Winner of the El Premio Aztlan Literary Award, the American Book Award, and the International Latino Book Award spoke about her experience with freedom and the struggles of being an immigrant at Deets Library.
Reyna Grande is originally from Iguala, Mexico known as the “Birth of the Mexican flag,” living in poverty with the lack of freedom is how she grew up. Grande was more than willing to share her experience as an immigrant growing up in America all while learning to read, speak, and write in English.
Grande said “Trying to learn English for three years was hard, however the reading, and writing were very important to me because I was self-conscious about my accent, and when I wrote you couldn’t hear my accent.” Coincidently that was how she began writing in the first place.
Grande told a compelling story about how her parents left her with her siblings in Mexico while her father and mother crossed the border illegally to start a new life in America. She would live without her mother or father for 8 years before reuniting with them when she was 10-years-old. It took her father 3 attempts to smuggle Grande, and her two siblings across the border into America.
Grande’s father would explain to her later in life as to why they left her, and her brother and sister in her words saying “They left us for a better opportunity, and that it’s hard to think about the future when you live in poverty.” She would admit that when she was younger she didn’t ever think about it that way, all she knew was that her parents weren’t there with her.
As a child, Grande never saw Iguala as a bad place to live when talking about her hometown. Grande explained it as “A broken place of beauty.”
Grande’s book “This is Between Us,” shows that the struggle of immigration does not occur during the crossing of the border it comes not only before, but afterwards as well. She spoke from personal experience explaining the traumas that come with child immigrants, saying she was one of the lucky ones that had their father helping them cross the border, because most children today don’t get to have their parents get them across safely.
Grande wants her readers to realize what they are reading saying “I’m telling the human side and personal side of immigration, not the political side to show that immigrants are people too, and their reasoning behind crossing the border.”
When she had crossed the border life was completely different, not because she was in a different country, she had to live with complete strangers that were her mother and father, who had now divorced, and had married other people with children of their own. She would live with her father and step-mother, who forced her to get an education, and become a citizen of the United States.
Grande would become a U.S. citizen along with being the first in her family to graduate from college obtaining her bachelors in creative writing and film making from the University of California. She contributes her father as the biggest reason to why she got an education, jokingly with a serious tone Grande said her dad told her “I will deport you back to Mexico if you don’t go to school.”
Today, Grande continues to make a trip back home to Mexico at least once a year to see her family, and is reminded that the poverty that is still in her hometown could have been her life style if she was not fortunate enough to get out when she did.
Grande’s hometown of Iguala has made recent news for all of the killings in the area, once known as the “Birthplace of the Mexican Flag,” is now known as the “Birthplace of Killers.” Grande also played on the words of her own, saying earlier that Iguala was a “Broken place of beauty,” and is now a “Place of broken justice.” Crime has increased so much that her own family fears for her safety when she comes and visits, Grande explained that, that was never the case in past years.
For example, last September 43 students were taken and just disappeared one night authorities have not made much progress in finding the students, or knowing of their whereabouts. Another example Grande shared was the Mexican government paid the movie production company of the new “James Bond,” movie $20 million for 4 minutes of “positive,” air-time when millions of Mexican citizens live in extreme poverty.
Grande’s reasoning for speaking at events, and colleges is to make the free citizens of the United States aware of the struggles happening in Mexico to the point of putting pressure on the U.S. government to help with Mexico’s economy then to hold Mexico’s government accountable in spending that money correctly.
Grande expressed that we have the freedom to make movements, and make a positive change for the best that immigrants are not numbers, or percentages but people just trying to be free. Grande made it clear that they want the freedom to make positive movements in the world the same as everyone else.
Tanner Carlson is a sophomore majoring in communication. Any further questions or comments you may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.