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Reyna Grande’s The Distance Between Us…

 

In 1977, Reyna Grande’s father became one of the many undocumented immigrants entering the United States. He left his family—Reyna’s mother, her sister Magloria (Mago), her brother Carlos and her—behind in Guerrero, México. They lived in a small shack made of bamboo sticks and cardboard. The children’s bellies were full of parasites; their hair was infested with lice.

 

They went barefoot and had no money for school. They had no running water. They bathed in a canal littered with trash. They went around gathering cow dung to burn in order to keep warm and chase the mosquitoes away.

 Reyna Grande

 

Reyna’s father left because he had two choices: 1) Stay in México and see his children suffer, with no possibility of a better future, or 2) Leave for the United States and give them a chance to succeed in life. By choosing to leave, Reyna’s father gave her the greatest gift a parent can give a child—the possibility to succeed!

 

Two years after he left, Reyna’s father sent for her mother. He returned home five years later and brought Reyna and her siblings to the United States, leaving Reyna’s mother and their sister behind. By then, Reyna was almost ten.

 

On their first attempt to cross the border from Tijuana, Reyna became sick and suffered from fever most of the way. Her father carried her on his back…up until they were caught.

On the second attempt, they got caught again. By this time Reyna’s father was getting frustrated. He wanted to take his three oldest children back to Guerrero and forget the whole thing.

 

But he vowed to try one last time—this time crossing the border at night. Reyna vividly remembers the darkness, holding her sister's hand and being afraid of getting lost. She remembers the helicopter flying above them, and running, trying to find a place to hide. But in the end they actually made it.

 

But life in the United States was definitely not the dream Reyna had envisioned. She was enrolled in the fifth grade in Aldama Elementary in Highland Park, CA, although in México she was just finishing third grade. As she didn’t speak English, she was put in a corner to be taught by the teacher’s assistant. Her teacher didn’t speak Spanish, so for the rest of the year Reyna yearned, but could not, communicate with her.

 

Reyna’s father truly believed in the value of education, drilling into his children’s heads that they were lucky to be living in America. He often threatened to send his them back to México if they didn’t learn English and get good grades. He frequently stressed the importance of having a stable job, a retirement account, and owning a house. But Reyna’s father, like her mother, had demons of his own. His alcoholism and own disillusionment caused an irreparable break between him and his children.

 

Reyna Grande persevered, however, and is now living the US-American dream. “By leaving Mexico,” she says, “My father changed the course of my life completely. Because I live in the United States, I am a college graduate and a teacher for the Los Angeles Unified School District. I have my own house. I have a car. Best of all, I am a published author.

 

“Only in the United States can a person go from being an undocumented immigrant to a published author.”

 

When she’s not writing, Reyna Grande teaches English as a second language to adults, most of whom are undocumented immigrants. Grande claims she sees her parents in them. Some of her students have children in other countries, and they struggle daily to find a way to be reunited with their sons and daughters.

 

In her classroom Grande sees hardworking people who came to this country to flee miserable poverty at home. “I don’t see criminals,” she declares, “I see human beings who want what's best for themselves and their children.”

 

Source: Publishers of “La Distancia Entre Nosotros.”

 

 
Copyright © 1989 to 2014 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 02/04/14 20:31:20 -0800.

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