Vivir el Dream


Vivir el Dream FB cover

Hello, everyone,

In case you hadn’t realized, I wrote a book and published it on May 19th! It is called Vivir el Dream and is a Latino Christian fiction book about an undocumented college student trying to make her way in the world.

You can find it on Amazon for $16.99 in paperback, $3.99 in ebook. Also signed copies are available for $15 (plus $3 shipping if you’re not local).

I was inspired by my friends, family, church family, and community who haven’t given up even when they’ve been through unimaginably difficult circumstances. I wanted to give a glimpse into the life of undocumented people in the U.S.: why they come here, what they have to go through to get here, and what things are like for them once they arrive.

It is also rich with descriptions of authentic Mexican cuisine and culture and has elements of inspiration, light romance, and humor.

You can also find out more information on my Facebook author page and on the Facebook book page.

Here’s a little more about the book:

The fates of an undocumented college student and her mother intertwine with a suicidal businessman’s. As circumstances worsen, will their faith carry them through or will their fears drag them down?

Linda Palacios crossed the border at age three with her mother, Juanita, to escape their traumatic life in Mexico and to pursue the American dream. Years later, Linda nears college graduation. With little hope for the future as an undocumented immigrant, Linda wonders where her life is going.


Tim Draker, a long-unemployed businessman, has wondered the same thing. Overcome with despair, he decides to take his own life. Before he can carry out his plan, he changes course when he finds a job as a mechanic. Embarrassed about working at a garage in the barrio, he lies to his wife in hopes of finding something better.


After Juanita’s coworker gets deported, she takes in her friend’s son, Hector, whom her daughter Linda can’t stand, While Juanita deals with nightmares of her traumatic past, she loses her job and decides to go into business for herself.


Will the three of them allow God to guide them through the challenges to come, or will they let their own desires and goals get in the way of His path?


COVER REVEAL: Vivir el Dream

Vivir el Dream Kindle cover.png

Vivir el Dream, my Latino Christian fiction novel, is set to release on Amazon in book print and ebook on May 20th.

It’s been over five years and literally thousands of hours of work to get it ready for this moment. And it’s starting to feel real! I got the cover, I’m picking out dingbats and fonts for formatting, and I’m only six chapters away from the end of the final edit. One day soon I will hold the completed book in my hand (I’m sure there will be a post for that day as well!)

I am thankful for my husband for painting the picture for my cover. He did an awesome job! 🙂

If you want to follow what’s going on with my book more closely and find the buy links, head over to my Facebook author page.

Walk a Mile in Their Shoes: Interview with Rocio Watson

I was nine years old when we left Mexico. I love my country. I didn’t want to leave, but we had to. My dad had been a student organizer for many years in the 60s. During that time, student organizers started “disappearing” so many had to go to into exile to save their lives. Somehow he didn’t have to escape back then. Later, when I was nine, he started teaching in the University, someone recognized him, and he was threatened.

I remembered one day, I was so young, my mom talking to him and crying and she said, “We have to go.”

At that time, I didn’t understand why we had to leave. “We have to go where?” I asked.

“We have to go away” is what she told us.

We just all got on a plane; we had passports and visas. My dad was already in the States, working for a banking institution. My mom tried to protect us and said, “We’re just going to stay with dad for a while.” But we never came back.


(My grandparents, my brothers and cousins at their 50th wedding anniversary. I am the child in the light blue dress on the far right. This picture was taken a few days before we moved to the U.S.)

I’m the oldest of five. For me and my brothers and my little sister, it was fun. We though, “We’re going to go to Disney Land” and stuff like that, but actually my dad had some distant relatives who lived in Anaheim, California who took us in. But they weren’t the nicest people, and they would make comments that I was not able to understand. They were very derogative. They would make comments, “Why are these wetbacks here?” and “Why don’t they just go back to where they came from?” At the time, I found such comments odd, since they too were immigrants who like my father had left their homeland for hopes of providing a better life for their family. Besides, they were family and isn’t family supposed to help each other?

Then, my father, who is a university grad, who is a professor, has to take a job at the Marriot as a busboy, under the radar, to take care of his family and keep us safe.

“What’s going on?” I kept wondering. I love my country, my cousins; we never went without, we were fine. I was very resentful. And I thought, “Why are we here when the people are treating us like we were lesser than?” At the time, I was nine years old, and I could not understand why my father had brought us to a strange place, taking away from our family and support system. I was resentful and often ask my parents, “Why are we here? We couldn’t we have gone somewhere else?”

We stayed in Anaheim for a few months until my dad was fed up, and we moved into this small apartment with my grandma, who had also been threatened. We are grateful we never had to go through crossing the dangerous border, the way so many of our brothers and sister immigrants do. Risking it all, with the hope of escaping violence, abuse, poverty and political corruption. Being so young, I simply could not understand.


(My brother an I at 5 and 3 years old in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico)

My dad worked; my mom took care of us. In spite of everything, all his hardships, you would think he would’ve been bitter, but my dad never complained. He worked his butt off, and he was always so genuine and sweet. We were the only Mexican family in a predominately Caucasian neighborhood. Just looking at us, nobody would have known; we were all fair-skinned. But the fact was, we didn’t speak English. Whenever people would ask why we didn’t speak English, my dad, would say something like, “That’s because we’re from Mexico” in broken English. He was always so welcoming to everyone. He would tell the neighbors, “Come, come eat.”

One time my little sister was going to be baptized, and we had a full-on Mexican party in our fenced in suburban front yard, and everyone kept looking. My dad said, “Come here, come here, you want a taco?” And that’s how we grew up. We didn’t feel like we were any different than anyone else. In fact, we celebrated where we came from.

It wasn’t until I went from high school that I realized I was any different. Kids would ask really inappropriate questions, even teachers really crossed the line. Saying, things like, “Is it true that you Mexicans don’t flush the toilet?” which I would often answer with anger and resentment by saying, “What? What are you talking about? Of course we flush the toilet.”

When I entered school, even though I had phenomenal grades, somebody took it upon themselves to put me in ESL classes. I was in remedial reading and ESL, and I thought, “What the hell am I doing here?” Coming where I was coming from, I asked one of the teachers, “Why am I here?” Then I spoke with one of the counselors, who said I needed to test out of ESL, so I took the test and I passed it. But being in those classes, I had made friends with all these other Latino immigrant kids and so I said to them, “Hey, they are holding us back. You have to take this test. We’re going to pass, and we’re going to show these people.” So, one day, they all came to my house and studied hard and all of them took the test. Only one kid did not pass. Then all of a sudden, I was persona non grata among the school’s administration.

In the meantime, I noticed there were a lot of more immigrant kids coming in to the school, so I went to the administration and said, “Hey, you owe it to these kids to create a support system.” And I remember the vice principal said, “You think so? Then you create it.” So, I did, pretty soon there was a solid group of 6 or 7 brave Latino immigrant students who were banding together to make sure everyone had a fair chance at a good education and a safety net of support.

Back then the school had assemblies, rallies, for the local teens, and they used to have these talent shows but they were all in English. Quickly, our school was about 47% Latino, so I went and talked to the administration, and as soon I walked into the office, I could see the look in their faces, I knew that they were probably thinking, “Here she comes again, when she is going to graduate?”

Once in the office, I said, “We want our own talent show or want to be incorporated in yours”. Reluctantly they agreed to allow us to put together our own talent show and we created this play all in Spanish.” Once, we had everything we needed for the show, I went back to the office and asked the administrator for a time and date to showcase our play. They said it was fine and that they would pull the Latino kids out of class and have them go. And I said, “No, it needs to be open to everybody, just like your rally is open to everybody else.” So, once again they said yes, and there were about 1,100 kids that came to watch our play. It was so empowering. And not just for the Latino immigrant kids but it helped the other immigrant kids, realize that they too had a right to belong and empower them to be proud of who they were. We were all immigrant kids victims of a corrupt world that forced our families to have to leave the comfort of their beloved homeland.

It just kind of carried on through high school and then in college, I was really interested in human rights and law. I went to school for criminal justice; I wanted to be a prosecutor. During my senior year, I interned at the local county Victim Services and Advocacy Program I was one of two only Spanish-speaking people, and I was assigned to the sexual assault, domestic violence, child abuse unit, which was very challenging. I grew up in a good home with loving parents. I had no idea what a problem that was in our Latino community, and I just thought, “What is this?”

I excelled in my internship and made some very good contacts. My assigned mentor and deputy district attorney took me under her wing and helped me grow professionally. She continuously pushed to be a better public servant and to take calculated risks. My job as an intern was to prepare the prosecution witnesses; my job was to encourage them to cooperate and to tell them that it was ok to tell the truth. In informed them of their rights and advised them that if they fear for their safety we could relocate them to a safe environment. Soon, I became very successful with helping these folks be empowered to tell their story.

Then, my career took an unexpected twist and through our county court house, I met a judge whose mom happened to be Mexican and whose dad was Scandinavian. He had presided over several of my cases and I had become impressed at his discipline and search for justice. This judge was now planning on stepping down from the judicial bench and decided to take a chance at running against the local county district attorney.

It just so happen that one of my mentors was running his campaign, and she said, “He really thinks highly of you, and we really want to reach out to the Latino community. If he makes it, he would like you to write a proposal to outreach and engage the Latino community.” I was 22, and I realized this is why my dad made the sacrifice, he made of leaving his country to give us a chance at a better life. Just like my dad, I took a chance and wrote a proposal, and when this judge was sworn in as the new county D.A. he made good on his word. I suddenly became the Latino spokesperson for the local County D.A.’s office, and in addition, I managed the Vietnamese outreach program as they were the second fastest growing immigration population in our county. I was 23 years old and really didn’t know what the hell I was doing. I just wanted my people to know that the law applies to everyone, not just people with papers.

In 1999, the local GOP chapter began, speaking out against the immigrant population and started putting a lot of pressure on the local authorities to act as sort of deputized immigration officers, due to this kind of political pressure there was a law passed in California that would look to prosecute anyone who utilized a fictitious social security number in their application for state IDs and driver licenses. This law mandated that everyone now had to carry a State I.D., and if your social security number didn’t check out during your application process, you were automatically arrested for providing false information. That did not sit well with me, given that I too was an immigrant. After all we were not talking about common criminals; we were talking about good people, like my dad, who were only trying to raise their families in a better and safer environment.

I went to my boss and said, “Why are we being part of this unjust law?. My parents came here illegally and you know what they produced. They produced good kids who serve and are productive members of the community .I look at the very people our office is looking to prosecute as common criminals and I cannot in good conscience be part of an entity that is persecuting people like my parents.” I told him, “I can’t do this.”

By doing this, I knew I was putting my career in the local D.A.’s office in jeopardy, after all this, I was making very good money. I was only 25 years old. In addition, by being part of the criminal justice system made my parents proud. After all, I had managed to beat the odds, managed after lots of hard work I had accomplished at 25 years old, what other people had not accomplished in their mid-40’s. But, at the end of the day I felt like a hypocrite and a traitor for being part of what I considered a brutal and unnecessary assault on people’s inalienable and human right to make an honest wage and support their family. After all, I am the product of good immigrant parents and a contributor to my thriving new community.

After I said, what I needed to say, he looked at me and said, “I understand what you’re saying. I had family members from way back who did the same thing. Now, if you repeat this, I will deny it. I have hired people who are undocumented but the law is the law.”

I said, “So, Jim Crow was the law, slavery was the law, do you agree with that?”

“The law is the law,” he told me.

And I said, “Well, thank you for the opportunity. I appreciate it. You’re a good person, but you’re a politician, and I’m not. I’m leaving. We can spin this however you want. I want you to know that I’m leaving, because what you’re doing is wrong.”

And that was it; two weeks later I left the D.A.’s office and never looked back.

I won’t deny that this was a very hard decision, particularly because I was afforded such an amazing career opportunity at such a young age. In addition, I knew that the financial hit would be hard since I had financial responsibilities and creditors who didn’t care about my convictions or values, but just wanted to get paid. But, I knew that if I stayed there, it would be a slap in my parents’ and my people’s face. And with that I decided to start over, left my community and moved to another State to continue my education and to continue to find a more constructive purpose.

During my transition, I met a wonderful person who would later become my husband, and decided to continue on my journey to start over but knew to keep my options open.   After three days of moving into my new community I found a job as a victim advocate at a local women’s shelter. Without hesitation, I entered into this new and sometimes intimidating phase in my career, the stories I heard from the amazing survivors opened my eyes and refocused my efforts into a new found passion. I found a way to be proactive instead of reactive, particularly when it came to violence against women and children, to me, by the time these case came to us at the prosecuting office, it was way too late, to mend the hearts and souls of these battered women and children. I immediately saw this as an opportunity, and as my new found my calling, to empower these survivors see that there’s a better way to live without the constant threat of intimidation and violence. I was spent about 7 months away from my friends and family, learning as much as I could from my new mentors, when suddenly I received a call from a former police detective who had too grown disillusioned with our judicial system and who now was a director at a women’s shelter. She shared that she was looking for a new outreach director and encouraged me to apply for the position. I took a leap of faith, took a deep breath and moved back to what had become my adoptive homeland.

Six months into my new role, the existing Executive Director of the organization made the decision to retire. I soon got a call from one of our board member, a county deputy prosecuting attorney whom I had met during my time with the prosecuting office, she encouraged me to consider taking on the role of interim Executive Director knowing my qualifications and I once again, took a leap of faith and grasped at the chance to continue to advocate for all survivors of abuse and violence.

I soon found myself running a shelter in for battered, human trafficking, and sexual assault survivors for 7 years. During my tenure with this wonderful and progressive organization, we were able to help hundreds of women and children, and even men.

After meeting and helping hundreds of survivors, we were approached by a local partner about possibly providing services to a male survivor of human trafficking.   Our partner shared that he had attempted to kill himself and due to the fact that he happened to be a male survivor, he had very limited options since most shelters only providing housing to women and children. As a male survivor of human trafficking, his only options were homeless shelters, which were not able to provide the specialized advocacy and support that someone in his situation needed. After some discussion with our management team, we decided to take him into our program and put him up in an undisclosed hotel type facility with the goal of gradually assessing if he and our women survivors who were currently in our shelter could cohabitate in the same environment.

One of our male advocates who also had been a victim of child trafficking picked him up and after giving him a couple days to settle in, under close supervision, I showed up along with another colleague to introduce ourselves and our program.

At the time all we knew about him was that he had been a survivor of severe child abuse, trafficking and agonizing physical and mental torture. I can remember meeting him at the hotel where he was staying. He was short in stature, appeared to be in a daze after having been transferred by a hospital in Los Angeles where he had been placed in a 72 hour hold for attempting to take his own life having grown tired all of his suffering.

As we entered the room, we introduced ourselves and our programs. As we spoke my colleague and I quickly noticed, visible scars all over his arms, he simply looked defeated and exhausted. He shared he had been born in Oaxaca, Mexico. After our very short conversation, he politely but firmly said “say what you need to say and get out.”

I coincidentally, had just come back from Oaxaca and had absolutely fallen in love with its people and the culture. During my travels I picked a beautiful silver beaded rosary. I simply bought the rosary not for spiritual purposes but because of its beautiful designs and craftsmanship. I happened to be wearing the rosary that day, as we spoke; I soon noticed this survivor looking at my rosary and he said, that looks like to rosaries in Oaxaca, I then took the chance to share memories of recent trip there and saw that his look quickly soften. We then shared some delicious Oaxacan food from a local restaurant and the barriers between us seemed to fade.

I told him, “I understand you’ve been through something; I want you to know we’re here to help you.” We made light conversation for the next hour and I said, “Listen, we’ll be back. Please call us anytime if you need anything. We’re going to try to find you a place where you can be safe and comfortable.”

My colleague and I went back to the shelter and gathered our management team, I told them, “We have a male survivor who needs our help and if we are too stay true to our mission, then we must be prepared to help all survivors. I think he needs to be around people who can make him feel he’s not the only one. Why don’t we ask the women in our shelter how they feel about a male survivor being in the shelter, and we can base our final decision based on their input. And so we did.

Back at the shelter, we gather the women and informed them that he needed our help. We told the women, “Listen, this guy is just like all of you. He’s been victimized, and I hope you’d consider him as a fellow survivor and brother who needs help. We didn’t get into the specifics of his abuse as it was horrific.

Unanimously the women said, “We don’t have a problem, let’s help him.”

After our meeting, I drove to the hotel where he had been living for the past 3 days and told him about the shelter. Reluctantly he agreed to come with us and he was given a private room with a private bathroom.

During his stay in our facility, the transformation was obvious, he just blossomed. Everybody loved him. He cooked for the women, cleaned and was sweet and caring to all the kids. In a few months, we were able to legally certify him as a survivor of human trafficking and he was able to receive a special visa and work permit that allowed him to remain legally in the U.S. and work.

As time passed, this broken soul shared with us that his abuse began at the tender age of 7. He was abused by his father and his brother, who did whatever they wanted with him and sold them to whomever they wanted. After running away to escape his abusive environment, he went on to encounter further abuse by a man who posing as a good Samaritan offered him a place to stay. After hearing his story, I knew why he had lost his faith in humanity and that his healing journey would be challenging due to the horrendous abuse he had endured.

After completing his program and knowing how helpful he was taking care of our facility, he ended up being the house manager for our transitional housing program. For the first time in his entire life he was able to make his own decisions, earn a living and come home without the fear of exploitation and violence.

One day, I was walking through the hallways, and he said, “Quiero hablar contigo.” (I want to talk with you.)

We went to my office and sat down, and he said, “Can I sit close to you?” I said “sure and I sat in my office chair next to him. He then started to cry, and he said, “I just want you to know, that when you came to see me at the hotel, the whole time I was thinking, I don’t even what to hear what these women have to say, I’m done. I will be gone in a few hours. I’m not worth it. I don’t even understand who these people are and what their motive is for helping me. To be honest, I was planning to kill myself as soon as you ladies left me alone in that hotel room. Throughout you speaking to me, I can’t remember exactly what you said, but I remember looking at your eyes and feeling the sincerity of your words and for a moment I thought, maybe these people are real, and they’re going to help me, accept me and I’m going to be fine.”

Unfortunately his is one of many cases of the devastating effects of human trafficking, fortunately for this survivor he was able to find the opportunity and support system that helped him overcome his abusive past and start a new life.

He is one of the many survivors who left an indelible print in my heart and to this day, I consider him a friend and a beacon of light and hope for other survivors. I’m just in awe, not just of him, but of all the survivors I’ve met. I don’t know how they get through what they’ve been through; it’s just such a miracle. I don’t know how else to put it. To hear their stories and knowing where they’ve come from and seeing them overcome insurmountable obstacles and abuse is a tribute to all the brave and hardworking immigrants like my parents.

It was then and it is still, now my opinion that the tyranny of our current immigration laws allow and create an environment for the inhumane treatment of those who assume the risk of leaving their country and risking their lives for the hope of a better life and the opportunity to be able to earn an honest wage and feed their family.

I get very upset when I hear all these hateful and anti-immigrant conversations. These ignorant and hateful people claim that all of us immigrants are doing nothing but committing crimes, bringing diseases and mooching off the government. My own experience proves them wrong along with millions of stories of honest and hardworking immigrants who have earned everything they have with their sweat and tears.

To imply that all immigrants are here with the hope of sitting back and “mooching” off the government is not only offensive but frankly, enraging. I think about all of my years I have dedicated to helping all survivors of violence and think, what would have happen if I had taken a similar hateful attitude towards people who are different than me and said to them, “Oh sorry, you are part of my community, gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation; then I’m not going to help you.” After all we are all an integral part of our community we are people who have something to contribute and there is beauty in diversity. We are not illegal aliens, WE ARE HUMAN BEINGS!

After 5 years of marriage and another relocation, my husband and I have settled in our new community, had a beautiful son and I now work with a non-profit organization that connects children with critical care in 8 different partner countries which includes central America and the Dominican Republic.


(My son, myself and my husband)

Against all odds, my parents have managed to raise 5 productive public servants who serve their community as best they can. In fact my younger, sister works for one of our members of Congress and is determined to continue to make our parents and people proud.

One of the greatest lessons I learned from my parents was to be of service. My parents would often say to us, “As immigrants and members of our new community we all have the responsibility to serve and give back.”

Through our immigrant experience, we were given an opportunity, to make our people proud, and to prove to those who hate us without knowing our stories and struggles, that we are an important part of U.S. history and like all human beings, simply want the opportunity to strive for a better life. To these hateful people I say, “We have earned everything we have and have worked tirelessly to serve our community without prejudice or hatred.

I hope that by sharing my story I can be part of the effort to continue to educate people about the immigrant struggle. I strongly believe that by sharing our stories, we can illustrate the beauty and importance of diversity.


(Mom & Dad’s wedding 1972)

Walk a Mile in Their Shoes: Interview with Ulysses Jaen

I am grateful to have my first interview with Ulysses Jaen, who is willing to share his story with us all. Enjoy!


  1.      Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I was born in Nicaragua, lived in California for decades, traveled throughout Central and North America as well as many European nations. Currently I reside in Southwest Florida.

  1.      What made you decide to do this interview?

Stereotypes may make good material for comedians in their routines; however, they are detrimental to those of us misinterpreted in real life as a result.

  1.      Where are you from and why did you decide to come to America?

I was born in a beautiful city named Matagalpa in the mountains of Nicaragua. When the revolution against US backed dictator Somoza erupted, my family played an active role and suffered greatly. The odds of surviving as identified opponents to this cruel tyranny were very slim. My parents decided to do anything they could to survive. We migrated to Southern California.

  1.      What was life like for you where you grew up?

It was a tough but happy life as a child. My father was a mechanic and my mother was a public school teacher and insurance saleslady. Between the two of them, they gave us a home, education and great memories. It was a life surrounded by amazing contrasts of social classes, opportunities and cultures. Those who allied themselves with the government did well but, those who dared to ask why so much injustice happened did not fare well.

  1.      What did you have to do to get here (i.e. paperwork, money, etc.)?

My father lost his business during the revolution. Our parents sold anything they could to pay officials for passports. My oldest brother was disguised and transported out of town in an ambulance as he was considered a guerilla fighter. My other brother suffered a superficial shot to his back and managed to get out to the capital and subsequently out of the country. The three oldest boys out of five made it to L.A. first and our family reunited months later as our parents struggled country to country trying to get though.

For money? What did we not do? I lost count at 52 different jobs as a teenager trying to scrape a living. I did a lot of landscaping work, restaurants, construction, hard and dangerous jobs that nobody lasted long doing.

  1.      What hardships did you face coming to America?

My two older brothers and I were supposed to be picked up and taken to live with family members in L.A. Nobody showed up to pick us up but, we found an angel who took us in and let us stay in his garage the first winter. We did not speak English, we had few clothes to wear, we did not know how to get around but we did not have time to think, we had to find ways to survive.

When our family reunited, another kind soul let us stay in a house he was trying to remodel. It was a two bedroom small house with no windows or comforts but we made the best of it. We welcomed anyone that asked for help and at one time we had twelve people sleeping on the floor, eating rice and beans and helping each other in any way that we could.

  1.      Once you came to America, what was life like?

It was hard but in a different way. People throw away things in this country that other people in the world would do so much to get. Because of my age, I had to keep registering in school so that my parents would not get into trouble so I went to five different high schools and worked on evenings and weekends to help the family.

My father struggled to make a living, he was very talented but employers took advantage of him and he suffered trying to support us. My brothers knew this and did what they could to pitch in and we all promised to do our best to one day achieve the American dream.

  1.      What helped you get to where you are today?

Faith and perseverance were crucial but, I was very fortunate to meet great people along the way. My family is an amazing inspiration and support system and always pushed me up when I have been down. I tried many things and failed as well as succeeded to a certain level. I started a gardening company, a courier service a truck and auto repair shop and a moving and deliveries company. I learned from each experience and I tried to get up and fight again. Education has helped me a lot. I knew that no matter what, investing in me was smart to do. I went to many community colleges part time until I graduated. I continued on to the university and received my Master’s in Public Administration, my Juris Doctorate and a Masters in Information and Library Sciences degree.

Knowing that I have a responsibility to the world around me, I try to teach and mentor every chance I get. I also do pro bono community service and I am an insane activist for social justice. My main focus is to help immigrant communities because I know first-hand how unfair they are treated.

  1.      How do different generations in your family experience America (i.e. immigrant-born vs. American-born generations)?

The difference is amazing. In one generation, our children are completely assimilated into American culture. Sure, they like Latin foods and sing along to songs I listen to frequently. It is the way that other people make them feel that is disturbing. Sometimes, other children expect that they only speak Spanish or Latin kids can’t understand why they don’t speak Spanish. The children live in two worlds of sorts. As for my generation, we are torn because we reminisce about a life we left behind but no longer exists. We crave old tastes, we miss old friends but there is no fulfillment possible. As for our parents, most certainly, they enjoy seeing their grandchildren live a safe and promising future. They also feel as outsiders as time goes by because what they took for granted in traditions, cultural peculiarities and customs are not respected or even attractive to the younger members of the family.

10.  Have you preserved any traditions, foods, languages, or customs from your native country?

Yes, very much so. I play and sing old songs, I cook for them family favorites, I make it a point to let them know the best traits such as love of family, respect for their elders, and more.

I feel it important for them to know that they are special. They have a wealth in their ancestry that they should cherish and not be ashamed of.

11.  How does your cultural heritage affect your views on immigration?

It affects my views on a daily basis. I understand how the gardener and the cook, the laborer and the grocer work hard to take care of their families and benefit me with their contributions. I can feel their pain and sing their praises as I know how hard it is for them. I understand how immigration laws are impossible to work with, much less try to learn and apply properly. I think that many people fail to see all the good that immigrants provide society with. Some people make it a point in their lives to promote anti-immigrant misinformation for multiple reasons, therefore, I make it a point to show that we are good people and we are here for the same reasons as all immigrants from all over the world which is to live a better life.

12. What else would you like to share with everyone about yourself, your family, or about immigration in general?

I want everyone to put themselves in our shoes and ask themselves what they would do if they had to endure the same circumstances. I want them to know that immigrants love this country just as much or more than others who have been here for generations. People who are willing to risk their lives to come here do so because they believe in America as the Promised Land. These people are the bravest, the hardest working, and the best from all over the world. The United States is what it is because of immigrants.

Mr. Jaen, thank you so much for being willing to share so openly about your story.

See pictures of what childhood looked like for Ulysses here.

Ulysses N. Jaen is Ave Maria School of Law Library’s Head of Public Services. 

Mr. Jaen brings over 30 years of experience to the School. He has worked as an entrepreneur, business manager and legal professional, taught in the Master’s in Legal Studies program at West Virginia University, and lectured on a variety of Advanced Legal Research topics while working for WVU. Mr Jaen currently teaches Administrative Ethics, Immigration and Border Security and Advanced Legal Research. 

Mr. Jaen performed legal research and writing, document translation and simultaneous interpretation services for the Law Office of Hamstead, Williams & Shook from 2009 to 2012 and for the Law Offices of Angotti & Straface from 2006 to 2009. He worked at the WVU College of Law Library from 2005 to 2012 and was promoted to Access Services Librarian in 2007. 

Mr. Jaen received his J.D. and a Master’s in Public Administration from West Virginia University. He also served as president of the Student Association of Public Administrators there. He completed his M.I.L.S., with an emphasis in leadership, from Florida State University. He was a Court appointed mediator and has completed training as a Court Appointed Special Advocate for abused and neglected children. 

Mr. Jaen is a member of the American Bar Association, the National Hispanic Bar Association, the American Association of Law Libraries (current vice chair/chair elect of the Diversity committee executive board until 2014 and prior chair of the Latino Caucus), and South Eastern Chapter of AALL (SEAALL) and has presented at numerous conferences, and for various organizations and agencies including the Department of Justice, Universities and community events.


La Experiencia de Ser Diferente (Versión en Español)

(Decidí escribir esta versión en español para que mis amigos latinos pudieran leerlo más fácil. Disculpa mi pobre gramática. Espero que sea comprensible.) 🙂

Si eres una persona blanca viviendo en los suburbios, el campo, o aún a veces ciudades de los Estados Unidos (o otras naciones Europeas, como Inglaterra o Alemania), probablemente es nunca que has pensado. Quizás aún cuando fuiste de vacaciones a áreas turistas de otras naciones, no lo has notado o no lo has pensado. Cuando eres una parte de la mayoría, caminas sin ninguna idea de cómo es ser parte de la minoría, no parecer como todos los demás. Ser diferente.

Pero millones de personas pasan cada día sintiendo diferente, tener gente verlas cuando se suben al bus, mirar la gente agarrar más cercano sus bolsas cuando entran la elevadora, ver los niños fijar la vista en ellas o a veces hasta señalarles, y recibir discriminación por su diferencia.

Yo no soy tan diferente. Soy blanca y por la mayor parte del tiempo en mi trabajo o en mi vecindario o en mi pueblo estoy alrededor de otra gente blanca. Pero, ser bilingüe y estar casada con un Mexicano me ha ayudado ponerme en ambientes donde soy la minoría. Y yo creo que es una cosa muy buena para cualquier persona blanca experimentar.

La primera vez que tuve la experiencia de ser diferente estaba durante la prepa. Nuestro grupo de jovenes de la iglesia fuimos a visitar a una iglesia bautista afroamericana en nuestra área de Nueva Jersey. Era un servicio maravilloso, lleno de energía y gran música, pero me sentí muy afuera de mi zona de confort. Aparte de una o dos otras personas, nosotros éramos los únicos blancos en toda la iglesia. Me sentí rara. Me sentí como que la gente me estaba mirando. Me sentí como que era diferente. Las canciones eran diferentes, el estilo de sermón era diferente, la gente se vestía diferente. Yo, por la primera vez en mi vida, estaba probando cómo se siente ser como una minoría en un mundo blanco. Y, era definitivamente incómodo.

La iglesia que mi esposo y yo asistimos tiene un servicio en español (Alianza), donde vamos cada domingo y a todo los eventitos divertidos, etc. Hay mucha de mi gente allí en el servicio, en el equipo de alabanza, y en la congregación (muchas veces universitarios), pero a veces llego a un evento, como un baby shower o una fiesta o un estudio bíblico y de repente miro a mi alrededor. Aunque conozco cada carita en el grupo, estoy de repente atentamente consiente que soy la única persona blanca en el cuarto. Pues, amo a todos mis hermanos y hermanos en la iglesia y ellos me aman a mí, entonces no sé porque me siento rara. Pero sí. Y lo adoro. Así se sienten ellos todo el tiempo. Cuando van al servicio en inglés o cuando van al trabajo o al supermercado. Aunque no me gusta, aprecio tener esta experiencia para poder comprender como se sienten.

Cada semana en mi trabajo hago un grupo de terapias en español, donde cuando nos presentamos y la gente muchas veces dicen de cual país son, yo digo de chiste, “Soy Allison, y soy de New Jersey.” Todos se ríen y continuamos. A veces cuando todos son de Puerto Rico, se llevan bien y hablan tan rápido que es difícil para comprenderlos y usan expresiones que no entiendo. Entonces uno de ellos pararía y dicen, “Ella no comprende eso. Cuando decimos…” Pero, cuántos de los que hablan inglés son bastante simpáticos para hacer esto para una persona de inglés como segunda lengua en el grupo. Casi no pasa. Es una buena experiencia para estar al otro lado de la cerca por un ratito.

Pues, el razón en que estoy pensando hoy en esto es que he estado visitando la familia de mi esposo en Guadalajara, Mexico por casi tres semanas ahora. Desde ahora sólo he visto como 10 de mi gente (casi todos en en Centro). Voy días sin ver una persona blanca. Camino en la calle agarrada de la mano de mi esposo y la gente me ve raro. He tenido un montón de gente en el bus hacer doble-vistas cuando me vean y tres personas voltiendo continuamente para verme durante todo el camino. En otras visitas, niños me han fijado la vista y señalando con sus deditos, y una vez una anciana me vio mal. Otras personas me han visto mal, otras me preguntaron de donde soy, pero la mayor parte de la gente son buenas. Aquí soy rara. Soy diferente. Especialmente cuando tomo el bus o camino en las áreas que no son turísticas. Me encuentro buscando “mi gente,” aunque no sé porque. Cuando los encuentro, siento algo de solidaridad.

No es que no amo a Mexico o la gente Mexicana (especialmente amo uno en particular, jiji). Es sólo que es raro sentirme tan diferente. Y estoy constantemente recordada en mis viajes aquí que probablemente así se siente mi esposo todo el tiempo cuando estamos en Virginia, viviendo lo que para mi siento una existencia cotidiana, él está allí sintiéndose diferente. Es duro. Es duro vivir cada día sintiéndose diferente.

Es por eso que adoro la experiencia de ser diferente. Es duro. Es incómodo. Es raro. Pero me lleva a una mejor compresión. Aunque ser parte de la mayoría blanca, yo sé que no es lo mismo porque no experimento el prejuicio y racismo aquí o en la iglesia o en el trabajo que miembros de la minoría experimentan, pero por lo menos es un buen principio para comprender mejor a poquito de lo que ellos pasan todos los días.

¿Han tenidos experiencias así? Si no, lo recomiendo altamente. 🙂