The Journey to America
Armando Barrios’ journey from Mexico to America in 1982
essay written by Arli Barrios
Armando’s journey from Mexico to America is the typical story of immigration from one country to another. Like many others, he was looking for a chance to start a new life and find new opportunities. His motives may have been changed while on his journey to America but he still achieved his goal of reaching America. While living in America, Armando managed to raise a family and start a successful career which shows that he achieved his goals to the fullest potential.
The question of whether coming to America would benefit a person’s life has been a dilemma that all immigrants had to face. To many immigrants, it seemed that America would give them many great opportunities and a chance to start their life over. America was a developing country with many open job opportunities and a growing diversity of population. Immigrants must consider whether or not leaving their home country, and family behind, with the chance of coming to America and not finding opportunities, is worth the risk. For Armando Barrios, the decision that he made to come to America in 1982 would be very beneficial for him in the future because he found many job opportunities and the chance to expand his knowledge of business administration. The immigration affected Armando’s life in both positive and negative ways. One of the hardest decisions that he had to make was to leave his family in Mexico in order to start his life over in America. He states, “What I like most about my home country is the people and the fact that my relatives, sisters, brother, and mom are there.” 1 Armando made many hard decisions regarding whether or not coming to America was worthwhile; each decision gave him to opportunity to find something new in America.
Armando Barrios is an American immigrant who was born and raised in Mexico City, Mexico. Armando described his childhood as being, “…a lot of fun. We grew up in a very poor neighborhood but in the middle of our apartments we had a playground. We had several kids of the same age that used to hang around there.” 2 Armando’s childhood was not filled with materialistic items or a large amount of money. It consisted of love, camaraderie, and friendly games of soccer with some of his schoolmates. He explained that in soccer, “The only thing that you actually need is just a ball. And most of the times we would just get a plastic ball from any store, we would pitch in a few cents each and we would get a plastic ball… In those times we didn’t have any goals. Sometimes we would use trashcans or any concrete post or sometimes our backpacks from school. We would put one a few feet apart from the other and we would not have any goal tenders.”3 Although Armando grew up in a low-income family, he found ways to enjoy his life and make the best out of it.
Armando described his childhood as being very family-oriented and culturally involved. He states, “I had a lot of fun and we also had [piñatas] at every celebration. They were a lot of fun. We also had what they call posadas.”4 The posadas signified his family’s devotion to religion. He describes the posadas as being a representation of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus when they were searching for a hostel. His family would also incorporate a pinata at the end of each celebration and the kids would try to break it open and grab all of the fruit that fell out of it. He says that around that time in Mexico, piñatas would not be filled with candy at a celebration, but would consist of fruit and sugar cane instead. Armando’s childhood in Mexico could be described as low-income but very enjoyable in many ways. Armando states, “In general, my childhood was very fun and it [shows] you that it doesn’t really matter how much money you have [because] when there is love, family, interaction with other people, it’s always a lot of fun.”5
Like many other immigrants that come to America, Armando wanted the opportunity to expand his knowledge, create new connections, and explore the country. He states, “The reason I came to the United States is because I wanted to perfect the English language which I’m still working on and also to improve my knowledge of business. So the reason why I came to the United States was to get an MBA from a U.S. university.”6 At the time, Armando was fortunate enough to be given a scholarship from a semi-private institution. As a recipient of this scholarship, he had the ability to travel to the United States and attend UCI in order to expand his knowledge of business administration and receive his MBA. The opportunity that he was given to come to America persuaded him to stay and raise his family in this country. He was unsure whether the situation in Mexico would affect his life because, “…at the time the Mexican government, which I deemed as a bunch of thieves, made some decisions that were horrible for the country as a whole… The economy was in shambles; even though the leaders of our country in Mexico became richer and richer, the poor became poorer and poorer. At that time I had to make a hard decision between going back to Mexico or [staying] here in the U.S. under a work visa.”7 His final decision was to stay in the U.S. under a work visa that was sponsored by an employer. Many years passed and he never went back to Mexico so he started his career and his life in America. Other reasons that motivated Armando to stay in America was that fact that, “I felt very strongly for the right to vote and that desire motivated my wife and I to become U.S. citizens. Also, the fact that there was a growing animosity against immigrants at that time in the U.S., also made us take the step of becoming U.S. citizens.”8 His strong opinions, opportunities, and motivations to stay in America gave him the courage to become a U.S. citizen.
Armando’s expectations of living in the United States were to be given the opportunity to start a new life and be presented with new career opportunities. The situation in Mexico was not very good at the time for the government was very corrupt and malicious. Armando states, “I still consider the leaders of the Mexican government, a bunch of corrupt people.”9 His motivation to leave the country of Mexico for that reason created an expectation that the U.S. government and America in general would be governed differently. Armando’s expectations of the United States were that it would be a country that would change his life and the way he lived it. Each opportunity that he received while living in the U.S. he would not take for granted because they were opportunities that could not be presented to him in his home country.
The journey from Mexico to America was not a difficult one for Armando, but the decisions that he had to make were not easy. Armando states, “I came here with a certain objective just like many other immigrants that say ‘this is the objective I pursue and want to accomplish and then I will go back to my country.’ But, you don’t really know if those are the cards that life is going to deal you and in my case I had to change my objectives.”10 Armando was forced to make difficult decisions such as leaving his family, culture, and heritage behind in Mexico while he traveled to another country in search of a new life. His family did not approve of him leaving to another country because they would not be able to see him as often as they would like. The journey to come to America was tough on Armando due to the fact that it was quite hard for him to leave his family and his old life behind.
When Armando first arrived to America, his expectations were of a certain standard but what he found would certainly surprise him, and set a first impression of what America was really like. When Armando first arrived to America, he was surprised to find that, “the first obvious difference is the language, even though in California, being the fact that it’s a border state, there are quite a few speakers of Spanish language.”11 The language barrier was very surprising to him because of how close the two countries are. Another difference that Armando saw about America, “is the culture, the U.S. is a multi-cultural environment and when you deal with different people in the United States, you’re dealing with different backgrounds and belief systems.”12 There were different customs that he noticed between The United States and Mexico such as the food that they eat, the clothes that they wear, and the daily routines that people have. Cultural differences were not a shock to him due to the fact that each country is different and has different customs. It was just a matter of self-adjustment in order for him to get used to these differences.
There were many other differences that Armando saw when he first came to America besides language, cultural, and custom differences. Other differences that Armando saw in America were, “the differences in nutritional habits. The food that is eaten here vs. food that is eaten in Mexico has different ingredients, different taste.”13 The nutritional differences that Armando noticed were a bit of a cultural shock to him since he was accustomed to a certain way of eating in Mexico. It was a huge adjustment for him to make and when he first came here, it was tough for him to find anywhere to eat, or any food to cook. A minor difference that Armando also noticed was that, “here in the U.S. the temperature…changes drastically from one season to another.”14 Armando had to adjust to the different climate that he experienced in California since the weather in Mexico City did not vary as much as it does in California. Although some of the differences that Armando saw in America when he first arrived here were normal situations that a stranger encounters in any new place, he still had to adjust to and learn to live with these differences.
As an immigrant coming to America, there were many hardships and tough situations that he had to go through in order to grow accustomed to how life was lived in America. The first difficulty that he had to go through was the fact that there was a language barrier between him and the native speakers in America. He states that, “that’s the first barrier to begin with.”15 There was difficulty for him to learn how to speak English due to the fact that everybody spoke quickly and he was still beginning to learn the language. There were very few people who spoke Spanish which made the language barrier even more difficult for him to overcome. As a native of Mexico, his cultural background and the customs that he grew up with were a factor which made it harder for him to get used to life in America. He described the cultural differences and customs as being like, “a melting pot but the different ingredients that we put in that melting pot, some of them don’t mix completely and there remains a lot of factors that are different in the way that people from different cultures and groups in the United States see things and sometimes that creates a little bit of a shock because when you start dealing with people in the U.S. and you get certain responses, you would think that maybe that would create a different standard for other people also to respond but that’s not the case.”16 These differences in culture, language, and customs, made it difficult for Armando to get used to living in the United States but self-adjustment would eventually make it easier for him to communicate and live in America.
Some of the hardest adjustments that Armando was forced to make when coming to America is having the ability to make new friends and meet new people. Armando states that, “when you get to [the] United States, you get here without friends, and it’s just hard to start making friends. In Mexico, having lived there for twenty something years, you have friends from childhood, high school, family, college, work, and you know the culture, the slang…you know what communication piece works the best, and you know [the] mannerisms.”17 When Armando arrived to the United States he had to readapt and learn to communicate with people he didn’t know. When he first started to learn the English language, it was tough for him to learn the way that people speak and the slang that they use. It was difficult for him to learn a natural way of speaking but it was something that he was forced to learn due to the fact that he had to speak to people in a way that made them feel comfortable and not awkward. Armando also states that, “in Mexico people are more friendly [though] again this can go from area to area. The same situation happens in the U.S. but in the U.S. I feel that there is a tendency of people not to let others go too much into their lives.”18 The adjustment that he had to make in order to make new connections and friends while he was learning to speak the language at the same time was a difficult situation to go through.
Armando’s arrival to the United States did not cause him to forget his native background; therefore both of his children were taught the cultures of both America and Mexico. After Armando first arrived to the United States, his intention of going back to Mexico changed and he finalized his decision to stay and start a family in America. Armando states, “…as we had children who were born and [started] growing up here in the U.S. [We decided] at that time that it was better for them to stay in the U.S. and not go back to Mexico.”19 Both the American and Mexican cultures were taught to his children. Both cultures had many values to be taught such as the importance of family, manners, and morals. They were taught the importance of understanding different cultures.
Armando’s journey to the United States is one that took its course in a rather unusual way. It was not his intention to stay in America when he first came here, but when the circumstances changed, he ended up starting a new life and career in the United States. Now he says, “Yes, my life has changed from when I came here first. And the U.S. has also changed.”20 Armando carries no regrets of coming here to the U.S. but he does admit that there have been changes that have affected the course of his life since he first arrived here. Armando’s overall opinion regarding his journey to the United States is that he believes it was a good decision to come and start his life, raise his family, and continue his rising career in business.
1. Barrios, Armando. Personal interview. 23 May 2009, 14..
2. Barrios, 23 May 2009, 1.
3. Barrios, 23 May 2009, 1.
4. Barrios, 23 May 2009, 1.
5. Barrios, 23 May 2009, 2.
6. Barrios, 23 May 2009, 8.
7. Barrios, 23 May 2009, 11.
8. Barrios, 23 May 2009, 14.
9. Barrios, 23 May 2009, 12.
10. Barrios, 23 May 2009, 12.
11. Barrios, 23 May 2009, 10.
12. Barrios, 23 May 2009, 10.
13. Barrios, 23 May 2009, 10.
14. Barrios, 23 May 2009, 11.
15. Barrios, 23 May 2009, 10.
16. Barrios, 23 May 2009, 10.
17. Barrios, 23 May 2009, 10.
18. Barrios, 23 May 2009, 11.
19. Barrios, 23 May 2009, 12.
20. Barrios, 23 May 2009, 12.