The Mexican dream lives in Colorado
To explore the dilemma surrounding immigrants in Colorado, newspapers from Colorado Mountain News Media and the Greeley Tribune created a series of stories that runs Mondays for eight weeks. This is the fifth installment. Correspondents reported from the resort areas of Vail, Aspen and Breckenridge, to the bedroom communities of the Roaring Fork Valley and the agricultural city of Greeley. Another writer spent time in northern Mexico, visiting the towns from which many of Colorado’s immigrants originate.EDWARDS – It took Enrique C. three attempts to get in the United States. The first time, he almost died after a week walking in the Arizona desert. A week later, he tried again, failed and became very ill in Texas. The third time, he made it through the border by jumping on a moving cargo train.”I had to pay $2,000 to come in, but this time I passed very fast, and I only had to spend one night sleeping outside,” said the man from Pachuca Hidalgo, Mexico, who now lives in Edwards.Enrique, who asked that his last name be withheld, remembers those days with apprehension, especially when he thinks about the hundreds of Mexicans who died last summer trying to cross the border.”I didn’t know how dangerous it would be,” Enrique said. “We were one week in the desert walking without water and food. The person who had to pick us up didn’t come, so we kept walking. At one point we wanted to turn ourselves in to the “migra” [immigration authorities] so they would take us back to Mexico, but they didn’t want to take us.”At last, a patrol came by and took Enrique and his family to a holding pen in the middle of the desert.”It was under the sun. We were held there like animals,” he said. “Kids, babies, women, old people.”A new landDespite those experiences, Enrique said he became desperate when he got back to Mexico. His girlfriend had had a baby a year earlier, and he decided to leave his studies at the university, hoping to make more money for his new family in the U.S.Enrique finally made it to the Vail Valley in 2004, where he worked with his father doing landscaping. He saved $9,000 and returned home in the winter, building a new house for his girlfriend and daughter.This year, Enrique returned with plans to save more. He started his own landscaping business, bought a truck and got 30 of his own clients. In the summer, he had so much work that sometimes he had to hire other Mexicans to help him out. “I came to work,” said Enrique, who lives with his father and younger brother at the Eagle River Mobile Park in Edwards. “I don’t like living here, but I need to do this for my family, for my future.”Most weeks in the summer, Enrique worked every day – even holidays.”If I want I don’t need to work, but if I can work it’s better,” he said.Though he works hard, sometimes Enrique can’t cash his paychecks at the bank.”I can’t open a bank account,” said Enrique, who doesn’t have a U.S. driver’s license or the matricula consular an identification card for Mexicans living in the country. The problem is the documents, he said.”You need a Social Security number for everything,” he added.Living the dream?Enrique, 20, is quiet and thin. Though he usually wears worn-out clothes to work, he has a stack of nice shirts and elaborate belts, which he wears after his 10-hour workdays. Enrique said his life in the United States is boring since his friends are all in Mexico. “I’m not the way other Mexicans are,” he said. “Many do drugs. Many don’t care about a job because they don’t have a family yet.”Enrique’s life in Colorado also isn’t without worries. Every day when he drives to work, he’s afraid the police will stop him.”One time, they pulled me over and I showed [the police] a Mexican driver’s license they let me go,” he said.Then, there’s racism. Enrique loves to play basketball. Through the sport, he said, he meets more Americans and improves his English. But sometimes, when his friends invite him to play at a club in the Vail Valley, he feels discriminated against.”Some players don’t pass me the ball,” he said. “Some won’t even talk to me.”Many Americans, however, are very polite and treat him with respect, he added.Risking for needUnlike last year, Enrique plans to stay in Colorado for the winter. But he doesn’t want to stay forever in the United States. He plans to stay in the Vail Valley for another three years, he said.”I like it here only for work,” said Enrique, who would like to get back together with his girlfriend and daughter. “The Mexican people change here. Instead of working together, there’s a lot of envy among the Mexican. Many don’t allow others to grow. In Mexico, that doesn’t happen. There’s more solidarity there.”Though he’s working hard and making some money, Enrique said he regrets having left school to come to the United States.”I wished I had stayed in school and become a teacher,” he said. “It would have been better. My dad paid for my expenses and wanted me to continue school, but I already had my daughter. Things got complicated.” To many Mexicans wishing to come to the United States, the American dream has become the Mexican dream, Enrique said.”There’s a town close to where my home is in Mexico where there aren’t any men left,” he said. “They all came here. The only ones left are the women.”Two cultures, one lifeOn a snowy November afternoon, five children arrived at Maria’s house from school: her two boys and the daughters of her Latino neighbor, whom she looks after until their parents return from work.Maria and Pedro T. have three children, a two-bedroom condo in Avon and a little dog called Gato. They are Mexican nationals living in the United States for more than 10 years. He is legal, she isn’t. Their three children -ages 10, 7 and 2 months -are American citizens because they were born here. Still, Maria’s two boys feel more Mexican than American, she said.”They say their way is 100 percent Mexican, but not because we tell them,” Maria said. “When Benicio [her eldest son] writes, he writes in Mexican [Spanish] and he likes to listen to Latin music. But he also says he would fight for the United States if he had to.”To Benicio, belonging to two cultures has been somewhat complicated, Maria said. Though he is in fifth grade, he doesn’t speak well in English or Spanish.”The teacher said he was very confused learning both languages at the same time, so now he’s only learning English at school,” she said.Though Tadeo, the youngest boy, says he likes to speak Spanish more than English, he watches cartoons in English, and his favorite foods are burgers and pizza.Anglo vs. Latino?Though she says she doesn’t feel there’s a big separation in the valley between the Anglos and the Latinos, most of Maria and Pedro’s friends are Latinos or Chicanos – of Latino ascent born in the United States – and most of her children’s friends in school are also Latino.”Benicio tells me that when they play in school, for example basketball, all the Latinos get together and play against the Americans,” she said.Maria sees discrimination in the valley, but said she doesn’t care.”People stare at me when I go grocery shopping and fill two carts,” she said.But the discrimination can come from Mexicans as well, she added.”At the beginning, Benicio came back from school saying that some kids from Mexico didn’t want to play with him because he wasn’t Mexican,” she said.’I think about going back some day’Maria emigrated from Mexico to California with her father and siblings when she was 18. She then met Pedro again, whom she’d known since they were teens in Mexico. They married and moved to Colorado, where he worked in construction.Though she’d rather live in Mexico than in the United States, Maria said she’ll stay here for her children.”I think about going back some day,” she said. “But if I leave, they won’t learn English and that’s their language. Also, there’s more opportunities here than in Mexico.”Maria describes life in Mexico as more “suave” (smooth).Girlfriends have more time because they don’t work and husbands don’t work six days a week, like Pedro sometimes does.Also, there’s the language barrier. To Maria, simple things such as going to the doctor can be a challenge, since she speaks very little English.”If I don’t get someone to go with me, sometimes I can’t understand the doctor or he can’t understand me,” she said. “I’ve tried to learn English, but it’s hard for me, and when I was planning to go to school to learn, I got pregnant again.” Luckily, Maria said things also have changed in the United States in the past years. At least now she can watch TV in Spanish.”When I arrived here I cried of depression, there was nothing,” she said. “When I was pregnant with my first son, I cried every day.”Still, there are upsides to living in the United States, she said.”In Mexico you need to battle with financial issues. Money is never enough. Sometimes you don’t have enough to pay for groceries,” she said. “The question is where are you going to get work to pay for the electric bill. Work there isn’t a sure thing. Here, it is.”
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