Signed, An El Paso Border Girl
100 years ago, a young Zacatecas woman crossed the Rio Grande into America with nothing more than the clothes on her back.
This young woman did not know what her future plans were. She didn’t know if she would have children, what her occupation would be or even what she really wanted out of life.
All she knew was that once she made it out of Mexico into America, she would never leave.
She didn’t know the English language. She sure didn’t know American currency. She didn’t know anything about American culture or way of life.
And yet there was no second thought to her decision. All she was holding onto was a dream. She wanted a better life and opportunity for herself. Everything that America promises to do.
Little did she know how far her decision would go. It would go on to influence generations to come, including myself. Her decision would give way to opportunities she never dreamed possible in rural Mexico.
This woman was a great grandmother. Her name was Dona Elena. And I’m very grateful to this woman.
I’m a third generation American. I’ve never really gave much thought into who gave me my birthright, other than early memories of visiting her in an elderly hospice home and her fondness for ice cream and mashed potatoes. She died an old woman, almost 94 years old. She died speaking Spanish and English and was proud of her birth place and her forever home. I wish I had asked her all of the questions before I became really became intrigued about my lineage. I remember her being a very proud American. It took years for her to become a citizen, almost fifteen years since she crossed that border line marked in sand and over the Rio Grande. The minute she made it to America, she never ventured further. El Paso, Texas is where she laid down roots and where it blossomed. I’m pretty sure she never fathomed her son traveling to Hawaii on a cruise, or her grandchildren going to college or even her great grandchildren getting their masters degrees and living in New York or traveling abroad to see the world. And yet that’s exactly what happened. One dream gave way to so many more.
And I never even thanked her for it.
It sounds weird right? Why would I thank a woman for crossing a border 100 years ago when she wasn’t even thinking about me? I wasn’t in the picture. Neither was my mother or even her son.
But I can’t help but feel gratitude towards this woman. Why? She gave me my birthright as an American. I never have to question my freedom, my liberty, or my opportunities because I was born and I live in the very land that offers it.
To any American reading this, I want you to think of who gave you the same opportunity. Do you know the name or face of who gave you the privilege of being American? Why said person did they come to America? Where they thinking of you in their decision? Do know the answers to these questions?
Probably not. And if you do, how do you feel about your ancestor giving you what you have now? Imagine a life without America and think how drastically different it would be.
The idea of nativism in America is so honestly ridiculous right now, especially in our tense political climate. I don’t understand nativism or the entitlement since no one really earned it, other than the people who sought to come to America. Every American should know the story of America. It’s a land of immigrants who never came legally. They just claimed the land as their own. And it’s funny how entitled some Americans have grown, especially to the very point of nativism. No one is native to this country, unless one is Native American. Everyone’s ancestor never came legally, as the first immigration law happened in 1882 and just grew more complicated since then. There is no real way of coming to this country legally without actually being here illegally. And if you want to know more about immigration law and history, please visit my other article linked here. https://medium.com/@theperfectlyimperfectsoul/a-border-girl-who-is-fed-up-918b93527230
My point on this article isn’t about nativism. Or even immigration. It’s about the very people who gave every American who lives here, some including themselves the American Dream. Someone gave every American the gift of being born here; a real treasure and privilege. But does that mean we forsake it or believe we are entitled because we were simply born here? Our country is only 241 years old. We are baby nation in comparison to the rich histories across the pond. And it seems like we can’t get our act together. Our nation is divided on an issue that has been the very scapegoat of presidents before that never sought resolve. Entitlement, bitterness, racial bigotry, political discord and the corruption of fake news feed our mass media daily, and you know something?
I’m tired. I’m weary. And I’m pissed off.
Our president has a way with words. And I’m putting that as nicely as possible. His way with words can either influence or create utter disdain amongst the masses. That takes a….. “special” talent.
And before anyone questions my political association: I am a moderate. I am not a strong hold liberal or a diehard conservative. I believe in what the creation of the two party system and what it was meant to stand for which is compromise. (It’s unfortunate we see very little of that in politics today)
But this week in the President’s Union Address, Trump made a false claim about my hometown.
He claimed that El Paso only became one of the safest cities in the nation with the border fence in Operation Gatekeeper.
And to that I say what a load of bullshit. Excuse my Texan French, but there is no polite way of saying that.
How dare a president use my city, my hometown to promote his political agenda and his failed promises to the America people. His longing for remembrance and legacy will not happen with any wall or scapegoating on the crisis of immigration. Especially not in the false interpretation he gave the nation about El Paso.
It’s home. And the proud people of El Paso who know it’s safe, who grew up here did not take the president's words lightly. If Trump really believes in El Paso’s safety record, he better understand that El Pasoans will do anything to protect and shelter our safe city, including from the false narrative our president said in his address. If Trump wanted a spotlight, he sure in hell did in the wrong spot. He will well aware of that come Monday evening when he visits.
Mi Corazon (My heart) beats to the very rhythm of this city. This city has always had a low crime rate and friendly hospitality, neither which has changed with the overpriced, eyesore of a fence we see on the border highway. El Paso is a socio economic hub of cultures; a mish mash of blended unity. It’s honestly a beautiful mess of bad drivers but incredible people who have empathy for one another. We live in unison. El Paso is the mecca of what the American Dream is all about. It’s a city flourishing with a variety of cultures, due mainly to our sister city of Ciudad Juarez and our large Ft. Bliss army base. I see an array of ethnicities and cultures promoted daily. There is civility and shared understanding amongst the melting pot of El Paso. We are a proud people who love this city. Anyone who is from this city knows they will always be welcomed back with open arms in the form with a glittering star atop the Franklin Mountains. There is no other town in the world quite like El Paso. It’s an experience all on its own. You cannot sum up El Paso. It’s its own beautiful array of sunshine, mountainous landscape and really good border Mexican food. Many of El Paso citizens have stories similar to mine. Where their roots were laid and how they grew and blossomed. Many never left El Paso because of its endearing qualities and many generations return when they endeavor out into America.
El Paso is where dreams are made. It’s one of many border cities where dreams come true for many seeking a better life and opportunities.
It’s where my great-grandmother made her dreams possible and mine as well.
I will never forget that El Paso gave me the privilege of being an American citizen because it gave that very gift to Dona Elena 100 years ago.
This place was great-grandmother’s forever home.
Where roots were laid and where mine lie as well.
Our city has always been safe. No wall or fence will or ever has deterred that statistic. I have no fear living here.
My great-grandmother lived here for over 85 years.
My grandparents lived here for over 75 years.
My parents live here now.
And I do too.
That will never change.
When you finish this article, I want you to reflect on your own hometown and all of the opportunities America has given you by being an American citizen. Then I want you to think of the person who gave you that birthright or opportunity to be a citizen. Imagine your life without America and without someone’s sacrifice to give you the opportunity of freedom you have now. I want you to think about how America started and where it is presently as far immigration and border security goes. And then when you have that opportunity, I want you to look up El Paso and look up the correct facts for our city’s safety record and how El Paso created a lasting relationship with Juarez.
And then lastly, I want you to look up El Paso’s reactions to Trump’s words tonight after his MAGA rally and the march in protest to his words.
It will be all too easy to see where El Paso stands. Be on the lookout America. It’s our time to shine.
And to end a few choice words for our President.
If you think for minute that El Paso is going to idly stand by while your promote your inaccurate representation of our city for the nation to hear, you are sadly mistaken. You will lose this fight because the minute America sees no crisis on the border; you have nothing to back you up. America will see nothing on Monday evening but the beautiful city built up by the legacy of immigrant dreamers and the generations upon generations who will march peacefully against your rhetoric.
You are one voice. But we are many.
We don’t forget where we come from and who brought us here. Our generations are close enough to remember who gave us our American Dream.
The question is do you?
A Border Girl