December 18th is International Migrants Day! And I am proud to say I was raised by two migrants. My parents, Rigoberto and Josefina, came from a small ranch in Jalisco, Mexico. A small, simple ranch that I was blessed with the opportunity of visiting every summer growing up. Getting to know my parents’ home town on a personal level granted me a direct view of their humble beginnings. Simple, adobe homes placed amongst long stretches of land. My father attended school up to the third grade, and my mother up to sixth grade. Nonetheless, they are some of the most brilliant and wise people I know.
My parents migrated from Mexico with my eldest brother when they were twenty-two and nineteen years old. My brother was about six months old. When I remind myself of the ages in which they left everything they knew and everyone they loved, I still struggle to picture it. I am currently twenty-three years old. Though I am living away from home, I am in no way experiencing the challenge that my parents took on at such young ages. Yet, they took on the challenge and embraced the journey with an undying faith all because they couldn’t help but dream a world in which their children would have a roof over their heads, food on their plates, and educational opportunities that they couldn’t even being to imagine.
My parents dreamt about me and my brothers graduating high school. They dreamt about watching me apply to colleges. They dreamt about dropping me off at college. They dreamt about me graduating college and going off into a successful career. They dreamt this all at such tender ages. They dreamt this all through their broken English, through their endless work ethic, through their trust of good in the world. And it happened.
I say this all because the other day, I attended an event at the United Nations headquarters titled International Migration Day & Global Migration Film Festival. It was such an wonderful event in which we watched three short documentary videos that illustrated the reality of migrants’ lives and experiences. There was one specific video that really hit me. I was in genuine tears after the short, five minute video ended. The video showcases Perla, a previously undocumented teen living in New York City. Perla discusses all of the sacrifices she’s witnessed her mother make in order to provide for her and siblings. Perla also goes on to say how she’s glad she has been able to make her mother proud by graduating high school and becoming the first woman in he family to attend college. This is where I broke. Because I, too, am the first woman in my family to attend college. In that moment I wanted to leave my seat and run up to Perla, who was in attendance, shake her and say, “You can do anything you want in this world! We are first generation students and we are powerful!” I saw myself in Perla. I saw myself represented in the United Nations. Her mother reminded me of my own mother. And like Perla, I too am proud of my achievements because they’re not just my own- they are my parents’ and familys’ achievements as well. Without my parents journey and sacrifices, I am nothing. It was such a tender and moving experience for me. I could go on and on about the video, but I have it here so you all can watch it for yourselves.