By Page Gardner
Vanessa Rodriguez showed me around her home, pointing at different decor and specifying, “this is Mexican,” “this one is in Spanish,” or the rare, “This one is super Mexican.” Clad in crosses and decor featuring Spanish quotes, the Rodriguez home is the perfect image of a stereotypical Catholic Mexican-American home. However, Vanessa’s roots to her parent’s home country of Mexico go much deeper than what’s hanging in their home.
Vanessa’s parents came from Chihuahua, Mexico, 23 years ago, after her dad got a job at an automotive company.
“We had the opportunity to come because of my dad’s job, because he had the opportunity to get an education in Mexico, which is such a different story for so many other families, who don’t have that privilege.”
The Rodriguez family travels back to Chihuahua every year, a border town to Texas. Traveling to and from Mexico can be risky business for anyone, but even more-so for Mexican-American Citizens. Passports are being denied, citizenship is being aggressively questioned, and border patrol is stronger and more prevalent than ever.
“When I was younger, we wouldn’t even fly into Mexico. We would fly to El Paso, Texas, and then drive into Mexico. Even though we were completely legal, and had all the documents, immigration is still scary as f***. I can’t imagine for people who are undocumented attempting anything like that.”
Thankfully, Vanessa hasn’t experienced any issues with immigration first-hand, but holds heartbreaking stories of acquaintances who have.
“My old coworker’s dad got deported, so she had to marry her boyfriend to become a citizen, just to be able to bring her dad back. She was only 18, and she had to make that decision for herself and for her family.”
Vanessa shared another story of a family-friend, who went through a similar harrowing decision.
“There’s a lot of things that people who don’t have any connection to immigration don’t have to think about. One of our family friends, who came here illegally.. Anytime they would drive anywhere, it was scary, because if they got pulled over, that could be the end of it. Their son ended up getting a DUI. Getting a DUI is bad for anyone, but on top of being an illegal immigrant, they were about to deport him for that. One mistake, that for anyone else, it would just go on their record. He’s never even been to Mexico. How was he supposed to make a life in a country he’s never been to? We are having to make decisions that a lot of people never have to even think about.”
Growing up in Rochester, a primarily white suburb, Vanessa identifies herself as “white in color and in a way of being.” However, growing up hearing of these stories, and in a Spanish-speaking only household, Vanessa feels extremely connected to her roots and passionate about immigration awareness.
“I have my Mexican side, and my white side, and I consider that a good thing. I try and use that platform to speak about it to bring awareness, and on behalf of others who don’t have that privilege.”