tutor.
ES: What have you done to advertise the tutoring program to the community?
AM: We put flyers around campus. We showed up to classes to let the teachers know what was available to let them know students could do that. We didn't do it with all classes. Just with a few, but we told people to pass along the word. Also, my friend who has the radio program in Spanish was able to make announcements on the weekends before the program started so we could do that. Also we put signs up in Abbey Court (see Human Rights Center, references) and the Mexican stores in the area, just so that they knew this was available. I'm trying to think what else. I think this is one of the main things we did to advertise. It was good.
ES: What would you say is the main demographic that tends to show up to classes?
AM: I would say middle aged people, maybe between—well actually a lot of the women there are younger so I would say maybe middle aged twenty-five to like forty-ish.
ES: Married? Unmarried?
AM: Yes, a lot of them—the older ones are married. A lot of the younger males are single because their primary reason to come here was to work, so that's what they are doing. But a lot of the ones that show up are married and have children. So that's what we find. And, most of them—I don't want to say all—but most of them are residents of Abbey Court. And they are. We have Mexicans. We have people from Guatemala. I'm trying to think of somewhere else. I want to say El Salvador. But it's Central America and Mexico for sure. I don't think we have anyone from South America. That's what it is.
ES: And of the students that you've talked to does it seem like other family members are very supportive of them going to the classes?
AM: We've had some problems this year. I'm glad you brought that up, because we often will pair a girl tutor with a male student and maybe it's because of the culture, the way the culture is, you know with machismo and all that. The girls would get jealous or the opposite would happen, we'd pair a girl student with a guy tutor and maybe the husband would get a little jealous. We've had a few instances where that happened and obviously that's not the image we try to project so we have to be careful. We've try to get feedback from the students and determine how comfortable they feel working with that person. So yeah, it has happened a couple of times but overall I think it's good. Yeah, not a big issue anymore, I don't think. We have had a couple of times where the significant other has stopped coming because of jealousy issues, so yeah.
ES: How is your relationship with the Human Rights Center {see references) in Abbey Court? The relationship between the tutoring program and the HRC?
AM: I think it's going well. I, honestly, am not in touch with them that much. I know Jakelin who is the coordinator—the co-chair~of LINC this year, is. She is the one that keeps us updated about everything that is going on. Judith Blau {director of the Human Rights Center, see references) is really good about sending us email, keeping us updated. And my other coordinator is really good with keeping in touch with whatever is going on in Abbey Court. So I feel like I am more focused on the classes themselves and the tutors whereas my other coordinator is more in touch with what's going on with Abbey Court, which is good. We try to keep a balance because I definitely couldn't do it
all by myself [sigh]. There is a good connection. We keep them informed. If there is something going on we let them know and Judith also lets us know what's going on. And so I feel like it's going well. Overall it's a good—there is a good communication between us.
ES: You've developed a lot of relationships just meeting students at the classes. Do you feel like there is anything in particular that the community could be doing in terms of services offered that they aren't doing?
AM: The community. What do you mean by the community?
ES: The Human Rights Center. So LINC offers the tutoring session, Technology Without Borders offers all of the computers and the wireless. What other services do you think—do you feel as if there is a lack of anything that would be—
AM: —So yea. I definitely see that, and I don't think it is something particular to Abbey Court. I think that it's all over North Carolina where there are Latino people and just minorities in general. I speak about Latinos because I am Latina, and that's what I know about. I feel like a lot of these people are unaware about a lot of services that are available to them. For instance, I have had a guy—one of the guys in the English classes was concerned because he didn't know how to use his card. He opened a bank account. He didn't know why he opened that bank account. Like, they aren't informed. And the language barrier has a lot to do with it. So I think there are a lot of things that Chapel Hill
or the community of Carrboro could do to improve those things. If you gave them financial classes. Started from the beginning. Let them know what a check is. A lot of these people came from very poor communities in their native countries and so they get here and they have to open bank accounts, things like that, and they don't know how they work or the options that are available to them. So I think that's one thing that could be talked about. Another thing is what their rights are. Often times they think that because a cop stops them they have the right to ask for their immigration status—I mean that's probably true in some counties, but not here. So a lot of people are scared, so they don't leave their house, or they believe everything that their neighbor says and sometimes their neighbor hears from someone else. It just creates a big problem. I feel like if there were more programs to make them aware of what's around them then things would be a lot easier for the community as a whole—the Latino community and the Chapel Hill and Carrboro community. A lot of these students are very, very smart. It's just that they've never— They've lived in a very closed—I don't want to say environment—They have a closed mentality when they come here. They don't now all of the opportunities available to them. I feel like if they knew about them they would take advantage of them. I like to
talk to the students about what there is to do, and a lot of them don't know. They are like "oh you can do this?" or "you can do that?" It's sad for me to see that because I feel like thankfully my parents weren't like that because they had good opportunities back in their countries. But I've had friends whose families experienced that, and so that has gone to my friends and I feel like it's a barrier to move up economically and in all aspects. I guess more classes, more culture classes. Just anything that would be helpful to them. Just kind of like educate them. And I'm not saying they aren't educated, but things that would help them live here better. I don't know.
ES: You mentioned that you are from Washington, NC? Is there a large Latino population in Washington?
AM: Yes. So I'm not really—Okay I always say I'm from Washington. I moved here from Bell Haven which is a small town. But yes, when I got here there were a lot of Hispanics already but now it's growing. When I went to high school there were maybe ten Hispanic kids, and now it's—I cannot even name the number. It is a large, large population. You have Latino community and we'll have parties and family parties and
when I first got here we all used to know each other, but now it's impossible. I go back and I go to Wal-Mart or a restaurant and I see people I don't even know. I'm like whoa. It's crazy, yeah. Definitely a large Latino population.
ES: Are they being drawn there for particular jobs in the area?
AM: Well, yes. And no. When I was living there Bell Haven was a crabbing town so a lot of the ladies that would come there werejiberas, which means they were in the crabbing industry. They would come there under contract. But I don't know how the crabbing industry is doing. I know they've closed a plant. I used to live in front of a plant and I know they closed that one, so I know it's not—they don't bring as many women any more. But that's why they were being drawn. Also, another reason was because the women that would come here—a lot of times they would marry and got with males that were already established here. Like American or Latino males. And then they would bring their families. And it created a cycle where you bring your family, and then your grandparents, and everyone comes. And so a lot of people where I live are from Sinaloa which is a state in Mexico and Hidalgo. I'm from Chihuahua but we're the only ones from Chihuahua. There is a small Colombian population too but I guess that they are being drawn here for reasons. I find them to be better economically than the Mexicans that are in the area. Also I mean, I can't say there is a large demand for—I can't say they come here for labor reasons because I don't see Beaufort as being that Latino friendly. Which is sad to say. But like I said, the crabbing industry was one of the main things that drew immigrants to the area. And the fact that their families were here, so they would bring their cousins. They would say "Oh yea, you can come here. I'm working at Flanders and you can come work." But obviously now things have changed because now they are checking for documentation and a lot of people are living there undocumented. And so they can't work. So they are moving—a lot of them are moving out. Or they have to go to other places to find jobs. So it's a really ( ) case. So yea, there are just a lot of Latinos there.
ES: Growing up there, did you find that there were a lot of services available to you?
AM: Well, to me?
ES: Or to your family?
AM: Well, I guess, maybe, no. Or there—I guess there were but maybe not in Spanish. And like Mom, I know Mom had difficulty with that. But in respect to my family, I didn't really feel it because of Dad. Because Dad was fluent in English. Mom and I had our visas—our tourist visas—before they expired. And we also had social security numbers, which now you're not able to get easily. But we had them because of
Dad. So we didn't really have that much trouble with any services, but I know—and now it's getting better—but I know a lot of my friends did have trouble going to a doctor, interpreters. It was very hard. And it's not like there weren't services available to them. It's just that they didn't know about them. And I feel like that's another problem that's going on in the community. There are so many non-profits. There are so many ways that you can get clothes if you don't have a job, if you don't have food, or services that are available to you if you are in need. And a lot of people don't know about them. And so that's the sad part. That's the—I actually did a project in relation to that last semester and
that's what I found out. There are a lot of non-profits available, a lot of services. They just don't know that they are there and so they don't seek help. Or oftentimes they know that they are there but they are just scared. And it goes back to what I was mentioning with Abbey Court. Why are they scared? Because they don't know their rights. They don't know how they can be affected, or—You know, they are living in fear.
ES: Yeah. You spent a summer in Mexico. Tell me a little bit about your experience when you went back to Mexico. I guess, was it the first time since you migrated here?
AM: No, no.
ES: Okay, you've been back.
AM: Yeah, I've been back. But I guess it was a new experience. I wasn't the only Latina girl in the group, but I think I was the only one that was raised in Mexico. In the town where I was, I was the only one that was completely fluent in Spanish. My friend was there too but I was the only native with them. And it was tough. It was an eye opening experience because like I said, I didn't experience any hardships thankfully growing up in Mexico. I was fine. So when I went there I was in this small town, El Gusano, and it's very poor. I remember that was the first time I had washed clothes by hand. Things like that. The people there didn't have things, didn't eat meat because they didn't have money and resources. At first it was really difficult for me to see that. It made me sad, and mad. I didn't know what to feel. Then I felt like "these people are so happy." These people didn't have the things that I had when I grew up, and don't have the things that I have in the United States, but they are happy. I don't know. So I guess that was a learning experience for me in that aspect. I wish—I definitely wish there could be an institution to help them out. Another thing that was eye opening for me was because I realized that no matter how much I loved Mexico, and no matter how much I wished to go back earlier, I can't do it anymore. I miss home, and home is here. So that was another thing that I was able to find out about myself. And also we met people from the Fundacion, which is the Fundacion del Bajio (see references), which is who we were
there with, and people from the University of Mexico City, which is very americana. It made me happy though that there are people that are doing something for a better Mexico. That are interested. That are just like us. They are interested in improving situations in that country. Yeah, it's going to take a long time, but I'm just happy that just as people talk about corruption in Mexico, that there are other people that are all against that. I feel like here you just hear the negative side of Mexico and the corruption and all the violence that goes on, but growing up I didn't experience any of that. So sometimes it's hurtful to hear all of that—all of that stuff. But going back to Mexico and seeing that there are people that care, I don't know, it's just neat.
ES: How did your experience—Did it inform your understanding of migration in the US at all?
AM: Well, I wouldn't say that that experience informed it because I was an immigrant myself. So yeah, I feel like I've always been pretty informed, but I guess it did open my eyes in the respect that my family didn't go through—we didn't have to get a coyote, we didn't really struggle to come here. We were thankful in that aspect. But other people—like people that were in El Gusano—some of them had lost family members. And just seeing their houses and what pushed people out of there to come here. Now I definitely think about it more. I had friends growing up here whose parents were very, very poor and that's why they came here and I would hear those stories. But I feel like when I went to El Gusano it put a face to all of this. When I went to El Gusano I would see a one room house and I would be like "this could be the house of the worker that's building—helping built the stadium, the football stadium." I feel like now that is more in my conscience. I can't walk by the football stadium right now where they are building it and not say hi to them. Or it hits me and I think "this guy probably doesn't have a wife to go home to because his wife is in Mexico and he is working for a better future." So I don't know. I feel like it hurts me because I'm thankful that my family didn't experience that but it hurts me that other people are in that situation. There can't be anything for them to help right now, and I can't help them. And I'm just like them and just because of what, I don't know, how things turned out. Like destiny. I don't know. I'm not like that. You know it hurts me. I'm not better than they are. I'm not. But it angers me.
ES: How has your service involvement changed as a result of the experiences that you've had? You are constantly updating your understanding of what is needed. How has it evolved?
AM: I guess to answer the first part of your question—When I got here, and I went through that experience—that rough transition—I made these changes. I matured a lot. I was like "Okay my parents brought me here for a reason. I have to suffer for a reason. But now it is my responsibility as a Latina who is here, who is able to go to school, whose parents have been able to provide her with everything." Ever since then I just focused a lot on the Latino community. When I was growing up in Beaufort I did a lot of events—a lot of things that would help Latinos. And so now it's not that I don't want to help any other group, but I just feel like it's my responsibility to be one of the leaders in the community, to say "Hey, I'm here to help you out" because I didn't have a rough time coming here. But that's exactly why I have to help. I have to do something. I feel like that's been a large part of my motivation to go to college. It's always been—the fact that my parents want me to and expect me to—but it's also the fact that I know I have to help them. People. I don't know. I just want to be a lawyer someday hopefully. Or I just want to be in a position where I can be a leader and have some impact in the community. I was able to go to college because of Dad. Because I am a resident. My friends weren't able to go to college. Why? Just because they didn't have anyone in their family who was a
resident? I don't think that's fair. They are just as smart and intelligent as me. This is like a very personal topic, but it just angers me. [Tears]. I just feel like they need to do something. And so ever since then I've just been working with Latinos.
ES: You're graduating soon...
AM: Yeah
ES: And you mentioned that you want to be a lawyer. How do you plan to continue working with the Latino community?
AM: Okay, so right now I'm graduating. I have a contract with BB&T. It's a five year contract so obviously that's going to take a while and I said law school because I've always wanted to do something with law school because I feel that I would be able to do more things for the Latino community. But, I want to take it slow. I plan on enjoying my time at BB&T and volunteering on the weekend with Latinos, still interpreting, still being involved. But obviously, I mean, I need a job and I feel like it's a good way to start getting somewhere. If it happens that I still have Law School on my mind after that contract is over, I will think about it, but right now I'm living in the moment. I'm living in the present. I'm going to do my best there, and like I said I'm happy. I'm really happy. I'm really excited about starting there because they've actually helped me so much with college. I won scholarships from them, from the Hispanic fund. That's another thing. I'm like "Okay, so they are helping Hispanics. Why don't I work for them?" And then maybe one day I'll be in the position where I can say "Hey, we can open a fund and have more scholarships for people." Like I said I'm going to try to go to law school because maybe I could be closer to them, but with BB&T it benefits banking and people don't look at it that way. I can be in a position where one day I can say "Hey, we can do this" or "We can do that." Because a lot of things that prevents me from being able to do things in Beaufort is I'm a student. Who is going to listen to a student right now, you know? I mean, I know that's not a good mentality, but it's true. I'm no one. Technically right now. And I just feel like I need to be in a position where people will listen and I can do something. Even if they don't listen, I can do something behind the scenes. I don't know. So I'm glad. I'm happy I'm graduating. Real excited! Yeah.
ES: Sweet. Well, thank you very much for interviewing with me.
AM: No problem. Thank you.