Black-and-white photo of family of five, two seemingly parents pose with three children, all neutral expressions. Slight tear in the photo (photo of a photo).

Great-Grandparents’ Stories from Mexico

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By Carmen Salt

Immigration stories all tend to be unique to each person’s family and personal history, with each one influencing next generations after them. To highlight just one of the millions that are out there, Mandy Sierra told just a brief segment* of her family’s immigration story.

The story of Sierra’s great-grandparents is no different, with both of them immigrating from Mexico at different points in their lives before ultimately settling down in El Paso, Texas. Her great-grandfather, Antonio, traveled here when he was a young child with his mother, leaving behind his father and the rest of his siblings.

While she was not sure of what exactly he did while growing up, Sierra did recount that he, as well as his son, served in the U.S. Army, serving several tours. Her great grandmother, Jospehine, on the other hand came to the United States when she was about 14 and went to school and worked on farms and in jobs that were readily available to a female immigrant, picking pecans and cotton.

Due to his arrival when he was a young child, Antonio does not remember becoming a citizen, but on the opposite end her great-grandmother does and describes it as one of the proudest days of her life, even keeping the pamphlet with the Constitution on it [sic!] years afterward.

Young woman smiles, sits on couch with book shelves behind, wears hat.
Sierra poses for a picture in Kresge library on Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019. Her family has a long history of immigration on both sides and she has been working on gathering documentation and photographs to trace the path of her ancestor’s lives. Photo credit: Carmen Salt

The choices that these two made still affect the way that Sierra lives her life now, beyond the obvious everyday interactions. Learning the history and impact that immigration had on her family opened Sierra’s eyes to a new side of history and a different way of thinking. Listening to her great-grandparents speak about their prior lives and their respective journeys brought a new perspective to the way that she views the world, saying that it made her more open and accepting.

Immigration affects people differently but knowing the story behind the people can often change outside viewer’s perspectives on the issue. Each individual history is unique to each person but often come with a certain degree of hardship and courage and it takes someone open and willing to listen to truly understand.

* NOTE: Podcast episode removed by story author.

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