Rio Hondo College Newspaper

El Paisano

Octogenarian: The Pillar of Her Family

Yolanda+Ramirez+desired+to+share+her+mother%27s+story+in+appreciation+for+all+her+hard+work+in+life.
Yolanda Ramirez desired to share her mother's story in appreciation for all her hard work in life.

Yolanda Ramirez desired to share her mother's story in appreciation for all her hard work in life.

Photo by Jackie Ramirez

Photo by Jackie Ramirez

Yolanda Ramirez desired to share her mother's story in appreciation for all her hard work in life.

Yolanda Ramirez, Guest Writer

My mother Maria del Socorro Anaya Mora, “Doña Coco”, was born 80 years ago this May. She is the marble-strong pillar of strength that holds our family together…and she was an undocumented immigrant who had the courage to leave six children behind to seek the American Dream in 1974.

My grandmother, her mother, had passed away. My mom endured an abusive relationship for many years, because she did not want to cause any shame to the family by getting a divorce. It did not make sense, but her Catholic upbringing did.

In 1974 she took the chance for Freedom by taking a bus to Tijuana to cross the border illegally to the United States. She made it. It was a painful decision for her because she left all her children ranging from a 2 year-old to a 13 year old, behind.

She was blessed that in those days there was plenty of manual labor work available in manufacturing, clothing, jewelry, and other piece-meal companies in Los Angeles. She held a variety of jobs, two or three at a time, and she saved as much money as possible to bring all us to the U.S, She was a seamstress, she gold-plated jewelry, she was a waitress, and did other manual labor she could find.

My mother is super resourceful and practical. She can recognize a need and seize the opportunity to fill it. She became an entrepreneur cashing checks for co-workers who were taken advantage of by cashing companies who would charge a higher fee to non-English speakers, those without IDs, or those who feared banking institutions or deportation. She gained people’s trust and thrived helping as needed. Also, after working two jobs or two shifts, she would take orders and go home to cook lunch to sell the next day, during her lunch break.

This is how she managed to save up the money to send for all six of her children, one year later. It was June 1975, after my birthday. She paid a “coyote” to have all her kids cross the border, with the hope that she could leave an abusive husband behind. It was not to be.

We were all to cross the border as the children of a couple, while my father “crossed the desert”. However, my father realized the scheme and took Ruben, my oldest brother hostage to have my mom pay for him to cross the border, too. It took them a couple of weeks, because she had to gather the money and the “coyote” had to have a new plan. We learned this after we arrived in Los Angeles, where my dad hit my mom for trying to escape, again.

It was a sad outcome. Still, my mom was happy because she had her children together, again. Having succeeded in her mission to bring us here kept her motivated and she continued to succeed working two to three jobs. My father found himself a union job as a custodian for Van De Kamps, and the family prospered financially, if not morally.

Within two years, by 1977, my mother had saved enough money to put a down payment on their first home. This was unheard of. Undocumented people rarely took a chance buying property. It meant exposing themselves to entities with authority. Most undocumented people wanted to live as inconspicuously as possible, so most rented. My mom, the trailblazer, showed that being a good tax-paying citizen had its rewards, and others followed.

Earning minimum wage ranging between $2 and $5 dollars per hour, my mom raised all six of us to be law-abiding citizens. She continued to work too many jobs with too much overtime to reach her new goal. She saved and spent thousands of dollars to pay and submit the applications to have all of us become legal residents of the United States.

In 1979, I married a wonderful man, SFC Sergio Ramirez (U.S. Army Ret.) who applied for me to get my residency. This was after a few years of service when he became a U.S. citizen. Yes, approximately 4% of those enlisted in active-duty military service are non-citizens. It is a Path to Citizenship and a civic duty to contribute to our adopted country. Sergio retired with 22 years of service in the U.S. Army.

When Sergio applied for my residency, the laws had changed. Thus, it took, longer to legalize my immigration status. Then, it was my turn to leave my children behind, because I had to leave the country, ask for a pardon to receive my residency, and then my citizenship. Meanwhile, my mom succeeded in her mission of getting everyone a valid social security card and a “green” residency card within five years from arriving in the U.S. This was no easy feat, but she did, again!

A few years later, after much suffering and pain, she lost the house while divorcing my father. Finally. It was a high price to pay for her Freedom. Also, no one told her she would miss the mistreatment and abuse, but she did. However, after a short period of depression and with the help of my brother Ruben (who passed away in 1997), and my sister Martha, she dusted herself off and began again. She bought another house that became a money pit. However, Mom does not quit. She persevered and kept it afloat. Thanks to my sister, CW3 Martha Gonzalez, (U.S. Army Ret) who after serving 20 years, returned home and refinanced and stabilized the property. Mom continues to live there.

My mother’s story is not unique, but it shows her courage, determination, and perseverance when faced with adversity, injustice and fear. These are the same values shared by most immigrants who chose the United States as our adopted country.

Mom taught us the pride of working and doing a job well done. As immigrants, we learn the U.S. Constitution as much as a natural-born citizen. We abide by the laws of the land. We pay taxes and contribute to the economy. We do our civic duty by serving in the military. We volunteer to serve our union. We donate our time and knowledge to help each other via non-profit organizations. We keep each other informed, and we encourage each other to become educated to succeed. Isn’t that what America is all about?

The borders in our minds are taller than any concrete wall. The unconscious bias of seeing more than a human being will always be more detrimental to our progress as Americans. American immigrants, like my mother, never heed the obstacles, they see the opportunity for a better life. When they find it, they will cherish it, and are grateful for it. All six of her children,  Ruben Gonzalez (1960-1997, RIP); Yolanda Ramirez, MLIS; CW3 Martha Gonzalez (U.S. Army Ret.); Juan Gonzalez, MTA Union Driver; Selene Gonzalez, Reader Extraordinaire; Jacqueline Hernandez, RIO Alum and mother of three University women; we strive to make her proud and to show that her struggle and effort were worthwhile. strive to make her proud and to show that her struggle and effort were worthwhile.

Thank You Mom!! We are better off because you were courageous and strong, and thank you for teaching us to become outstanding and proud U.S. citizens.

Happy 80th Birthday! & Happy Mother’s Day!!

I love you, Mom. Your daughter, Yolis.

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Octogenarian: The Pillar of Her Family