Being Mexican can be a challenge. Many people that immigrate to the United States grew up in their home countries wanting to leave and live “The American Dream,” my mother being one of them. She is one of the many Mexican women who have strong stories to tell. My mother was born and raised in Morelos, Mexico until she left her home at the age of 19 and risked her life to immigrate to the United States. She wanted a better life and to help her family financially. In her eyes, the only way was to move to the land where there are many opportunities. 

My mother often reminisces about her childhood and shares these stories with my sisters and me. I am inspired by the stories she shares about her life and our family in Mexico. One of the stories she told me when I was young was about how she and her sisters would look out for each other and never think about themselves. My mother’s family did not have much. When her sisters would go to school, my mother would sell fruit along with the other vendors to make money for her and her sisters. After visiting Mexico three times, I learned that childhood is different there. I realized that the simplest thing can make a child happy, leaving them with many bright memories. 

My mother passes on the many lessons of kindness and sisterhood that she learned from her mother. My grandmother was known in their town as the most generous person. My mother adores my grandmother’s reputation and tells my sisters and I to always be kind to people. My mother, my sisters, me, and all the other Mexican women in my life, are a part of the same sisterhood. We share the same blood and we value it. There have been ups and downs in my family ever since the COVID-19 pandemic, but at the end of the day, no matter what occurs, we all support each other. My mother always tells my sisters and me that it’s important to care and look out for each other. As the oldest I will always be on top of it. I’m proud of being a Mexican woman; sharing my culture, and carrying on the legacy and wisdom of my Mexican heritage.

My mother hugs my little sister while she cries on our way home from the Bay Plaza Mall.

My mother has many old photographs of when I was a child, when she was a child, her teenage years, and of our extended family. Looking at them made me realize why our culture is referred to as “La Raza de Oro.” 

The eagle on the Mexican flag represents “The Perfect Spot.” When the Aztecs were searching for a place to build their city, they spotted the eagle and knew that where they were was where they belonged. You can take us anywhere and we will build a home.

The window on my building floor never fails to let golden hour peak under my apartment door. I rarely notice it but, when I do, I run for the perfect photoshoot chance.

“I am not your perfect Mexican daughter” pretty much sums up the role I play in my Mexican family. Being the oldest daughter in a Mexican household with immigrant parents can be a rollercoaster. There are a lot of expectations that we’re supposed to achieve and it feels like the weight is on my back. From translating documents, to helping my sisters and being the second mom, to applying to colleges--while also being first generation to do so. It can be so confusing because everything is so new to me and also to them. It can be a huge challenge to consciously fit the perfect Mexican daughter role. I don’t let it get to me too much because I know that my family loves me regardless of my flaws. And I wouldn’t change being the oldest for anything, I can’t even imagine how that life would be.

My sister’s finger painting of flowers.

We were walking home from school when I noticed that my sisters were wearing complementary colors--and each other’s favorite colors. Dulce is wearing blue and Jeimy is in pink. They laughed after I told them that. 

My mother prepares to make us pozole, a traditional Mexican soup made with meat, white corn, and a lot of seasoning. My mother makes it at least twice each season, from fall through summer. I don’t even care what the weather is like because this dish has, and will always be, in my life.

In quarantine there really was not much to do. I felt like I was behind a screen every single day.

My shadow on the wall of my sister’s room; I spend a lot of time there. I used to always play around with the lighting and try to make funny figures with my fingers, body--anything, really. It was super easy to make a butterfly with my hands and have it stand out on my wall as the sunlight was on it. Now, you see me.

My sister Rosita places a crown on Jeimy to celebrate her 16th birthday. Jeimy wasn’t able to have a Quinceañera or a Sweet 16 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so we instead had a photoshoot at home to celebrate.

My family, when we were all in a new beginning. The bottom left photo shows us in our hometown in Arizona celebrating Christmas. A few years later, we moved to New York. The photos next to and above the Christmas photo are my sisters and I at church when we were young. The photograph front and center is of my mother. She’s the head of the house and without her we would not be anywhere.

My mother had visions when she was a little girl. She wanted to achieve “The American Dream.” I asked her if she felt like she accomplished it:

“Gracias a Dios hoy en día logre a cumplir lo que es parte de mi sueño aunque falta pero logre lo más importante en crear mi propia familia y tener uno de los más grandes sueños, tener un estatus inmigratorio que es mi residencia permanente eso es el más grande sueño americano hecho en realidad.” 

She waited 3 decades for her dream to come true.

My sister Jeimy watching “New Girl” on Netflix.

I remember when my mother bought this frame. I chose to be the one to pick the photographs and arrange them. My parents went first; they’re the start of it all. I, being the oldest, went next. Then my sister Jeimy, my sister Rosita, and, last but not least, my sister Dulce. Funny how we each got to be in the frame that is our favorite color.

In our culture, a Quinceañera is not only a celebration, but a special rite of passage for young Mexican girls. My sister Jeimy was not able to have a Quinceañera or Sweet 16 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. So we had a little celebration for her, with just us as a family.

Cherry blossoms are a symbolic flower of the spring, a time of renewal, and the fleeting nature of life. It reminds me of a song verse: 

“All of the wishes that you begged from the star
They will come true
Ya no quiero que llores
The universe is gonna give you muchas flores
Quítate ese miedo
You'll be a lot more trust me, yo te entiendo”

A photograph of my mother taken on her Quinceañera in 1996 alongside my Quinceañera in 2019. Everyone has always told me that I look just like my mother when she was my age and hearing that a million times will always make me happy. Seeing them side by side makes me feel emotional. My mother used to be just like me. Crazy how time flies by, but traditions never die.

Never in my 17 years of life did I think that my Mexican mother would let me dye my hair a bold color. She always told me that our hair is special and unique in our culture so she never wanted us to change or ruin it. You can imagine my surprise when she let me dye my hair so many times during 2020. I love that she was able to put our reputation as the “strict Chrsitian family” aside and let me try to explore creating different versions of myself to be able to figure out who I am. She always tells me, “la belleza cuesta.”

I always joke with my sisters about if we never moved from Arizona to the Bronx, we would be those suburban girls whose dream was to move to New York. The Bronx is our home and it’s not perfect, but there are others who are just like us here and that is what makes us feel like we belong here. 

My mother has always had a special connection to roses. They were my grandmother’s favorite, her favorite, and are also my favorite flower. Roses symbolize love and fidelity. My mother’s hands represent serenity, kindness, and ambition. It reminds me of the poem called “The Rose that Grew from Concrete” by Tupac.

“Did you hear about the rose that grew
from a crack in the concrete?
Proving nature's law is wrong it
learned to walk with out having feet.
Funny it seems, but by keeping its dreams,
it learned to breathe fresh air.
Long live the rose that grew from concrete
when no one else ever cared.”

In my family of Mexican women, I asked them: “What does it mean to be a Mexican woman?’ 

“Ser una mujer mexicana significa ser una mujer luchadora y esforzada para poder sacar adelante nuestra familia que es lo más importante.” - My mother Elizabeth

“Being a Mexican woman means to be a strong, hardworking, smart, kind, beautiful, amazing woman. ” - My sister Jeimy

“To overcome obstacles to be able to give your family a better life.” - My sister Rosita

“To be a wonderful little girl that enjoys her culture and experiences more about being Mexican.” - My sister Dulce.

Using Format