L: Can you describe a typical day for a woman versus a man? You can use your mother and father, or just the typical man and woman when you were living in Guanajuato?
V: Now things are different, but when I was living there a typical day for a woman was: Get up at 5 in the morning to wash dishes if they were not done the night before, sweep the floors, grind the cooked corn to make tortilla, make tortillas, cook breakfast, feed the pigs/chickens, carry water from the well to the home, wash dishes, cook lunch, wash dishes, take the lunch to the husband/children who were doing chores in the mountains, gather dry wood and carry it back home, cook dinner, cut the kernels off, boil them, feed the family dinner, carry water from the well to the house, wash dishes, and go to sleep. A man would get up later than the woman, milk the goats, eat breakfast, let the goats out pasture in the mountains, come back at the end of the day and eat dinner and go to sleep. There were exceptions. For example, my grandfather would help my grandmother carry the water from the well to the house, he would also cook and do many things that were expected of a woman, but not of a man. In my case, since my father was not with us I was the one in charge of milking the goats.
L: Can you describe your relationship with your parents as a child and present day?
V: Well… I never had much of a relationship with my father when I was growing up or now. It is my understanding that he started coming to the United States in 1980. He used to come and go because back then it was much easier to cross the border. I know this is going to sound harsh, but it’s how it happened. He used to go and every time he went he used to get my mother pregnant, come back to the U.S and he would go back for the child’s birth. I remember he would arrive with a lot of stuff…fabric, fruit, etc. and give it to everyone that live 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 (my grandparent’s son, her husband left her and their kids). I also remember him spanking me with a wet rope because it was believed that a wet rope hurts more than a dry one because I did not feed a pig on time. Another 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 he did to 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. Then he got very mad when I married someone he did not approve of and he told me that I was dead for him along with many other things that were not so nice. 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 I will do it. Other than that, there is no communication. My mother has always been very submissive. She does what my father orders and when my father was not around my father’s mother would give her orders. She provided for me the basic needs while growing up. She cooked and fed me probably when I was unable to. 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 we 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 picked.
L: How many siblings do you have? Can you tell me a little bit about your connection to each of them?
V: I have four siblings alive, one died when he was 6 months old in 1989. My oldest brother, Miguel’s character is very similar to my dad’s and we get along, but we do not have a great relationship. He has three children. When he were in Mexico he spanked me with his belt a few times too since he was the oldest once he grew up he took the role of the man of the house. Once 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 he could do it, but he thought it was my job since I was a woman and he wasn’t. I think that we are not very close because of he is very similar to my dad. Also, 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 and see and most of the times he does not like what I have to say. My second brother, Gustavo, is very different. He is very laid back and open minded. We get along great. It was never like this though. We used to fight a lot when we were growing up. We would fight all the time, but 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 was growing 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 then we would be talking to each other as if nothing had happened. He was my prom date during my junior year, he drove me to Iowa State University to take the ACT there. When I had family events at Iowa State he was the one who attended them. When I studied abroad he was the one taking me to the airport and the one picking me up from the airport. He would buy food for me while I was in college and had no food. He was and he 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 younger brother, Alvaro. He used to throw rocks at me while growing up in Mexico all the time. He had and has a very bad temper. He is a single father with four kids. We have a better relationship now than we used to have. We help each other when the needed. My other brother, Lazaro, died when he was six months old in 1989. I was seven! I helped my mother take care of him all the time. Great baby! My sister, Esmeralda, is the youngest and she was the only one 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.
L: You mentioned that you want your son to know both English and Spanish; how do you think that knowing both languages has shaped your life? How do you think it will help him?
V: To me, being bilingual, is one of the best things that could have happened to me. It has enabled me to adapt and appreciate my life in the U.S and knowing Spanish is a reminder/appreciation of where I come from. People have asked me if I am embarrassed of my accent when I speak English. I tell them that at some point I was, but now I have learned to see that as an asset. I tell them it is a reminder of where I come from, where I am at, and where I plan to go. Being bilingual has also opened many doors for me. I am sure it played a huge role in all of the different jobs I have held, especially those after graduating from Iowa State. Being bilingual will give my son a great advantage because he could learn another language that it is not English or Spanish. It will also communicate with people from both cultures and just like me, will be able to see the good and the bad of both sides. He will be able to help both English and Spanish speakers. It will also be easier for him to obtain jobs since he might be multilingual. My goal is to prepare him to be better off than I am and I think that having him be bilingual is a good start.
L: Can you elaborate on your plans to run away to avoid coming to the United States? Do you remember where you were going to go and how you were going to run away?
V: There was a guy who happened to be my husband’s cousin who used to tell me that he loved me. I did not like him at all, but I was willing to run away with him so that I would not have to come to the United States. I had plan to run away with him two weeks after we left. My father never told us when we were going to leave so I thought we still had more time. I am glad we didn’t though! I will always be thankful to my father for bringing us to the United States.
L: What is your favorite memory from high school? Do you have a least favorite?
V: I have a lot of favorite memories from high school. For example, my E.S.L teacher, Agriculture teacher, and the Janitors were always there to offer me their support. I did not have a good support system at home, but I had a wonderful one in school. My Agriculture teacher who was also the FFA advisor would spend countless hours helping me prepare for my public speaking competitions. Yes, I was doing public speaking when I had been in this country for 3 year…it was bad, but my teacher was very patient and practiced with me A LOT. It was great to attend the National FFA Convention in Louisville, Kentucky y for the first time and also to be in the soil judging team that made it to nationals. The least favorite memory that I have from high school is all the bullying I suffered because of my accent. The 4 years were difficult because the Spanish speakers who were in E.S.L felt that I believe I was better than them because I got out of E.S.L sooner than they did. Those who were English speakers would not talk to me because of my accent. I had a feeling that I did not belong anywhere. I think that is why I enjoyed being in the FFA organization so much. Being in it gave me a sense of belonging.
L: What is your favorite memory from college? Do you have a least favorite?
V: The years I spent at Iowa State University were great. I enjoyed every single moment; the study abroad, the courses, the extracurricular activities, jobs, walking across the stage at graduation…first generation ever in my family history to attend college, etc… but if I had to pick one maybe the long hours I spent using a dictionary so I could understand the course content.
L: Can you tell me a little bit about your time between attending Iowa State and Drake?
V: Right after graduating from Iowa State University, I started working for Specialty Foods Group as a Quality Assurance Auditor. I did that for two years, then I worked in a crisis situation for another 2 years. After that, I obtained a job as a Program Coordinator and Advocate for L.U.N.A in Des Moines, Iowa. Once the position was terminated I did volunteer work at Drake Legal Clinic for almost a year then a position opened and I applied for it. Once I was working, one of my co-workers became my mentor and walked me through the whole process of applying to Grad school. I was admitted to Drake University College of Business and Public Administration and started classes in January 2014.
L: Can you tell me the story of how you met your husband?
V: My husband and I grew up together. His family lived close to where my family lived…a 20 min walk. We used to attend the same church and would play together. After I was brought to the U.S, I did not see him for 4 years. Then I went back to Mexico to visit and briefly saw him and talked to him. Then I came back and did not see him again for 5 years. In 2004 I went to do an internship in Mexico and since I was there I was able to attend my cousin’s graduation. It just happened that his two brothers were graduating in the same class. We saw each other again and started talking to each other more often. At the end of my internship we started dating long distance. Then he came to the United States in 2005 and we married in 2006, the weekend before my graduation.