Amy Reyes, Undeclared, BMC ’25

In this photo, I can be seen in the background watching the people in the parade walking past me as we walked together to our final destination. Although you can’t see it, I’m admiring the floats that were beautifully created and the people who were dressed up to take part in the tradition. As this time, I remember feeling at home for the first time since I came to Philadelphia for college. I was overwhelmed with emotions of nostalgia and homesickness for a tradition that I didn’t even practice in Texas with my family. However, since I learned in class what Mexican-American families went through to get to where I am, I was emotional at the thought that we (all of the people at the parade) had the same thoughts and feelings that day: pride and happiness.

This picture connects back to our readings, films, and discussions in class as the sentiment that was there that day included knowing the pain and sacrifices made by our people. Without this class, I would’ve remained oblivious to the real lives of Mexican-American
communities. I only knew what I had seen from my family: my mother immigrated to Texas from San Luis Potosi via visa and ended up staying. My father immigrated to Maryland first at the age of 15 by crossing via a train and met and married my mom in Texas. My parents were lucky. My paternal grandfather immigrated to the U.S. under Reagan’s presidency and gained citizenship that he was able to help give to my dad and mom. My parents never really had to worry about being deported and were able to do things that other undocumented immigrants couldn’t.

If I hadn’t taken this class, I wouldn’t even know that IRCA and Reagan were responsible for the legality of my parents. I wouldn’t have known about the Braceros program and how my great-great maternal grandfather was a bracero. I wouldn’t have realized that the change and security in the Mexican-U.S. border was not normal. I wouldn’t have realized that the U.S. government was knowingly leaving undocumented immigrants to die in the desert as they tried to cross to form a better life for themselves and their family. I wouldn’t have known what my people have gone through and what they are currently going through. I was very emotional on this Dia de los Muertos trip because I knew about the pain and sacrifices everyone at that parade went through.

Personally, this photo means a new motivation to learn about my roots. A need to learn everything that there is to know about my culture and its traditions. It wasn’t my first time attending a traditional parade for our practices, however, it was my first traditional event without my parents. I was alone without any family around me and overwhelming emotions of pride and nostalgia. I might’ve not been born in Mexico/El Salvador or have experienced first-hand what its like to be in a new country without support from any family or friends, however, the pride and sadness that I feel towards both countries and my family is enough to push me to learn about my roots and practices. I am proud to be Mexican and Salvadorian.