“I was never able to have what I wanted and sometimes I didn’t even have what I needed. This was the reason that made me decide to start working when I was nine years old.”
Photo by Steve Mann
Throughout my childhood, I remained neglected by my family, because I was a child born outside of marriage. My mother started getting sick and had to get surgery, because a cancerous tumor was developing. I was the youngest of her children, so she had to leave me with my grandmother. During this time, my grandmother maltreated me. She would hit me for no reason and call me mean names. She would make me do a lot of unnecessary cleaning. When it came to dinner, she wouldn’t let me eat what everyone else was eating. And if she did, she would serve everyone else first, and if there was food left in the pan, that was my dinner.
After staying with my grandmother for a few months, I was taken to my aunt’s house. I thought things would be different and better there, but it wasn’t, one of my older cousins tried to rape me. I tried telling my aunt about the situation, but she didn’t believe me. She thought I was lying. Luckily by now, my mother had recuperated from her surgery and my aunt brought me back home, because she didn’t want to have a “lying” child in her house.
I was back at home now, but we remained financially unstable. My mom was solely raising me and my three other siblings. I was never able to have what I wanted and sometimes I didn’t even have what I needed. This was the reason that made me decide to start working when I was nine years old. I would help my brother sell his CDs at the street market on the weekends. During the week, I would wake up at 5 am to do my chores around the house and then walk to school because we didn’t have a car. On the way to school or back home, I would get assaulted and get money or my shoes stolen.
After I graduated from high school, I went to college and continued working. I came to have my own little business and sold jackets at the same market my brother did. I would work to have my own things and pay for my college tuition. But I married my childhood sweetheart at the age of 17, and dropped out of school. I didn’t go back to school because I had gone through one of the most traumatic phases in my life. I had lost my newborn baby who lived for only 13 days. My husband had been using drugs behind my back and for this reason, my daughter passed away. He then left for another state to work with his father, and never came back. He didn’t care what I was going through; I was in depression. I fled to Santa Monica, California to live with an aunt for the first time. My aunt suffered domestic violence at home, so I went back to Mexico. I didn’t want to see violence while I already faced a lot in my life with the loss of my daughter.
After a time, I started dating someone who had been traveling to the U.S. He would talk to me about how great America was and he convinced me to come back. I decided to immigrate to start a new life. I arrived in North Carolina in 1989, hoping to escape from my depression. Once I moved in with him and his family, things turned out differently. He and his family started to maltreat me. His sisters were like the evil stepsisters and I was Cinderella. They would make me do all the house chores, cooking, and cleaning. They would lock me in the house so I wouldn’t go out and make friends. I would sneak out of the window to go to school and learn English. They wanted to keep me isolated away from the world so I wouldn’t prosper.
I started to work and I started to save money. I was able to buy my car and have my own things. Suddenly I felt sick one day, and when I went to the doctor I was informed that I was pregnant. But my partner didn’t want me to have the baby, he wanted me to abort. The next day, he lied to me saying we were going to the clinic to get an ultrasound. When I sat down, the girl next to me asked if I was getting an abortion too. I was so upset about the situation, I pretended to go to the bathroom and I walked out. Once I was home, I set all of his clothes in trash bags outside. I knew that I would never forgive what he had done. I had already lost a baby, I couldn’t have tolerated losing another.
My mind was focused on giving my baby the best of my ability. I worked overtime throughout my entire pregnancy to have and save money. Once my baby was born, I waited a few months and moved to Atlanta, Georgia. This is where I met Abiel Bonilla, who became someone of great importance in my life. He helped me raise and educate my daughter. Together we worked hard and bought a house to give her a good living. I’m no longer with this person. I now remain solo, raising my children to the best of my ability with the help of my mother.
Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center is presenting the performance of Silvana Cardell’s Supper, People on the Move, accompanied by Jennifer Baker’s exhibit Portraits of People on the Move, on October 27 and 28 at Randy Shull and Hedy Fischer’s 22 London Rd. Studio in Asheville, NC. New portraits — “People on the Move” in western North Carolina by photographer Steve Mann and UNC Asheville journalist Karen Lopez — have been added.
For more information: http://www.blackmountaincollege.org/supper-people-move/