Photo and interview by Sylvia Johnson
It’s been 11 years now that I haven’t seen my mom. We used to live in Iowa. She left me with my siblings when she moved. She moved because she was sick, and didn’t want to get treatment here, so she asked me, “Do you want to stay, or do you want to go to Mexico with me?” I didn’t want to go to Mexico because, well, back then I didn’t know how to read or write Spanish. Back then my only language was English, so I was kind of afraid that they were going to put me in kindergarten when I was already in 5th grade.
Till this day I miss my mom a lot, but I’ve learned that life goes on and you have to live it. It’s hard because she didn’t see me graduate high school and I was the first one in my family to graduate. She wasn’t there at my wedding, and she wasn’t there when I had my baby, so she’s missing out on a lot of stuff which makes it hard, really hard.
I don’t regret any decisions I’ve made in life, and I don’t think I regret leaving my mom, because I know where I am now and who I am now, and I know she’s very proud of me. That’s why I’ve been pushing myself even though it’s hard to be up at 2 a.m. doing homework, or if I have to stay late at work. Its because I want a better future for my daughter. If I want her to graduate, I have to graduate. I have to prove to her that I have a degree. I can’t just expect her to do it if I don’t set the example.
I want my daughter to have everything that I couldn’t have — toys, clothes, food, and a family, most importantly. And to have me in her life,
because I want her to feel that she has her mom there, that her mom is going to defend her and protect her from anything.
— Maria, 21