I never had much of a relationship with my father when I was growing up or now. He started traveling back and forth to the United States in 1980, when it was easy to cross the border illegally. I know this is going to sound harsh, but it’s how it happened—every time he returned to Mexico, he used to get my mother pregnant, then he would go to the U.S. and then return to Mexico for the child’s birth. I remember he would arrive with a lot of stuff (fabric, fruit, etc.) and give it to everyone that lived around us. We used to live in the same area as my paternal grandparents, two of their sons and their families, and another daughter in law with her two kids, she was my uncle’s wife, but he left her and her kids.
I remember my father spanking me with a wet rope after I did not feed a pig once. It was believed that a wet rope hurts more than a dry one. One time my younger brother and I were fighting and he spanked both of us with his belt, my mother took my brother away from him so he did not spank my brother as much as me. He spanked me until his belt buckle came off. I also have memories of him being very mad because I let the beans burn once and told me that I wanted the beans to be as black as my ass; among other things. All of the memories I have of my father as I was growing up are very similar.
My father was very upset when I went to college too, but he eventually got over it. He got very mad when I married someone he did not approve of and he told me that I was dead to him. He said that he did not want me to talk to him at all and I have respected his decision. We have had no direct communication since 2006. Whenever he needs me to do something he asks one of my brothers (the one I am closest to) to do it for him. He knows that my brother will ask me to do it and that I will do it. Other than that, there is no communication.
My mother has always been very submissive. She has always done what my father orders. And even when my father was not around, his mother would give her orders. She cooked and fed me when I was young, but once I was able to do it myself, I did laundry, cooked, helped around the house and took care of my younger siblings. I did not trust my mother much because she would tell my father whatever I would tell her. I felt that I had no support from her. Now my mother and I talk again, but there was a period when she would not talk to me because my father did not want her to. I know it was hard for her, but she had choices and she made her decision.
I have four living siblings (one died when he was 6 months old in 1989). My oldest brother Miguel is very similar to my dad. We get along, but we do not have a great relationship. He has three children. When he lived in Mexico, he spanked me with his belt a few times since he was the oldest. Once he grew up he took the role of the man of the house. I remember one time he left huge bruises on my legs after spanking me nonstop with his belt because I was not willing to wash a dish for him. I told him that he could wash it himself, but he thought it was my job since I was a woman. I think that we are not close because he is very similar to my dad. Also, because he feels that I am a “bad influence” for his girls. He rarely tells me about the problems he has with his girls, especially the oldest one who is 15, but when he does I tell him what I think. However, most of the time he does not like what I have to say.
My second brother, Gustavo is very different. He is laid back and keeps an open mind. We get along great. It wasn’t always like this though. We used to fight a lot when we were growing up. We would fight all the time, but we also wanted to be together all the time. My mother used to say that we had a love/hate relationship or, as you would literally translate it, a dog/cat relationship, because where I grew up the cats and dogs would fight all the time. The last time we got into a fight was when I was 16 years old. It was bad. He kicked me nonstop and I scratched a lot too, I think he still has the scars. But as always we would fight very badly, and then we would be talking to each other as if nothing had happened. He was my prom date during my junior year, and he drove me to Iowa State University to take the ACT. Whenever I had family events at Iowa State he was the one who attended them. When I studied abroad he was the one bringing me to and from the airport. He would buy food for me while I was in college. He always was and still is very supportive; not only to me, but to the entire family. He and his wife help my youngest brother with his kids. He is in charge of picking up my oldest brother’s kids from school and of taking my father to a lot of his medical appointments. He helps all of us a lot!
My youngest brother’s name is Alvaro. He used to throw rocks at me all the time when we were growing up in Mexico. He has always had a very bad temper. He is a single father with four kids. We have a better relationship now than we used to have, and we help each other out when needed.
My other brother, Lazaro, died when he was six months old in 1989. I was only seven. I helped my mother take care of him all the time. He was a great baby!
My sister, Esmeralda, is the youngest. She is the only one of us who was born in the United States. I took care of her while I was still living with my parents. We did not have much of a relationship because my father would tell her not to talk to me or my husband. Now that she is in college, we are starting to see and talk to each other more often.
All of my siblings remained in the United States. My brothers are all married and live close to my parents. My whole family still lives in Iowa.