I arrived to south Texas from Mexico at the age of thirteen. It was difficult for me to assimilate to the new culture at this age, but before admitting I was far away from my desired homeland, I searched for a place to belong. After graduating from Memorial High School in Alamo, Texas, I continued my education at South Texas College. This was the first time I genuinely embraced my situation. Not only was I an immigrant, I was an undocumented immigrant. I didn’t have time to negotiate the terms of this reality; it hit me dry and cold. I enrolled and started studying and had a very difficult time finding a job without a social security number. Nonetheless I found one, since there will always be people willing to pay less than minimum wage.
Since the age 13 I started writing poetry and at the age of 16 I started publishing my poetic works, which helped me become aware of my feelings of confusion regarding my identity. I became involved with many social groups such as LUPE (La Union del Pueblo Entero) and MEChA (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán) which protest against the unjust treatment of illegal immigrants, unfair wages and other social issues. I was undocumented and fighting for justice. Deep inside my heart I was still searching for my place. Everyone has a place. Even though voicing my feelings through my poetry and participation in these groups made me feel better, it did not make me feel whole.
I continued my education, received my bachelor’s degree at the University of Texas-Pan American and continued with my master’s degree in the same university. I became an advocate for education. My husband and I started a program called Mar de Cultura that focused on providing information to high school students about pursuing a college education, including for those who like me did not have a legal status. For this work, I received The Gabriela Mistral National Award from the National Hispanic Honor Society in 2009.
At this moment I felt that something in me had awakened. I discovered that my actions made a difference; that I was intrinsically part of this society. I discovered that we define who we are by our actions, not by a label. I continued with my doctoral studies at the University of Houston and I provided a series of creative writing workshops to the community called Taller Letra Viva. I was half way into my PhD and poems such as Ya germinaba, El río y la frontera, and Indio Barro to mention a few had been published in numerous literary articles, journals, magazines and anthologies in Canada, the United States, Venezuela, Argentina, Mexico and Spain and yet I was still an undocumented immigrant.
At the end of 2012 I received the Differed Action working permit. In the Fall of 2013 I was finally able to work doing what I had always dreamed. I became a part time professor in the college where I began my studies (South Texas College) and a part time lecturer at the University of Texas-Pan American. During this year I was also able to publish my poetry book Ecos de barro which narrates my struggle as an immigrant as well other social issues and have since toured the states of Texas and California. My goals for next year include finishing up my PhD, becoming a full time professor and continuing to publish poetry.
I accomplished these goals because I was given an opportunity which countless others are still waiting for; the opportunity to have a legal status and make our dreams a reality.
Rossy Evelin Lima is a translator, writer and linguist. Her first poetry book, Ecos de Barro, was published in 2013 by Otras Voces Publishing; her forthcoming poetry book, Sonar de Río, will be published by Mouthfeel Press this year. She is a part time Spanish Literature professor at the University of Texas Pan American and a part time professor at South Texas College. Lima is pursuing a PhD in linguistics from the University of Houston, her investigations focus on Spanish as a heritage language in the US and language acquisition.