De una a otra (from one kind to another)

Interview by Sarah Klearman 

Graciela* came to the United States illegally almost 25 years ago. She's now 35, and lives in East San Jose with her two children, her husband, and her extended family - including Carmen, who was also interviewed for this project. She works with Carmen as part of a cleaning crew in a hotel in San Jose. 

This interview was translated into English from Spanish.


When I came here, I didn’t have children. In Mexico, there’s a very tragic kind of poverty. The people there don’t live very comfortably, nor do the children. It’s a tragedy because – say you’re at a party with your neighbors, and you’re enjoying it. It gives you the idea that things are good. But in actuality, you might not even have money for shoes, or money to buy food to eat. So it was like – I wanted to leave that. I wanted something more, something better. I came here in early 2000, and I started to work at the hotel where I still am now in 2001. When I arrived, we were searching the city for work, literally going from side to side of San Jose. I was taking the bus the entire day, looking for work. I was here almost a year without work, piling up bills and everything. One would think that the United States is a country where you have a better chance, where there’s better opportunity, but it was difficult. And if you don’t work, how are you going to live? How many people are living on the streets? In the towns in Mexico, it’s awful to see children without places to live, without food to eat. I thought it would be entirely different here. But, no – there’s still poverty, just in a different form.

*name changed