Immigrant Teachers: Mrs. Zendejas


I immigrated from a small town in Jalisco, Mexico on February 28 2003. I was the youngest of four children. I immigrated because I wanted to marry my husband. I met my husband in 1999 in my hometown. He had lived in Fremont and was visiting for the Mexican Revolution celebration on November 20. 

When my close friends and family first heard of my decision, they were really upset and sad, because they wanted me to finish school. I did finish high school and applied to a very selective college. My acceptance results, however, came just five days before my wedding. 

My father was a teacher. We were able to get a tourist visa when I was five years old so I was able to come to the US as a visitor. I first visited when I was five years old and then I came when I was 10 years old. When I reached 15, I visited very frequently. 

It was a different country, and I needed to act a little bit different by respecting the cultural aspects of this country. But at the same time, before I got married, I used to visit my aunt in LA and there’s a huge Mexican community. Every time that I came, they were celebrating in the same ways  as I celebrated in Mexico. It was never too hard for me to engage with the community in LA. 

I was used to treating everyone I met as family or close friends because of my community in Mexico. But here, everyone was very independent and individualistic, and I couldn’t do the same. 

When I was in Mexico, everybody knew me in my village because my father was a teacher. It was really interesting, because it was like my family around me the entire time.

Of course, you have to be careful with the language. I think that was the most hard and difficult issue and it still is. When I came to the US, I went to an adult school and wanted to learn English. I wanted to learn it very well. I tried to register for college, but because you have to be here longer than a year to be considered a resident, they were gonna charge me as an international student. That was very expensive for me, so I decided I would wait till I was a resident. Then after that, things went to a different path and I didn’t go back to school until about nine years later.

Economically, life was super challenging. I had to work two or three jobs sometimes. As I met more people here, I realized they needed me here, because I could try and translate for people. One of my colleagues, who was working for the hair salon that I was working with, told me about Ohlone. I spoke to her and she said that it was easy to get into Ohlone as long as you had the high school done, and I started heavily considering it. I decided to go back to college in 2011, 9 years after I had first considered the possibility and with 2 children by then, it wasn’t easy.

Instead of being put in basic English, to my surprise, I was put in regular English classes. I had an amazing teacher. She was so strict, but I really liked how she pushed things. We had ranks in her class. One day, two freshman girls asked me what rank I was, and I knew they were making fun of me and expected me to have a low rank. I decided to check despite this, and to my delight, I was actually first. I realized that I had underestimated myself for so long that I forgot the potential I had. 

There are two things I wish I knew before immigrating. One: how important my English lessons at home were. But in a much deeper sense, how much I would miss my family. If I had known how much I would when I first considered immigrating, I would’ve never immigrated. 

I miss spending my afternoons with my mom and friends in Jalisco. Back then, the freedom I felt was uplifting for me. 

My experiences have made me stronger. I have discovered qualities that I never dreamed I had: adaptability, determination, and resilience. Still, it was hard to balance family, work and school.

Many times, I asked myself if I was going to be able to finish college. Most of those days, I spent my afternoons looking at the Bay. That view gave me clarity, and peace to keep my dreams alive. The moment that I walked across the stage to get my MA diploma, I felt like I achieved not just the American, but the Mexican Immigrant dream

The Spanish language is my heritage; it is part of me. My family loves the language, and I want to pass on that enthusiasm and passion to others by being a role model to my children and my community members.