Who am I? Where am I going? Why do they hate me? Do they have reasons to hate me? Why do I want to be here so much?
I have struggled with these questions my adult life, desperately wanting direction in my life, wanting to know what was expected of me. I am lost in a chaotic world, where in one side they tell me, you are not American, you crossed the border.
I am torn between the country that gave me birth, and the nation which forges my soul, made me strong, and showed me that nothing is above principles. I have lived 16 years of my 21 years in the United States of America, I bleed red, blue, and white as well as green. I migrated to the US when I was 6 years old. I am Mexican, because my mother is Mexican, I could never deny that, Mexico though rough forged my mother, and I must acknowledge where I came from in order to know where I am going. Why am I American? Who decides what is American? What does it mean to be American? How does it feel to have your dreams crushed? How does it feel to fail your parents?
I don’t know what is to be an American; I thought I knew, but that idea was shattered when the financial advisor at ASU said I am sorry your scholarship is discontinued. She felt my pain, I can remember that day as it was yesterday, it was a gloomy February morning, it had rained earlier and I sat on a bench watching the students head to class, shocked and devastated. I cried, but no tears came out, I yell in anger, but no noise was heard, I promised myself that I will prove them wrong. I will succeed.
History has taught us, a man’s bones may be crushed, but his spirit will endure all. My spirit is strong, no matter how many legislation, bills, laws, says that I am un-American. I will tell them what it is to be American. I migrated when six years old to a new land, mastered a new Language, a new way of leaving. My life is dream. A dream of a mother seeking a better life for her children, a dream of a sister not wanting the dreams of her little brother be crushed as were hers, the dream of a brother refusing to lose hope as he did. His brother now works in the hot Arizonan summers, desperately trying to better his life. The Dream of a father, who too often was told that he couldn’t succeed, too often that he too believed it. I am the hopes and dreams of a community. I remember the summer of 2006; it was then that I realized I had what it took to be a college man.
My teachers had always told me, you should go to go college be an engineer, be a mathematician, or be a historian. I knew I had potential, but I never thought I belong with ranks of the college people. Until then, when my sister told me will be the first in our family to attend college. She looked squarely in the eye, she said “Rafita tu vas hacer el primero que se gradué de la universidad de esta familia,” with such certitude that I haven’t doubted it since. Earlier that day I had cried out of frustration.
All my life I had been able to solve math problems, yes I had my fair share of difficulty mastering Algebra, but nothing like Calculus. I received A on my last 3 exams of the course, after having received 2 D’s, one 2 C and a B on my previous exams. I finished the course with a B, the proudest grade I have ever received till date. He graduates with promise, but its only promise. He is lucky, pursues a college education.
I ask do you understand the harshness of reality outside the US? Don’t you understand the adversity that DREAM students face? Don’t you understand the improbability of a kid from Guanajuato, Mexico obtaining a college education? When no-one is his family could, when no-one ever believed he could. Do you understand that in order to provide for his family at age 13 he woke up at 4am on Saturday mornings to work in construction with his father? Don’t you understand that 120 degrees for him is nothing, but a mindset?
For he can’t come home as a failure, how could he fail his family. He comes come battered, bruised, burn, exhausted, but proud. That pride carries his dreams to reach college. He can’t imagine another summer like this one. Sadly, more summers keep on coming. He builds Fulton homes, Shea homes, and customs in north Scottsdale for those who hate him, all the while dreaming of time where he will be able to live in one of those. He excels in school, he knows too much to fail. He knows the life that awaits him if he doesn’t succeed. He succeeds; graduates top ten of his graduating class, math student of the year, social studies student of the year, with 21 college hours, with full-ride scholarships, attends prestigious summer programs like John Hopkins center for talented youth, as well as, the Math Science Honors Program at ASU.
There is a glaring difference for him above all else, he is illegal. All those nights studying are for nothing. Prop 300 did what the desert couldn’t, broke his spirit. His story doesn’t end there, it can’t, he won’t let it end. He was overcome so much, his family has sacrificed too much to give up now. His fortitude will not be broken, his dream will continue. There is no reason to be afraid. No reason to try and fail. Failure is only a word, that you give significance when you acknowledge it. Failure is you giving up on yourself. Life will go on.