Pine Whispers

The country they call home

Mercer Sullivan, Staff Writer

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Thirteen point five percent. Thirteen point five percent of the United States population immigrated from Mexico. Millions of people flood the borders every year in search of a better life and a brighter future for themselves and their children. Some of them are even living that better life at Reynolds.

Isabel Noyola Alvarez came to the US at just two years old. Her mom had been married at fourteen and Isabel was born when her mom was just sixteen. Later followed by her younger sister before they came to the US. She is from a small town in Guerrero, Mexico called El Pitahayo, two hours from Alcapulco. It is home to roughly 1500 people, but that number is slowly diminishing.

“It’s more violent [El Pitahayo] and my grandma is leaving the town after so many years, and people are leaving,” Alvarez said. “Everything is corrupt.”

Her mother came to Winston to be with her brothers and to provide for her children. She considered going to school, but was unsure because she needed income to provide for her kids.

“My uncle asked my mom since you’re here do you want to study or do you want to work,” Alvarez said.  “She chose to work, so she got a job at this little Mexican store up the street. It is still there with the same name and everything.”

Isabel’s birth father has been out of her life for quite some time now. He had left her mother and then later fled the U.S.. She has not talked to him since.

“My mom she never speaks anything bad of him she just refuses to but I think of my family and they’re talking about like if he ever came back to North Carolina the other family and the government may begin looking for him… so we don’t associate ourselves with that family [her biological fathers].”

Isabel now lives with her mom and sister, but is often around her uncles and her step father.

“My stepdad is from Mexico and he met my mom at a dance,” Alvarez said. “Every Saturday they would have these dances and people would go there and these bands would come and play from Mexico. They met there and he went to her brother for permission to date her.”

Her stepfather helped raise Isabel and her sister. He cared for them as a father along with their mother. Isabel’s mom worked tirelessly to do whatever she could to provide for them. Immigrants not only face the challenge of getting into the US, but once over the border it is still challenging. Immigrants face unwarranted discrimination from many around them. Even here at Reynolds, Isabel says it can be a challenge sometimes.

“I mean everybody is different,” Alvarez said. “Mexicans in general are racist to each other too and we are just mean to each other because there are sometimes people [other hispanics] who think they are better because they have papers. You have papers but you chose not to get a good job, you chose not to go to school, and there are kids who worry that they can’t get this or they can’t go to this school because they don’t have papers.”  

Recently Isabel’s stepfather was deported after receiving a speeding ticket. He had gone to check in with his parole officer at the courthouse downtown when Homeland Security showed up.

“My mom’s husband and her brother got pulled over one time and she called me and I was at church and she said ‘whatever you do don’t go to the house, go to papi’s house, just don’t go home,’ and I wondered why.” Alvarez said. Her stepfather was arrested and later given probation for a drug charge because the passenger in his car had been carrying drugs.

“I got home and the cops had come and been through everything so my house was a mess,” Alvarez said. “My drawers were empty and my clothes were everywhere and they had been looking for stuff. My stepfather got probation and everything but the thing is when you go to court downtown there are always going to be eyes there and he went one morning to sign for probation and they [homeland security] were there waiting for him.”

Isabel’s mom pondered whether they should return to Mexico when her stepfather was deported because she had been building a house there to either sell or live in. Her mom was devastated when her husband was taken away only after they had had one brief visit.

Stories like Isabel’s are sad, but not uncommon. Many students at Reynolds have immigrated to the US and have had loved ones deported. English as Second Language (ESL) teacher Stacey Jolly sees students come from all over the world who have been affected by the move to the U.S.

“They tend to live in the shadows and they have a layer of fear that coats them but this is the country they know because most of them have been here since they were 3-4 years old,” Jolly said. “They don’t have a whole lot of memories of their native countries; they don’t have the documentation to be legal here so they are constantly living in the shadows. There’s a constant fear of getting a speeding ticket because their parents could get deported.”

This is a story faced by many Reynolds students, who come to school in fear every day. Mrs. Jolly is astounded by the perseverance of her students and their willingness to come in and learn day after day.

“They are some of the most resilient young people that I have ever taught and they have a sense of hope about them that I worry sometimes is missing with people born in this country,” Jolly said. “A lot of people that were born in this country don’t even realize all the advantages they have just from being born here. Whereas a lot of the kids I teach know what they have left behind and know that they have so many different opportunities here.”

Isabel remembers every day to be kind to those around her because you never know what is going on in their world, and that every day you can make the world around others kinder.

“Just be nicer to everybody; just because people come from different countries and different race and different cultures doesn’t mean they are less, or all the same,” Alvarez said. “We should always give each other the benefit of the doubt; don’t write someone off before you know them, get to know somebody first.”

Photo provided by Isabel Alvarez

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The country they call home