On my way to see Veronica for the first time, I expected to encounter a reserved woman who had been beaten down by the travails of coming to the United States. Instead, I found Veronica to be a very personable, likeable, and energetic woman who joked that she “talked too fast for [her] own good.”

Veronica was born in the city of Cordoba in Vera Cruz. She lived there for twelve years, and then moved to Mexico City until her eighteenth year. From there, she moved back to Vera Cruz. She was born into a family of one brother and two sisters, along with her two parents. Her only son, Alex, was born in Mexico City in the late 1990s and moved to the United States around the age of 3. She has several nieces and nephews in Mexico and the United States, and has her two siblings and her son living in Durham.

Veronica came to the United States in 2000 and has lived in Durham for her entire fourteen years in the United States. Originally, she made the decision to move here because of her partner at the time; he had moved to Durham when their son was around 9 months old. At the time she decided to move here, she had no family of her own living in Durham. The only people she knew were the father of her son and his two brothers who were also in the area. He did not want her to move to the United States to be with him, but she threatened to move to Los Angeles without him, and he agreed. So, at 20 years old, she left her son with his grandparents in Vera Cruz, and made the long trek from Mexico to Durham. She started to plan her journey with her mother-in-law, feeling extremely anxious and scared because of the great unknown of America and the stretch of land in between. “All the while” she told me, “envisioning that Promised Land that everyone describes as being better off than the condition we were in now”.

She left her house one April, and her journey took her fifteen days. Veronica described that she started her journey near the border with about 2 or 3 things to wear and undocumented. Her only food was limes, cans of tuna, and 2 jugs of water she also carried with her. She spent 5 days at the border and another 3 days in Arizona. The “stampede” of 69 people all tried to cross the border together by walking; out of those 69, only 5 were women. She said her body was exhausted, barely able to sleep, not wanting to eat because of the fear. At one stretch of land where they had to run, she twisted her ankle, and some of the women helped her carry her items and helped her carry on. She felt desperate and like she would never make it across, but “thank God to those people” that helped her and allowed her to get to Durham. With her feet swollen and purple, she managed to get to Arizona, where every one of those 69 people that made it were then taken to wherever in the United States they needed to go.

Just a few months after moving to the United States, her partner and her separated permanently. She said the female role in the United States was very different compared to Mexico, and she was adapting to the American role while her partner was too stuck in the Mexican role. She opines  that American gender roles are more about “sharing” the workload while in Mexico it is more about restricting gender roles and each person doing their gender-specific role. Now, when talking to her about this man, she deems him “the father of [her] son” indicating that they are no longer together. She is now in a committed, serious relationship with another man from Mexico she met at Catholic Church, and she is very happy.

When she first moved to the United States, Veronica began working as a waitress at different restaurants. She always worked two shifts, the morning and night ones, at the restaurants and was not able to spend time with her son, Alex. So, she decided she needed to do something to be able to spend more time with him. She began to clean just one house on the side and slowly began to expand on that. Just last year, she quit her last restaurant job and works as an independent house cleaner full time. Veronica really enjoys her job, and says her interactions with several of her employers are very amicable and relaxed. Her dreams for the future are to expand her work as an independent house cleaner. She feels relaxed when cleaning and does not wish to change careers anytime soon.

Since moving to the United States, she has not been able to see her parents and other family in Vera Cruz.  Veronica remains in contact with her parents through the Internet and electronics, and she sends them money whenever she is able to. She misses them immensely. However, when I asked her if she would ever move back to Vera Cruz, she smiled apologetically and told me no; she liked United States culture and way of life more than her life in Vera Cruz. She missed her parents, but she did not miss her place of birth. Even more surprising to me was when I asked Veronica what she would change about the United States to feel more comfortable. She told me that she would not change anything because she is the one who had moved here, so she should be the one to adapt.

In her fourteen years here, she has not taken English classes because of the time commitment. She can understand it better than she speaks it but is often afraid that people will make fun of her if she were to try speaking to them. She would like to continue learning English in the future and become better at it.

Since coming to the United States and leaving the father of her son, Veronica has met a new significant other in her life. I sat down and talked to them about how they met, and their side comments made me feel like they had a very close, open-minded relationship. Their story begins at church. She told me that she knew of him long before he knew her because he would go up and do the readings at mass on Sundays. This strong, religious and friendly man intrigued her, and she admired him from afar. After a few months of not doing anything, a mutual friend introduced them to each other and they began dating. Now, they have known each other for several months and go to church together every weekend. When I asked her what she thought of his views on the role of women, she happily said his views had become more Americanized and that he believed in the “teamwork” aspect of a relationship she so greatly desired. She told me that they have very open conversations about gender roles and the equality of women and men in the workforce and household. In fact, he even asked me for more details on this project, and he commented, “I think it is great what you guys are doing; you always see stuff about male farmers and construction workers, but nothing on the hardships of the women who come here. This is great.”

Currently, Veronica lives in a one-story apartment in Durham with her brother and one of her sisters, her nieces, and her son. She enjoys going to church with her boyfriend on Sundays, as well as dancing salsa and exercising. Her pride and joy is her son Alex who is now in his third year of high school. She teasingly complains to me that all he likes to do is hole himself up in the house playing video games, and that he speaks too much English in the house for her liking. He works at a local restaurant and is learning to drive. She hopes her son gets to go to college and make something of himself where he will be financially stable and happy.

— Ana Maria Maganto Ramirez