The Law Office of Robert D. Ahlgren and Associates is partnering with Fwd.US to promote and celebrate National Immigrant Heritage Month. During the month of June, we will be featuring profiles of some of our own members’ family immigrant stories.
I am a first-generation Mexican-American and the first U.S.-born child in my immediate family. Both my parents and my older brother are Mexican-born immigrants, and my younger sister and I are the only United States-born citizens in my family.
My parent’s migrant story is quite similar to many that Mexican immigrants have experienced. They faced the challenges of trying to understand a new world and found that normal everyday chores suddenly became new adventures. They had to learn a new language, customs, and cultural norms all while raising children in a place they themselves didn’t fully understand. They made the self-sacrifice to leave everything they knew behind; food, culture, friends, and family suddenly were becoming remnants of the past. The reason behind my parent’s decision to make the journey north is what all Mexican migrants look for, a better life for themselves but most of all for their family.
My father and mother come from what used to be considered a small town in the monarch butterfly state of Michoacán called Ciudad Hidalgo. Ciudad Hidalgo is a colonial town, where much of the Old Spanish architecture still remains. It is a town that over time has progressed but still holds on to many of the traditional ways of living: town gatherings en “el jardin,” weekly religious celebrations, and hand-made foods and products.
Both my parents came from large families, both having nine other siblings all living in rather humble conditions. My maternal grandmother was a cook, making her famous mole for almost every wedding in town, while my maternal grandfather was one of the only cab drivers in town. In my father’s household, only my grandfather worked. He was known as el Chepa, one of the best soccer goalies in the state and the town’s local butcher. He was a very self-driven person; he, like many others in town, would come to the United States for work in order to keep the family afloat. It was his experiences that influenced my father to follow in his footsteps later in life.
In Mexico, my father worked for a governmental sector in Ciudad Hidalgo, having charge of ordering parts for la Comisión Federal de Electricidad (Federal Electricity Commission). My mother took care of my brother. She had a degree in Secretary Studies but was unable to find employment in a town where much of its economy thrived off agricultural work. Unfortunately, my father lost his position under circumstances all too familiar in Mexico. There was a change in presidential office, Miguel de la Madrid was inaugurated, and within weeks my father, along with everyone else, were replaced with people who were acquainted with the new government.
Subsequently, my parents were left with yet fewer opportunities. My father had worked for one of the largest employers in the state; however, the number of opportunities were few. My father had experience as a butcher and herder, but he knew that he wouldn’t be able to make a steady living in a place where western influences brought about large factories and the personal touch this business once had. The unfortunate lack of opportunities in Mexico made it difficult for my parents to find a reason to stay.
My parents loved their home and their native town, and my mother, to this day, expresses her yearning for the fragrance of the flowers and trees in Mexico and how she misses the colorful schemes of her home and the sounds of the old San Jose church bell. Nonetheless, she and my father understood that fertile soil yields greater flowers, so they decided to come to the one place they heard one could eventually thrive, the United States.
My mother and father decided to settle in the city of Chicago. Like many other Mexican immigrants, they relied on the support and guidance of others they crossed paths and shared similar experiences with. Their efforts and the large Mexican American communities that exist in Chicago were a foundation for not only my parents’ success but also for my siblings and mine as well. Through their hard work, dedication, and perseverance, my parents were able to find a place to call home in the United States.
One thing I’ve come to realize is that values such as family unity, work ethic and benevolence are best represented when you have a collaboration of immigrants striving for the same dream. The United States was and continues to be the breeding ground for such possibilities that people like my parents are eternally grateful for.
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