Advice from immigrant family:
‘Be active -- in your family, your community, your Church’
By David Myers
Southwest Kansas Register
There were two times in Alberto Mora’s life when he fell in love.
The first time was when he peered through the store window of a shop in his native city of Nuevo Casas Grande in the state of Chihuahua, Mexico.
“I saw her through the big glass,” he said with a wide smile, referring to his future wife, Bertha. “I told her, ‘You have nice eyes,’ and I asked her name.”
The second time he fell in love was about nine years later, when he, Bertha and their two daughters, Daniela and Victoria, visited Bertha’s sister in Great Bend. Life was good in Mexico. Alberto was a paramedic at a local hospital. His daughters were fine students.
But when he experienced life in Great Bend, he knew that’s where he wanted to live. It would not be easy, uprooting his family and moving to a different country. “I told my family that when we come here, it will be as if you are siego (blind), sordo (deaf), and mudo (mute),” referring to the language barrier between their native Spanish and English.
There have been so many sad stories of immigrants losing their battle with the mountains of bureaucratic red tape in their attempts to gain entry into the United States. (One elderly man in Kansas said he has been trying for 18 years to obtain his citizenship papers.)
Multitudes of people from Mexico, Central and South America have risked their lives traversing dangerous desert and mountain terrain to find a life in America. Many lives have been lost in their attempts, due both to Mother Nature and the worst of human nature.
When asked about his journey here, knowing he brought with him his wife and two daughters, then six and eight-years-old, Mora replied, “We took a bus.”
“We had our passports,” he explained. “While I was working in Mexico, I worked to prepare my family to come here. We didn’t have to worry. We came with visas.”
Mora dove head first into English studies, knowing that language was the primary barrier to achieving the success he wanted. English, he found, was much easier for his daughters.
“I tried to learn with them,” Mora said, laughing. “When they were finished with their instruction book, I told them, ‘Don’t throw that away! I still need it!’”
Sadly, the language barrier would keep Mora from doing the job he had so loved in Mexico. But he is still learning, and hopes to take college classes soon to improve his English and perhaps, once again perform the life-saving job he once enjoyed.
His first job in Great Bend was at a meat packing plant. For the last five years, he has been a welder, often working on machines that serve the agriculture industry. “It is hard,” he said, “but I like the work.”
Alberto and Bertha both come from farming families, and are used to being surrounded by extended family in their home. When asked what he misses most about his native Mexico, Mora says without pause, “Everything.” As he explains further, it becomes evident that by “everything,” he means one, all-encompassing thing: family.
“In Mexico, it was a bigger household for the whole family: parents, grandpa and grandma ....”
In Great Bend, he says, he also has an extended family of sorts.
“Most people we know are like our family. I go to the store, and people know me. That makes me feel in community. Also, we live close to the church. We were married at St. Rose [the couple had a civil ceremony in Mexico long before they came to Kansas]. Sometimes I help in Mass; I read the readings; I help with anything they need. I stay available. I like to help them.”
The Moras younger daughter, Victoria, lives with her husband in Odessa, Texas. Their older daughter, Daniela, is attending college to become a nurse.
“When I see someone who is hurt, I’m very motivated to help them,” Daniela said. Although she was a child when they came to the States, Daniela expressed her gratitude that her parents keep the Mexican culture alive for their daughters.
“I was Cinco de Mayo Queen in 2009,” she said, proudly. She recalls as a little girl in Mexico attending the Cinco de Mayo rodeos, watching the bull riders. “No matter where you are, you have to remember your roots.”
On a living room shelf is beautiful pottery created by Mora’s brother and his brother’s wife. The colorful pottery is a reminder of family and of their Mexican roots.
Sounds could be heard from the kitchen as Bertha prepared a meal.
“She works so hard,” Mora said of his wife. “Twenty-four/seven. And my wife is an excellent cook!”
When Mora isn’t at his welding job, working on his house, or serving his Church, he is an avid reader. Oftentimes, one lends help to the other. When repairs are needed for his house that he doesn’t know how to do – plumbing, minor electrical or mechanical work – he reads, he learns, and he does it himself. “There are no limits,” he said.
He offered this advice for those struggling to fit into a community as he and his family did: “Get involved. Be very active – in your family, in your community, in the Church. And take the opportunity every day to learn something new.
“If you have a wish to do something, you can do it.”