Anita Isaacs


June 6, 2019

Mexico City, Mexico

Being gang affiliated

1 of 2


*To hear more about Diana listen to the playlist above

Anita: So, I'm with Diana and we've done a survey and now we're going to have a little bit more of a conversation, it's Anita. So you've been to the United States twice?

Diana: Yes.

Anita: And the first time you went as a middle schooler?

Diana: Yes.

Anita: Was that hard to all of a sudden leave your country?

Diana: Yes, because of the situation. Because my parents split up, and then I didn't know what's going on. And then once I was over there I didn't know any English. So the first year was hard also because when I went there, I had to go back one year from school because I did not know English. And then third year, the things that they teach at the bilingual classes, it was not on the grade that I was, it was below that. So I think that, that got me, I lost interest in school because of that. So I started hanging out with bad people and stuff like that.

Anita: So how old were you then?

Diana: I was 12 when I went there, but then when I was 15 because I was hanging out with not that good people, my mom sent me back-

Anita: So that's why you came back.

Diana: To live with my mom, with my dad, sorry.

Anita: So tell me what you did. What trouble did you get in?

Diana: Well, when I started hanging out with ... I started getting to the gangs and stuff over there so ... and I would cut school, and then I would get into fights stuff like that.

Anita: So tell me about this. We're trying to understand this, what is so exciting about gangs?

Diana: I believe in my situation, you know I cannot speak for everybody, but in my situation it was most likely the losing of interest in school because when I was here in Mexico, I was one of the ones with the good grades and I had some other set of goals here. So then when I was over there, everything changed. I got sent back and then what they were teaching was like, for me it was way below grade. So then I started hanging out with bad people and then my mom was working all the time, so I had a lot of alone time.

Anita: Was it fun hanging out with gangs?

Diana: Yes, at the beginning. Well, yes it was. At that age it was. Now that I am old and different but --

Anita: But what was fun about it?

Diana: It was fun because I felt that I could be more me. Also, that depends because of the whole situation with my family. In my family, my dad was an alcoholic and stuff like that. so we were more quiet and stuff like that. And my brothers and sisters, they had their own problems too. I'm the youngest, that's why it was me the only one that went over there with my mom.

Anita: So you had to leave your sisters and brothers behind?

Diana: Yeah, since they were already married and stuff. They stayed here.

Anita: Were you mad at your parents for taking you or your mom for taking you to the US?

Diana: The very first month, yes because I mean, I knew the situation between her and my dad, but at that time, I mean I did love my dad anyways. So then it was hard for me, not seeing him and stuff like that.

Anita: Yeah, I can imagine. So when you say I could be more me when I was with the gang, what do you mean?

Diana: It's because also, I always grew up with a little bit of conflict with my mom because she had a lot of rules that even from when I was young, I didn't agree with them. [chuckles] I mean also I know now that she had those kind of thinkings and stuff because of the way she grew up and all the problems she had so ... but at that moment, you don't think about any of that, is just mainly you so [chuckles].

Anita: So being me, what do you mean when you say I could be more me?

Diana: Because I could be how I wanted, like they wouldn't judge me. And also, before I felt I was like more weak, I was so scared of a lot of things and everything, and that also kind of helped me be– because also when I got there, because I did not speak English, I got bullied a lot. So, starting you know hanging out with the people that were in gangs and stuff like that, that starts stopping. I learned to make them stop to bully me. So then I started liking the fact that I could let, you know be bullied.

Anita: Yeah. Did you have a boyfriend who was a gang member?

Diana: Yes.

Anita: But you didn't get pregnant?

Diana: No.

Anita: How'd you manage that?

Diana: Because I didn't have any sexual relations with him.

Anita: No?

Diana: No.

Anita: You weren't pressured to?

Diana: Not really, not by him. So he was actually, he was in a gang, but he was a pretty nice person. Yeah, we would make out, but it didn't got to a point that he pressured me to have sex so ...

Anita: So your mother finds out that you're in a gang, and then what happens?

Diana: And then that's when ... well, first she noticed because I start cutting school a lot, so then you know how they contact the parents and stuff. So, she had to go out of her work to go and take me to school and stuff like that so – but what did make her just say “no, no, no, I don't want you-“ is because I started fighting a lot more. And then there was one time that we were – she had then, because of I caught school, she would go pick me up now. I had to be at school. Then one time she pick me up and then we got on the bus. I usually didn't get on the first bus because it was the one that got food and stuff like that, but she wanted to get on that one.

Diana: And then we were there and then there was these – they were from my school; I was already in high school. And then they started pushing up everybody all the way from the front and they pushed my mom. And then at that moment, I was telling the guy, “What's wrong with you?” and stuff like that. And then he was with his friends. He was an African American, so then I called them nigger and stuff like that. And then I start fighting with them, my mom got all scared, start pushing me, and then from there then the guy punched me in the face. And then my mom got really scared about that and she was like, “No, I'm not going to deal with this, I want to send you out.”

Anita: So when you say fighting, fighting, like punching or fighting with knives or what?

Diana: No, it was just fighting, like punching, getting into fights.

Anita: So she sends you back to Mexico?

Diana: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Anita: And then you go back again?

Diana: Yeah. So then I'm here living with my dad now and then my dad work all day. My older sister was living in the house with my dad too, but she worked all day too and stuff like that. And then here I tried to go back to school, but because they needed me to certificate the school that I was over there, and I couldn't because my mom didn't get prepared at all she just sent me back. They wanted me to go back again and start all from where I left here. And at that moment I was like, no. So then I started just being on my house and then I met my husband and then I got pregnant.

Anita: This time you got-

Diana: Yeah, and this time I got pregnant and then we start living together.

Anita: And what was it like crossing the border the second time?

Diana: The second time was more scary because I was 19 and my son was two years old. So then we went over there, and it was with my husband and then it was also – the first time I crossed by Tijuana, and then the second time we went through Sonora. So then it more hard. And then the first time, they took us on a van with more people. The good thing is that since I had my son, I was sitting on the front and then everybody was like hiding in the back and stuff like that. But then they caught us and then they deport us.

Anita: You got caught?

Diana: Once. So then while we stay at the border, that same people, you know the coyotes, they told us, “Okay, go back here,” and everything. And then the second time we cross, but it was not with a lot of people no more. It was just me, my husband, and a couple, and an old guy just took us on the car.

Anita: And you were with your son?

Diana: Yeah.

Anita: But did you have to walk in the desert, or you went by car?

Diana: By car. Yeah, it was by car.

Anita: Okay, how did you decide where you were going to go live?

Diana: My mom was over there in ____, so we went, and I stayed with my mom for a little bit.

Anita: Was she happy to see you again?

Diana: Yes. Well actually she was the one that help us with the money first, because it was like a lot of money to go together. But the first option was actually to just go me and my husband, to work, make money, come back. And we were going to leave my son with my mother-in-law. But my mom was like, “No that's not a good idea and if I help you, I help the three of you guys, because it's not a good idea to leave your son.” Now I know that was the correct choice.

Anita: Your mother had stayed then this whole time in the U S?

Diana: She stayed there but actually she came back about six years ago, so now she's living-

Anita: But your whole time when you were back here, she was in the United States?

Diana: Yes, yes.

Anita: I see, okay. So this time you come back, you're an adult, you go live with your mom and you find a job doing all these jobs as?

Diana: It was in the movie theaters, yeah. That was actually my first job of all.

Anita: Really?

Diana: Yeah, maybe because I was 19, so it was fun, it was really fun.

Anita: Was it hard to find all these jobs without papers?

Diana: It was because let's say my mom's family and then they mostly work at restaurants and stuff like that. But I don't really like restaurants stuff. Working at a restaurant, I don't like it that much.

Anita: Why?

Diana: I don't know. I'm not that friendly with people. Then I found the movie theaters and then they – is because you know how you don't say that you don't have papers, so they probably thought since I was young I was just like a teenager and then they didn't really ask me are you papers real or anything. I had fake papers.

Anita: And you had fake papers of all these different jobs?

Diana: Yes.

Anita: And nobody ever asked you anything?

Diana: No. I'm pretty sure they assume because you know there's a way to know because the social security numbers that they give you, if you know about it, they're not actual. They might be from people that are from the 50s or stuff like that. So there's a … but they don't really – I'm pretty sure a lot of them knew, but they don't really ask, they probably be like, okay don't know them.

Anita: Don't ask, don't tell?

Diana: Yeah, don't ask don't tell.

Anita: Yeah, I had wondered about that. They don't really care.

Diana: Yeah, they don't, because at my last job, over there when I went to ____ in the movie theaters, they hire me. The movie theaters, it was the AMC movie theaters, so they did hire me. But then when I went out to ____, I worked through agencies, so then they would send me to a factory, but the last one, they did hire me. After a while they hire me. I was not working through the agency no more. I was not a temp no more.

Anita: Were most of the people you were working with in a similar situation undocumented?

Diana: At the factories, yes. In the movie theaters, no because in the movie theaters, there was more teenagers and stuff like. Normal people. I think I was the only one undocumented there. Yeah, in the movie theaters.

Anita: So then what does your husband do?

Diana: Right now?

Anita: No.

Diana: Over there? Over there, he started working, when we were in ____, he started working at the _____ Conservation Corps. He was there, they tell them, finish the GED. They also do work, like mostly community work because they build bike racks around the city, stuff like that. And they cut grass and stuff like that.

Anita: And your mother, does she have your child?

Diana: Not really, that was ... when we got there with my son, that was mainly the most hard things because my mom did say that she was going to help me but then at the end she really didn't. He was two years old. So, the first year before we can put him into preschool, we had a hard time with the babysitting, and then we had to adapt to find jobs where he can take care of him while I was working and stuff like that. When he got into preschool it got a little bit easier, but we still never really had someone that could take care of him and stuff like that. We didn't have enough money to pay for a babysitter.

Anita: So some of the jobs you had had daycares?

Diana: No, we would have to, let's say if my husband work in the mornings, I work at night. We had to find jobs like that.

Anita: Wow. So your husband, I'll talk to him, he gets stopped for a traffic violation and he gets to court.

Diana: Yes.

Anita: And you stay?

Diana: Yes, I stay for another six months.

Anita: Why did you decide to stay?

Diana: At first, because I could not just leave my son was in sixth grade, and also that was a hard decision because he was either staying over there or coming back. Coming back was... because we had always been together, so by that it was because since he got deported, he cannot go back, if he tries to cross, they want to put him in jail right away. So supposedly he has dangers, probation, but I'm not sure if after that he'd be able to have a visa or something like that.

Anita: You just stayed so your son could finish his school?

Diana: Yeah.

Anita: Did you think of staying longer without your husband?

Diana: Yeah, I thought so. I thought about it, but then I don't know, I was like, no, we have to be together.

Anita: Love?

Diana: Yeah.

Anita: It does these things.

Diana: Yeah, it does things, yeah. And then since I was mentioning, we always been together. Actually, we've been together now for 21 years. I met him when I was 15.

Anita: Oh my God. And things are good?

Diana: Yes. We have problems and other thing, but we've been always together in the good times, the bad times so ...

Anita: What's it been like coming back to Mexico, what was it like?

Diana: At the beginning, it was really hard.

Anita: Why?

Diana: Because I did not ... we got so adapted to the living over there, is because it was different because I see over there, there's people that are there for a lot of years and they don't learn to speak English. A lot of people that go over there from Mexico, they want everything to adapt to them. They want stuff to be in Spanish, and I mean it's okay, but I think that at some point, if you are living over there, you have to adapt, to the living over there. And also, it's better you start meeting more people, you have more opportunities, they treat you different.

Anita: If you speak English?

Diana: Yes.

Anita: Did you like the United States?

Diana: Yes, I like it a lot.

Anita: What did you like?

Diana: I liked how it was more easier. If you work hard, you get stuff faster, you have things. Also, because my son was over there. Actually, he wants to go back. Yeah, he's 19 now so he wants to go back. He doesn't adapt to the living here. He doesn't like Spanish. He does speak Spanish but he speaks with an accent.

Anita: Really?

Diana: Yeah. And then he doesn't try that much because he doesn't like it. And then he had a bad experience here when he went back to school here.

Anita: But what did you like about it?

Diana: About coming back?

Anita: About the U S.

Diana: Oh, about the US. I like the rules. I like the rules. Because you know how over there you, let's say when you're driving, when I started driving, you know how over there you have to respect the people that are walking and then you follow rules a lot more. Here nobody cares. If you’re walking, the cars just, they don't care about you, and here you also see that the traffic's worse always because let's say if the lights are not working, it's not like over there that you know that the person on the right goes first. You stop, and you know it's like that. Everybody knows that, so you do it. And then here is like no, everybody wants to go first. It causes chaos and then a lot of people, mostly that is very insecure. The first time we got robbed, we were taking my son to school, and they stopped us and they had guns and they took everything. They even took his backpack and it’s like, why do you need his backpack?

Anita: Your son's?

Diana: Yeah.

Anita: Yeah, anything else you liked or you miss from the U S?

Diana: The food, some of the food. That is because some of the food here now we have it, is not, but is more expensive.

Anita: What food do you miss?

Diana: There's some buffets over there that I like.

Anita: Like which ones?

Diana: Like the old country buffet, I imagine, that one I liked it a lot. Now they had little Caesars here but before they didn't and I missed that before.

Anita: So what's been the hardest thing about being back?

Diana: That you don't make enough money. Actually, probably that's why I like the more over there because even with low salary income, you still, if you know how to manage and everything, you still ... I know that over there the situation, it'll be you're poor, but you don't live that bad, you don't struggle that much. And here, it's hard to find a job that pays good, the hours are way longer, and then you have to travel sometimes a lot more. Let's say I do, it's not that bad, but I make like an hour and 15 minutes from here to my house so it's not that bad. But in other ones I would make more than two hours, and then it's far and then you go in the subway with a lot of people standing there.

Anita: Do you think that living in the U S changed you?

Diana: Yes, a lot.

Anita: How so?

Diana: I'm more open minded, and I see things different. I think I'm more accepting of a lot of differences in people or in stuff. Because here I see that people sometimes, they reject, people are different and something like that. Also, the thing that I liked a lot more about that is that they do take care more about animals and stuff like that. Over there my son, he got so amazed how ... over there we never saw a stray dog. I mean, I'm pretty sure sometimes they get loose, but you know they're not strays, and here you see so many stray dogs and cats and stuff like that. So that's one of the things that I like the most about there. They help a lot more.

Anita: Yeah. So they follow rules. Are there anything else that's culturally different, do you think?

Diana: The way you live over there.

Anita: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Diana: Over there you do a lot more things, and mostly it's because of the income, yeah. Because even though that, let's say we were, did not have papers and maybe we could not go to a lot of places, but we could go to places anyways.

Anita: You mean to travel?

Diana: Yeah, to travel. Maybe because we were so adapted, we actually never got that many rejection because I do know that some people do get a lot of rejections so that, actually I get more here.

Anita: What do you mean rejections?

Diana: Like for example here, this social, the status is way more marked. Here you know for sure that the people that make more money, they don't treat everybody the same. Also, in the jobs that happens a lot too. A lot of people have more preferences and there's a lot of that kind of things. Over there I never experienced that. Over there, in my experience, if all the time I did a good job, they let me know I was doing a good job, and they put me up in another position stuff like that, I could grow up in the – it wasn't that hard, but here is, since let's say if there is a position that you want, but then there's somebody else that wants it and he's friends with the manager or something, he's going to get it first, that kind of things.

Anita: Who will get it first?

Diana: The person that is their friend.

Anita: So, there's more social mobility in the U S?

Diana: Yes.

Anita: That's interesting. Have you faced discrimination since you've been back?

Diana: Not that much.

Anita: No?

Diana: No. Well, actually I just do it over the phone when I'm calling sometimes in my job, but I know people are like that, and it's my job.

Anita: So you face discrimination from Americans on the phone?

Diana: Yes.

Anita: What do they say?

Diana: That they need to speak with someone that speaks better English, stuff like that because I do tech support.

Anita: And what about by Mexicans? Do you face discrimination?

Diana: Not really. I mean, just like I was mentioning, in the social status, the ones that have more money, they look at you more, but I don't really care about that. I don't pay, I know they're like that, so I don't care.

Anita: Great, okay.

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