The truth is that I have pushed myself in many different ways here in Mexico. I have never thought this experience would be so physically, mentally and emotionally intense. It is one thing to do an internship, backpack or visit places. It is another thing to live amongst people, interview them (formally and informally) 24 hours a day, be part of their lives, do everything they dom eat everything they eat, sleep like they sleep and get involved.
This last leg of my journey was the toughest, but at the same time the most rewarding one. I was able to bring to the family that I visited some comfort with messages, pictures and small gifts sent by the part of the family (daughters, grandkids) that they haven’t seen in 8 years.
It is hard to describe the many feelings I had while I stayed with this family. Cleme is the mother of Sonia – who I met in New York and who put me in touch with her mother and son that live in Mexico. Leaving Puebla it took me almost 5 hours to get to their town – San Nicholas del Xathe in the state of Hidalgo. There are 100 people there, no cars only cows, sheep, dogs, chickens even horses. It is a beautiful region with mountains. For me it was a true honor to visit them. When Cleme saw me she was very emotional and started crying. She hugged me like she would have hugged her daughters. At that moment I was the closest thing to her daughters she had in a very long time.
I thought a lot about my family, my parents and separation. I thought about these mothers’ sacrifice to migrate and try to make a living to provide their kids with a better life. I met Sonia, I know her. I know she went to NY because with the money she was earning in Mexico her whole family would have gone hungry. Literally. This is a family that for years survived on “taquitos de sal” – tortillas with salt. Cleme couldn’t afford sugar, eggs and had not work after her husband died. Sonia as the older daughter ventured North to help. She left her son with her mother Cleme when he was 6 years old. Aldo – Sonia’s son is a quiet 14 year-old with few friends. He tells me the only memory he has of his mother, and the one he treasures the most, is when they said good bye at the bus station. He told me with a smile “I know she was sad to leave me, she was crying, I was crying and my grandmother was crying”. Aldo calls Sonia by her name and calls his grandmother “ma”.
I know that there are many stories of children growing up without parents, but these stories bring something different. Many of these kids are angry and feel abandoned. But they also suppress those feelings as their grandparents tell them over and over how their mothers only left to provide them with a better life and how grateful they should be. Is it a better life? I don’t know. It might be for some. And some are truly better off living with another family member. So these kids live with this feeling of gratefulness and anger.
Aldo is lucky. Cleme is a loving mother to him. She is patient and caring. Sonia has another son in New York that Aldo doesn’t know. Aldo tells me he would love to meet his brother. Aldo wants to go see his mom, but won’t leave his grandmother. He is thankful for the clothes he gets, but he doesn’t understand why Sonia left, he is happy that his mom is doing well – married with another child, but he feels left out of her life. Sometimes he feels forgotten.
The truth is I’m fortunate to not only have my parents, but also to have the parents that I have.