Constantly adjusting to new schools along with a new language
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Pablo (not his real name) was 5 when he came to the United States. When he was 9 his father was arrested for domestic violence, and Pablo was sent to a juvenile home.
Pablo: The kids there were all older than me. They were 12 and 13, and I was only 9. The first morning I was there I slept late because I was really, really tired. The other kids finally woke me up. They were all Anglos and I was the only Latino. This kid named Brian pounded me hard to wake me up. He gave me a bloody nose because I couldn’t speak English.
That day I was transferred to another big building with lots of rooms where there were kids my age. That’s where I met this kid named Eddie who spoke Spanish. He became my friend but he left a month later. It seemed like every night that he was there he had bad dreams. Every night I would wake up to Eddie screaming. He wet his bed but I didn’t say anything because I didn’t want to get beat up again. After a while, they moved me away from Eddie because his nightmares were beginning to affect me. His nightmares made me wake up crying for my dad.
In the new room, I met Roberto and Miguel. Roberto became my best friend. He would share his toys with me. Miguel was just another kid that was traumatized. Living in this place was a big relief for me. I was fed and clothed. I showered everyday. They took good care of me. There were times when I felt like I never wanted to leave that place. I felt safe there.
My stepmom finally came to visit me. When I saw her I ran to her and gave her a big hug. She came to visit me almost every day for about an hour. I was finally given back to her and my dad with a few conditions. He was supposed to get a decent job and start sending me to school. He got a job as a dishwasher and my stepmom worked, too. I got to go to school. I was put in the third grade. I felt so dumb compared to the other kids.
I was the oldest kid in the class and I could barely speak English. The kids made fun of me. I was so embarrassed. My teacher liked me, though. He was really good to me. All of my teachers were my friends through third, fourth and fifth grade. Actually, before third grade was over I was at the top of the class. I remember getting a certificate for improving my English. I was getting better and better at it.
By that time, we moved again to a different city, a different school. I had to start all over from scratch. I was in fourth grade this time, but I didn’t feel bad because I knew English and my teacher thought I was really smart. Pretty soon I knew everybody in the neighborhood and they knew me. I was hoping we wouldn’t move again.
I don’t know what it is about life, but something always comes up. This time it was my stepmom wanting to move closer to her family in Colorado. I had to start all over, same story, different place. It was hard for me to adjust to a colder climate and small towns. I had gotten used to the city life in California.
I started sixth grade in Colorado and felt way behind. I was at the bottom once again. In California I had been in school where nearly all the students were Latinos and we spoke Spanish. But here I was going to school with Anglos and Latinos and they were speaking mostly English. It took me a while to get used to the change. I was afraid that my English would be too hard for people to understand. It was a relief for me to realize that they understood me.
Middle school went by fast and I was in high school before I knew it. High school for me was the best thing ever. I had Anglo and Latino friends. I never did any sports in school before I moved to Colorado, so I was really excited to be playing soccer. Soccer was something that helped me forget about my troubles. I was able to let my emotions out when I played. Just as I started high school, my dad was deported for fighting with my stepmom and I was left alone. The last time I saw him was through the glass at the jail.
That’s when I met my second mom, my angel. She was the mother of one of my Anglo friends. She was there for me when I needed someone the most. She took me in without caring who I was or where I came from. She is like my mom now, and I owe her everything. She helped me become who I am today and gave me the mother’s love that I never had. After all those years searching for a mom, she actually came. I was able to move into a home that welcomed me.
Gallacher: Now that you have finished high school, what is your dream?
Pablo: It’s really complicated. Even though I have been here my whole life and consider this my country I am not able to be a citizen. I left Mexico when I was 5 so I don’t know that country or the people. In a way I feel like I don’t have a country. I am sort of invisible. But my dream is to someday be a doctor, a pediatrician. I want to make little kids smile.
Note: Immigrant Stories will return on Jan. 11. Otherwise, Immigrant Stories runs every Monday in the Post Independent.
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