Rosa Mendoza (50) grew up in Morelia, Michoacán, in Central Mexico, alongside five siblings. They all left for the U.S. when gang violence complicated their daily lives. Rosa misses being with her family in one place, and taking baile folklórico classes with her daughter brings back memories of the mandatory dance recitals she and her siblings reluctantly participated in while growing up in Mexico. For Rosa’s 9-year-old daughter, also named Rosa, it’s also an opportunity to receive the additional physical therapy she needs for a condition that affects the strength of her leg and hip muscles – Rosa says her daughter’s condition is still unclear.
At the dance group’s latest performance at the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts, Rosa filmed as her daughter reveled in the spotlight.
“I liked dancing [as a child] but I was very timid and scared,” Rosa says. “I don’t want my daughter to be scared. I want her to learn how nice it is to do those things.”
Víctor Enríquez grew up in Toluca in the State of Mexico and emigrated to Oakland nearly 25 years ago. When he isn’t busy running a party supplies business on the weekend, Víctor enjoys volunteering at his local parish, San Luis Beltrán, on 100th Ave and International Blvd. in Oakland. He also provides financial support to the community institutions that shaped his childhood in Toluca.
“It’s something that doesn’t weigh me down—it makes me feel good,” Víctor says. “So I told myself, if I have the opportunity to contribute to something, I’m going to do it. To take a burden off of my community.”
For the third year running, Víctor says he paid for the flora needed to decorate an altar at the church he attended in his youth. “Just today, they went to go buy all the flowers,” said Víctor with the San Lorenzo fair a week away, at the time of reporting. Left: Courtesy of Víctor Enríquez Right: Hiram Alejandro Durán for El Tímpano/CatchLight Local/Report for America corps member
In 2015, Rebeca Zuñiga-Lee moved to California from Guatemala after seven years of maintaining a long distance relationship with her now-husband. She obtained a work visa and started a new job at a nonprofit organization in Oakland. Communicating with her new colleagues was an early barrier to feeling settled, Rebeca says in Spanish.
“Although I’m bilingual, the way people communicate in other countries is distinct. So sometimes in meetings I fell short of words and that was very frustrating,” she says.
Rebecca is rarely able to return home to visit her family in Guatemala, and it’s meant that she’s missed things like being there for her dad’s passing in 2016. Rebeca has coped with her homesickness for her home country and language by staying caught up and connected virtually. She texts and calls her family daily, and she consumes Guatemalan news on her iPad and jokes with friends from home on social platforms.
“Connecting with them makes me feel a little connection to Guatemala,” Rebeca says.
Rebeca lives in Richmond with her husband and their dog. Her husband and his family have made her feel welcomed to participate in their Chinese-American traditions. “I lived almost all my life over there [in Guatemala],” Rebeca says. “These last few years have been an exploration of culture and traditions here.” Credit: Hiram Alejandro Durán for El Tímpano/CatchLight Local/Report for America corps member
Wendy Linn remembers going to the market in Mexico City with her siblings when they were young and caring for each other. “I liked smelling the fresh fruit, walking around and observing all of those little things,” she says. After losing touch with most of her relatives still residing in Mexico, Wendy began to explore her roots through Mexican art as an adult.
“I lived in Guadalajara for a while, [that’s] where I learned to make artisanal things and where I learned about the gold and silver business,” she says.
The skills Wendy has developed as a jewelry maker have made a positive impact on how she feels about her creative abilities and her Mexican heritage. The finished jewelry makes her feel like she’s showing off Mexican culture and allows her to ruminate on positive memories of home.
“I know that maybe I’m nobody, and the little I do is just to make me feel good. But maybe the little mark I leave can help someone. Because I would have liked them to help me.”