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  • Writer's pictureunheardvoicesmn

Gladys Maria Aldana, Mexican-American

I think I can call Minnesota home. Growing up I've moved around a lot. I've lived here for around 12 years now. I moved here when I was 12 or 13, so I've lived here for a while. Out of all the places I've moved, my favorite is Minnesota.

I think a few years before I was born, my parents moved from Mexico to the United States. Spanish was my first language, and since there were barely any people of color, It was hard for me to communicate. If I wanted to play a game in kindergarten, I didn't know how to describe it. So I think when I found my friend that was from a different country, it was nice to relate to her. Since no one really understood how hard it was for me to explain things when I was younger. I kind of got to know my culture a little more, as well, because I started asking my mom more questions. Just because growing up you see the Americans celebrating Thanksgiving. That was all I knew. I didn't visit Mexico until I was 14 again. So it was kind of nice to talk to someone that had different traditions and different holidays.

Mexico and the US are so different. I feel like in Mexico, you're more free. You barely have any time to watch TV. There's always something to do. I mean, I like both countries and I've always felt stuck between both countries. In Mexico, I'm not considered Mexican and here, I'm not considered American. So it's really hard. That was really hard for me to deal with, especially when I was younger. When I was in Mexico, they were telling me you're not Mexican, you didn't grow up here. My childhood was kind of rough. Not knowing the language was really hard. I don't think I fully felt comfortable with the language until I was in first or second grade. I struggled a lot. Just because although I was born here, I was basically learning the traditions here with my mom. Everything such as the school system or who to contact for anything like WIC so that was hard. My mom not knowing which school supplies and what we really needed was hard also. I grew up learning about resources alongside my mom, such as learning basic computer skills.

For half of my schooling, I grew up in Nebraska. There were not many ethnicities around. One of the beef plants had closed down, a lot of people of color moved out. Moving to Worthington and seeing Top Asian, El Mexicano, and different ethnic stores was different to me as I was not used to that. For some of us, finding Mexican stores was a struggle. So moving here and seeing Asians, Mexicans, and all types of ethnicities. I was like, "Wow, this is kind of cool." There was nothing in Nebraska that was similar to Worthington, at all. My school was majority white people, and I remember I didn't get my first friend that was of color until I was in fourth grade. The majority of Latinos were Mexicans. There were no Guatemalans, Salvadorans, etc. I lived in Nebraska for seven years, but Worthington and Nebraska were not the only places that I've lived in.

I was born in Sioux City, Iowa. I only lived there for five years, the first five years of my life. I lived in California for a little bit, maybe a year. Then I moved to Nebraska. That's where I lived for a while. When I was in fifth grade, my family was looking for a different place to move with more job opportunities because of the beef plant closing. We lived in a very small town called Woonsocket, South Dakota, it's by Mitchell. In Woonsocket, there was no people of color. We were the only ones and we only lived there for six months because of the discrimination, it was very hard to live there. Even the surrounding towns looked at us as if we were a walking zoo. It was so uncomfortable. We then heard about JBS. That's when we moved to Worthington. We checked it out, we were kind of scared to move after our incident in South Dakota. We saw the different stores and my mom would go to them and ask about the town. She heard pretty positive things about Worthington, so that kind of convinced her. I just wasn't sure if I would ever find a place where I would feel comfortable. Worthington helped me spread my wings.

My friend group also helped because I have friends from different ethnicities, and I think seeing how proud they were of their culture helped me. I would ask them a lot more questions about our traditions and our culture. I mean, the community here and Worthington, the ones that feel really strong about their culture, that helped me, seeing how passionate they are about their traditions. I think it's nice to see how the younger generation are proud of their cultures. I wish I would have been proud all along, instead of being ashamed.

I would like to add that I hope now the new generation learns to be proud of their culture regardless of if they were born here or not. I feel like even sometimes if they were born in a different country and come here young, they tend to forget their culture. It's kind of understandable if you're not around it. I would encourage everyone to ask their parents questions and do their research because they'll be surprised by all the different traditions that their culture may have.

Future Goals

I'm currently double majoring in TESL, teaching English as a second language and elementary education. My main goal is to become an ESL teacher, or eventually a school counselor. I want to be an ESL teacher just so I can help those students that don't speak English as a first language because I know the struggle. It was really hard for me to learn the language. In elementary school, I had a really great ESL teacher. I want to be that for students. I want to be that hope and I want to be able to help their parents as well with resources because my mom struggled too. If it weren't for people in the community helping her out, I don't know if she would have made it through.

I would like to branch out, but I'm open to staying in Worthington to help out the community as well. I only have two years left for my bachelor's degree. When I graduated high school, I wanted to be a social worker and work with child protective services. I haven't always known that I wanted to work with children, until I did my internship. That's when I knew that I wanted to work with kids in need. I just always knew I wanted to work with people and help the community. It just took me some time to really know what I wanted to do.

Hopes for the Community

My hopes for the community as a whole is peace. Although we do have different ethnicities and we have a strong community, I feel it would be nice to have everyone come together. I feel like sometimes we discriminate even within our own ethnic communities. I feel it would be nice if we all came together, no matter our legal status. I mean, we're all the same, and we all have struggle so it would be nice if we all came together. I also think that there's more that the school can do to push students to come together. If we encouraged more different or diverse groups to come together that would be nice. Even in the lunchroom, in the high school, you can tell that everyone has their own little group. It is obvious when you see only white people on one side and only Latinos in another. When I was in school, I would talk to some of the white people in class. Other than that, they don't really acknowledge you. It would be nice if the school board or the school district would come up with something where it would be more diverse, we could all come together instead of being against each other.

Interview by Rosa Abdela (2021-2022 Storyteller)

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