- Immigrating to the U.S. from Mexico; differences in how her disability was treated in Mexico and the U.S.United States immigration; U.S. immigration; migration; Mexico; disability; handicap; grammar school; elementary school; primary education; teacher's aides; teachers; bullying; bullied; crossing the border; Texas; journeySUZANNE SERRANO: Hello.
BARBARA ORTEGA: Hello.
SERRANO: Okay, tell us your name please?
ORTEGA: My name is Barbara Ortega.
SERRANO: And how old are you?
ORTEGA: I am 28 years old.
SERRANO: Okay. And you immigrated to the United States, right?
ORTEGA: Yes, I did. My parents brought me here when I had just turned two years old. I turned two years old December of 1986 and I got here in January of 1988.
SERRANO: Okay, well let's start from the beginning. So, tell us about your life in Mexico.
SERRANO: Do your parents remember anything or...
ORTEGA: My life in Mexico, well there's a lot of stories my parents have told me. When I was born, I was born in December 1986. What I've heard the most about my birth is that I was born a very sick baby. I would cry a lot, I would get very high fevers, et cetera. And then my parents decided to take me to the doctor because nothing was helping me. So, on New Year,s Eve of that same year, I was what, like a month old, I got a really bad seizure. And my grandma thought I was gonna die. And after that, everything seemed fine. I don't know, in the Latino culture, your parents or your grandparents go to the Virgin María or, you know, like la Virgin de Guadalupe. Like, “¡Ayúdame!” So my grandma made a petition for me and all of a sudden I got good. So then after that, babies start developing, walking, talking, et cetera. My parents always told me I talk a lot, ever since I was a baby, so pretty much, I started talking but I wasn't walking. That's when things started getting weird.
SERRANO: Okay, so what part of Mexico are you from? Are you coming from?
ORTEGA: I am from León, Guanajuato.
ORTEGA: Guanajuato, México.
SERRANO: Okay, tell me a little bit a little bit about your family, your parents.
ORTEGA: My parents are, you know, very hard-working, you know, Latinos mexicanos. You know, my mom is a stay-at-home mother. My dad works construction, you know. Very hard, we almost don't see him all summer because he's always working. You know, they've always been very supportive of me. Tried to push me forward, trying to make me, you know, a good human being and you know, so far they've done what they can to, like, you know.
SERRANO: So, you came with them when you guys came to the United States?
ORTEGA: Yes. Well, yeah. They crossed the border, you know, illegally. I was, you know, illegal, too, and we came because of me. Because I was, you know, diagnosed with...well, when we came we didn't know what it was. I was just not walking or doing anything a one-year-old, two-year-old was supposed to. So, they brought me over here for, you know, medical treatment. My mom had already been in Chicago because she grew up part of her life over here because she actually emigrated since she was about six years old. My...
ORTEGA: My grandpa, but brought all his children, you know, to Chicago and she had already lived here part of her life, but then they went back when she was 16 and that's where she met my dad. So, she brought my dad over here. And they started this whole journey.
SERRANO: Oh, okay. That's cool.
SERRANO: Do you think it would have been different if you would have stayed in Mexico?
ORTEGA: I think about it a lot of the time and who knows how my life would have been? I know that my family, you know, it's very different being disabled here and, unfortunately, being disabled in Mexico because a lot of people, they still get very scared if they see you can't do certain things as other people. They don't know how to react. So, I honestly don't know. I feel like, as far as my family makes me feel, I don't think I would have ever been different, like, in their eyes, but I do think, like, as you know, maybe growing up and, like, you know, getting, like, a job would have been, like, very hard for me. Because my parents decided to move back to Mexico when I was about 10 years old, nine, ten years old, and I noticed, like such a difference. You know here, unfortunately, like I mean not unfortunately here, but here, you got all the care you needed since you were a child. You know, if you needed help, you know, like the person who helps you, helps you, but they don't baby you. And as soon as I got to Mexico, it was a cultural impact because I didn't know, like, a word of Spanish. I spoke English in the household. Like all my life, since kindergarten, I was in English; no bilingual and I only knew the Spanish my parents would, you know, speak to me and then I got over there. I didn't know any Spanish, you know. My teachers, you know, they're not educated to deal with, like, disabilities. So, it was, it was a bit, you know, depressing. It was super hard for me. So, it makes me think, "What if I would have stayed over there? How would my life would have been?" I think it would have been twice as hard as it is here.
SERRANO: So, you're saying that there's more opportunity here and there's more help and...
ORTEGA: As far as, you know, it's unfortunate. I don't know. I haven't been to Mexico in, what, 15 years now, so maybe things have changed. But as far as when I got over there, back in 1994, what I noticed was there was a lot of isolation, you know, for me. I think my mom, you know, she had to, like fight, fight for me in a way like to make teachers see me as normal as they could. Yeah, because I you know, my disability. It's my walking impairment. So they, you know, like sometimes I couldn't run as fast as the kids. Like my teacher would just tell me, "No, no. Sit here. Like for gym class. He wouldn't let me out for recess. He's like, "Oh, I don't want to get sued." And you know, that would make me feel like really bad. So, my mom would, like, kind of like every week, she would have, like, a meeting with the teachers in Mexico. So I don't know. Maybe things have changed now. You know, 15 years is a long time. I don't want to speak, you know, bad about, like, my country or, you know, about the people that live there but...I'm not saying they're bad people. They're just not educated. And I think, you know, disabilities, it's still a taboo. So yeah.
SERRANO: Okay. Well, that's good. Um, when you when you guys crossed the border, you guys came directly to Chicago?
ORTEGA: From what I remember, the first time we went to...what was it? Ciudad Juarez and stayed with like a lady. And then, yeah, we took the plane to Chicago and we got here. I just remember it being really cold.
ORTEGA: Yeah, but from what...that's from what I hear, like, from my parents, you know? The second time we crossed the border in Tamaulipas. Like yeah, and we crossed the border to Texas. I forgot what part of Texas. You know, Texas is really big. But yeah, we crossed the border there and then my aunt and uncle came to pick to pick me, my mom, and my brother up and we drove to Chicago.
SERRANO: Okay. And had you guys moved a lot in Chicago or were you guys in the same place most of your life?
ORTEGA: Most of my life from—well, from what I remember—I know my parents have told me we've lived most of my life in the South Side. We've lived in, you know, 26th Street, Ashland, and then we came over here, you know, by 47th by Brighton Park. So, after that move, we've stayed here. We haven't moved anywhere
SERRANO: So, what was your experience in elementary school? Like, like, you know how you were telling me like your disability and was it almost the same, too, over here or did, like, the teachers give you more opportunity to, you know, go out to recess or be like the other kids?
ORTEGA: Oh, here. Definitely here. I think I was even pushed more to my boundaries. I've always been a very independent, you know, child and I think that comes from my mother. My mother has never treated me as you know, "You have a disability" or, "You can't do that." Maybe sometimes, you know, with like, "No, it might be dangerous. Don't go out too late." But as far as like doing chores, she's like, "No. Do the dishes." But when I got here from elementary school, it was very different. I had, like, this little this person who was helping me, my aide. And since my grammar school didn't have elevators—because it was already sixth grade. So it was middle school. So, he would walk with me up and down the stairs. Or, like, he would take my book bag. So they would never tell me, "No, you can't take the stairs." No, they would, like, push me to take the stairs. You know, I think what made me feel different this time was that I wasn't such a little girl anymore. I was growing up.
- Learning to advocate for herselfadvocate; advocating; bullying; work; jobs; internships; interviewing; food industry; hosting;ORTEGA: And back when, you know, I was in 6th grade, which was in the 90s, there was still a lot of bullying. You know, now they've put it out like, "Oh, stop bullying."
SERRANO: It's a big issue now.
ORTEGA: It's a big issue now. Like you see it everywhere. I wish they would campaign for it back then because I was bullied a lot in grammar school. And I think that's what made it hard. You know, they were like, "Oh, you walk slow," you know, kids were mean.
ORTEGA: Um, but I think it's helped me, like, become the person I am today. I, you know, I don't let myself down. I tried to impress myself as much as I can. You know if somebody tells me, "Oh, you probably can't do that." I try to prove them wrong and maybe it's bad sometimes, but that's what I do.
SERRANO: What's the thing that motivated you to be better, not let them put you down?
ORTEGA: You know, being a disabled person and a Latina, it's always hard. Especially, like, looking for jobs. I think when I started looking for a jobs. I think that's what gave me, like, my thick skin. You know, grammar school, I would cry a lot to my mom like, "Oh, they're bullying me. They tell me things." You know, I was, like, very naive. I would just cry and, you know, as soon as I got to high school, it was like a different thing. I was so like...I don't know. I feel like when you get to high school, well, at least for me, I was a happy person. You know, you're not only dealing with, like, disabled people. You're also dealing with like, you know, oh, you know, this person just came out. They're gay. So, you just like meet so many new kids. It's like, "Oh, I'm not the only different one." Like it's not so much, like, you don't see the same group every day, especially since I went to a public school that had like six hundred freshmen. And yeah, but what motivated me was when I started getting jobs and like internships, I went to an interview for an internship at Radio Arte because I wanted to, you know...Radio Arte was a local radio station in Pilsen and they would offer free classes for communications as far as, you know, radio broadcasting. And I really wanted to do that. And I think I started, like, becoming tough from there because I know I went to my interview and I felt really confident about it. And I didn't get picked and I was so devastated. Like I told my parents, "I don't understand why it didn't get picked for this program. Like it seems, like, you know... the professor liked me and we got along," you know. But, "What's wrong with me?" And I was just pretty upset like the whole weekend. On Monday night, I got a phone call from the professor and she's like, "Oh Barbara, I just wanted to say that I do want to put you in the program, but I don't know. Do you need any accommodations? Because we can't give you accommodations and we have, like, so many stairs. So that's why we didn't put your name on the list because we didn't know if we could help you." And I was like, "Well, yeah. I mean, maybe I'm a bit slower, but that doesn't stop me from, like, wanting to learn and, you know, and wanting to get to class on time et cetera." So she's like, "Well, before I put your name on the list, I wanted to confirm with you that you were okay taking steps." And I'm like, "Yes, I'm fine," you know. And that's when I started, like, seeing kind of like, you know, it wasn't...I don't think they saw it as discrimination, but. you do...You know, as much as job forms say "we don't discriminate against disabilities, race, religion," sometimes I do feel like it can be like that. You know, I love makeup. I want to be a successful makeup artist and, you know, I don't know can we disclose companies or no?
SERRANO: Go ahead. No, go ahead.
ORTEGA: I went to this interview with this, like, company and you know, I'm not trying to say, "Oh, I have the best personality," but I think I have what it takes to like, you know, bring people in. But I you know, I feel like, I feel like sometimes I have to work harder because they—you know, managers—don't know when they interview you on the phone. You know, how you walk or how you're going to walk in. So they're like, "Oh, okay." Like, they see you and it's like...it's crazy. Like you have to make yourself known even more and you have to prove them that you're strong because if not, I think if you don't do that...It's a bit harder for people with disabilities to get a job. You know, I used to work for Olive Garden a few years back and I heard a lot of rumors. I had my interview sitting down and my boss hired me on the spot. And I came back for my training the following week and the general manager. was upset with my boss because, because he said, "How could she hire me when she didn't even know that I couldn't do the job." But then after four years after that when I decided to leave the company, he got upset with me because he's like, "Oh you're leaving us," you know, and, "you were one of my best, you know, hosts. One of my best employees." So that's why I say, "Never judge a book by its cover."
SERRANO: Yeah, that's true.
- Life as a DREAMer; effects of DACA on work lifeDREAMer; dreamer; Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals; DACA; DACAmented; undocumented; racism; race; discrimination; bigotry; prejudiceSERRANO: So you saw a lot of discrimination. Did you ever, like, encounter racism? Like either in your school or at work or anywhere?
ORTEGA: As far as racism for me, I guess maybe sometimes with schedule changes, you know. Sometimes if a manager is of a certain, you know, race, they give their own people, like, more hours. I guess that's where I know that like where I notice it from. But even as far as, like, with your own people, I think there's a lot of, you know, racism.
SERRANO: Like if you were born in Mexico and not here or like just, nomás así.
ORTEGA: I think in general, but yeah, it has a lot to do with like, también...if, you know, a lot of people tell me that they're surprised right now. I'm...I only work with a DACA, you know, the...I'm with deferred action and a lot of people, you know, in my current job, they're like, "Oh, well, you know, you're like, oh you're a citizen, right? Like, "I just went to become a citizen" and I'm like, "No. No, I'm just working with DACA and they're like, "Oh my God, you look like a white girl." And I'm no, so, yeah, I think...What is another place? Oh, yeah, actually, I had my job at Macy's for like a year. I was so happy that job. I was working with makeup, making people pretty and happy and then all of a sudden, I get a letter and it's like well if you don't you don't renew your Social Security [number] like in a month, we're gonna have to, like, let you go. And oh my God, that was like the worst month ever because you know, I was, I kept calling, like, the immigration lawyer. Like, “When am I going to get it?" Like, "I know I've been approved like, you know, to renew it," but, unfortunately, I couldn't, you know, I couldn't get it. I couldn't get the DACA on time. Like the renewed one. And they let me go. And I think I've seen a lot of, you know, cases like mine and I feel that, in a way, that is discrimination. You know, I know you need, like, a permit to work here, but at least you know, like give us time. It makes...like, everything with immigration takes time, you know. They can't give you your paperwork like one day to another and I think that's what employers need to learn. But, especially with big chains, I think that's like the saddest part, that, you know, they don't care if they lose you because you don't have like, you know, your social or your work permit renewed because they could just get people like that. So that's a big issue to me. That's where I see like that's where I'm most hurt, because that's where I see discrimination and a bit of racism. Because if you can't get...even if you prove to be the best employee, you have the perfect attendance, you have the best sales, if you don't have that Social Security renewed or, you know, that work permit renewed, you're nothing. So I think that's where I see most discrimination and that's where I feel more hurt.
SERRANO: Do you think there should be more change and more laws, like, between that? Like the working and everything?
ORTEGA: Yeah. Um, you know, I appreciate what Obama has done with the whole DACA, deferred action. That has opened so many doors for me it. You know, it even makes me emotional at times because I've fought so hard to be, you know...I went to school. I paid out of my pocket. I got my Associate's degree. Unfortunately, I can't move past that. Yes, there's scholarships, you know, I know, and I've looked into them. But unfortunately, if you don't take those scholarships when you're fresh out of high school, they really don't count. And it's really hard not only with school, but with work. I had to, like, you know, work at like small places where sometimes they don't give you like what they owe you because "oh, well, it's slow. So can I pay you next week?" All because you know, you don't have a Social Security.
SERRANO: What small jobs do refer to?
ORTEGA: Restaurants, you know, where they don't, they don't check for Social Securities. Restaurants, offices, you know, where it's just—local businesses. I guess that's what I'm referring to.
SERRANO: Like are you saying that they sometimes, like, take advantage of you because you're undocumented?
ORTEGA: Yeah, you know, they know you're working with, you know, a fake Social. So why should they give you benefits? Why should, you know, or they pay you under the table? And if they don't have enough, it's like, "Well." You know, I was working for this restaurant one time and they had—$100 might not seem, you know, like a lot, but it was a lot to me, especially when I was like 19, 20 years old and when I couldn't get a decent job. It was a lot and my boss never paid me. I like I kept calling him. Like, "Hey, you owe me $100" and he was like, "Oh, yeah. Yeah next week. Next week." I never heard from him again. You know? Um, it's just those things and not only the pay. It also affects with, like, your emotional, your emotional being. Because I remember, you know, when I was working with this company, this big company, they weren't checking for, like, social, you know. And it was also a restaurant. But I know, like, my boss kept asking me, "Yo, where's your state ID? I need your state ID to...for your documents." And I was like, "Oh my God, where am I gonna get a state ID?" Like, you know, and that time, like, my boyfriend was, you know, I had to, like, cry to him. I was inconsolable. Like I was like, "What if I get fired? I need this money. I need to pay for school. I need to pay my bills. Like, what am I going to do?" Like, there was a point where I just felt like I was nothing. But it feels like you're nothing here, but you're nothing in your own country. You're nothing in México either because, you know, you never grew up over there. So, who are you going to go to when you have your parents here, you know? There came a time where I just wanted to leave. Like, maybe in México everything will be better. I will be treated as a human being. But then I thought about it and I was like, "But I have my family here, my parents. What am I gonna do without my parents? Who's gonna, like, who am I gonna go for consolation? What if it doesn't work and I can't come back?" You know, and then we got the DACA. And yeah, it's a great help, but I just don't understand why Congress doesn't pass the DREAM Act. I really don't. You know, I feel like f they heard more stories like mine and like other people's, like, they would see how great it would be. You know, people want to study. People want... [she tears up] Sorry. People want to be good for this country. We don't want to be outlaws. You know, we don't...We're not here to take anybody's jobs. I think we're just... It's hard for us, because we were here since we were little. We don't know anything but this. And this is our home, you know?
SERRANO: Yeah, so that's like one of the biggest struggles for an undocumented, like, person here and it's really sad.
ORTEGA: Uh-huh. Yeah, because you always hear it and you think, "There'll be a chance," you know? An immigration reform.
SERRANO: And you just feel lost here. Like what can you do?
ORTEGA: Yeah, because at the end of the day, it's always the bad guy that wins. It's always, you know, like, "Oh, we're the terrorists." Like, "Oh, well, yeah, you can work here, but you're only going to get, like, a work permit." You don't, you don't have—what? What can I say? Like enough benefits. You can never become a citizen. You know, like for me, my DACA expires, you know next year and I still have a chance to renew it for two more years. But then I turn 30, and what's going to happen after 30?
SERRANO: Yeah, okay. Wow
ORTEGA: You know? Nothing? Like I'm gonna stay—I'm gonna become again, like, having to look for jobs that...
SERRANO: There's just always going to be problems, right?
SERRANO: There needs to be change. There needs to be more laws and it's good that, like, you're telling us your story because, like, that's good proof for later, like, studies and, you know, projects. And hopefully there will be change soon.
ORTEGA. Yes, I hope so. I know there's been many interviews and I know, you know, but a small voice can change and I hope my story, you know, can help. Can help a bit, or at least, you know, when I become someone's ancestor. They can see what the struggle was like.
- Opportunities for higher education denied to DREAMersDREAMer; dreamer; undocumented; higher ed; higher education; college; university; Columbia College; scholarships; grants; financing education; tuition; feesSERRANO: What do you think about the students that were...or just like people that were born here and don't take advantage of all these benefits and school and work and the things that you that you're facing that they don't have to face? What do you think about that?
ORTEGA: You know, there was a time when I was I was very upset about that. I had I used to have a boyfriend and, you know, he was he was born here. He had every advantage. He didn't want to. He didn't want it. And, you know, we...I think that was part of why our relationship didn't work because I wanted everything he had and he just didn't care for it. Um, you know, I always try to tell my brothers—I have two younger brothers—you know, I try to tell them to take advantage of what they can. You know, never look at it as like...never take something for granted because you never know what you have until you don't have it.
SERRANO: Yeah. You don't have it.
ORTEGA: You know, I guess, I'm not upset anymore. You know, it's everybody's, it's everyone's life. And if, you know, it just depends how people are educated. If ,you know, if there's, like, a good family that wants you to go to school and that supports you, I think that's where you know it all comes from. As well as, you know, I'm not saying that there's no good families, but a lot of our parents do need more education on, like, you know, how to send their kids to school. How there can be help, you know. Because I see it with a lot of Latinos. It's like you have to stop your education because they think they have to pay when there's so many options, you know, as far as, like, financial aid and so many things. And you know, I kind of had to be like a parent to my brother to, you know—not so much like helping him economically, but, like, emotionally and, you know, just talking to him. There was many times where he wanted to give up and, you know, he was born here. And he wanted to give up and I've told him, you know, without education you can't move...You know, I mean you can be lucky, but people are always going to look at your resume and see "Oh, you know, you went to school." But you're, you know, you're doing...
SERRANO: The smallest things.
ORTEGA: The smallest things. So, I always told him, like, he didn't like school, but I told him, "You know what? You're getting all your school paid for. All you have to do is, you know, study." He was like, "I hate it," but, you know, he got through it and he graduated and I'm proud of him. I just think, you know, you just—sometimes kids are lost because they don't have someone to look to or, you know, parents don't know how to, like, help them.
SERRANO: Or talk to them, too.
ORTEGA: Or talk to them. So, I think, you know, maybe that's why they don't know what to do with themselves. And you know, they don't take advantage of that. I think that's the bigger problem. I don't think it's because they're bad kids or they're lazy. It's because they don't have any...
SERRANO: like how they grew up, too.
ORTEGA: Uh-huh. They don't know anything else and their parents, you can't blame the parents, either, because they don't know.
SERRANO: Yeah. That's also, like, education, too. Like in schools. Like some teachers don't talk to them. The counselors don't, like, force them or, like, just encourage them to go to school.
ORTEGA: Yeah, sometimes in, you know, in high school, in public schools, there's like 600, you know, kids. And I think counselors are just tired and, you know, they just...
SERRANO: Sometimes they feel like all kids are the same. Like, all of them—they feel like all of them don't, they don't want to go to school. But there's actually kids that want to, that have dreams and goals and...
ORTEGA: Yeah, I just think they don't know what to do with them because they don't have a way. You know, a path. So yeah, I think that's that's the biggest struggle.
ORTEGA: Especially for Latinos. We're very, you know—education is, you know, we...I think our parents—and that's why we're like this—we're always, like., working, working, working and, you know, "Focus on work." And I think we want to be, you know, the best employees or, like, hard workers and we forget about certain things.
SERRANO: Yeah. It's a cultural thing. Like, just the—instead of going—like, telling them to go to school, they're like, "it's okay, mijo, just work."
ORTEGA: Yeah. "Go to work, trabaja. We need money."
SERRANO: Yeah. "We need money." Yeah.
ORTEGA: Especially for men. Like, "You have to be a man. How are you gonna, like, support your family when you get older?" And they tend to forget, you know, an important.key to work is school.
ORTEGA: So, yeah.
SERRANO: How was your, like, high school experience to like—like when, senior year, like, were you thinking about college or...?
ORTEGA: Ah, that's a good question because—oh, you know, I never realized I was undocumented until I was like a junior in high school.
SERRANO: Oh, really?
ORTEGA: I mean, of course, you know, you didn't have, like, many benefits. But you also started seeing that because—what was that thing, Gallery 37? Back in the day? I don't think it exists now for public schools. But, back in the day, it was Gallery 37 and people, you know, it was like a little job after school. It wasn't really a job, but it was like a workshop and, you know, they would help you focus on things et cetera. But you needed a Social for that. And I could never join Gallery 37 because I never had a social security. Same with driver's ed. I had to take driver's ed to graduate, but I can never take range. You know, I I could never get my driver permit because I didn't have a Social and I wasn't allowed to. So, I passed my class with an A, but I I never went to range. I never did more than that because, "Hey, you don't have the Social Security. [chatter off screen] You can edit it.
SERRANO: Yeah, it's fine.
ORTEGA: Yeah, so... But, overall, I was a pretty, you know—I don't know. I always was an artsy kid. I always wanted to go to Columbia College. That was my dream, Columbia College. Ever since I was young. Like, whenever we had to go to, like, downtown, I would see the building and I would be like, "That's my dream!" You know, unfortunately, they start asking you, "Well, do you have a Social Security? A recommendation?" You start, you know, going to all these workshops junior year, senior year and you notice you can't do anything because you're not going to get financial aid. How are your parents going to get twenty grand for a semester? So you just started feeling...
SERRANO: Like, losing hope, right?
ORTEGA: Losing hope. You know, my parents—I have great parents. They're always supporting me. I remember the first time I went to apply to Harold Washington. I also felt discriminated because I only had my matrícula and the lady was like, "Oh, do you have your state ID or your ID?" And I was like, "Oh, here it is." And she's like, "Oh, okay." And I was like, she's like, "Oh you got financial aid?" And I'm like, "No. I just want to, like, take classes." And I remember like, you know, they signed me up. And when I had to pay, it was like a thousand, five hundred. And I was like—I called my dad. I'm like, "Pa, van a ser mil dolares." And I know. I know until this day, that credit card my dad is paying off every month, it's because of me. Like, some of that school money is for me. Because he would charge everything to that credit card. But, it also makes me, like, so happy because it makes me realize how great of parents I had. You know, they wanted me to keep going to school, so they would pay.
SERRANO: So that you knew support that other parents don't have for their children.
- Difficulties that remain despite DACADREAMer; dreamer; Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals; DACA; DACAmented; undocumented; work; job; documents; papersORTEGA: I was...I guess I'm a lucky girl, you know? My parents have helped me when I needed and yeah, I guess...
SERRANO: Yeah, that's good. Um, what else, like, have your parents done, like, to help you and support you? Like, other things?
ORTEGA: Other things? Well, other things? Not economically?
ORTEGA: Well, everything...I think, with my generation, everything's economical now. Ever since 9/11, it's hard to, like, move out by yourself and not, you know, not need your parents. I think they've supported me unconditionally. Like, by giving me a home up till now.
ORTEGA: 28 years old, you know. Unfortunately—I always say this,but I'm not a lazy person and I've always worked hard. I just can never keep my jobs because of my status, you know. [shouts off screen]
SERRANO: Like, it's more hard for you, for to do anything, like...
ORTEGA: Yeah, because when I was getting on my feet, you know, back on my feet with Macy's, that was like my first...I worked with Macy's. That was my first documented, you know, job where they checked for me. I was there all of, you know, a year and I was so happy. Like, because—okay, I think what people don't realize is, you know, "Oh, well, you get a work permit." But they don't realize how long it takes to actually get a new job. Like, to get a new job, it takes months, you know? And what are you doing with that Social? Like, nothing, because you're still applying for jobs. By the time you get to the interview process, you know, everything—that becomes like three months that you haven't worked your Social. So, anyway, yeah, I was working. I was happy. I, you know, I had a lot of friends. Everything was great. And then, bam! I got let go of because of my documents and it was—I felt like it was a knockout, you know. Like, how am I going to move out when I can't be, you know, stable with these jobs? You know, I was unemployed for about a month after that happened. Two weeks after, I got my DACA renewed and I went back to Macy's and I'm like, "Well, can I get my job back? You know, I have my documents now." And they're like, "Well, you have to reapply all over again." And I'm like, "Okay, nevermind." So that never happened. But yeah, and now I'm, I feel like after what, six months? I'm barely getting back on my feet, economically-wise. So, I think my parents have helped me with a great deal, economically-wise, just by giving me a home. And, as far as emotionally, like I said before, they've always been there for me. Always supporting me, you know, whatever I want to do. Yes, we don't agree with everything. You know, I think it's a cultural thing. You know, they grew up in Mexico with their beliefs. I grew up here with different beliefs. Times change, you know. We don't agree with everything, but, you know, we're—we go hand-in-hand and I know that no matter what, even though we disagree, they're always going to be there for me.
SERRANO: That's good.
- Romantic relationships and thoughts on future and childrenRomantic relationships; boyfriends; husbands; family; future; aspirations; dreams; pregnant; pregnancy; children; kidsSERRANO: Um, what do you think of, like, marriage or children? Do you think of those things at all?
ORTEGA: Well, you know, before, when I was a bit younger and I was single—even last year, I think—I always thought I was going to be single. It's harder, especially, you know, with, like, a girl. You know, that's where we bring discrimination again.
ORTEGA: I don't know if it's discrimination. I just think some men are not as strong-minded as others and it's hard in the dating world to, like, find a man that wants, that is not afraid to be...I consider myself a strong woman. I don't know, you know, what other men think, but I think they get a bit freaked out. Like, you know, I have a walking disability. I don't walk that great and they get a bit freaked out by you, especially in this century, where everything is like, you know, online dating. You know, that's where you meet everyone and it's like, "Well, how am I going to tell them that?"
SERRANO: Yeah, it's a struggle.
ORTEGA: It's a struggle. Even like, I'm pretty sure, even if I didn't have like walking disability, just dating as hard, you know. But I don't know. I, you know, I've been dating my boyfriend for eight months now and, you know, I do think about marriage now. I'm getting close to 30. Maybe not soon, but I want to. I think, in that sense, I'm very I'm very old-school, you know. You know how people are having kids before marriage and then getting married. Well, to me marriage is still important, and I still want to get married. Before, I want to live with, you know, I want to live with him and then decide to have a child, you know?
SERRANO: That's good.
ORTEGA: I always think of that. He tells me, you know, "We can have a baby. Like, I'm not gonna leave you. You know, I'll be there for you. Like, you know, I love you.” But to me, I don't know it's to me it's a fairytale. I want to have my wedding even though if it's not big, I don't care. I don't want a glamorous wedding. You know, I want something small. But I just want to wear my dress and I want to tell my kids like hey, here's...this is your dad, this is me on our wedding day. I want to show him or show her, you know the wedding pictures and I want to have my little family, you know, I...you know, I don't have anything against for people who have kids before, you know, it's...everyone's entitled to their own beliefs and hopes and you know, how life works out. Nothing against that at all. Like, you know props to you for having a child. But to me that's always been my dream, you know: my wedding dress, my makeup done pretty, and, I don't know, just, just a memory. I think I've always looked up to that no matter how like, open-minded I am, I think that's one of my dreams.
SERRANO: So, like those one of your dreams, or, um, ambitions. Do you have any like long-term or short-term goals that you have in mind right now?
ORTEGA: Well, my short-term goal. I'm very afraid of like driving. I don't know. I've had, you know, one of my best friends died in a car accident. My cousin died in a car accident. So I think that always freaks me out, driving. But those are my short-term goals now that I can get a driver's license.
ORTEGA: And that I can drive. One of my short term goals is that. My long-term goals is just...I don't know. I want to have a job that makes me happy and not be so afraid of like losing it because of my document status. Unfortunately, that is something I have to look into you know, but yeah, I just want a stable job. I want to be able to own, you know, a home.
ORTEGA: A home, and you know, be independent for myself and, you know, bring...I don't know, because I do think old school, but I also, you know, want to be an independent woman. Just in case, you know, something ever happens to my husband or you never know life circumstances. What if it doesn't work out? You never just want to depend on, you know, on your spouse for things. I also want to be independent for him and I want to make somebody proud, you know, and I want to be in I guess yeah move out. Those are my long-term goals. Have a stable job, you know. After that, once I'm stabilized maybe, you know start thinking about a family but who knows?
SERRANO: Do you think like when you ever have children will you like continue the same like customs as your parents or like the same, you know, like ideas like about school? Work? Or the Mexican culture?
ORTEGA: Oh, definitely. Definitely. I want them to go to school. But I also want them to know that you have to struggle for what you want. You know, I think I love that about my culture, you know. Um, yes, you can get things but you have to work hard for them. And that makes you appreciate them so much more. I think it's like such a struggle, but you feel so satisfied with yourself once you have the things you want. And yes, I do, you know as far as like other things, maybe tattoos, piercings, I'd be more open to them. You know, it's it's kind of weird to say it, but yeah, maybe being supportive with like birth control et cetera. Being open-minded to that because right now, my parents and I know you know [shout off screen] but it's like it's not something [shout off screen]
SERRANO: That they agree with?
ORTEGA: Nathan! Yeah, it's not, it's not something...it's a taboo in my house. Like you can't really say ...
SERRANO: With a lot of Mexican parents that are not as open-minded.
ORTEGA: Yeah. I mean, it's not like I want to tell my parents, "Hey," you know, but I also don't want them to see it like a bad thing, you know, and... And I think I'll be more of an open-minded parent. I'm not there yet. So, I don't know how I'm going to be. Maybe I'll end up being the same because my parents always told me, "Until you're a parent, you won't understand," you know, and I feel it's true. Like yeah, "Ya va a saber cuando tengas hijos. Tú vas a sentir lo mismo." But I do want to be a bit more open-minded with that. You know, I, of course, I want to keep, like, la cocina. I think that like the taste in our food is the best. I want them to like know how to cook. I'm little by little I think since I have a more serious relationship now, I'm starting to like cook more and do things, you know, because before I was single and I was like, "I don't care. I'm never gonna get married. I'm just gonna work for myself. And be independent."
ORTEGA: But I see my relationship developing and I'm like, "Oooh, maybe, maybe I should like learn a bit more, you know, I'm almost 30. I need to like learn my customs with food. But yeah, definitely I want my kids to have what I didn't have you know. Um, even if I just have one child, I really hope she or he will go to school. I want them to have the dorm life. I always wanted to go away for college. That was one of my biggest dreams. Like to go away for college, you know to come back and just be like like a college student.
SERRANO: Like in the movies, right? Or in the TV shows?
ORTEGA: Yeah. Because with white culture they always show that in the movies. Even in scary movies and, like, ¿cómo se dice? Romantic comedies. It's like, "Oh, yeah, well, I'm going to college." And, "Oh, everything is so perfect." But in reality, especially Latino, you know, middle class, you don't get any of that. So, you know, I kind of I want to work hard for my kids. I want to I want them to have what I didn't have. I don't want to give I don't want to hand them everything either. Like I said before, I want them to work hard for what they want, too.
- Home life and relationship with parents; generational differences in child rearingHome life; relationships with parents; family relationships; generational differences; child rearing; raising childrenSERRANO: What are some of the things that you wish your parents had like taught you or like, your ideas of a mom? What would you have changed for it, from your parents?
ORTEGA: You know, it's har— from my mom, I guess just being a little more open with conversation. I mean, we have a relationship. We talk. But we clash in a lot of things. You know, like. "Oh, don't get home late. Don't sleep over with you know, your boyfriend." And it's like, "Mom. I'm almost, you know, 30 years old. I'm 28. I know that like... My boyfriend and I took a trip back in March, and my mom was like, "Well, I hope this doesn't happen often where you guys, you know, take trips." And it's like, "But why not? We're in like a good relationship. He respects me. I respect him", you know. "We're trying to, like, be grown-ups here." As far as being open like with you know, with cultural things like those, you know, they still want you to live at home till you get married. You know, I've talked to my mom about moving out several times and she's always like, "Well, why don't you just give me you know, what you would pay to me, like, and you can live here." And it's like, "Yes, mom, but you always say that I'm living under your roof, so I have to follow your rules." And she's like, "Well, my rules aren't that hard. I just ask you to come home early and not bring your boyfriend to your room." And it's like, "But I don't want to follow that. I want to go out with my friends, you know, get some drinks. If we want to go out of the state border, why not?" I don't, I don't want to feel that pressure. And most of our fights are because of that. Because I haven't come home and every time I do something it's like I have to tell her, "Hey, I'm okay. Like I'll see you home later," you know. And, and that's really hard for me. It's hard. It, you know, because...Especially when your boyfriend's parents are a little bit more open-minded and you guys live far away from each other. It's almost like a long-distance, distance relationship. It's hard, you know, you started having a bit of relationship problems because of it. And you start getting stressed out. It's a cultural shock for sure, you know, because your parents want you...they bring you here to have a better life, but they want you to grow up as they grew up in Mexico. But they don't see how like culture or how, like, people, society works here, you know.
SERRANO: Do you think your mom also thinks, like, sees you as a little kid and doesn't want you to grow up?
ORTEGA: Definitely. You know, she's always told me—even my dad. He's like, "Para mí, tú siempre vas a ser mi niña." And yeah, I get it. I think my dad is a little bit more open to things. My mom, yeah, my mom, definitely, she, she does see me as a little kid, you know. She, I.... You know, sometimes if I don't text her that I'm out of work and I go have dinner with my friends, she texts me like at 10 like, "Hey, where are you? Like, why didn't you tell me you were going to go eat? We were waiting for you?" And it's like, "Well, do I really have to?" Like, you know? I mean, I respect that but it's also really hard because I feel like I have you know, I have to say my every move and...And the hardest part, I think, is like when they tell you, "Well, if you want to act like an adult, pay for more bills. You're not paying for anything, so you're not entitled to do anything." And it's like, "But I'm not asking you to like, you know... I'm hardly home. I hardly eat. Like I only take a shower here sometimes. To be honest, because as an adult right now, you know, I have this job and you know, I'm there from one to nine like every like almost every day." One to nine, one to nine. And then, you know, your boyfriend that lives so far away from you. It's like, "Well, I get out early. I can pick you up." And it's like, "Okay, by the time you get home, you know, you go to eat with your friends or your boyfriend, it's like 12:00 midnight. Your parents are asleep. You don't even see them anymore." So, yeah, it's a lot of cultural clash there and I think for every Latina my age, most of the Latinas my age, or even, you know, younger, we all go through that because our parents want us to keep being little girls or...
SERRANO: ...live under their rules.
ORTEGA: Live under their rules. And I think it frightens them to, you know, when you tell them you want to move out because they feel like they have no control over you. And I think what makes them feel sure about things that they have a better control over you. And that makes them feel like you're safe. And once you move out, it's like, "Well, how am I going to protect my little girl, you know?
SERRANO: Yeah, but they can't do anything anymore once you to leave their house.
SERRANO: They can't interfere with your...
SERRANO: Yeah, they can still be part of your life, but they can't make your decisions anymore. Most of your decisions.
ORTEGA: Exactly, you know. So yeah, it's something, it's something hard and I think, you know, I kind of, you know, gave my mom the idea that me and my boyfriend might move out soon together and she's like, "Oh, well, what about marriage?" And it's like, "Yeah, but that'll come with time, you know."
SERRANO: Do they tell you a lot about that? Like marriage? Like they force you? Like, "Come on, get married already?"
ORTEGA: Not so much about marriage, but they do tell me a lot about grandchildren.
SERRANO: Oh, okay.
ORTEGA: Yeah, even, like, my aunts or, my aunts or my, yeah, my aunts or my uncles. They're like, "O, pues, ya. Como que ya."
SERRANO: "Es el tiempo," ¿verdad?
ORTEGA: "Ya te toca a ti." And it's like, "No." But yeah, I always hear it. They're like, "No, no, take your time." But you know that part of the joke was kind of true.
ORTEGA: And they're always telling me like, "Oh, yeah, it's your turn. We need a baby around the house." And it's like, "Ha ha. Well, you guys have to wait till I'm married," you know? But see, this is how, like, it contradicts everything because they tell you they want you to get married, but then they see you growing old and it's like, "Well, where's my grandbaby?"
ORTEGA: So, I feel like you can never have anyone happy and that's why you have to make your own decisions, even if your parents don't agree with them, because you're the only one that is going to be happy. You're never going to make anyone happy if you go by your, by your parents' rules. I'm pretty sure like if I followed all of my parents’ rules, you know, like, they wouldn't be happy regardless. So, I mean, it's just the cultural thing. I'm not saying my parents are the worst parents. No. I appreciate them. I just think we don't think the same.
ORTEGA: You know if it was for them, I wouldn't have piercings. I wouldn't have tattoos. You know, short hair. But...
SERRANO: You just had to, like, find a way to make them understand.
ORTEGA: Sometimes you have to break the rules to make yourself happy.
SERRANO: Yeah. Also, for them to see that it's not that big of a deal as they think it is.
ORTEGA: Exactly. Because now they're used to me like this. Then, you know, I'm always going to be more of a punk rocker than a classy lady. Well, hey, I'm still classy, but I'm I'm a little darker than most.
SERRANO: Yeah, that's true.
- Reasons to stay positivepositivity; staying positive; being positive; papers; undocumented; green card; naturalization; citizenship; job; relationship; boyfriendSERRANO: So, what do you think is the thing that motivates you right now the most like to keep on with life and be positive?
ORTEGA: Right now, life is great. My parents are, you know, are getting their documents soon. They haven't been in Mexico for 15 years. They're going to be residents soon. So I'm...
SERRANO: Wow. Congratulations.
ORTEGA: Thank you. I'm so happy for them. Like, so happy for them. Even if it's not me, I'm just happy that they're going to be doing things, you know? They're going to be doing things that they love. They're gonna go see family that we haven't seen in years. They're going to get to travel with my little brothers, you know, as a family. Even if I'm here, like I said, I'm an adult. You know, I wish I could travel with them, but some things are unfortunate, but I think their happiness is my happiness. So, I'm just so happy for them.
SERRANO: That's goo.
ORTEGA: Another motivation. I just, you know, I landed a great job with a great company and I feel unstoppable because, I don't know, as I said before, like, you have to prove yourself with people and I feel like I didn't have to try that hard with them. You know, I feel like I was...they were what I was looking for what they were looking for and what I was looking for, too, and I'm very happy. I feel like there's no stopping. You know I have, you know, supportive family everywhere. I have, you know, a great relationship that is growing and I think we're both growing up, you know, because we were kind of lost before we met each other and I think we both give ourselves the support we need from one another. You know, if we're not feeling great about something, you know, he'll make me feel good or I'll, you know, and I think I've never had a relationship like that. So, I'm pretty, I'm pretty happy. So, I think that's my motivation family love and life.
SERRANO: That's good.
- Typical day as a disabled DACAmented Latinatypical day; day-in-the-life; day in the life; undocumented; DACAmented; Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals; stuggles; public transportation; work; jobSERRANO: And to wrap things up, can you tell me a little bit about your daily life? Like what you do? Like word. How...when you wake up?
ORTEGA: Wake up. Right now, I work at a call center. I don't do my makeup most of the time. Wake up, leave about an hour before, you know. Wait for the train. I do take the train; public transportation. You know, taking the train on a daily basis, it's hard, because you see me sitting down. I don't look like I have a problem. You see me standing up, I don't look like I have a problem. As soon as I start moving, that's when you notice I'm a bit different than the rest. But I do encounter many things like discrimination, like people, you know with their luggage and their seat and it's like, "Well, I wish I could sit down because this train is packed" or, like, even people like push you and it's like, "Oh, I was here first." And it's just like, "Man, people are so about themselves nowadays. It's sad. So, I think, you know, you—I get stronger with each day, like how to be more independent. I think this past year I've been more independent because all I do is take the train different hours of the day, you know, it's a bit of a struggle. You know, I walk to my job, get my iced coffee every day—makes me happy—work, you know, get out come, back home. That's my daily life I think. I think and, you know, whatever is in between, you know, sometimes if I get out earlier, you know, I go take the Metra to see my boyfriend in the suburbs. If not, I, you know, go have coffee with my cousins or, you know, or like hang out with my mom sometimes. Just sit down, drink a beer, you know, help her...
SERRANO: It's like the smallest things are, like, give you some...like get you happy, make you happy.
ORTEGA: Yeah, I like my life. Especially...I don't...I'm at a job where I actually am happy. I don't work at a restaurant with mean people with a boss, you know, underpaid, where the boss tellin' me how to do things. Cleaning bathrooms. You know, I'm not saying those things are bad. But it's just the life I had before I had DACA, this deferred action happened, I was unhappy. I just, you know, I thought I was going to be working at the restaurant for the rest of my life as a hostess with you know, my boss was so crabby. No raise. Putting up with like people and their moods and how they say their kid just threw up in the bathroom, can you go clean it? And it's like, "Well, you could have cleaned your, you know, your kid's throw up. But now, I feel like, I feel like so thankful even for the little things, you know. I feel like people that grew up here and that, you know, are citizens, they see my job as like a crappy job or it's like, "Oh," like I have no goals or, you know, like I should have my stuff together at 28. But they don't realize how like...
SERRANO: What the struggle is.
ORTEGA: How the struggle is and how this little crappy job that it is to them is like so great to me. You know because I don't even have to worry about like what if like, you know, my boss is asking me for a state ID. "Oh here, I have a state ID." You know, like, I think it's the little things that are most important to life and, you know, you just have to be grateful for what you have. You know, sometimes I do complain. I wish I was living on my own. I wish I didn't have to like deal with my parents’ rules, but then I think about it and I'm like it could be worse and I'm getting there so...
SERRANO: Yeah, little by little you're getting there and as long as you have like like motivations and like short term goals or long-term goals, like, you're good.
ORTEGA: So, I think that's important.
SERRANO: Yeah. Okay. Well, it was a pleasure having you and recording you. Interviewing you.
ORTEGA: Thank you.
SERRANO: I enjoyed your story so much.
ORTEGA: Thank you. Thank you for listening to me. I know I talk a lot.
SERRANO: No, that's perfect. Okay, say goodbye.