Desire S., an 18 year old from Ajijic, Mexico, immigrated to the United States in 2012 to seek refuge from the drug wars sweeping her hometown. She described the takeover of her town as a horrific experience, where gang members would seek innocent people off the street to kill, including some of her classmates.
“No one could go out after 7 p.m. because it was dangerous and [the gang members] could just pick you up off the street,” Desire said.
Desire stated that it got really bad when the cartel captured one of her close friends. After disappearing for about a week, authorities found her friend and other bodies in trucks outside of her town.
“But it wasn’t just the bodies, they were dismembered and without the heads…they tortured them before they would kill them,” Desire said.
The schools in the area would hold meetings for the students’ parents, stating that there was really no way to ensure the safety of the students.
Desire described this moment as her step-fathers breaking point, when he decided, along with many other families, to pull her out of school. Her family then moved to Seattle the next week.
Desire’s step-father had some business ventures in Seattle, and already had a house there when they immigrated. Desire describes her first 24 hours in the United States as a miserable experience full of confusion, anger and sadness.
She recalls being scared of going to school, because she would have to take classes in English, and she would have to overcome cultural barriers of being in an American school. In addition, her new high school in Bellevue, Washington only had about seven students from Mexico in her graduating class, so she felt isolated and singled out.
“The [Mexican students] were different because they were born and raised here and it is different when you are born and raised [in America],” Desire said.
Since moving to Seattle two years ago, Desire now attends the University of Washington, where she is a freshman.
“I was going to come [to Seattle] anyways for college, I just happened to come here sooner than I imagined,” Desire said.
She frequently goes back to visit her family in Mexico, and spent this past summer in Ajijic, as violence has since settled down.
So I moved from Guadalajara, Mexico two years ago, like a little bit more than two years ago. Fortunately like my stepdad is American so like for me everything was like fine.
So like it was at night and then it was raining. That was like the first time that I was just like I miss the weather already (laughter) because like in Mexico it’s just so nice, it’s like sunny and like warm and then I got here and I was just like its freezing like I’m going to die. And then (umm) I went to like you know like the house and my dad was like waiting for us and he had like everything ready and then we just like went to the supermarket to get like groceries and like whatever we needed, and then (umm) I remember that night I couldn’t even sleep because it was just like you know like overwhelming like everything that was going on. And then yeah like the next day I woke up and then like my dad just like kind of showed us around like Seattle and like you know like the area and like stuff and then we went to the school to talk to like the counselor because I like needed to like knowing what classes that they were going to put me in. At first they wanted to put me in like ESL with like kids that like don’t like speak like any English. I mean like I kind of speak English like I want to be like with the normal kids and if I think that I can’t make it then maybe I can switch but. And then after that I just like slept all day because I was like really sad all the time so I was just like cry and sleep (laughter).
It was just like so sad because like I didn’t know anyone like I didn’t know like what to do, like I still was just like traumatized by like what happened. I remember, I was just like so scared of like what people were like going to like receive me you know because it’s just like a new culture and like I didn’t know if what I would say was like correct or not because it’s just like different. And then like I remember like some of like the kids were like not very nice to me. I remember like my first PE class one kid came up to me and was like where are you from and I was like oh Mexico and he was just like oh so you know how to jump fences? It’s just like, yeah, it’s like shocking.