DescriptionErica Lim (31) interviews Yadira de la Riva (36) about growing up in the border towns of El Paso, TX and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. Yadira describe her mother, who worked hard to support her family. They also talk about the Trump administration's crackdown on undocumented immigrants and plans to build the U.S.-Mexico wall.
Subject Log / Time Code
- Yadira De La Riva
- Erica Lim
Recording LocationsLower Manhattan StoryBooth
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00:03 My name is Erica Lim age 31 today is January 29th, 2017. Where in New York and I'm with my partner Nidia who's my sister from stood I ask for for liberation.
00:19 Yes, okay. I'm ya Vita Bella Riva. I'm 36.
00:25 Today is January 29th, 2017. Where in Foley Square, New York City?
00:38 And I am with Erica with my sister in such a desperate.
00:48 I was going to say we're also like in the in the belly of the Beast.
00:55 Financial District in New York City. All right, so you did I know you grew up in El Paso Texas border City. I was wondering so if you could talk about your mother story and how you ended up there how she ended up there where she's from. My mom is the second oldest of
01:22 10 kids and she
01:28 Was Bernie reason to the Juarez Mexico? It's right across the border from El Paso, Texas.
01:37 And because she's a second oldest she had to start working early on so she could help her family my parents and uncles and my grandparents sustain themselves and see that what is so by the age of 16. She started working in the maquiladoras and the factories in so that what is and one of the biggest factories then in the 70s I want to say was RCA which is a electronic had to be You song
02:16 And the assembly line to make televisions so yes when she started working there cuz I was like the legal age to start working. So it's kind of like a waiting game to get into the factory. I mean she started working in a lot of other places before that cuz that's just what the family would do. I think my Grandma had like
02:44 For for sustainability reasons, you know, it's like
02:54 Yeah to have like food on the table. She would put her kids to work. I would say ask you is kind of like the bus she ran an agency to her kids. So yeah, so that she would do like the other kids would do favors for the neighbors and stuff like that. So for my mom to have a legit job she was like, okay, let's just get this movie.
03:17 So yeah, that's my mom. She met my dad when they were about.
03:26 15 or so. They got married like around 8:20 ish and then all my dad was in the military. So that's how we were able that's so she was able to get US military in the US Military.
03:45 Hit his mom was already a citizen. She was born I think in Arizona, but she went back to Mickey Cohen racer family there but others to say is that my dad already had access to residency through her even though he was born in Mexico and that's how he was able to get my mom residency as well. So because of that both my sister and I are you was born but we're also registered in Mexico. So we have dual citizenship. Yeah, and that's what happens on the border like you can have that you have access to to those things.
04:29 To have to disinfect to be registered on both sides and to be with her even though we lived and what it is and we live there till I was like five.
04:38 We were at we all we had to do is just crossed the bridge to be born on the US side get that paper and go back home and get those papers to how often growing up. Did you go back and forth across the border when we lived and what is not too much. It was only my mom that would go back and forth to work.
05:06 We would hardly ever go actually and the whenever we would go it was to buy things and it was usually really boring. Like what is always a lot of fun there. It was just more lively there were more people out and about everybody. It's like the sense of community is I guess culturally stronger, like people will say hi to each other a lot more don't know each other don't know each other's business a lot more and it whenever we went to El Paso. It was just kind of empty or people. Yeah, and then we didn't know anybody either. So it's like, you know, we're just here to buy things and then go back. When did you move to El Paso we moved when I was about five years old when I was ready to go to school. So I mom wouldn't have to
06:01 Worry about who's going to take care of me cuz my grandma took care of me when we were in quite as but once I was in school, then I would be in school. So it was yeah between like 4 and 5 and
06:17 We had a Athey on that lived in El Paso and she was kind of like my mom's support network there. So we moved with her and then she would just take care of us overall with my mom would have to go to work. So we had her.
06:36 So is it like when you moved or did you what did you feel about that at the timer?
06:45 Well, I have an older sister. She's four years older than me and I feel like I saw the the world kind of threw her cuz
06:55 Don't need I mean I would just stay at home. You know, I'm with my with my
07:01 I remember growing up with my grandma was always at our house, you know, cuz my mom was at work and then when we went to add fossil, I just need on my Tia's house. Like I didn't know anything. I was done with family. I was still in a comfort comfortable space, but my sister I would see her, you know, come back and forth from school and
07:24 Yeah, I think she's the one that went through most of the like cultural.
07:29 Culture shocks, you know, like not knowing not knowing English. She had to repeat a grade cuz she didn't know English even though on every other subject make it was probably a little more advanced but when it comes to math and reading and writing all that stuff there usually a head but because the language had to go back and she had to leave all of her friends. You know her school friends and her whole community. So I remember that
08:01 But I guess when I started going to school I went to school. I was in a bilingual program. So we started I started in Spanish mostly. Okay? Yeah, I didn't go into.
08:13 I didn't go into English like all English and so like 5th grade.
08:19 And how is that switching over?
08:24 I didn't really like it. I guess that's when I started to notice like the separations cuz it was like the the Spanish the ESL kids and then there was like the regular kid and then the word the gifted and talented gifted and talented, you know, so it was like
08:43 Sure that I hear that from a lot of my friends who grew up speaking other language in English as a second language that they treated that class almost as if it was like some remedial or you know, like the kids were in a smart or something but in actuality it's like no these kids speak multiple languages. Yeah. I'm just sick and I had friends in all the classes. So I'm like we talked like what's the different thing? You know, we play the same we talked to say and we talked about the same stuff, but you're in that class and I'm in this class. And yeah, and I didn't really like it. I don't like moving thing, but I don't really like the teacher I didn't actually I almost felt like the ESL kids got pushed even harder because you know, I guess of the language or whatever cuz when I went to just English it was it was
09:38 It wasn't as challenging. I don't know or maybe as fun and it was very standard. It was very by-the-book really boring.
09:49 School like any interactions with teachers or other students?
09:58 Yes, I remembered. So El Paso because it's a Border Town and this is my theory but I feel like there's been like writings about it to that because it's a Border Town. The job of Border towns are to like American eyes kids americanize people overall. So you can differentiate like one side to the other side. So I remember yeah, I remember a lot of like that then the like English learning stuff was very like this is the US, you know, and like let's learn a song about the Grand Old Flag, you know, and I don't know what I was saying, but I knew how to sing the song, you know, and then the 50 states learning the 50 states and I remember
10:51 They brought their these trailers and I don't know if it's just in Texas or advice or whatever, but they're in these trailers that have in writing Mayflower and I don't know if it's a company or whatever. I haven't seen them to too much after that. But I remember they brought that trailer to my elementary school on Thanksgiving.
11:14 And and and they make or maybe I just fell for it, but they're like this is the Mayflower you don't even know what's a trailer but it was like they just made us think that you know, this was this was a this was what it looked like her. This was the Grand Ole, you know, Mayflower or whatever. How is it? How is your mom with you with these issues of like identity in like a simulation or you know culture things like that? She let me see what just she just worried. She didn't really have time to check in with us necessarily like we managed once we started going to school we would manage ourselves if anything should probably wake us up she would call us to wait to make sure that we were up but after that, you know, we dress ourselves. We went to school we came back did our homework and then maybe by the time we were done with homework ish.
12:14 Then she would come home and she would be tired. So, you know, it's just like cooking for us. It was very practical. She will cook for us. We would eat two couldn't necessarily help us with homework cuz you know, it was an English and then that wasn't necessarily her strength.
12:36 But the time that we did spend with my mom was going back to what is I'm just going back to see our family is like throughout the week. We'll just handle business like school was just like handle business new businesses in the weekend. We're going to go to Hollis and that's where we're really do like the how do you say going to be leave like the the real the real bonding? The real quality time was going by to hardest. What's a memory that you have of your mother?
13:13 The whole going back and forth the the getting ready to go to work like my mom.
13:19 Always working always working so getting up super early.
13:24 She she cares a lot about you know what she looks like. So she always made herself up letting her makeup on point hair on point. Yeah, you know, it's it's it's like Joe in it, you know, it's a her working with something good what it was like having agency, you know, she would hardly ever complain. She was like nah, man, like I I I can work, you know, I can work I can provide not just for my kids before my family.
13:59 She had a lot of friends at work. So that that was like her social life and and her agency her strength. So yeah, and yeah, I just coming back and forth from work. That's how I remember most and Dolly herself up like the order of that was like putting on makeup so showering putting on makeup getting dressed.
14:31 It's you would lie on the bed sometimes cuz she would really tight pants and she wouldn't lie on the bed tonight. You know, you like sexy to me in a little bit like zip it up and down and I could feel all of that cuz I we I used to sleep with her with my mom. So I just even if my eyes were closed so, you know, I wasn't time for me to wake up. I would just like lie there and and listen to getting ready.
15:09 Yeah, just very very driven. Very practical.
15:17 I think my mom it's interesting cuz I'm in my thirties and I remember my mom at her 30s, and she was just a champ like she was just
15:28 He was just about it. Like she took a lot of pride in providing and providing for her for for herself for her kids for my grandma and eat that and she talks about it still to this day like okay to make money in to handle bills, but always that little extra that little extra was like
15:49 Everything cuz you can get you can chop, you know, you can get yourself, you know, two really nice blouses and a pair of jeans.
16:01 Like all of that was like wow, you know putting things on layaway for us, you know.
16:10 Yeah, like what we we we took joy in and those things it was really it was exciting and when you close to your mom going up, yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, we slept I slept with my mom and her bed. So I was like in fifth grade. So yeah, like I followed her a lot and when she ever
16:34 Which ever talk to you about anything like about her life or history or any difficulties or you know her days at work or anyting to never complain about work and then like her personal life? I would just spell out like she couldn't help it, you know cuz if she was at home, so so yeah, if she felt sad like yeah, she would cry.
17:02 Also, she would talk a lot with her friends on the phone. So you could hear what was going on.
17:09 You know and it was always stuff with my dad or or whatever chicken was going on at work like you it would still you know, you would find out also when we would drive back and forth across the border she would cause a lot of times we would.
17:30 Fall asleep, like the right of the car at least I would fall asleep, but I again still like eyes closed but I'm still aware of what's happening and my mom will talk to herself.
17:45 What would she say? Did you do you remember anything that?
17:51 I don't remember specifically what you would say.
17:55 But I think that was her attempt to like process, whatever.
18:07 I don't know why cuz I'm not even talk about anything bad.
18:14 But yeah, I remember her.
18:19 Like if she was pissed.
18:25 As would be like cursing.
18:29 Not loud like it was always to himself.
18:34 In Spanish
18:37 Yeah, or or just figuring things out.
18:44 I think
18:46 A lot of single mothers and especially immigrant mothers, you know, I think they hold so much emotion in a lot of times like I can relate to to the some of the things that you're saying. They don't express or complain or you know, they just like this is there. I feel like a lot of times they're like, this is just what life is and you work hard and you don't complain about it and kind of like
19:14 You become like a champ. Like your mom is a champ write a chant for your family and for your kids and I feel like a lot of times you didn't have time to process things or you know.
19:27 Strangely, I mean I know my mom she felt even though she had to work a lot and had a lot of problems she felt lucky, you know to be able to work in providing make money and have food on the table.
19:44 So I feel like we're so lucky right. I feel like we're always about processing emotions now and it and healing and I liked it or moms ever heal their traumas or from their problems are like, I wonder what that does to somebody when you don't ever talk about
20:05 Yeah, yeah and just how even like self-care when will my mom know for certain things. My mom is open to self care before other things. It's so awkward for her. I'm like Mom like take a bath and she's like what she's like for what like how my God okay, you know, so it's like she already has that reaction. So it's like okay, let me warm it up for you. You don't let me like convince you that is good for you that it's okay for you to do that.
20:42 Now you're going to feel better. You know after you you're done. Yeah, like what is that? What is self-care? You know? Yeah. Yeah the trip. Yeah. Yeah because she's getting older. So yeah, this stuff is like and also I think I found her pretty hard and Spruce Health the hope she she's taking up swimming which is great and I took it up as like exercise, you know, and that's more of a
21:23 No, like a body image type of thing like a body requirement like I got to do the upkeep, but I'm like no, this is also good for you Mom that you have to keep going. You have to keep going because you know, the convincing of all the reasons why it's good not just cuz it's good for exercise, you know, so she does that about eating to ya.
21:52 Yeah, cuz she has a lot of like to add a lot of stomach issues. So I'm like well, you know, you can change those things. I would love for her to do yoga or to meditate cuz that woman's mind is just nonstop like mine, but at least that but at least we've had a chance to do, you know, learn this stuff for like give yourself time to do these things.
22:19 So so I know it's interesting you're growing up you you were jumping back and forth across the border all the time between Cuates and Texas. What was your sense of identity like growing up in a Border Town and you know, people are always try to add and I don't immigrants. I feel like people always try to challenge your americanist in a sense of what was your sense of identity growing up. The Border was so normal that I didn't question it. I mean you grow up there. Everything is normal inside going back and forth is normal.
23:03 Did you have a sense of how am I Mexican? I'm American. Are you just like now? I'm just meeting the yeah, I'm just me and because the majority of people there are Mexicans. So it's not like you would ever have to prove a or you ever have to say it. No, it's a little bit different it cuz it boss was growing a lot. So it's it's it's getting more diverse, which is great. But what I remember is just being surrounded by
23:29 Mexicans all the time and even at school like yeah, we would be speaking English and learning English, but we were still on Mexican, you know, maybe after we're done with the lesson we can be go back to Spanish, you know, go back to you know, discussing what's for lunch. And you know, it was just a lesson for lesson sake it was in like all this is who I am or this is my lifestyle is it was just like this is what I have to learn and that's it. To get a good grade and that's it. It's when I left that I was like, oh my God, like again to socialization. It is Americanization. It really is. I mean even Crossing back and forth.
24:11 We would get like the the lecture routine of like what are you supposed to say every time that you cross sold that you're allowed to cross. So, you know, you have to say American back then they didn't have like the passports and like the super electronic.
24:35 Cards that they have now beg then you would just say American and that's it. And if for whatever reason the border patrol you weren't convincing or you know, the border patrol needed extra information. They could ask you and you have to be prepared for those questions like okay, if you're American what school do you go to where do you live is very much at the mercy of the officer of the year. And so we would like practice those things. So my mom would be like, you know, if they ask you what school you go to. What are you going to say? You had to practice? Okay, I go to Alta Vista. Okay. Where do you live and you have to know your address? So I live on Calvin Street where it where are you going or? Why? Why are you Crossing?
25:25 It's like where I was just visiting my my grandma. Okay, where you going now? I'm going home. Like we had to know how to respond to all of those things cuz we didn't.
25:36 We don't want to get held back, you know, we wanted to go home. We wanted to whichever way.
25:42 So yeah, so it's crazy in hindsight back then all of that was normal. But in hindsight, it just reminds me of like what my Grands have to do like, you know it in a kind of reminds me of a little bit. I although it is it could or could not be a severe but like how like black folks have to lick train their kids about the cops. You know, it's like okay if you see a cop what do you do what to do and what not to do. I feel like I learn the version of that but on a bond on Border tactics, you know, and but I didn't see it that seriously to me. It was just like okay, you know this would have to do is what I have to learn and not have to say a ride and
26:30 That's it. It wasn't.
26:33 It wasn't a big deal. It didn't seem like a big deal and also because I never a we never got held back hadn't had I had a witness that I probably would have been like, oh, okay. Okay, this is serious but growing up. I don't know what kids are like now, like now that people are getting held up a lot more now that they ask you a lot more questions now that I mean enforcement is crazy or not before it was a lot more fluid so I don't know what it's like for kids now, but I see my cousin's going through the same thing the ones that are still no pain you like my my my thing for my cousin's training their kids away we got trained and how is it Crossing there? Now how has it changed? The lines take forever because this is very thorough like now you have to have those electronic.
27:33 Passports like it has been kind of chip in there. So it's harder to replicate those before. It was just like I don't know something laminated. I don't know is easier who was way easier.
27:49 But now you have to have that if they want to look through your car for any reason they will.
27:59 They ask you a lot more question Sometimes some that. I don't remember at all like one time. They asked me and my mom cuz my mom remarried so she has a different name and she was like, oh this is who is this? This is my daughter. How come you all have different names? Like well, if you want to go into it, you know, like the chisme side of it, but like
28:24 Why is that abnormal like?
28:27 You know my mommy made when do you know so yeah, it's just because it's so sterile that go through, you know, you and your car and all that stuff that the lines are longer and a lot of that happened after 9/11 when they they reinforce the Border after that.
28:51 And how are you?
28:53 So given this current political climate, where in
28:58 With this crazy wall thing going on. How do you feel about that? How is that, you know, especially growing up in a Border Town. What is that make you feel or what if you put their thoughts in around that?
29:19 And this is something that I also sound like on a on an article and I've been saying this too is that
29:25 Black people people will make at the immigration policies from DC or from the you know, but these places don't understand how borders border communities function like border communities are completely interdependent. They rely on each other for everything like labor there condoms are like
29:54 Completely independent interdependent families, you know that live on opposite sides. You can't have one without the other and so yeah people feel like you can like divide these two countries in you you can't and Knots and especially on a on a local level on a border local level. So
30:23 I can't say that after they reinforce it after 9/11. We wouldn't go back and forth as much anymore because of the long lines and also because they all these on requirement like that that card cost a lot more everything cost more. So if people don't have money
30:42 To get all of these like required things it's harder for you to have permission that whatever it takes for you to go back and forth so that I D or that permission or that permit her that whatever that's going to cost money. So I have had family like we're so used to having our family gatherings.
31:03 That and having everybody there that after it got reinforced that wouldn't happen as much like that would be like one absent, you know family member and it was because you know, all that happened that they haven't bought their passport yet their local passport.
31:27 Or or we wouldn't go to White House cuz it's like oh, you know, we don't want to wait that line or when you got really bad when it was the When The War on Drugs hit what is really bad between like 2006 and 2000?
31:45 1112 something like that.
31:49 We don't want to get caught, you know in the in the violence we didn't want to.
31:56 Lil Wayne get shot so cuz it was just so Random. It was like, you know every day there was a count of bodies and it's like it could happen anytime anywhere. So yeah that prevented us from going over there, which is also a trip because here we are trying to
32:19 Beast you know Cassius or like careful of ourselves, but our family is on the other side so it's like
32:28 Is it?
32:29 I mean, I don't know. I I got a little judgmental about it cuz I'm like, yeah, I'm like that's hypocritical like we can't do that. We can't stop, you know, we can't stop.
32:44 We can't stop going to Juarez.
32:48 For fear of Our Lives when I fat when our families lives are in danger every day, you know, but that but that's what a lot of people did and it's real I mean is fear is real fear. You don't want anything to happen to you.
33:03 What do you think will happen around now different from now? I don't know.
33:11 It's going to be harder to go back and forth.
33:15 I think a lot more people, you know, because it's a money-making saying I'm sure that there's going to be a lot of arrest it's going to be
33:26 Yeah, a lot of people going to deportation centers detention centers one of my uncles when I was in a detention center for about like 5 years or something and I've years. Yeah, and that's ridiculous too. Cuz it's like let's just say
33:44 You committed a crime or you got caught, you know without papers or whatever like for them to keep you first then to keep you in the US for Years first instead of just sending you, you know to to make a car wherever you're from is ridiculous. Like it's stupid, but that's what happened. Yeah, that's what happened to it to one of my uncles and one of my cousins as well. So
34:14 Yeah, I mean I fear for that I have family and it possible that doesn't have but yeah that don't have papers.
34:28 So, I don't know. It's already like super.
34:39 Militarized super
34:45 Surveilled with lot of surveillance. So I mean even my mom she lives like four blocks away from the wall and because she lives by the waters, they will be border patrol that are like consistent need driving around the neighborhood. So it was just, you know, just heavily
35:04 Surveilled, is that the word? Yeah, just you know, like people considered always always looking at.
35:13 Yeah, it's crazy because that used to be Mexico actually, like what is this like border? That's being the keeper like I like Mexicans that have lived there for like Generations. Like what do you mean? I've like I've been here for like all go back to your country. It's like I've always been here before to arrive.
35:40 So, yeah, absolutely.
35:44 And if we're if if we're aware enough of our own history will be able to not just know that but feel it cuz cuz you can feel it like the land like our connection to the land the crops. You know what we eat on both sides the way we talk on both sides the way we understand each other and our culture is on both sides, you know, all of that is deep.
36:17 And and I took it for granted cuz like I said, all of that was normal to me, but yeah.
36:25 After digging from my own history and stuff then I was able to like understand it on a deeper level and it was not just like a day-to-day thing.
36:35 And how are you? How do you how are you feeling now is a woman of color is an immigrant. Is it you know, like Tina women in this current state? I'm scared. Yeah, because that's something that you know, I mentioned to you before is that guy? I've already been arrested, you know for no reason at all. I've already been
37:05 Estee racially profiled, you know, I've already been named calls. I've already been discriminated like so now
37:16 It's like
37:18 Fair game because it's it's sanctioned by by the state like there is happening left and right and there's no consequences. So what about you?
37:41 It's interesting time, but
37:47 I think also now more than ever. I think it's I think I did. I see a good thing that a lot of us are really coming back to community and connecting with community and I think finding solidarity with each other across ethnic lines in the process agent sexuality and you know racing all these things collectively to
38:11 The fight was going on so I think
38:15 I think despite all the messed up stuff is going on. I think any of the people.
38:21 Will do. What's right in the end Cynthia being a woman of coloreds.
38:28 You know, you're kind of like at the Bottom Rung of it's happening. So, what did your mom think about? What's happening or what? Does she say? My mom doesn't engage with it might you know my mom.
38:45 I don't know how much she is. There is in like your mom. I mean, she she's she's expressed things of like, or pain or upsetness or she's a prostitute or emotions when it comes to guys. She just kind of acts like
38:57 Everything is going to be you know, whatever. It doesn't matter what happens we're going to get through it. So she doesn't really talk about stuff. How about your mom? Do you tell her?
39:07 I haven't had a chance to talk to her yet actually since all the dramatic decline stuff happening this past month, but I definitely will when I go home have it your mom. Is it kind of the same?
39:23 I mean now she's a citizen and she doesn't work anymore. So she's relatively safe, but I always tell her stuff. I'm Nick.
39:32 Yeah, my mom is going to get really bad. Yeah, and I were going to have to be doing stuff. You know, we're going to have to like take care of our families, you know.
39:42 Oh, yeah, but I don't know. I don't know how it's serious. This is not a yes not engaged in the politics.
39:57 And we're thinking of you. So much for sharing your stories about growing up and I'll thank you. Thank you so much. I wish we could do this reversed if it's possible, that would be great.