For Me, Soccer Represents the Identity Divide Mexican-Americans Feel

My story began on May 7, 1995 in Tijuana, Mexico at 5:30am, after a “miracle birth.” Yes, a miracle because I had the umbilical cord wrapped around my neck.

Most newborns get wrapped by blankets when they’re handed off to their parents. I was wrapped by a blanket and a soccer jersey. Soccer has been a huge part of my life. Which explains why October 10, 2015 was one of the best days of my life. I attended the Mexico – US soccer game at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. Mexico won in dramatic fashion and I left the stadium the happiest I had been in a long time.

Credit: Leticia Bustamante

But that wasn’t what was imprinted on my mind. I noticed something, something I felt provided an accurate, real-world example of what it’s like for many young Mexicans or Mexican-Americans in the United States that feel they have to choose between their cultures.

There were more than 95,000 people at the Rose Bowl. Hundreds of people wore jerseys that had stars and stripes on the right side and the Mexican crest right above the heart on the left side. These were people who couldn’t be forced to choose between their two cultures. Perhaps they don’t identify strongly with either one. Perhaps they didn’t want to be judged by family or friends for choosing one over the other.

For me, choosing who to root for was a no-brainer. I rooted for Mexico.

Credit: Leticia Bustamante

As someone who is undocumented, I understand how hard it can be to choose. I know how it is to feel like no matter which side you choose, you aren’t welcome on either one: Ni de aquí, Ni de allá, like the famous India Maria film would say. For many Mexican-Americans, it is hard to choose a culture because they are born in the US, but raised with Mexican values.

I am not a citizen of the country I live in and I have not stepped in the country where I am a citizen since 2000. If I were to go back today, I would be recognized as a foreigner. When I think about that, I feel American because that’s how I would be seen in Mexico. Here, I feel the complete opposite sometimes, especially at school.

I am blessed enough to say that I attend my dream school, UCLA. But it’s at UCLA where I feel the most Mexican and the most foreign.

Credit: Leticia Bustamante

Mexicans make up a minority at UCLA. The majority are white Caucasians. It is here where I am reminded that I am not American because I am not blonde and blue-eyed and do not celebrate Thanksgiving or take family vacations because we cannot afford to take a week off of work. I don’t have parents who speak English or have college degrees. I have to explain why I cannot take out loans to study abroad, why I cannot vote or why I cannot join them for spring break in Cancun.

But nothing reminds me I’m a foreigner more than the fine box at the end of scholarship applications that says “I am a US citizen or legal resident.”

Nevertheless, I know I’m blessed to live in this great country and I am blessed to be Mexican. I love that I had the opportunity to grow up listening to Smokey Robinson and Michael Jackson and The Beatles one day and the next day listen to Chelo Silva, Selena, and of course, Vicente Fernandez.

Today I live a mile away from Bel-Air and Beverly Hills, but I am humbled by the memory of living in a small one bedroom apartment with twelve family members for the first two years.

Credit: Leticia Bustamante

I love that I grew up in the individualistic American society where I can become successful for me and my family.

Whether or not people regard me as American doesn’t even matter at the end of the day. Sometimes being undocumented doesn’t even matter. I’ve gotten this far. But one thing is for sure: I always carry that Mexican crest above my heart.

We should not be criticized for not being Mexican or American enough. We should be celebrated for being bicultural. We should be proud.

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Gov. Newsom And California Lawmakers Unveil Stimulus Checks, Relief For Undocumented Residents

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Gov. Newsom And California Lawmakers Unveil Stimulus Checks, Relief For Undocumented Residents

Americans are still waiting for the $1,400 check from the federal government to make good on the $2,000 promise In the meantime, some Californians will get extra help from the state government. Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a $9.6 billion stimulus package for state residents and undocumented people.

Low-income Californians will be eligible for a $600 stimulus check from the state government.

Gov. Newsom and California lawmakers have agreed on a $9.6 billion relief package for the Golden State. The relief package is offering much needed relief to businesses, individuals, and students. The relief will come to Californians in different ways.

According to a statement, the package is making good on the promise to help low-income Californians, increase small business aid, and waive license renewal fees for businesses impacted by the pandemic. In addition, the package “provides tax relief for businesses, commits additional resources for critical child care services and funds emergency financial aid for community college students.”

The relief package is aimed at helping those who are hardest hit by the pandemic.

“As we continue to fight the pandemic and recover, I’m grateful for the Legislature’s partnership to provide urgent relief and support for California families and small businesses where it’s needed most,” Gov. Newsom said in a statement. “From child care, relief for small business owners, direct cash support to individuals, financial aid for community college students and more, these actions are critical for millions of Californians who embody the resilience of the California spirit.”

The package will quadruple the assistance to restaurants and small businesses in California. Small businesses and restaurants will be eligible for $25,000 in grants from a $2 billion fund.

Undocumented Californians will also receive a boost from the state government.

Low-income Californians will receive a one-time payment of $600 while undocumented people will be given a $600 boost. The money will be sent to tax-paying undocumented people in California.

According to the California Budget & Policy Center, undocumented people in California pay $3 billion a year in local and state taxes. Despite paying taxes, the undocumented community has not been ineligible for relief payments from the federal government. These payments will give needed relief to a community overlooked throughout the pandemic.

“We’re nearly a year into this pandemic, and millions of Californians continue to feel the impact on their wallets and bottom lines. Businesses are struggling. People are having a hard time making ends meet. This agreement builds on Governor Newsom’s proposal and in many ways, enhances it so that we can provide the kind of immediate emergency relief that families and small businesses desperately need right now,” Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins said in a statement. “People are hungry and hurting, and businesses our communities have loved for decades are at risk of closing their doors. We are at a critical moment, and I’m proud we were able to come together to get Californians some needed relief.”

Learn more about the relief package by clicking here.

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An Undocumented Mother In Iowa Is Sharing Her Story Through A Podcast


An Undocumented Mother In Iowa Is Sharing Her Story Through A Podcast

Laura Rodriguez is an undocumented mother living in Iowa and she is sharing her experience. Rodriguez is sharing her life using one of the most popular forms of media right now: the podcast. “Undocumented Momhood” gives people a chance to listen to what her life is like.

Laura Rodriguez is using her podcast “Undocumented Momhood” to create a space for women like her to find community.

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Rodriguez has been wanting to create a podcast of her experience for a long time coming. The mother realized that she was always outnumbered when she went to mommy classes and couldn’t connect with anyone. That frustration led to her wanting to create something people could relate to.

“I was 22 years old when I had the kids and I had zero community around me,” Rodriguez recalls in an interview. “I often attended ‘mom groups’ to try to find my people and little friends for the twins but it never worked. Luca, Azul and I were always the only Latinx (people) in the whole group. Often you could see the class difference because they made it obvious for you to see and feel. After a few of these uncomfortable visits and many cries later I decided to just focus on being home with just the babies.”

Rodriguez’s husband created Amplified DSM and gave her a chance to reach an audience and fully tell her story. She has long been out as an undocumented woman and it was the 2016 elections that convinced her to come out as undocumented. Her biggest reason to come out was to lead her children by example.

“I always spoke to my children about the importance of being yourself and I wasn’t being my fully honest self,” Rodriguez says. “I had this heavy weight over my shoulders about my legal status that had follow me since I was 14 years old. I wanted to be free. I wanted everyone to know that this insane label that was put on us ‘illegal immigrants’  was wrong. I will always fight for my undocumented community they are my biggest inspirations.”

Rodriguez wanted to include her kids in the podcast.

“Azul, Luca, and I have this incredible connection so I wanted to honor them by recording our first episode together because, well, one because they are the ones that made me a mother and it made sense but also becoming Luca and Azul’s mother literally save my life,” Rodriguez says. “From the point on, they have been my teachers, my constant inspiration to keep fighting and to keep living. Plus they are so funny and smart I love my children. They are so fun to have conversations with.”

She wants her podcast to help break down the stereotypes of undocumented people.

“I want people to take away that undocumented people also have their own stories,” Rodriguez says. “[They have] their own struggles as a parent as humans. We are not only a label. Even though it seems everything we do to make a living and take care of our families is illegal, it only is because of our government.”

Rodriguez wants people to know that undocumented people are contributing to their communities. They are opening businesses, starting families, and living in a place that they want to make better themselves.

The podcasting mother says that the future episodes will dive deeper into the reality of living life as an undocumented person in the U.S.

“In the coming episodes, the conversations switch from a cute chat with my kids to the reality of immigration or real talks about motherhood,” Rodriguez says. “[For] example, women not liking being pregnant, not liking breastfeeding, or mothers not feeling that deep connection. “We are going to touch on so many of those taboo topics. I’m extremely grateful for everyone that has listened.”

You can listen to Rodriguez at Amplified DSM.

READ: Chicago’s Mi Tocaya Is Offering Up Free Mexican Homemeals For Undocumented Community

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