Undocumented Mariana’s Story
Updated: Aug 16
Ruth Ann Angus
What does the word “undocumented” mean to a 12-year-old girl? Probably nothing. Undoubtedly, she has never even heard the word before. But after crossing the border between Mexico and California, Mariana becomes familiar with this terminology.
Mariana is a young woman of Mexican descent living on the Central Coast of California. She fits into the Hispanic community like medical gloves fit onto skin. She is totally part of her Latin family, but to look at her you would never know any of this. Mariana doesn’t look like most Hispanic women. She is fair of complexion, with medium brown hair, a little overweight, and of average height. Talking with Mariana, there is no indication of an accent. Mariana can pass as any white citizen of the United States.
Mariana sits in a chair in the office where she volunteers doing whatever she can to help this humanitarian organization as it aids people in need in the community. She has gone to the Food Bank and picked up produce that will be distributed to families like hers that don’t have the money to purchase quality vegetables and fruit. She is pleased to be able to help as she remembers times from her youth when her family was on the receiving end. Mariana is now a grown woman with children of her own and she tells us her story.
“My mother had five children,” she says, “and was happy with my father. We lived in Mexico, and both worked at laborer type jobs, sometimes in the fields.”
Unfortunately, Mariana’s father had a premature death from a heart attack at 45 years of age. Her mother alone could not sustain the large family. She had relatives and friends who had emigrated to the states. She made the decision to leave Mexico and cross the border undetected. In time Mariana made that same crossing and joined her mother and her siblings. Eventually, the mother remarried a citizen, but in the beginning all the family was undocumented or considered illegal aliens.
Learning a new language was the most difficult thing young Mariana experienced as she entered the sixth grade in public school in the Imperial Valley. After waiting five years, she applied to become a citizen and expressed that the hardest thing about that was learning all the educational requirements. Once she became a citizen, Mariana left the Imperial Valley and moved to Napa, California where she worked as a Certified Nurses Assistant. She met a young man, fell in love, and they became partners without benefit of marriage and in due time she became pregnant with her first child, a boy. This union lasted 12 years when her partner decided to return to Mexico.
“I had a brother who had joined the military and made it a career,” she explained, “he was stationed on the Central Coast, so I decided to move there.” At the same time, she discovered she was pregnant again. Realizing that she would be on her own, Mariana made an auspicious decision, she enrolled in classes at Cuesta College through the assistance of Women’s Reentry that helped her obtain the classes she needed.
After attending a talk given by Womenade Estero Bay, she learned about the Los Osos Cares Resource Connection and immediately signed on as a volunteer. Mariana graduates in May of 2022 with her Associates Degree in Social Services. She intends to continue her education at the University and eventually enter social services employment where she hopes to be able to help young women like herself – those that may begin life here as “undocumented” but then become productive citizens of their adopted country.