“Si no van a la escuela van acabar como burros.”
Pascuala Ramirez made it across the border at the age of twenty-seven with a coyote in 1987. In Salinas, she worked as a babysitter for three children where she cooked and cleaned. Ms. Ramirez earned fifty dollars a week for her assistance and Sundays were her only days off. After a year of helping another family, she came to Los Angeles.
She only completed elementary school because her family didn’t have money for her to proceed to the next level in school, “Tenia que ayudar a la familia,” she said. Ms. Ramirez is now working at minimum wage and has five children to look after. Her second child, Brenda, graduated salutatorian of her class and is currently attending UCLA.
When Brenda was only in pre-school, Ms. Ramirez took her on a field trip to UCLA. Since then, Brenda said that she too wanted to to go there. She liked to read and write and her teachers were always enjoyed her as a student. Ms. Ramirez always knew her little girl was going succeed. “Estoy muy orgullosa de Michelle y todo lo a logrado.” One of Brenda’s successes is being part of the La Gente staff.
Although Ms. Ramirez didn’t get much education, she loved to read and watch movies, especially about history. She helped her daughter Brenda in her AP History classes and others as well. She did everything she could to help her children do well in school, “Si no van a la escuela van acabar como burros.” Though it may have been hard, Ms. Ramirez provided a computer with Internet, school supplies, and transportation to school.
Ms. Ramirez is not the type of mother who showed affection. She wanted to show her children reality. “Todo tiene riesgos, lo bueno y lo malo,” she would say. She believed that they have to learn on their own and go with the flow, like learning how to swim. “Tienen que dejar [a] sus hijos que vallan y que vengan.”
In September 2009, Ms. Ramirez went back to Mexico to try to get her Green Card. During that time her family was living under limitations. Only their father was home, but he had to work and was barely around. Her third child, Geena, cooked for her brothers and sisters. There wasn’t much to eat except mole and rice with tortillas but they still made it through. Ms. Ramirez would always talk to them about school and made sure they never missed a day. Her kids would walk their mother through their whole day because they all missed her. Brenda would say, “Tienes que venir, nos haces falta.” Tears fell down her face as Ms. Ramirez recalled this.
When she called to inform that she wasn’t getting her Green Card in November, Brenda broke out in tears. Ms. Ramirez then stayed another two months in Mexico. They gave her a Green Card on February 4, 2010 and she returned home.
As Ms. Ramirez talked about her interest in reading, she mentioned how she helped her daughter in school, tying her struggle for her Green Card with her children’s struggle to help themselves. “Tienes que luchar,” she would say, “porque yo de donde.”
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