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Found in translation

Post Independent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Maria del Carmen Castillo
ALL |

Maria del Carmen Castillo came to the United States in 1995. She came to help her sister who was working in Aspen. Here she remembers how her quest for an education began.

Castillo: I came here when I was sixteen. I was nervous but I was ready for a change, because there was not much going on where I was from. I didn’t have much future there and I was looking for a better life for myself.

I wanted to go to high school but it meant that I had to go to another town to attend. My father was very strict and when I asked him if I could go he said, “No, because that means you would have to ride the bus and you would be by yourself going to another town. No, you need to stay home and help your mom make tortillas and take care of the house.”



For me, that was not a future that I wanted. I was looking for something else. So when my sister asked me if I wanted to go to Colorado, I was nervous but I was also very excited. I realized it was an opportunity to go find a better life.

Gallacher: What did your father say?



Castillo: My dad was milking the cows. It was eight in the morning and I went and asked, “Can I go?” He was silent for a long time. Finally, he said, “If you really want to go, it’s OK. But, remember, when you walk out of this house, you are by yourself. You are responsible for all of your actions good or bad because you are on your own.”

That made me a little nervous. I had to ask myself, “Are you really ready for this?” My answer was, “Just do it.”

Gallacher: What did your mother say?

Castillo: She was really sad but at the same time she was excited because she wanted me to go to school and to see something else. She and my sister began helping me get ready for the plane ride.

I left early one morning during the last month of school. Before I left I ran downtown to take one last look at the place I was leaving. The first person I saw there was one of my teachers. He said, “Carmen, aren’t you supposed to be in class right now?” I wanted to hide because I didn’t want to have to tell him that I was going away.

He said, “Carmen, where are you going?” “This is my last day of school,” I said. “I am going to Colorado with my sister. I’m sorry but this is my opportunity to go. I want to look for something else.”

Gallacher: And what have you found?

Castillo: I found opportunities because there were jobs and more things to learn. My sister got me a job with her as a housekeeper. I learned how to say thank you, good morning and good afternoon. I liked the work and I did it for two and a half years. But it was all that I did and I wasn’t learning anything new. One morning, I went to my supervisor and told him I wouldn’t be at work tomorrow. “How come?” he said and I told him that I was going to start school the next day to learn English. “This is not what I want,” I said. “I want to know more about what is going on in this country and be able to communicate.”

He went and told my sister that I didn’t want to work anymore. My sister came right away because I hadn’t told her that I was quitting. “What’s going on with you?” she said. I told her that I wanted to go to school. “That’s good,” she said “but listen to me. You are going to school to study and learn or you are going back to Mexico.”

The first four months of school were hard. I got a lot of headaches, but it was worth it. I finally started to understand but it took me a while longer to be able to have conversations. I felt like I was the only one who didn’t know how to speak English. In every classroom I was the only one who didn’t know what was going on.

When the teacher would ask me something everyone would turn and look at me. I didn’t know what to say. I just wanted to hide. It seemed like the teachers would always put me right in front of the class. I didn’t know how to act because everything was new. But that experience helped me a lot. All of my classes taught me how to learn.

Gallacher: Who helped you get in school?

Castillo: I went to Mary Carmen Robinson at my church and told her that I wanted to go to school and she said that she would take me. She helped me get all of the paperwork done at the school. When my brother found out that I was going to school, he was so proud.

Next week: Maria talks about getting her citizenship and her American family.


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