A Dangerous Journey that Eventually Ends in Reward

Patricia Sapien, 63, immigrated from San Luis, México

A Dangerous Journey that Eventually Ends in Reward

On a brown leather couch that is all too familiar sits my Grandmother, one of the kindest and most passionate people I know. After a little bit of small talk, I jump right into the questions that will start to bring up her past. When I begin, she doesn’t hesitate and answers like she remembers the experience as if it happened just yesterday.

She takes us to a 13-year-old girl whose parents forced her to move across the border of Mexico to a familiar, yet foreign country called America. Her parents didn’t have enough money to support her and her siblings, so she moved to the U.S. to start a new and more fulfilling life. In Mexico, moving away from your family was quite common. “My mother didn’t tell me I was leaving, but I had no choice, but to go,”. 

Her voice turns serious as she recalls coming to the U.S. in the trunk of her sister’s car. She tells me how she had to be silent so the border patrol wouldn’t know that her sister was bringing an illegal immigrant such as herself into the country. “It was terrifying not knowing what would happen next.”

Once in America, she lived with her sister for three years. Her eyes relax as she starts to remember how much more comfortable she was in America, rather than back home where she shared a shower and toilet with the entire neighborhood. She tells me how because school cost money and her family was struggling, she had to give up on getting a proper education. She assumed the position of cleaning, cooking, and babysitting for her nephews. I wonder if her life would be different if she had received more than a 6th-grade education. 

After babysitting for some time, she got her first real job as a carrot sorter. She tells me that every day, she would go to the fields and sort the bad carrots and the good carrots. She remembers how terrified she was that border patrol would one day find her and deport her. “Thankfully, that never happened,” she says. 

She takes a breath and relives how scared she felt in a place without her parents, and how embarrassed she was because all the other kids knew English but her. “I didn’t have a choice, my parents and other siblings barely had any food and money, so I had to go to America and help provide for my family. They said in America, people live better lives.”

Before we finish our interview, she pauses and grins. Then she starts to laugh. “I feel like my life is very successful. I mean, you can come to the United States and have a really good life here.”

“I came from almost nothing, but I worked hard and now I am here living a great life in America.”

— Patricia Sapien