Border Town

The Texas Story Project.

I watch my mom as she slaps another tortilla de harina onto the stove. Coming home to my mom's homemade tortillas is what I look forward to the most. It may seem silly, but I cannot imagine home being the same without her fluffy and so-delicate tortillas. Visiting home from university is always refreshing for me. But whenever I see my mom it makes me wonder what she misses most about her home.

My mother was born and mostly raised in Reynosa, Tamaulipas, Mexico. My grandpa brought my mom and her siblings to the United States when she was about ten years old. He wanted to give my mom and my aunts a life with more opportunities and safety. At the time, my mom did not see this as an opportunity. For her, it was the loss of her home and friends. Her hometown is right across from my hometown, McAllen, Texas. This made it more difficult for her to get accustomed to an entirely new life.

Reynosa is only a short walk away from the border, but her childhood is so different from mine. I walked on paved roads while she kicked rocks on her way to school. She saw soccer balls and rivers while I saw scooters and plastic pools. Life for her meant playing outside with her friends and being able to run to the dulceria at the corner of her street without running into trouble. I can hear it in my mom's voices that she missed homes as she talks about the times she would swim in the river with my aunts and uncles. When she tells me about my grandpa's ranch and the little girl she used to play with after school, I can see my grandpa feeding the cows and I see the little girl hollering across the street trying to get my mom to go over to play. Life before coming to the U.S. was a lot simpler for her.

Transitioning into any new place, whether it be a new job, school, or city is difficult. But it is even more difficult to be so close to home and at the same time so far away. When my mom got to McAllen, she struggled the most with the language change. To this day, she hesitates to speak English in front of people even though she knows how to write, read, and speak it perfectly. "Mi'ja pregúntale si tiene mas salsa," my mom turns to me so that I can ask the store employee for her. Translating for my mom was something that I did most of my life. Thirty years have passed since my mom came to the United States and part of her is afraid of being mocked. This fear has stuck to her since she began school here. Making friends and learning the customs of people who do not speak the same language as you are terrifying, especially to a ten-year-old. Despite the language barriers and culture differences, my mother managed to push through her new life and become the strong, independent woman she is today.

I look at my mom when she talks about Reynosa, and she doesn't look unhappy at all. She could've gone back when she graduated but she decided to stay. She smiles and says that she would have never met my dad if she had not moved to McAllen. Because she stayed, she got married to the love of her life and had me and my sisters. She realized that the small border town across from her home shaped who she is today. We still cross the border to visit family and to enjoy some food. My mom's experience in a way has shaped who I am and who I aspire to be. The struggles she faced, I sometimes face too because of cultural differences. In a way, Reynosa is my home just as much as it is hers. But Texas is a part of who we both are because, for the most part, we both grew up in that small border town.  

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