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  • Synopsis: Introduction
    Keywords: Mexico; México; Mejico; Jiquilpan, Michoacán
    Transcript: ARISTEO: Hi. We’ll put it right here. So, what is your name? What is your full name?

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: Maria Isabel Valdovinos-Bhatia

    ARISTEO: Bhatia.

    ARISTEO: Um, where…

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: I have hyphenated it.

    ARISTEO: Um, Okay. Um, where were you born?

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: I was born in a small town in Mexico. Um, the city is Jiquilpan and the state is Michoacán.

    ARISTEO: So, Jiquilpan, Michoacán.

    ARISTEO: How long did you live there for?

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: My goodness, I think probably till maybe until the age of 3 or 4.

    ARISTEO: 3 or 4? And then...

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: I don’t remember much about Mexico from when I was a little girl.

    ARISTEO: Have you visited often?

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: Yes. Maybe not as often as I probably would have liked, uh, ‘cause initially we did not have, um, documentation.

    ARISTEO: Oh, Okay.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: And it wasn’t until the um, the um, the, you know, when Reagan passed the amnesty. Um, at that time we were able to fix our papers. And at that time, we started to visit a little more frequently.

    ARISTEO: Yeah? A little more?

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: But then life gets busy.

    ARISTEO. Yeah. It gets harder.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: Then one gets married and children.

    ARISTEO: Yeah, that’s true.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: It makes it a little more difficult to travel.
  • Synopsis: Family information and migrating to and within the United States, living together with other families
    Keywords: migration; immigration; immigrant; undocumented; border crossing; coyotes; California; Mexico; Mexican; Mexicana; Latina; Latinx; Latino; California, Deroit, MI; Michigan; Illinois; Aurora, IL; working mother; female labor; child rearing
    Transcript: ARISTEO: Can you tell me about your family? Like your mom, your dad, do you have any siblings?

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: Yes. Um, we are five children. Um, um we—I am the eldest. I am the eldest daughter. So, we are four girls and one boy. And my brother is in the middle. Um, we are, we kinda laugh about it just because the way it’s designed, if you will. Just the way we were all born. So we have, uh—I’m July. Then we have an August, September, August, and July. So, it’s like we’re all in that time frame. Um, mom and dad came here when they were young. Um, dad came first and he worked in the, you know, the campo for a long time. And he did that for many years. They’ve traveled from California to Tallahassee and Florida.

    ARISTEO: So, your dad first came to California, not Illinois?

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: Um, right. We were everywhere. Illinois was later. Illinois was later. I mean, I probably need to, actually, probably make a true time line of our journey because we were never.... we were…

    ARISTEO: Everywhere?

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: Everywhere.

    ARISTEO: Yeah.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: Literally. Like we just traveled everywhere. We never really had a true place, our own home. We always rented and lived with people.

    ARISTEO: Throughout your whole life?

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: Yes. It wasn’t until high school when we had our first home.

    ARISTEO: Wow.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: When were in high school.

    ARISTEO: Uh-huh.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: But um... dad came first…

    ARISTEO: Mm-hmm.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: …and mom came much later. Undocumented, of course

    ARISTEO: Wow.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: Back in the day.

    ARISTEO: Your dad came, um, undocumented as well?

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: Mm-hmm.

    ARISTEO: Was it through like the campesino program? Or...

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: Uh, I don’t think so. I don’t think it was necessarily that. It was still with the old fashioned, el coyote.

    ARISTEO: Okay.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: Um, I don’t think it was—but mom does share that, you know, there was, like, one of my uncles came through the campesino rite, uh uh route.

    ARISTEO: Uh-hu.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: But, again, everybody kinda gravitated and helped each other when they came here. But—so dad worked in the fields a lot.

    ARISTEO: Uh-huh.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: And then umm...later, when dad had enough money, at least this how the story I kinda remember…

    ARISTEO: Uh-huh.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: …mom shares how after dad had enough money, he sent money to my mom…

    ARISTEO: Mm-hmm.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: …so my mom could bring three of us. Because three of us was born in Mexico. Two were born here in the US.

    ARISTEO: So it was you, your sister, and your brother?

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: Sister and my brother.

    ARISTEO: Okay.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: Exactly. So, um, my brother was only six months old and he had the chicken pox.

    ARISTEO: Wow.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: So it was a very hard thing because even coming down with el coyote.

    ARISTEO: Mm-hmm.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: It was a very traumatizing time.

    ARISTEO: Mm-hmm.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: So, uh…

    ARISTEO: Did she come by herself?

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: She came by herself as the adult.

    ARISTEO: Okay.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: But she had us three children so I was like, I think it was like three and four.

    ARISTEO: Mm-hmm.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: So four, I think I was four. My sister was three. My brother was six months old. And then she brought two more of my cousins from my dad’s side.

    ARISTEO: Wow.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: And they were teenagers.

    ARISTEO: Okay.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: And mom wasn’t far off from being a teenager. I mean, she had me young.

    ARISTEO: How old was she?

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: Um, she had me at about nineteen.

    ARISTEO: Wow. Okay.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: So, though she was in her 20s, she still had teenagers, too. And it was hard. It was a hard thing to do, she said.

    ARISTEO: Like around 23?

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: Mm-hmm.

    ARISTEO: And how, they were the, um, the two cousins that came with her?

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: Mm-hmm.

    ARISTEO: Niñas?

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: No, they were boys.

    ARISTEO: Boys?

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: They were two boys. Um, and mom shares how it took her over a month to find my dad. Because you know, we don’t have the s—technology.

    ARISTEO: …as we do know?

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: As we do now.

    ARISTEO: Yeah.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: So, just trying to connect with different people. And, um—but mom says that there were good people. There were good people that helped us come in…

    ARISTEO: Mm-hmm.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: …and, um, they loved my brother and because my brother was so tiny, because he was, I don’t know if he was necessarily was a preemie, but he was very much small.

    ARISTEO: Mm-hmm.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: Um, they, they really loved him and took care of him. And mom said they were really good with her. But we also encountered a lot of hard families. Families that didn’t care to help out and things like they just kinda had to—because you lived with people…

    ARISTEO: Yeah.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: …you just had to deal and accept the living situation that was with people.

    ARISTEO: Do you remember at all when you were, I mean four, I mean I don’t know, but do you remember anything?

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: No.

    ARISTEO: Any visuals?

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: Hmm [tsk] No, I think sometimes I think about that and I wonder if that’s a personal block out time.

    ARISTEO: Uh-huh.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: Like, I just chose to kinda block it out and just not just not, just not want it. And I don’t know. It’s just one of those things you just block and it’s—you just try hard to retrieve and you just can’t. And you just kinda relate to the stories that you hear, and you know... I don’t think I truly remember things as of, like, fifth grade or so. That’s when I’m like, “I remember that.”

    ARISTEO: Which is when you’re like, I want to say, what? Ten? You’re ten, right?

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: Yeah. I was about 10 years old.

    ARISTEO: Have you ever asked your parents how their struggle was getting over here? Have you ever talked to your mom about como fue?

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: Yeah, she shares her stories, that, like I said, it was very difficult for her to come over. Because it took her a long time to find my dad.

    ARISTEO: Mm-hmm.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: My grand, she shares that my grandfather, her father, did not want her to leave with us, because we were all tiny. And she would say, you know, “that it’s my duty to go with my husband and be together.” And so, mom says that they cried a lot, but finally she got here. She shares the story about the coyotes. And, like I said, my brother had the chicken pox and so when he would cry, he had a soiled diaper, he would holler and mom would try to keep him hushed, but the man would say, “Señora, calle su hijo. Calle su hijo.” And mom’s like, “No hayaba cómo, I just didn’t know how.”

    ARISTEO: Mm-hmm.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: “Didn’t know how to quiet him down.” Umm...

    ARISTEO: So, from there, so when she found your dad, you guys were in California?

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: Uh, I think at that time, I think we went to Detroit.

    ARISTEO: Okay.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: We went to Detroit. Literally, we went to a lot—I couldn’t even tell you where we stopped first, but I think that was probably the first in Detroit, Michigan. And then, you know, um, my dad originally had come, had come to California on his own. On his own; not with us. At that time. And then, like I said, we moved around a lot. I think when we started settling more in Illinois is when we were... I wanna say maybe when school started.

    ARISTEO: Okay.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: Because we did move around a lot. We lived in Aurora.

    ARISTEO: Oh, Okay.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: And, uh, we lived in what we would call the east side of Aurora. And so, we traveled a lot. We—from their elementary schools, I think we went to, like, I don’t know, five of them, maybe. So we moved a lot.

    ARISTEO: So why did you guys move so much?

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: Dad, um, worked hard and because we were always with different people and not understanding how personalities are when you live with people.

    ARISTEO: Mm-hmm.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: They wanted it to just kind of have their own apartment. So my dad always wanted to find a better—the next better place for us to live.

    ARISTEO: Okay.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: Even if it was a small space, but it was always, now we were we were by ourselves.

    ARISTEO: Together.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: Together. And not sharing spaces with another family.

    ARISTEO: Okay.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: So, that’s one of the reasons we traveled or we…
  • Synopsis: Mother and father's work life
    Keywords: work life; labor; jobs; working mother; construction; meat packing; Aurora; foundation digging; fields; migrant labor; farmworker; macho; machismo; masculinity; on-site injury; garden store; plant nursery
    Transcript: ARISTEO: Your mom didn’t work when you were younger?

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: …or we moved a lot. Oh, yes. Mom worked a lot. Mom also worked a lot. She worked the night shift for many years. The third shift and so she used to go at wee hours of the night and be home early in the morning and try to get us ready for school and stuff like that. And then try to sleep. And my dad had the regular—later on, dad had a construction job. Once we started settling down, dad left the fields. Left the fields and had more construction jobs and he also had, um, one of the jobs was at a meat packing company. He did that for many years.

    ARISTEO: Really? Where was that? Was that here or…?

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: No, in Aurora. Yeah, here in Illinois, in Aurora. So, he was in the meat packing company and then after a while, then he went back to construction.

    ARISTEO: Okay.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: And, actually, he spent most of his life in construction until he actually he passed—he lost his life. He lost…

    ARISTEO: Really?

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: Yes.

    ARISTEO: I’m sorry.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: Dad was pretty, pretty young. I was 18 at the time so, um—but he had three severe injuries on the construction site and one time one of the machines broke his arm, and so he couldn’t work in construction, which is something he was proud of. He always felt like that was his thing. And, um, he had a friend, a compadre…

    ARISTEO: Mm-hmm.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: …that was a manager at a green house. And at the green house, you know, you just had to do different things and my dad didn’t like the idea of him working, at a, you know, he would talk about, you know—he had a lot of colorful words, let’s put it that way. “Esas plantas yada yada yada.”

    ARISTEO: Uh-huh.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: You know um [tsk] he didn’t think that was manly…

    ARISTEO: Okay.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: For him to handle plants and to handle the dirt and to handle…

    ARISTEO: Machismo, ¿no?

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: Yeah, el machismo. That big-time machismo. Dad, unfortunately, had a lot of that. It was hard, but he had a lot of that. But, he was grateful that it was a job.

    ARISTEO: Mm-hmm.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: And my mom, then, also worked there for a little while, too. Um, [tsk] when he got better, he went back to the construction.

    ARISTEO: Mm-hmm.
  • Synopsis: Death of father on the job
    Keywords: death on the job; dying; father; dad
    Transcript: VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: And he continued to work again normal and then he got injured again. Um, at that particular time, half of his chest was crushed, you know, because he, they dig out dirt and what have you and he got pinned by one of the buckets, it’s the bucket. And it caught him by the shirt and when the bucket went up, it hit him against the, the dirt whole, you know, the…So that was that one. And then the third one is—that’s when dirt collapsed and he, um, se entierró, se enterró en vida, you know, he died, uh, by the collapse. We were told it was instant.

    ARISTEO: [gasp] Uh-huh.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: Because of the pressure of the way the weight, the way the weight came…

    ARISTEO: …fell?

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: The way the weight came down on that whole…So, that was that. That was in ‘89. So, dad lost his life in October of 1989.

    ARISTEO: And how did your mom…

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: [Sighs] Well, it—being the oldest…

    ARISTEO: Mm-hmm.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: …I grew up fast. My little sister was only 3 months old at the time. So, um, I was in college. Um, my first years at Waubonsee.

    ARISTEO: Okay.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: Had just finished, had just graduated, um, high school, um, in June of 1989. That’s when I graduated high school.
  • Synopsis: Education
    Keywords: grammar school; primary school; high school; ESL; English as a Second Language; bilingual education; language acquisition; Spanish
    Transcript: ARISTEO: Where did you go to high school?

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: East Aurora.

    ARISTEO: Okay.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: Yeah, East Aurora High School. Um [tsk], so I was the kind of person or student enjoyed school, started school right away. Didn’t give myself any time off. Went directly to Waubonsee. And, um, I—at least I thought I was one of the smart kids. But yet, my grades weren’t enough to get me into level 100 courses. I started even lower. And that’s that I was on the honor roll and everything at the high school. So, it was one of those things that I wrestled with.

    ARISTEO: In your high school, was it mostly Latinos?

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: Mm-hmm, mostly Latinos and African American community.

    ARISTEO: Did you ever feel like the teaching was a little biased? How were your, like, um, if you could look back…?

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: Well, I was literally a book worm. I mean that just the way they’ve always seen me and I’ve always seen that. School was the norm for me. That’s what I kinda,re—the one thing that I would…[Tsk] Because life was rough…

    ARISTEO: Mm-hmm.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: …my education is like, that’s what I wanted. I only wanted my schooling. I didn’t want anyone to take that away from me. And, to me, that was a very important piece. So, like I said, even though, the—I was on honor roll multiple times, the “A” list, or. you name it, different levels, but yet I wasn’t good enough when I got into the Waubonsee, if you will, to be at the level that started at 100 level. I thought it was the normal, started in the 0, 070 or whatever those courses were.

    ARISTEO: Yeah. Did you feel challenged at high school? Like with the material?

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: At least I thought I did. That’s what I’m saying. I just felt like I was a book worm. I was, I did my work and I just did what I had to. I never questioned my teachers. I just do what I had to do and…

    ARISTEO: Mm-hmm.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: …never thought of it any different. Didn’t know if I was being challenged. It was—you just followed the teacher’s routines, you... the expectations and don’t get into trouble, and, and stuff like that. So, but it was it wasn’t until college were I felt that, “Uh-oh, I don’t think I’m up to par, to... [laughs], you know, start in at some higher level courses. So yeah.

    ARISTEO: Sorry. Making sure that it’s good.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: You’re fine.
  • Synopsis: Mourning the death of her father and law suit against employer
    Keywords: on-site injury; workman's compensation; translation; interpretation; law suit; legal
    Transcript: ARISTEO: So, going back, you were saying that your sister was 3 months old and your mom, you know, was a single mother now. Who did she depend on? Did she depend on you? Did she rely on family for support?

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: Yes, she definitely relied on us. Um, I, like I said, I took on the, um, [tsk] the role of being, um, the one that would—I was—because I was the older one—I was always relied on, going to the doctors, having conversations with, you know, the.... anything and anyone whether it was legal-related, medical-related, I would—even though I didn’t understand the language, even young, as being a younger kid, you went to go help your mom or your dad and, you know, go help them translate. Go down and interpret.

    ARISTEO: Did your mom…?

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: Yeah, ‘cause she doesn’t—she only speaks Spanish.

    ARISTEO: Okay.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: She’s gotten better over her, in her English. But it’s still, you can tell she struggles with stuff when not her first language. But I’m the one that had to kind of start, I mean, with that particular compadre that, um, gave him that job at that time, it was with him and another compadre um that they had been long time friends with over many years. Going to find the casket, you know, and just kind of make all that paper work—didn’t know what that was like.

    ARISTEO: Yeah.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: It was like a blur, but it was me out there with those two, those two compadres of my dad, to do that. Um, and yeah, just helping mom, um, navigate, understand, um, handle all the legal things that we had to because of the way dad died, um, it was actually the attorney who took my dad case was the same gentleman who, um, fixed our papers.

    ARISTEO: Okay.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: So it was really nice. So we kinda became like a family. Like he was there now, like, he wanted the best for us.

    ARISTEO: Mm-hmm.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: Um, because at that time when my dad had gotten his broken, when I was saying earlier, that was around the time we were fixing papers. And, um, the attorney said, “Are you going to put a law suit?” And my dad’s like, “No!” You know, and then my dad’s like, “No, yo no tengo papeles, I can’t do that,” you know. And my dad didn’t want to put a law suit. And the attorney would say that you’ve got to think about the well-being of the family. “How are you going to bring in income? How are you going to have that...”

    ARISTEO: Mm-hmm.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: And it took a lot of conv—the attorney spoke Spanish—un americano, but he spoke Spanish. Um [tsk].... he convinced my dad to go ahead and file a workman’s comp. And, literally, that’s all the attorney was asking. “Are you willing to do a workman’s comp?” But my dad felt like he didn’t want to tread bad waters and what if they fire him and what if this?

    ARISTEO: Mm-hmm.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: And they’re like, “No, they can’t do that,” you know. And I mean we were naïve to what that world would be in. So, this particular attorney was good to us. And so when, um [tsk]—the day that my dad that my dad passed away, um, I was in college. I was at Waubonsee. [tsk] Mom had fallen asleep with the baby, um, on the couch and, um, like I said, Esmeralda was only 3 months old. That’s my little sister and mom’s the kind of women that works. I mean she can be cleaning the house at 11 o’clock. That was just—she gets energy and she just moves around like nothing. But, um, that day she was super tired and didn’t—she was not herself. She wasn’t herself.

    ARISTEO: ¿Sentía rara?

    VALDOVINOS-BHATI: Rara, yeah, she felt very different and I saw her and I she had the baby next to her on the couch. And I’m leaving to school. I’m driving. And it’s kinda cool because I can drive, you know?

    ARISTEO: Yeah.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: Um, but I felt awkward and I said, “Mami, you know, are you sure? You can—you want me, you don’t want me to stay?” “No, no. Vete a la escuela.” She also knew that my studies were important to me. So I did. Went to school, [tsk] went to school, started—it’s like one of those—like I said like when I’m younger, I kind of blocked a lot of stuff out, but then there are certain things that kind of come to me…

    ARISTEO: Mm-hmm.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: …and, related to my dad’s death at that time, and an element comes to me and that part is when I was writing in an English class…

    ARISTEO: Mm-hmm.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: …because of the hard life that we had, um, I remember vividly, ooh [cries softly]…

    ARISTEO: [softly] It’s okay.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: …writing a paper…

    ARISTEO: Mm-hmm.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: …and in the paper, um, I was expressing how, um how, how rough of a father we had because he was, he was pretty rough…

    ARISTEO: Mm-hmm.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: …pretty rough on the outside. A very proud man and, so, um, I just remember writing about life [tsk] and that element of life and I remember so vividly, like if it was yesterday, um, just writing a the end and, you know, and my father hasn’t hit me in a long time. [continues to cry]

    ARISTEO: Mm-hmm.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: [tsk] Something to that idea.

    ARISTEO: Mm-hmm.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: And I remember putting a period, vividly, vividly remember putting a period on my paper [crying softly as she speaks] when there’s an officer that comes into our classroom…

    ARISTEO: Mm-hmm.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: …and, um, the moment they started butchering my last name Valdovinos, I usually raise my hand. I’m like oh, that’s me,” you know? Not knowing and…

    ARISTEO: Mm-hmm.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: …I wasn’t crying or anything at that time. I was just kind of writing and I just like, “Oh someone’s here and…” and then they said they needed me, and I said, “Okay.” And went with the officer. We went on the elevator.

    ARISTEO: Mm-hmm.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: [tsk] He said, “You’re asked to please come home,” and I said, “Okay. Do you know why? “No, your family just needs you.” And I said, “Okay.” And my stomach and my arms and my…

    ARISTEO: Sentiste algo?

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: Yeah, something—and, and at that moment, I really thought something happened with my mom and Esmeralda, and I’m thinking, “Mom fell asleep, she fell on the baby, the baby fell, mom doesn’t drive. She’s never driven. We’ve tried her, we tried to get her lessons, just never happ—she just—always terrified. And I thought, “Maybe mami needs me to take her to the hospital,” something. I mean, that’s what, where my brain was taking me, with, with that, with that emotion, not knowing. [sniffs] So I’m driving home, [tsk] and then I start seeing a van, the van of that compadre.

    ARISTEO: Okay.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: That one compadre that gave him that job. But not knowing that that’s him, I’m thinking, “That van looks like that compadre’s, but…”

    ARISTEO: Mm-hmm.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: “…but this person—he’s—the van is in front of me.” And I’m following, now, this van, that’s making all these turns that I need to make to get to…

    ARISTEO: …to your house.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: …to my house. And I’m like, “Hmm, that’s’ strange.” And I see all these cars. There was an empty lot next to the house that we for once had. It was our first house purchased [sniff] at that time. And, um, I see he pulled in there and then I saw more cars. And I’m like, “This is strange. They wouldn’t have called me just—they wouldn’t—why are all these people—" I mean, it just didn’t make sense.

    ARISTEO: Mm-hmm.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: So then, you know, walk up to the stairs and I’m looking and I see all these people, and I don’t see mom. All I hear is hollering, um, from the bathroom, mom was in the bathroom. Mom was crying and screaming and, um, and she had some comadres, some family friends, that were also long-term, [tsk] um, trying to calm her down because, um, she, um, [tsk], she was hurting, because she was breastfeeding, you know. She was hurting and so they were trying to soothe her and, and, and just kind of calm her, calm her down. And so, when I came in the house—like I said, I heard the yelling. Not su—confused, not sure why, and then I suddenly saw my—I couldn’t even remember, to tell you the truth, who’s the person that told me, “Dad is—dad died. Dad has passed away.” And at that time, I lost it. But I can’t even remember, like, which of the siblings—'cause my brother was still young, and my sister was young. Uh, Veronica, which, who used to be the baby, but she no longer was the baby when Esmeralda came by as the new baby, um, [tsk] and then from there it’s like, brand new world. Fast.

    ARISTEO: Mm-hmm.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: Like I said, I cried for a long time. I let it out, I let it out and then it was time to, you know, strap on your boots and start thinking differently and knowing that I couldn’t rely on anyone. And that mom had me and I, and I—my sister is only, the other one, is one year younger than me.

    ARISTEO: Mm-hmm.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: Um, but they would call her la corajuda, you know, because she was always naughty and corajuda. She would always get upset and get into trouble and stuff like that. But I think it’s definitely a turning moment for all of us. It’s like, it was surreal.

    ARISTEO: Mm-hmm.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: [tsk] And at that time, going back to the attorneys that took care of us, I don’t know, maybe it came in the paper, in the news, I don’t know at that time. It couldn’t have come in the paper, because it was just then that it occurred, but uh, maybe, um, on the news, maybe? Um, we started getting a lot of phone calls from attorneys. Hey, um, “We’re willing to take your case. You want, you know—I’m so and so.” And we’re like, “Who are you guys, you know?” We haven’t even grieved, and you guys are already—want to take this lawsuit. It just didn’t make sense. We didn’t understand it. And it was that particular attorney that we’re like, “We’re working with you. Whatever you need to do, you know our family. You understand our struggles and what we have.” So, he is the one that took care of us.

    ARISTEO: And you did a lawsuit then?

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: Yeah, we had a—did the lawsuit because he lost his life.

    ARISTEO: And then, how long did that go for?

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: Hmm, golly, that might have gone on probably for two years, maybe. Probably two years, um… [tsk] Because the construction company, one of the viol—they were sued over one of the violations. Um, they have to put—when they dig dirt…

    ARISTEO: Mm-hmm.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: …the walls would cave in if they don’t use—they call it la caja.

    ARISTEO: Mm-hmm.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: And so, it’s one of those boxes, if you will, that compresses outward the walls so they don’t cave in. And they didn’t put that in place. But that was the norm. That’s the way they just did business. I don’t know if it was they didn’t want to, or if it was too much trouble, but that day, um, it was raining, um, and I remember that day was drizzling. A drizzling day. And usually when it rained, dad would not go to work and—or if he went and it started to rain, they would head back. But, so I don’t know what happened and the dirt was piled so high and, like, they say, like four feet fell on him [tsk] so many feet down, which, which is the added pressure. So, yeah, that’s where I grew up [sigh] fast and just said, “I just got to do what I have to do to take care of mom” and so I became the second mom to Esmeralda. But it’s just the way things were. Mom relied on me and, um….

    ARISTEO: Did she ever thank you for that?

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: Oh, yeah.

    ARISTEO: Yeah?

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: Yeah, many times. And I always thanked her, because I feel like if I didn’t have her I would have lost it. Like if I didn’t have another way to help, I don’t know where my brain would have gone and, um, depression or something, I don’t know. But because my mind was so occupied...

    ARISTEO: …you didn’t have time to really go through that?.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: Yeah.
  • Synopsis: Relationship with father; his alcoholism; physical and emotional abuse
    Keywords: parental relationship; alcoholism; alcoholic; alcohol abuse; physical abuse; emotional abuse; child abuse; drunk; wife beating; provider
    Transcript: ARISTEO: You mentioned that you had a rough relationship with your dad.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: Uh-huh.

    ARISTEO: Um, can you go into a little bit more detail into that?

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: Yeah, [sigh] definitely. Um, emotionally, [chuckles] like I said, I’m very sentimental and so, of course, any little thing that I saw in a commercial or saw in a novela or something, I would start crying, and my dad didn’t like it. [tsk] I uh, uh, me decía que era muy llorona and, and things like that. He just didn’t like, how, my personality and that’s who I am. I’m wired as a cancer.

    ARISTEO: Mm-hmm.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: I’m a July. [chuckle] A July, so I’m a cancer. And so, cancers are pretty emotional and devoted, you know, beings but dad just couldn’t handle las lagrimas. And so, uh...

    ARISTEO: ¿No era cariñoso?

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: No. It was, it, um, he would drink. So, my dad, uh, um, my dad would drink. And, um, los amigos, you know, with the friends. We had like a weird—we had like, we had, like, everything and yet we had nothing. So, meaning everything is, because dad worked hard, that’s the one thing dad was always very proud of. He never asked us for any money. He never asked us for anything, give up your mon—nothing. Um, [tsk] we always had food. Um, we were, um—well, Esmeralda was too little, but, you know, when the three of us, and the four of us—but when Esmeralda, uh, Veronica was born, and even later when cereal—everyone wanted their own cereal box, literally everyone had their own cereal box and dad was, “Okay, you open up your box, it doesn’t matter.”

    ARISTEO: Mm-hmm.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: Versus some friends would tell us, “No, hasta que se acaba esta caja, no pueden abrir otra.” Dad really didn’t care, and he was fine. Um, he would always tell us, “Echen en el carito todo lo que ustedes quieran. Pueden comer lo que ustedes quieran.” So, nunca lo limitó. He never stopped us from having, wanting, um, [tsk] you know, mom used to put our clothes on lay-away at K-mart. So, we had, but we didn’t have, like, we didn’t have a house, we didn’t have a fancy car, we didn’t have that, but dad always provided. Dad always provided. We always had las paletas, you know? We were that family. Like, we would share our paletas with our friends, because we had the paletas. So Dad, in that respect, we always had food, we always had a roof over our head. Um, bills were always paid. Um, we never had a credit card.

    ARISTEO: Wow.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: Didn’t understand credit cards [scoffs]. None of us understood that, you know, as kids at that time. But, um, [tsk] but because of his drinking, dad would have friends over, so we always had people over. La arachera, you know, and cooking and, and los amigos and so there was often very much a high embarrassment when you have to take out the trash, and you see cajas y cajas de cerveza and, um, in that respect, it was always like, you knew that that was wrong, because you understood then—as I got older, I started to understand more the temperament.

    ARISTEO: Mm-hmm.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: Like you had to monitor his feet sound, when he would come in.

    ARISTEO: Mm-hmm.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: You know, the way he would walk in the house, you would know, “Uh-oh, not today, don’t approach him. Not today.” Um, and...

    ARISTEO: Were you afraid of your dad?

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: Oh yeah. I was afraid of dad. I was definitely afraid of dad. Because I was, you know, la chillona, yo lloraba para todo. So, either, uh, if it wasn’t uh el el cinto, it was la mano, you know, it was usually [cries] striking... just...[continus crying as she speaks] the way that was, you know didn’t understand why it would happen. I wouldn’t do anything. I’m not a k—I’m not even a kid that was bad. But, um, [tsk] but if something didn’t go his way, he took it out on me. [tsk] And, uh, um, but my sister la que es la peleonera, he wouldn’t take it as much on her. Because she always fought back. I just didn’t know how to fight back.

    ARISTEO: Mm-hmm.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: So, always, we always monitored the steps so, um…

    ARISTEO: Did your mom ever say anything?

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: Oh, yeah. [sighs] Mommy stepped in. She got hurt plenty of times. [sniffs] Plenty of times. Um, nose broken, wrist broken [cries] Le quebró un brazo. Um, [tsk] but yeah, you know. And sometimes he was hard, he was hard to identify. Because sometimes, after several drinks, he would be the happiest person and [sniffs] “que quieren mis hijas. Quieren esto, quieren aquello.” He would give you a dollar, or five dollars and that was that [tsk]. And so, um, and then other times, it’s like you didn’t, you didn’t want to get near him ‘cause you sensed that irritation or upset and, um, and—which is the one har-ar—troubles and arguments mom and him always had is he was always happy con los amigos. Con irse él, you know, ese tiempo al billar, you know, at the billiards. He would go spend some time there. And he would go drink, and he was happy there, but [tsk] it was different at home. It’s like, you had two different personalities. [sighs] You know, and he, you know, he, he tried to hug us, and, you know, and, and love us in that respect, but you could only assume that maybe he didn’t get that same love and tenderness from his parents and he didn’t know how to then relay it to his own children. So, yeah, I had, um, been beaten plenty. [cries] I think I forgave him. It took me a long time. Um, [sniffs] years later—I mean, even, even when he passed away, I think I had a more hatred to the idea that he did this and why did you leave us with that? [sniff]. Um, but, um, again, I think things happen for a reason. Um, God is good, God is so good [sniffs]. So, because my dad was always drunk, and that a life we just knew, so when Esmeralda—mom lost a pregnancy before Esmeralda.

    ARISTEO: Mm-hmm.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: Again due to his violence and just the way my dad was. And mom lost the baby. Um, she had a stillborn. Not even a still born, I don’t even know what you would even call it in this day and age. So, the baby was… [tsk] Her, her calculation was that she was seven months pregnant, but the baby that they removed from her was only like three months old. So, then the baby pretty much dead for four months in her stomach. And mom had a hernia, so mommy’s tummy was always distended. Uh, you know, we would come to find out, it’s because we were all big babies. [chuckles] Eight-pound baby and a ten-pound baby. Vicky was ten and I was eight [chuckles]. Um, [sniffs] but, um, Mom had a lot of resentment towards dad in that time. [sniffs] And then, I don’t know how long, much later—I don’t k—not sure in time. Um, she got pregnant with Esmeralda. So, we kind do the math, and it’s—like I said God is good, because nine months of pregnancy and three months of Esmeralda’s age, that’s a whole year. [sniffs] And I—maybe it’s my own way of making sense out of it and making peace with it, because I feel that God wanted us to remember my dad, that one last year....

    ARISTEO: Mm-hmm.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: …as a good man. Um, because he no longer would fight with you, he no longer would—he wasn’t as harsh. Um, and so, we knew dad was different. We didn’t understand why he was different. We just know that we had a different dad. Like he was not the same man. Um, we only had a few pictures captured with him, um, rocking Esmeralda...

    ARISTEO: Mm-hmm.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: …and her little portabebe thing, her little carrier. But, I strongly feel in my heart, like I said, even if I’m the one that makes that sense…

    ARISTEO: Mm-hmm.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: …for myself, it’s, um, [tsk] having a year of remembering dad being good. [sigh] And then the tables turned. Then mom wanted to fight with dad. [tsk] And when inquiring to mom about, “Why are you trying to fight with dad?” Because now dad would say things like, um, “Le estás dando leche a la niña. Te se va a echar—la leche a perder.”

    ARISTEO: Perder, sí.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: And, you know, just and mom was just constantly trying to find a way. And it didn’t make sense. And I was like, “Why are you doing this mom?!” [chuckles]

    ARISTEO: Mm-hmm.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: You know, “Finally, dad’s not arguing. Dad’s not fighting. He’s not hitting us. Um, and she shared a side of a story where she says, that um, [tick] my—her own mother, my abuelita, her, her first husband died. Her first husband was a very rough man. Not my mom’s dad…

    ARISTEO: Mm-hmm.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: …’cause my mom’s came from her second husband. My grandmother’s second husband. But she says that my grand—her, her my, my grandmother’s first husband was a very mean man and didn’t want the kids to eat at the same table. Um, super machista, estilo, you know with pistolas and everything back in the day...

    ARISTEO: Mm-hmm.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: Back in Mexico. And, um, and very mean, very mean to my grandmother as well. Bien machista. And then, suddenly, [tsk] with the children that my grandmother had with…

    ARISTEO: Mm-hmm.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: …with her first husband, she would—her husband would let the children even be in the kitchen and then would let them play with the masa when they were making tortillas. And my grandmother at that time, was also like “Who is this man?” She couldn’t understand what happened to this person. And, um, short after, someone killed him. [sniffs, tsk]. So my mom in her head had this idea that, she doesn’t—she didn’t marry this man.

    ARISTEO: Mm-hmm.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: Well, my dad was nice, initially, of course.

    ARISTEO: Mm-hmm.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: Otherwise, she probably wouldn’t have married him. But, when my dad started being nice, mom was afraid…

    ARISTEO: Mm-hmm.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: …that something would happen to my dad because of the experience she already knew, and so she was trying to like…

    ARISTEO: to turn him back?

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: ...turn him back. She just—I think, it was her own way to stop time.

    ARISTEO: Mm-hmm.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: And Holy behold, that happened. So it’s one of those things that you don’t understand why. But so, the way I see it, he gave us this one year to recognize and accept that there was goodness in dad.

    ARISTEO: Mm-hmm.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: And that we could remember some of that good versus having those flashbacks, ‘cause honestly, that kind of stuff haunts you. I don’t think I can—even though, like I said, I’ve forgiven him, you just can’t forget...

    ARISTEO: Mm-hmm.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: That stuff sticks with you.
  • Synopsis: Affects of father's abuse on intimate relationships; first husband; father of child
    Keywords: first husband; father of child; son; pregnancy; Mexicana; rancho; macho; machismo
    Transcript: ARISTEO: Has it made you the women that you are today?

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: Mm-hmm. Definitely

    ARISTEO: Um…

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: It made me the mother who I am to my son [sniffs]. Um, [tsk] because when I first—my first husband that I married, I married my high school sweetheart at the time...

    ARISTEO: Mm-hmm.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: …and, um, [tsk]. Eh, he also was very jealous. And his family, the dad. Dad didn’t want me ‘cause no era Mexicana. Wasn’t del rancho. Pretty much is the way I understood things back then.

    ARISTEO: He was, ¿él era de Mexico?

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: Yeah.

    ARISTEO: Okay.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: Bien machista, él. El papa de mi novio en ese tiempo.

    ARISTEO: Mm-hmm.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: When we were dating. Um, he was one son out of seven girls. So he was the only boy.

    ARISTEO: Okay.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: And, so, um, so I think his dad had maybe a different mindset for him. Maybe something different for his son, I don’t know. But again, I was always studious...

    ARISTEO: Mm-hmm.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: …did what I was told, followed rules. Probably broke a few, too, because I was a teenager.

    ARISTEO: Mm-hmm.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: Had to lie to get out of the house. Um, [tsk] as a kid because dad didn’t let us spend the night at people’s houses and stuff like that. Um, [tsk] so when I had, when I was pregnant with my son, with our son, um, he started to be, very condescending.

    ARISTEO: Okay.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: Um, my son’s father. Um, he didn’t want me to wear certain clothes, he didn’t want me to do this, he didn’t want me to do that. Um, he used to work in a factory, so every day I would come home from school, make sure that I had his food prepared, had a whole—you know...

    ARISTEO: How old were you when you were pregnant?

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: Uh, I got married at 19 and, um, and I got, and I had Xavier at 20. 20, 21. I had Xavier. Um…

    ARISTEO: You were still going to Waubonsee?

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: I was going to Waubonsee. Um, and mom would say, “Don’t get married. If he loves you, he’ll wait for you. And of course, “No, no mami. He’s going to help me, and things... [sighs] things are going to fine.” Yes, “things are going to be fine.” No, they weren’t. They weren’t. And, you know, you don’t understand your parents until later yourself a parent. And [sighs] and we argued a lot. Again, because he didn’t want me to do things, he didn’t want me to wear things and…

    ARISTEO: Were you living at his house? Did you have your own apartment?

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: Um, we ended up moving in with my mom.

    ARISTEO: Okay.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: Um, we had, um, a room in my, in my mom’s house. Um, [tick] and just, like I said, he—his father didn’t want me, um, he said…

    ARISTEO: Mm-hmm. Was his mother still present?

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: Yes, his mother was still present. His mom liked me, his sisters liked me. I didn’t have any trouble with them. It was just dad. Um, and then, when my, when our, the—Xavier was born a month early just because of the arguments and the fighting...

    ARISTEO: Mm-hmm. The stress.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: Yeah, and I had my water, my water broke and went to the hospital and literally a whole day later, just about, had my son. So, I was in the hospital for, for a while. Um, and because I didn’t have any contractions because I wasn’t necessarily due, they had to give me medication to induce contractions and things like that, so I could have my son. Well, then the new, the new stresses happened. The new stresses of having a new baby. And, um, mom was wonderful. Mom helped and, um, cared for the baby, um, while I went to school [tsk] and things like that. Um, and as the baby started getting a little older, then he would want, for example, um, if the baby would wake up, he would go give him to my mom and you know. “I have to sleep. You need to take care of him.” So, he didn’t never really play a true father role.

    ARISTEO: Mm-hmm.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: It was always me as a mother and my mother as a mother, um, just watching and, and, you know, taking care of, of the kids. Because my sister, is, like I said, one month younger than I am—a year, [tsk] a year younger than I am, but her son is a month older than my son. We couldn’t have planned it any better. It’s the way things worked out. [chuckles]

    ARISTEO: Yeah.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: And then I left my husband. I filed for divorce. Um...

    ARISTEO: How old were you when you did that?

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: I was probably, maybe 22, 23. It didn’t last lon—we dated for about four, but we were married about one and half or so. [sighs] I just, I was afraid. Again, I was afraid that I would be stuck...

    ARISTEO: Mm-hmm.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: …in a relationship like my mother. Even though he never hit me, like my dad did and my dad did to my mom, but the words. The, the condescending and the mistrust and all of that. Um…

    ARISTEO: Were you afraid to end the marriage?

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: A part of me was afraid.

    ARISTEO: Mm-hmm.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: I felt like maybe, “Who’s going to want me? Who’s going to want me with a child? Um, will I find someone who loves me?” All these kind of emotions you grow up with and not knowing, you know, as a young mom what your life is going to be now with a new baby. Um, so, because I was afraid, um, of that world of not knowing—and, like I said, I’d been in school, so I understood psychology in the sense that, um, women who are battered stay with, with their same person, they don’t know how to get out, and here I’m living it and seeing with, uh, my own mother. A part of me was so afraid that I would be caught up in that kind of a web and then not know when it was right to get out. And I might not have the means, the financial means. I might not have [sighs] the cognizance of understanding it because I would be too emotionally…

    ARISTEO: …attached?

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: …attached and would not know how to detach. And so, when—so he went—he left and he went to live with his parents for back for a while. And then he wanted for us to get an apartment. And, initially, I thought, “Okay.”

    ARISTEO: Mm-hmm.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: And yet, I couldn’t do it. I, uh..., I spoke to mom and I said, “Mommy would you be okay if I stay with you?” And she says, “Whatever you want, mija, However I can help, quiero lo mejor para ustedes.” And so, I remember my determination then and there, and that was that.

    ARISTEO: So then, then you were still at Waubonsee?

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: I was still at Waubonsee. [tsk] So, then I just finished my degree. Um, I did my Associate’s, initially, with them. And then, um…

    ARISTEO: Do you still talk to your ex-husband or…?

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: We do. It’s much different now. We don’t talk as much. Um...

    ARISTEO: Mm-hmm.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: Initially, when, when Xavier was, um, young, we did. We had to. And, um, he, he remarried later and, um, the person that, um, that he remarried was really nice. I liked her a lot because I had to make sure in my heart that I can trust someone with my own son. Because he would go there on the weekends because I had him during the week and every other weekend the dad would have him. So, I got, I got to like her. She was nice. She was nice to my son. Um, [tsk] so in that respect, that was good. Um, we talk normal, no arguing, there was nothing to argue about. There was nothing in common any more.

    ARISTEO: Mm-hmm.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: Um, [bell rings] bell. That’s just the bell.

    ARISTEO: [chuckles]

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: And then, um... and then later on, [tsk] I myself then found a new relationship...

    ARISTEO: Mm-hmm.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: …with my current husband. He’s from India.

    ARISTEO: Okay.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: And, um, so, that’s a whole other chapter.

    ARISTEO: Yeah.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: Uh...

    ARISTEO: We have like ten minutes.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: Sure, sure.
  • Synopsis: Relationship with second husband and higher education
    Keywords: dental assistant; nursing school; Associate's degree; Bachelor's degree; NIU; Northern Illinois University
    Transcript: ARISTEO: After Waubonsee, can you tell me a little bit what you did for education?

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: Yes.

    ARISTEO: How you transferred and...

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: So, I started Waubonsee and then, the whole transfer started with this complicated life that one would have as a kid growing up and not knowing where you’re going. So, one of the jobs that I had, I was a dental assistant.

    ARISTEO: Okay.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: So, um, that was in high school, and I um, it was one of those jobs that I got when I was in high school in my senior year. Either junior or senior year and, um, you know, I enjoyed that world, that world of dentistry. And so, I wanted to go to school. But even— actually, prior to that—let me backtrack a little bit. After Waubonsee, I thought I wanted to be a nurse.

    ARISTEO: Okay.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: So, I started the nursing program after my Associate’s, I started the nursing program. Well, that didn’t pan out because I used to feel faint spells, like when I would see gooey stuff and blood and what-have-you. So, I wasn’t cut out to be a nurse. I would say that. Even though I would do good on my exams and I would do good in the clinical, well, the clinical exams, and the practicum that you would do in the classroom. I would second guess myself.

    ARISTEO: Mmm.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: And my actual writing, my assessments, so I would go back and reassess, any answers I would get wrong, I would go, you could see my eraser, my eraser marks were. I had it right the first time. But I always second guessed, guessed, second guessed myself. I don’t know if that was just part of my nature. Just second guessing myself....

    ARISTEO: Mm-hmm.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: And I would change a lot because I would always think about, “Well, in this scenario, this would be the choice, but in that scenario, I think it would be this,” you know, “this or that based on that.” Um [tsk] so, so I left nursing. I had an instructor at that time that said to me, “Nursing is not for you. You need to look for something else.”

    ARISTEO: Mm-hmm.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: And that crushed me, emotionally, because I doubted myself already.

    ARISTEO: Mm-hmm.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: I had lost dad. And, um, [tsk] I—the next set of courses were all related to biology—so, I love science. I love science and I had an amazing teacher. Mrs. Otto. O-T-T-O, I think was her name. [tsk] I can’t remember her first name. But she noticed that my scores were starting to dwindle.

    ARISTEO: Mm-hmm.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: And she wanted to know if I wanted to spend extra time with her…

    ARISTEO: Mm-hmm.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: …after regular lessons and so she could give me some support. And I said, “Definitely.”

    ARISTEO: Mm-hmm.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: I [sigh, chuckle]. The weird thing I always think about when I think about Mrs. Otto, is the word [tsk] um, what is it called mito-, mitochondriac.

    ARISTEO: Uh-huh.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: One of those, one of the cells. It’s really weird, because I think about the weirdest things when I think about her. But I think about the gentleness in her soul to be able see someone who was struggling and believe that you could still do well. So, my scores from Cs and Ds went up to Bs.

    ARISTEO: Wow.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: So, she was really good. So, she guided me. So, I enjoyed my biology. Like I said, when I was trying some of the nursing stuff, that, that didn’t work out. Um, so in this job, the fact that I was doing dental assisting, I still wanted that kind of a feel. I don’t think, I don’t think I understood myself as a doctor. Like a medical doctor. Brightness, I don’t know. Because like, like I said I just don’t know. I don’t know. I just never foresaw that. Because in the medicine world, the world of medicine. But, um, because I was, I was really good at what I did at the clinical office, at the dental office. Um, the doctor wanted to open up a brand-new clinic in a different location. And he would say to me, “Maria, when we move to the other one, I want you to manage that building, and, you know, you run it and all of that. And I said, “Okay....”

    ARISTEO: Mm-hmm.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: …but we’re going to have to hire somebody else. Because we need another person over there.” And, um, [tsk] um, I remember him then having a conversation with me, saying that a different doctor was going to come and join his practice, but he was really mean and he was not very nice, and he cost a lot, and he said a lot of curse words. [tsk] And I was like, “Oh my God, I’m already like, like la chillona, you know....

    ARISTEO: Mm-hmm.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: …and now you’re going to throw me into the lion’s den. I would always think that, right?

    ARISTEO: Mm-hmm.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: And so, anyway, because like I said I was very good at what I did. And I—very comfortable...

    ARISTEO: Uh-huh.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: …like second nature to me. [tsk] Holy behold here comes Dr. Bhatia. Sudhir Bhatia. So, that’s my husband now.

    ARISTEO: Wow.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: So, um, he is, he was very funny and hilarious and just—he and the other girl that got hired, we would always go to lunch. And nothing was happening at that time, you know…

    ARISTEO: Uh-huh.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: …you just got to know this person.

    ARISTEO: You were, at that time, 20 or still 19?

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: Uh, no. Already was in my um, would be 20. I think 20. 20 or 21, maybe.

    ARISTEO: Okay.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: Yeah, 20, 21.

    ARISTEO: And doctor Bakia?

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: Bhatia. B-H-A…

    ARISTEO: Bhatia? How old was he? Was he…?

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: Oh, much older than I am.

    ARISTEO: Much older? Oh Okay.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: Much older than, let’s put it that way. Much older than I am. [chuckles]

    ARISTEO: Okay. [chuckles]

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: Um, and so, but it was really nice to see his personality and, um, how he would crack jokes and make us laugh. And I thought, “This isn’t bad at all. What, what’s this you know, this doctor, he’s fine!” Um, [tsk] and then um, he worked at another clinic in Chicago…

    ARISTEO: Mm-hmm.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: …and he wanted to take me over there so I could get more experience, because it was, he is a pediatric dentist.

    ARISTEO: Okay.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: So, he’s a specialized for children.

    ARISTEO: Uh-huh.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: So, I was excited. On my day off, I get to go to another job, get to know more, get more income.

    ARISTEO: Mm-hmm.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: And I just, just, you know, enjoying to get to know that world of dentistry…

    ARISTEO: Uh-huh.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: …because I really enjoyed that. So, I wanted to be a dental hygienist...

    ARISTEO: Uh-huh.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: So, I’m like, “I can’t be a nurse. I’m going to be a dental hygienist,” and I applied for school and everything and, and, um, they had closed Loyola University. So, they weren’t, uh, taking any more...

    ARISTEO: Um…

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: …any more students that—I don’t even remember what year. But it was the year they closed their dental program. Their dental hygienist program. So, then I said, “Okay. So what is—and then, my husband now, but at that time—"Well, why do you want to be a dental hygienist? All you’re going to see is teeth all day. You’re really not going to grow. That’s all you get to see. You’re not going to get to expand.” And he said, “Well, why don’t you pursue education? You know you’ve always liked education.” I said, “Yeah, I have. And I did.” Um, so...

    ARISTEO: You were here in Illinois at this point?

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: Uh-huh. Yeah.

    ARISTEO: You guys had moved, or this was prior, right?

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: Yeah.

    ARISTEO: Okay. Okay.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: Yes.

    ARISTEO: Okay.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: And now it’s a whole different, a whole different slew of. I think my husband and I, we’ve been together just about the same age as my son. So, Xavier turned 26. So, we must have been—we might have been now together for about, maybe 23 years?

    ARISTEO: Really? Wow.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: And so, go and marry your high school sweetheart and thinking you’re going to be there since forever and that doesn’t work out.

    ARISTEO: Mm-hmm.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: So we’ve been together…

    ARISTEO: So, he’s the one that told you to pursue education?

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: Yes.

    ARISTEO: And then from Loyola, that’s when you decided to go to…?

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: NIU.

    ARISTEO: NIU.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: Then I applied to NIU. I got into NIU.

    ARISTEO: Okay.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: I, uh, um, and that’s, like, another great story. It’s fine, mija, we can keep going.

    ARISTEO: Do you want to end here? And we can start....

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: Sure!

    ARISTEO: Okay.

    VALDOVINOS-BHATIA: Sure. Whatever works for you.

    ARISTEO: Okay.

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