Nominating Organization: MAKE THE ROAD NEW YORK
ONE of the earliest memories I have in New York City is of scrubbing toilets alongside my mother. She worked as a housekeeper for wealthy families and because she could not afford a babysitter, she would often take me with her. I would do my homework while catching glimpses of my mother as she was dusting television sets or folding bedsheets in homes that we would visit once a week.
My mother and I moved from Puebla, Mexico, to the United States in October 1999, and we have lived in New York ever since. In Puebla, my mother was a lawyer. Here she is part of the pool of undocumented immigrants who facilitate the lifestyles of so many people in the country that she calls home. It feels like we have spent more time in other people’s homes than our own, cleaning, dusting, scrubbing, cooking, the same tasks that many women who migrate to the United States subsist on.
From a young age, I understood my place in the world through the eyes of my mother. Her jobs required her to use cleaning products that burned her skin and blurred her vision. Her knees have scars from all the years scrubbing floors. Housekeepers are the heroes of the immigrant economy — they do their work silently, efficiently, and find money on the table after the job is done. There is no exchange of stories. None of the people whose houses my mom has cleaned know that she was a lawyer, that she is an intellectual and passionate person; they don’t know that she crossed a treacherous border, or that she lives with the constant fear of deportation.
For the last 4 years of my life I have worked as an organizer at Make the Road, working with immigrant youth who like myself, are trying to find themselves, in a country that continuously persecute and incarcerates people of color. Through my special visa, I was able to obtain a green card after 16 years of living undocumented in the country. I am part of the Mexican diaspora, and the older I get the more I realize what I left behind in my country. During a particularly difficult economic time, my mom sent me to Mexico to live by myself for two years. My godmothers and grandmother took care of me and raised me while my mother was in the U.S. I haven't seen my godmother in 14 years and hope to be able to reconnect and repay her for her love and sacrifice as I also understand and reconnect with my roots and my heritage.