Juana
I Feel Useless 

I don’t know how useful my story may be because I’ve had it very easy.  I’m a legal resident and my husband has a good job—and there are so many people who have suffered so much to get here, and who are suffering because they're undocumented.  I feel very bad for those people.

 

I’m from a tiny village, really just a small rancho in Zacatecas.   My father owns fifteen or twenty hectares of corn, rice, squash, as well as peaches and pear trees, pines, eucalyptus.  We had chickens for the eggs, which taste much better because our chickens are fed only corn.  My father had fifteen cows, and so all our lives we drank milk and ate cheese.  Our farm was at a fairly high altitude.  We used to walk half an hour to school over the icy ground in winter, without adequate coats to keep us warm.

 

I went through high school, and wanted to go to the university to become a teacher, but my family didn't have the money.  At any rate, I got some training and then became a teacher of kids from about age seven to nine.  I did that for fourteen years, and I was very happy.

 

I got married when I was 35.  My husband is a U.S. citizen, a Mexican from my area, and I came to San Francisco when my child was a newborn, nine years ago.  We went to live with my husband’s family.  We had a bedroom in an apartment shared with my in-laws plus various other people in different rooms.  I was very unhappy there, and after eight months we moved out and got our own one-bedroom place across from San Francisco General Hospital. 

 

Now we have three children, ages 9, 7, and 4.  Two of them go to school over on Bryant Street.  One goes to Cesar Chávez.  We go out very little.  My husband is a carpenter.  For 14 years he worked in a shop here in the city, but now he works in a shop over in Berkeley, and makes $25 an hour.  I don’t work.

 

Adjusting has been very, very hard.  First the adjustment from living on the farm to living in a city.  Then the fact that I was a dedicated schoolteacher for 14 years.  It's very painful for me not to be able to contribute.  I feel useless.  I’ve been very depressed.  I’ve had a headache every day since I arrived in United States.  Maybe it's the change of altitude.  I know it may be depression.

 

I volunteer a lot in my children's school.  Before, I used to take care of the neighbors’ kids, and people would ask me to teach their children to read in Spanish.  I enjoyed doing that.  But now I don’t have any kids to take care of.  I don’t really have any friends, because everyone is out working, and in the evening they have to take care of their families and husbands and so on.  Nobody has time.

 

Before we stop, I want to tell you the story of my brother and his wife.  They got married and had two children here in the United States.  Then they went back to Mexico for a visit.  Coming back, they gave the two small children to another brother who successfully brought the kids across the border. (The kids had documents.)

 

Then my brother and his wife tried to get across the border illegally.  They were caught and put in jail.  His wife was breast-feeding and they kept her in jail for eight days and her breasts were full of milk and she got infections in her breasts and became very sick.  At the same time, the baby, who was about 10 months old, wouldn't eat because she missed her mother.  Out of jail, my brother and sister-in-law tried again to get across the border and this time they were successful.  But by the time they were reunited, both mother and baby were very sick.  It was a terrible hardship.