Here is the speech my favorite Mexican gave at the Elk River community culture night. The purpose of the evening was to introduce community members to the different cultures that make up the community. About a dozen people gave speeches, mostly ESL students in the Elk River program and then I gave a speech as well which I will post after this. There were about 100 people there which I thought was a good turn-out. We were even featured in the Elk River Star News article which was neat.
“I am from a small town in the center of Mexico in the state of Morelos. I came to the United States in February 1995 when I was 19. My town is about 3000 people. My mom and dad had 12 children but 2 died when they were kids. When I lived there, most houses had one room where the whole family sleeps. We also use the same room as a living room, sitting on the beds like a couch. There was no phone but we did have a TV. We had no bathroom or shower or running water. We would take a shower with buckets.
Our kitchen had adobe walls and a metal roof and a dirt floor. The walls had openings but no glass in the windows. We did not have a refrigerator and no stove. My mom or sisters would cook using wood or charcoal and a big griddle. Every day we bought the groceries for the meals that day. We ate tortillas with every meal. One of the most exciting things was when my parents took the bus to a bigger city 30 minutes away on the weekend to go shopping and they would bring us fruit or some surprise. We knew they would be home around 4 or 5 and all of us would wait together and be so excited when we saw them because we knew they had something special for us.
When I was young I never thought I would go to the US. I wanted to go to school and get a job working in my country. My father was attacked when he was in his early 20s and has been disabled since then and couldn’t work. When I was 15, my mother died and that changed my life. I needed to work hard and support my dad and sisters and little brother. I could not find a job that made enough money so I decided to go to the US to live with my sister and work in New York City.
When I came to the US we landed in New York City and I took a taxi to the apartment where my sister lived. It was nice to see her but it was so cold there to me and I had never seen snow. I did not speak any English. The next day when I woke up one of my cousins took me to buy some groceries. The stores were so different and there were so many people. One day I went to do laundry and walked by a pizzeria but I never knew what it was. I finally went in to see what they were selling and I saw the display with round things I had never seen. I bought a piece with only cheese and it just came out of the oven. It was so delicious so I got another slice. Then I got another one. And another one. I ate a whole 24 inch pizza by myself.
At every job I would try to learn some English and a couple years later I moved to Minnesota and started taking classes. Now I am taking classes here in Elk River to get my US high school diploma. I have been in the US for 14 years but it is impossible to forget I was not born here. Life in Mexico is still hard for my family but it is better now than before. They have a bathroom with running water and a kitchen that still has no windows but it has a stove and refrigerator. I am happy here in the US but I always miss my homeland and I know I always will.”