Isabel Canning


June 12, 2019

Mexico City, Mexico

Fitting in upon return to Mexico

1 of 3


*To hear more about Pablo listen to the playlist above

Isabel: Okay, so it's Isabel, and I'm here with Pablo.

Pablo: Yes.

Isabel: Can you tell me a bit about how old you were when you migrated, what the reasons were?

Pablo: I was five years old, and the reason was because my Dad died when I was five, so my Mom decided to go to the States and work for a better life.

Isabel: Yeah.

Pablo: So, I think that's why. I don’t know. What else?

Isabel: Did you end up crossing the border or did you get a visa?

Pablo: I actually used somebody else's papers, somebody else's documents.

Isabel: Mhm [affirmative].

Pablo: So I basically...

Isabel: That's how you got over?

Pablo: Yeah. I didn't cross the border or anything.

Isabel: Do you remember your first moments in the US?

Pablo: Yeah. I remember that this lady, the one that took me over there, she just told me to go to sleep so I wouldn't have to talk or anything. And I was like, "Okay." It wasn't hard for me to go to sleep, so I just fell asleep. And when I woke up, I was over there, everything was so different. So I was surprised... I don't know. I felt good.

Isabel: What was different?

Pablo: I mean, you can see everything... It was just… the city was just more clean, or I don't know, it's just a lot of different stuff. The stores and buildings and everything was just different.

Isabel: Yeah. A lot of people mentioned the air or the smell, even, was different.

Pablo: Yeah.

Isabel: And where did you end up living when you moved to the US?

Pablo: I grew up in Georgia. Before that, when I crossed over there, I stayed in Houston for like two months. And then we also went to Florida for another like two months.

Isabel: And then Houston was where you put in your roots a bit. And what was it like growing up in Houston? Did you know you were undocumented?

Pablo: I did know. I mean, pretty much I grew up in Georgia...

Isabel: Oh, sorry, Georgia.

Pablo: At the beginning it was hard, going to school and not speaking English, everybody making fun of you, and it was hard. But then after a while you get used to it, and get the hang of it, started making friends and stuff.

Isabel: Did you take ESL classes?

Pablo: Yeah, I did.

Isabel: What were those like?

Pablo: They were boring.

Isabel: Yeah.

Pablo: But they were cool because we were all Hispanic people, so it felt good, than just being with a bunch of Americans. They didn't speak English that well, so it was better to be with our ESL team.

Isabel: Yeah. More comfortable probably. Did you like school? Did you like any particular teachers, or not really for you?

Pablo: Not really. Yeah, I didn't really like school, honestly.

Isabel: What did you like outside of school?

Pablo: I liked playing soccer, I liked playing soccer, but there's a lot of stuff going out there that gets your attention, all this partying and stuff. So yeah, I pretty much got into all that.

Isabel: How old were you when you got into all that?

Pablo: I was 14 when I started hanging out with those friends and-

Isabel: Were these friends just partying or were they also doing illegal activities?

Pablo: Yeah, they were actually doing illegal activities, also. I got involved. I mean, I lived right there.

Isabel: Yeah. Were these gangs or just casual groups?

Pablo: Yeah. Yeah, some of them. Well actually, a few of my cousins they were already involved in gangs, so it was pretty easy for me to get used to that.

Isabel: Yeah, slip into that lifestyle, I bet.

Pablo: Yeah.

Isabel: And that was when you were around 14 years old?

Pablo: Yeah.

Isabel: So did you stop playing soccer then, around there?

Pablo: Mm-hmm (affirmative). I stopped playing soccer, then I left school When I was 15 I dropped out of school.

Isabel: What grade was that?

Pablo: That was in eighth grade, middle school, the last grade.

Isabel: Did your parents have anything to say about that or were they not...?

Pablo: My mom she did not really say anything about that because I actually told her that I wanted to get a job because I was not doing good in school. So she was like, "Okay, well, if you're going to do better by having a job, then just get a job. I'll help you get a job." Then she basically talked to one of her friends that she had, and he helped me to get a job. So I started working when I was 15. It was at a carpet mill.

Isabel: What did you do there?

Pablo: We would get, how do you call them, big rolls of carpet? We would just have machines to cut them in different sizes and...

Isabel: Big machines?

Pablo: Yeah.

Isabel: Were they dangerous?

Pablo: Yeah, because they're cutting machines and...

Isabel: Did they know you were 15? Or did you have to say?

Pablo: They didn't know I was 15 because I was obviously using a fake ID. So I was 15, but on that fake ID, I would supposedly be 27.

Isabel: Oh, wow.

Pablo: I mean they knew, but that's just how it is.

Isabel: Did you make any friends at work?

Pablo: Yeah, I did have a lot of friends at work. Most of them just Hispanic people.

Isabel: Around your age, too?

Pablo: A few, like one or two that were my age. But I think I was the youngest one.

Isabel: And this time you were also... Were you in the gang or just affiliated around it?

Pablo: Yeah, I was in the gang.

Isabel: In the gang as well?

Pablo: Yeah.

Isabel: And what do you think drew you to that? Because one thing my professor's interested in is the sort of factors that draw or bring kids into gangs and that kind of activity, away from school and stuff, what the trends are. What was it in your case?

Pablo: In my case, where I grew up, we did have a few different cliques that were not getting along together. So it was basically... How can I say? Just wanted everybody to know you, everybody to respect you, and know that you were part of the best team, or best gang, whatever, that's it.

Isabel: So would you say it was a pride thing or more protection?

Pablo: Yeah, it's a pride thing. It's a pride thing. Yeah.

Isabel: Yeah, especially if you had family members who were already in it. That's on top of being sort of like brothers through that. You're also already by blood, as well.

Pablo: Yeah.

Isabel: Yeah. So you were working and also doing this when you weren't working. So you were doing both simultaneously?

Pablo: When I started working, I didn't get to hang around with them that much, that’s when I didn't used to work, that’s when I was in school. But there was times, for example, on the weekends and everything, every weekend there would be someone there to pick me up and "You know what? Let's go do this and that."

Isabel: What was this and that?

Pablo: We would just go banging. We would go to the clubs, nightclubs, we would go to the bars, we would go to the parks. And if you see a rival gang, then we would just... Like we say, hit them up.

Isabel: Hit them up. Is that just start a fight?

Pablo: Yeah. Basically, yeah.

Isabel: And that was from 15 years old to...

Pablo: To like 17, 18.

Isabel: To 17. And then what happened when you were 17 or 18?

Pablo: Well, I kind of came down a little bit.

Isabel: Why was that?

Pablo: I got with a girl. She came to live with me. I dedicated more time to her. She didn't really let me go out that much because she knew what I was doing. Basically, it was for her that I came down.

Isabel: Did you have a child with her or anything?

Pablo: No. Well she got pregnant one time, something went wrong, and she lost it.

Isabel: Like a miscarriage?

Pablo: Yeah. She had a miscarriage.

Isabel: Did you want the baby?

Pablo: Yeah, no I did want the baby. Yeah. It was messed up.

Isabel: I'm sorry. I know, that's difficult.

Pablo: Yeah.

Isabel: So then how old were you when you left the US, or how did you leave the US?

Pablo: I was 22. I was 22. 21 or 22.

Isabel: What led to you leaving the US? What happened?

Pablo: Well, I got deported.

Isabel: Oh, you were deported?

Pablo: Yeah.

Isabel: What were the events leading up to deportation? What caused it?

Pablo: I was driving without a license.

Isabel: Driving without a license. And did they have any other record of you because of your affiliation when you were younger with gangs, or...?

Pablo: Yeah, gang-related.

Isabel: Were you ever stopped by the police before that?

Pablo: No.

Isabel: So this was your first infraction or whatever you want to call it, driving without a license. So were you taken in by the police? How were you treated? What happened?

Pablo: I was taken in by the police and then the ICE officer would come visit county jail every weekend. They would take care of all illegal people, make you sign your deportation.

Isabel: So did they present you of your rights, or what happened?

Pablo: No, they just made me sign deportation. They didn't provide me with any rights or anything. It was just like, "You're going to sign this so you can get deported." Because I had gotten arrested before. I was in county, also. I was 17 by then.

Isabel: Why were you arrested that time?

Pablo: Because I had an issue with my girlfriend. Her mom, she actually called the cops on me because we were fighting and stuff, so yeah they took me to jail.

Isabel: They got like physical, then? Mom called the cops, and you were taken to jail at 17?

Pablo: Yeah.

Isabel: Okay. So then they had you in the system beforehand?

Pablo: Yes.

Isabel: And then when you were arrested for driving without a license, they looked that up. You weren't given the chance to fight your case or anything?

Pablo: Yes, I was, but I didn't want to.

Isabel: Yeah. Why was that? Just didn't want to spend that much time in detention or anything?

Pablo: Yeah. Yeah, because I would see a lot of people that they'd be fighting their case and they would be in jail for a year. And then after that, they'd still get deported. So might as well just deport me right away. I don't want to spend a lot of time just here, so that at the end you can just go and deport me anyways.

Isabel: Right. Were you still like with your girlfriend?

Pablo: Yeah.

Isabel: And your daughter?

Pablo: With what?

Isabel: Oh, sorry, you didn't have a child. I'm sorry. [inaudible 00:12:22] sensitive. So you were still with your girlfriend at the time.

Pablo: Yeah.

Isabel: And then, soon you're deported. Was that difficult to leave her?

Pablo: Yeah, it was. She used to tell me that she wanted to come down here with me, but I was like... I was struggling over here, and it was not easy. So, I told her, "You know what? I don't think it's a good idea. Because things are different, and you're not going to like it, and I don't want to tell you, 'Yes, come on over here and we're going to be fine.' And then what if you don't like it and then you get mad and you're going to be like, 'It's your fault I came over here.'" I didn't want none of that.

Isabel: It's a big risk.

Pablo: Yeah.

Isabel: Was she also undocumented?

Pablo: Yes.

Isabel: Yeah, so if she came, she would have to probably stay as well. Could you tell me about, you said it was difficult reintegrating. Can you tell me a bit about your deportation? How you were deported and then what it was like being in Mexico, because again, it's almost like a new country. You spent so much time in the US. Just how is reintegrating into Mexican society?

Pablo: Yeah. Well, it is kind of difficult, because it was hard for me to get a job at first, because I didn't have any documents or any papers or anything. And my parents wouldn't help me, either because I was... I used to dress weird.

Isabel: Weird?

Pablo: Yeah. They always tell me I got a mean face. I don't know why, but everybody always tells me that. And since I used to dress baggy, they would look at me like…

Isabel: Oh, thinking that you were becoming dangerous or something, or untrustworthy?

Pablo: Yeah, yeah.

Isabel: Because we've talked to a lot of people who have had similar experiences, were affiliated or part of gangs in the US and then were like, "Okay, I want a second chance. I want to get the job here, do different things." And then maybe because of their tattoos and the way they present themselves, are then stereotyped as that way here, as well. So that was a bit of your experience?

Pablo: Yeah.

Isabel: So when you were reintegrating back, was it difficult? What were some of the biggest challenges finding a job, being separated from your girlfriend?

Pablo: Well, being separated from my mom, because actually I was over there with my mom and my mom's still over there. She's still living over there in Georgia.

Isabel: And you're close with your mom?

Pablo: Yeah. We talk a lot.

Isabel: Do you talk a lot now?

Pablo: By the phone, yeah.

Isabel: Does she check in with you?

Pablo: Yeah.

Isabel: What do you talk about? Just anything?

Pablo: Yeah, just how she's doing, how I'm doing, how things are over here, how things are over there. Kids over there, my little brothers and sisters. How they’re doing.

Isabel: So pretty much your whole family is back in the US.

Pablo: Yeah.

Isabel: And how long have you been back in Mexico?

Pablo: Six years now.

Isabel: Six years. Do you feel like it's gotten easier since you first came here?

Pablo: Yeah, a lot.

Isabel: What's gotten better?

Pablo: Well, I got a better job now and that's basically... I live on my own now, I can pay my own things. Then when I got here, I had to be moving around with my aunts and stuff.

Isabel: With your family members.

Pablo: With my family members, yeah.

Isabel: So you had a bit of a support system, or... A little bit?

Pablo: Yeah.

Isabel: Did you get any help from any other organizations or anything?

Pablo: No.

Isabel: Do you feel like you were treated differently here because you lived in the US for some time? Or do you feel different than other people here? Or no?

Pablo: No. I don't feel different. I'm from here you know. I mean what gets me kind of upset is like you know, like I've seen people around here, some guys that I work with, they grew up in the US, and when they come here, they be like, "Hey, where you from?" They try to bring like the stuff from over there, over here. For example, I had some guys the other day come up to me and they're like, "Where you from?" Because they come with the... How can I say it?

Pablo: When you're in a gang in the US, you come up to see another gang member, you're like, "Where you from?" And then you start all that stuff, you know. That upsets me kind of because we're in Mexico, and we're Mexican. I seen some people here, they'll be like, "Ah, Well, I'm from Chicago, or I'm from LA or..." Like that. I'm going to be like, “well then why are you here if you were from Chicago or if you were from LA? Or whatever you say you're from, you wouldn't be here, you know” I don't like saying that, because like I said, I do see people here that be like that. "Well, I come from Chicago or I come from..."

Pablo: Okay, you come from over there, you grew up over there. But I mean, you're not even from over there. You're from here. I mean, that's something that just I don't...

Isabel: So do you feel like you're more in touch with your Mexican roots or identity here than some other people you know coming in?

Pablo: Yeah, yeah. I mean, if somebody comes up to me and be like, "Where you from?" I'm not going to be like, "Well I'm from Georgia." No, I'm from here. I was born here. I lived over there, but that's it.

Isabel: Yeah. Some people will say like, "Oh, well, you're either like too American to be Mexican or too Mexican to be American." What's your response to that?

Pablo: I don't think I have a response to that. I'm just Mexican, that's it.

Isabel: That's who I am.

Pablo: Pretty much.

Isabel: If you were in the US still, what do you think you'd be doing?

Pablo: Working.

Isabel: Working. Do you know what job you'd want?

Pablo: Well, you don't really have an option over there. You still illegal, so you got pretty much got to adapt to whatever there is. I don't mind. As long as I'm working, as long as I have a job, it don't really matter.

Isabel: Nice. And what are your plans for, now that you're in Mexico? What do you hope to do?

Pablo: I just want to keep working. I don't know. Just in the future, maybe get a house, have my Mom come over here.

Isabel: Yeah.

Pablo: That's it.

Isabel: Yeah. Be with your mother. Nice. Well, is there anything else you'd want people to know or experiences you should share?

Pablo: No, I think that's about it. It is pretty hard. And once you get deported, especially when you get deported, when you come by your own decision, you know, you're good. But when you get deported and you just get arrested with no money in your pocket and then they let you out like that. And it is pretty hard because Mexico is dangerous. There's a lot of things that can happen to you and stuff. I'm glad I made it. I'm glad I'm here now. I'm glad I got a job. I'm not into that much trouble anymore. I have my kid.

Isabel: And now you have a child here?

Pablo: Yeah.

Isabel: How old is your kid here?

Pablo: He's two.

Isabel: Two. Are there any values or things that you feel like you want your kid to have, or what do you hope?

Pablo: Yes, I do want my kid to- I want him to in the future, grow up, study as much as he can, get a career, be someone not like me. I want him to --That's why I only want one, so I can give him everything. I don't want any more kids. I mean, I'm not going to be able to give him everything. Might as well just keep one and give him all that I can.

Isabel: Yeah, absolutely. Do you think you'd ever want your kid to go to the US and visit your family?

Pablo: Of course, yes.

Isabel: Do any education in the US, do everything here, or...?

Pablo: No. I mean, I think he can do it here. I don't think there's no need for you to go to US. You can be someone here. You can study here, you can make a career.

Isabel: Yeah.

Pablo: You don't necessarily need to go somewhere else. In the future, you never know if there would be an opportunity. I'm not going to stop him from... I don't know. There's a chance that in the future he decides that he wants to go over somewhere else or he wants... It just depends on him. I'm just going to support him through whatever he wants to do. As long as it's something good, I'm always going to just be there and support him.

Isabel: That's great. Yeah. That's what I wanted to hear from you, just your own personal experience, how you've changed because of it. That's a good note to end on.

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