The Determined Child
Ana Soto’s 1984 journey from Michoacan, Mexico to pursue a better life
essay written by Kristan Liddle
Ana Soto lived her early life in Mexico where she lived a very difficult life. Her unselfish character towards her family was one of the reasons she came to the United States. Ana came to the United States when she was very young searching for a better life for her and her family. After many challenges that she had to overcome, Ana now lives the American Dream.
Life for some people is like a walk in the park. For others, such as my house keeper, life is a long, hard, challenging journey. Ana Marie Soto is one of the most determined and hard working people you will ever meet. Ana spoke quietly, her hands clenched and her deep brown eyes glistening, “my journey started when I was really small. My family was poor growing up. I had always had a rough life and difficult childhood so I have always been strong person. Coming over here and having all the rights women have over here has made me stronger and more independent. To get a job on my own, contribute to the household income and also find my way around a new country on my own was an amazing experience.”1 Ana wanted to find joy in life. She is the one that always worries about her family. She wants the best for everyone.
Ana Soto was born on March 13, 1966 in Southern Mexico. She grew up in a large family, with three sisters and two brothers. Ana was the third eldest child to Juanita Banyon and her husband. The Banyons lived in the rundown state called Michoacan. Lazaro Cardenas was the city she lived in. Their family was very poor and living conditions were rough. During the day the temperature regularly reached 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Ana’s father was killed when she was just six years old. Mr. Banyon, an innocent bystander, was caught in crossfire and struck by a police officer’s bullet. He was shot in the head and died instantly. Ana and her family suffered greatly by this loss. Her mom, a young, single parent trying to raise five children and pregnant with her sixth child, now had no husband and no income. Ana’s Father never even met his youngest child. At six years old Ana decided she no longer could be a burden on her mother. She was mature enough to go out on her own and her mother had five other kids to take care of; so she moved in with her grandparents in an attempt to help her mom out. Ana was emotionally mature as she says, “my mind is like an adult person, I have only six years but that is the reason my life make me strong and mature. I see what happen in the life of my brothers and sisters and it is too hard for my mom, six kids. And I decided to go with my grandparents.”2 Her brothers and sisters stayed with their mom. Since her father wasn’t there to provide for the family, her mom had to find a job to feed her children. Her mom came to the United States and sent money to Mexico to provide for the family. She migrated to the United States illegally, and maintained an illegal status while working in the fields, cutting lettuce and picking tomatoes. Juanita came to the United States by taking the train and crossing the border under a fence. Then she had a coyote, (someone who you pay to drive you across the border) pick her up and take her further into California. Ana continued to live with her grandparents until she was ten years old. When Ana turned ten she moved in with her aunt because she needed to attend middle school. Ana believed in getting a proper education. All her brothers and sisters went to different households to live.
In 1983 Ana met, Fernando Soto. She was at a social event, selling tickets and Fernando bought some. About six months after that, they got married. He was 20 at the time and she was almost 18. In contrast to most of her family, Ana graduated from high school in Mexico, and then continued on studying fashion for six months in Mexico. She loved to study and wanted to study fashion later when she got to the United States or become a nurse. She looked into becoming a nurse but realized that she had no time to spend on herself. Ana spent all her time and energy working to make her family and friends happy. She rarely had time to do the things that make herself happy.
Ana’s family asked her to go to the United States, get a job and earn money for their family. After Fernando’s company, CROM, shut down, and the couple ran out of money. Two months after they got married they decided to come to the United States. A big part of this decision was because all the private companies in Mexico decided to sell there stocks to others countries like France, Germany, and Japan. The economy crashed so nobody had anything to eat. They also had barely any money to get by. This was a huge problem in Mexico. Ana did not want to go to the United States, but made the sacrifice for her family. Ana and Fernando had to come to the United States to find another source of income and because they both could not find a job in Mexico. “We come here working to get money for buy my own house in Mexico. It was suppose to be I coming for one year but I never go back.” 3.
Ana began her journey to the United States on March 13, 1984 when she turned 18. Instead of celebrating her birthday Ana started a life-changing journey. Ana had to drop out of fashion school to find a paying job in the United States. Her mom had a cousin that was living in Santa Barbara, California. Ana called her and asked her how she had gotten to the United States. Her mom’s cousin had used a coyote as well. Ana crossed the Tijuana border with her husband, Fernando, illegally. She slept the whole way on the bus from her small town to Tijuana. She arrived in the United States three days after they Southern Mexico. The same day they arrived in Tijuana is the same day they crossed the border into the United States of America. “The border to cross took twenty minutes. March 16, 1984 I cross!” 4. Ana, barely an adult, wasn’t nervous to cross the border. She said, “I wasn’t nervous because the people who help me knew what they were doing. They said wear dark clothes and listen to what they say.” 5. Ana crawled under a fence and then got in the coyote’s car. The people that helped them get across were very skilled and experienced. She paid 300 dollars for each person to cross the border. Today you would pay 3000 dollars to get one of them. The coyote drove Ana and Fernando once they crossed the border into the United States. The coyote dropped them, off in San Diego. She got a ride to her sister-in-law’s house. She only had one change of clothes and 300 dollars in her pocket.
Ana’s first meal in America was a hamburger from McDonalds. She did not like it because she had never tasted it before. She only ate two bites. Ana lived at her sister-in- law’s house with Fernando for three years. She earned money by cleaning offices and houses. She cleaned an average of three houses a day and made enough money to survive and send some to her family in Mexico. She also worked in an electronic factory. She worked for a company that made pace makers for when you get a heart attack. Ana used the bus as a source of transportation for six months until she bought a car. Her first car was a 1980 Honda Civic. After three years, Fernando and Ana moved into their first apartment together with Ana’s brother-in-law. His name was Jorge. During this adjustment period, their move from Mexico to the United States, there were many available jobs in California. When they got to the United States, Ronald Reagan was the U.S. President. He passed a Law of Amnesty which is how Ana and Fernando got their residency. In 1986 the Law of Amnesty said that anyone who had been working in the United States, as a field worker, for a number of years, about four to six, were able to apply for residency. Ana and Fernando were then able to become residents so they could live in the United States legally. Fernando and Ana learned English in the United States. It took them about five to six months to learn the basics of English. They went to Costa Mesa High School where they participated in night time classes.
When Ana was 20 years old, she had her first child, Michael Soto. He was born in Torrance, California. Michael is now 22. Michael attended from Irvine High School. He was a part of the Irvine High boys’ soccer team for four years. On July 5, 2005 Michael enlisted with the United States Army. He was initially stationed in the United States, in South Carolina. He was in active duty for three years. He went to Afghanistan for fifteen months and fought in war. He stayed in Germany, Italy, and Afghanistan. He is engaged to a girl from Germany named Elaine. He lost his comrade and best friend in Afghanistan. Ana states with great concern, “Michael has a lot of pain about that. He cries at night time and he sees his hands all bloody. Michael cannot sleep. He fight in his sleep. He had bad nightmares. He looks like monsters. Now is a little bit better. He liked going there but it was hard. He wants to go back but I don’t want him to and his future wife doesn’t want him to. He says his life is that.” 6. Ana never approved of him joining the army because she so feared for his life, however, she respected his decision because he was eighteen and it was a good deed for the country. Michael wanted to join the army because someone told him it was good and the recruiter told him he would be able to play soccer there. Ana tried to let Michael know that the recruiter was not telling the whole truth but he didn’t listen to her. Having Michael far away from home, at war, was really hard for Ana. She was afraid that she would never get to see her first born again. Ana went from being an illegal immigrant, to having her first born child fight for our country. That is an amazing turnaround.
Ana then had her second child three years later, Fernando Soto, Jr. He graduated from Irvine High School and was a member of the Irvine High School soccer team. He is 19 years old now and coaches the freshman boys’ soccer team at Irvine High School. He studies respiratory therapy at Concord College. He will graduate next October. Five years after Fernando, Jr. was born, Ana had her last child, Chelsea Soto. Chelsea is thirteen years old now and goes to Venado Middle School.
Ana and Fernando moved into their own house once they had their children. They lived in Santa Ana for a couple years before they moved to Irvine, where they currently live. Their first house in Santa Ana cost 135,000 dollars. It had three bedrooms, three bathrooms, a big back yard and front yard. Ana earned money as our family’s housekeeper and babysitter. She took care of my older brother Blake, my younger sister Julie, and me for 18 years. Fernando, her husband, is an air conditioning technician and an automation technician. He makes a substantial amount of money to support their family. Ana is now a stay at home mom. All her children and husband live in her house with her. They have two dogs as pets. All of her children are very successful because of her courageous journey. Ana’s brothers and sisters eventually followed her to the United States.
Ana Soto and Fernando Soto became United States citizens in 2007. Ana voted for the first time in the November 2008 Presidential Election. “This is my first time I vote, I never vote in Mexico because I never have the age. I come here and vote.” 7. Ana voted for Obama, our current president. She is proud that she can make a difference and let her opinion be heard in the United States. She is honored to be a citizen.
Ana has always put a lot of effort into everything. She came to the United States to work for an honest living and so far it has worked out for her. She conquered all of her goals she had set for herself. Ana came to the United States to get a job and buy a house. She also wanted to help her family in Mexico and support them with money. She wanted a better life. The United States was everything she expected and more. She had heard the great stories of how people’s lives were changed by coming to the United States from Mexico and Ana was so thankful she was one of those people. Ana is happily married to her husband, Fernando, who has been with her through the hardships in life. They have three beautiful children who are growing up in a good environment thanks to the hard work of their parents. Ana’s mom still lives in Mexico and owns a seafood restaurant. She comes to the United States to visit frequently. The Soto family is no longer struggling to get by in life. Ana was only expecting to stay in the United States for one year and it ended up being twenty four years. She still misses Mexico because of the people, family, food, weather, and sports. Ana visits her mom in Mexico every summer. They are happy and successful. “The whole country is going through an economic crisis right now. We are not tight with money because we do not spend it on unnecessary stuff. But we have enough money to get by.” 8. Ana is a very determined individual. She is selfless and hard working. Her fearless attitude and her willingness to persevere is greatly admired by many. Her life story should make us grateful for the life we have. Ana does not regret coming to the United States one bit. She thinks if she was living in Mexico today her kids would not get the proper education, living conditions, and health needs to live a happy, carefree life. Ana spreads her love to everyone around her. She is an inspiration to all in having the drive and determination to work hard to achieve life long goals.
1. Soto, Ana. Personal Interview. 20 May 2009. 4.
2. Soto, Ana. Personal Interview. 20 May 2009. 6.
3. Soto, Ana. Personal Interview. 20 May 2009. 2.
4. Soto, Ana. Personal Interview. 20 May 2009. 5.
5. Soto, Ana. Personal Interview. 20 May 2009. 6.
6. Soto, Ana. Personal Interview. 25 May 2009. 7, 8.
7. Soto, Ana. Personal Interview. 20 May 2009. 4.
8. Soto, Ana. Personal Interview. 20 May 2009. 5.