Family took several attempts to cross border
Gallacher: Do you have memories of coming to the United States?Chavez: Yes. It took us several tries to cross the border. The first time we were caught by the INS. We were put in a cell and they gave me a sandwich and extra crackers because I was really hungry. And they were really nice to us. That was the first attempt. The second attempt was three days later. This time when we crossed, we were robbed by the border gangs. And then we were sent back again. So we were left with nothing. They even took my small backpack with my clothes. Gallacher: And you were 3?Chavez: Three and a half or 4. The only thing we had was a coin my dad had hidden in his belt, and he sold that to feed us that night and to pay for a hotel.Gallacher: Were you afraid for your life at anytime during those crossings?Chavez: No, I think I was too small to be afraid. I don’t think I realized what was going on. I just know my mom kept saying, “You are being such a good little girl.” And she has always said, “You were so good when we first crossed, because you weren’t crying. You didn’t say you were hungry. You were running when you could. You didn’t touch the wire.” The wire was a major concern that my parents had.We only had a little bottle of water, we just didn’t carry much of anything. They were a little bit insane. I still ask them, “What were you thinking?” I don’t that I would have done that with my kids. I just don’t know. But they didn’t have a home. They were not well educated. My dad needed work. There was no work at that time. And my mom said she just couldn’t leave me with my grandma. My grandma helped raise me so it was really hard on my grandma. She had four girls and two had died. So when I was born she snuck me in as one of her own. So when we came to the United States, half of my grandma’s family was gone.My grandma was left with only one other daughter.Gallacher: What do you remember of your grandmother?Chavez: She was crying and crying and she didn’t want to let go of me. She pleaded. She said to my parents, “Go to the United States and if you can make it, if you get a job then send for her.” But my mom said, “No, I can’t leave my daughter. Either she goes with me or I am not going.” And my dad said, “Well both of you are going then. We have to go. We have to make a better living.” It was an adventure!
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