My name is Havee. The story I am telling is about me.
First, I’m going to tell you about stories I’ve heard. These are difficult things to hear because I can’t imagine what it would be like to be in that kind of situation as a little girl growing up.
My father was an alcoholic – both of my parents were. Since he was very young, from around the time he was eleven, my father had to go and look for work. He had to support his family from the time he was around that age. He continued to do so while he was no longer living at home, no longer with his family and out of the state. At that point, because of that absence of love and maybe due to these shortcomings he turned to drugs, alcohol and everything else. Then, as much of a drunk as he was, he met my mom. He was 16 when he stole my mom, who was 15. He also didn’t have an education. For about eight or ten years they lived this way.
Fortunately, I was born later on. I am the fourth of six children. For as long as my mother was pregnant with me, my dad said he just felt the need to go to a Christian church. He had to walk six hours to get there.
Thereafter, he kept going to that church; he met all the people there. So, by the time I was born, I didn’t get to know this man who used to yell or be rude, nothing of the sort, which is why when I hear about this, it hurts. How is it possible that a boy grows up being that scared and going through that trauma? But, luckily, it’s nothing I can share from my experience.
Shortly after, in the 1980’s, my dad started coming here. And I think since then, according to my dad, he became a very stable person. He had no formal education because it wasn’t possible at that time, but he was always socially responsible, he had a civic responsibility as a human being – helping other people.
“That is the example my father gave me, that he could plain and simple, make plans for the next twenty or thirty years, laying the groundwork for what we would have to pay here on this side of the border. At that point, he began to make all the arrangements to set our documents straight. This happened in the 80’s – 1984 and 1985.”
I got to this country in ‘94, but by then things were already in process. Five months and we were granted residency and everything, but only because my father had planned to get this done long ago. Then, my mom went to get me in Oaxaca.
In fact, she said: “Ok, you are going because you have to study. I don’t want you to go when you’re older because then it would be the same story all over again”.
“Doesn’t it matter what I want? I don’t want to go,” I was already a young woman by then. I was 14.
“No! No! No! I don’t want to go! I don’t! I want to stay here with my grandmother.” But at the end, I had to although unwillingly.
After arriving here, everything was very difficult for me. Well, you can imagine, you have your whole life back there, or so you think. Being a thirteen year old teenager relocating to a country where the language is different from the one you speak, where they speak something so completely different and foreign. It was really difficult; all the obstacles I faced when I came here. I felt discriminated by my Mexican classmates for speaking an indigenous language.
“Well, listen hija, all I can provide you with is food and shelter. Everything else is out of my hands. Do as you can, and you will have your answer,” said my mom and dad.
After having to adjust, I fortunately had my own goals, I made my own way.
So I kept studying and I currently have a Master’s degree from Cal State University, San Luis Obispo, and because I have my degree, it won’t stay there. I wanted to do that. I wanted to be very independent. I was always independent since I was very young. In fact, my mother was too because my father was here working most of the time to send some money for us to go to school and buy what we needed. As a result, my mom always worked, she was always very strong, independent. “I’m the boss, and if your dad is not here, I am in charge” – she would say to us. They always instilled this in me: “Do everything you can do.” I never heard my dad tell me not to do something. No. We could do everything!
I feel very satisfied with everything I’ve accomplished. It was also very difficult. With all the responsibility, I want to continue helping. I currently have a job that I love. I work educating moms about their newborn babies; I teach them how they must help their babies so that they always develop to their fullest, to their potential. Finding them support before their babies are born. I love my job. I love that I only have to go from Monday to Thursday. That way, every weekend I am involved in many things.
I think subconsciously that was what my father instilled in me since I can recall. It’s the day to day. It’s not only about self-sufficiency you always have to help others if you can. I come from those teachings.
Fortunately, my partner also loves this. Since he was very young, he was very proactive. He has been here since he was six years old. We are like grasshoppers, jumping from place to place, doing one thing or another. We have been everywhere. To the White House – where we met the President! We also went to La Paz. We traveled with youth so they could get to know it. To reassess, reconnect – to see schools in Oaxaca.
I am very lucky. Suffering – I’ve never felt it. My parents were always very good to us; of course they were very strict, but they never yelled or punished us severely…they raised us in the best way.
I love all this because I am able to… I am able to help. That is the idea, to be able to learn and help others.
Storyteller Havee is a Mixteca woman from Oaxaca, Mexico. She educates youth, mothers and the community through culture to create positive change in the community. Havee told us this story during the Lideres Campesinas: Sembrando el Futuro workshop in Greenfield, California.