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PERSONAL ESSAY |
By Adriana Molina
Translation by Luis Arreguín
Saturday, July 24, was your typical overcast day in Castroville but you could still feel a special energy.
Around 30 people gathered at the plaza to celebrate a Mixteco community member receiving her green card, an immigration status that allows her to work without fear of being detained and deported. Given the current immigration laws and the fact that the long-promised immigration reform is still stuck in Congress, any time one person obtains that desired status is cause for celebration.
When she got the coveted card, Hermelinda Salvador Zaragoza cried. She stood at the gathering before her family and friends, the people who have supported her through and through. Now she is on the path of making her American Dream come true.
Adriana Melgoza, a community organizer who placed the card in her hands, added an emotional touch to the meeting when she reminded her compatriots, “Si se puede.” The “Yes You Can” chant, an emblem of farmworker unity, was also invoked to invite passersby to join the celebration.
Lenin Ramos, Tere Simancas, Karina Tapia, Mary Rojo, Lidia Serrato, Lupita Zamudio, sisters Perla and Ruby Martinez, sisters Isabel and Sandy Manzo, plus me, joined forces to organize this lovely event to celebrate the importance of women fighting for their voice, their rights, and the respect they deserve.
I joined the Women in Action group five years ago, and I have seen how powerful it is when the community comes together. Hermelinda was a perfect example of courage, bravery, and patience, a woman who worked through the judicial and immigration systems of this country to finally obtain her permanent residency. And she even made time to cook Oaxacan tamales for the occasion!
A strawberry harvester, Salvador Zaragoza arrived in the United States in 2006, when she was 9 years old. She’s been working in the fields ever since, while also raising two children. She was urged to apply for residency through the U-Visa program, reserved for people who are victims of violence. It was a years-long process that finally came to fruition.
“I’m very excited, very emotional,” Salvador Zaragoza said. “I have been waiting for this dream to come true.”
Luis Arreguin, who teaches English and citizenship classes at the Family Resource Center in Castroville, had words of encouragement for everyone in the audience, urging them to not stop at getting a green card. He asked everyone to convince neighbors, relatives and every Latino or Latina immigrant to apply for US citizenship.
“Don’t wait until you turn 50 to have an interview in Spanish,” he said, referring to a provision that allows green card holders who have lived in the United States for more than 15 years and are older than 50 to take the citizenship test in their first language.“There are now a lot of people from this community who already passed the interview in English just by speaking in very basic everyday language. We need your votes!”
Hearing Maestro Arreguin speak reminded me why I was there at the plaza. We launched the Castroville Initiative to organize the community. The celebration of Salvador Zaragoza’s accomplishment was not just an event to introduce our group, but also to inspire our community about the importance of serving and helping others.
That’s what I learned from Mr. Arreguin. By celebrating Salvador Zaragoza’s accomplishment, we were following in his footsteps.
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