Rubi Hernandez  ·  Mexico

A Young Single Mom Fights “With the Power in Her Heart” to Make a Life for Her Kids

This Country is for Growth, Not for Staying in One Spot

Rubi Hernandez

My real name is Rubi Del Carmen Hernandez Vera. But, when I came to the United States and put in that name, a lot of people said, “Oh, you have a long name.” And so I shortened it to Rubi Hernandez.

I was born in Casa Mala Pam Veracruz, in the very south of Mexico. But I was raised in Tres Valles Veracruz. That place is very hot. It’s a small town with not very much economic opportunity. I am the oldest of six. All three sisters are here in Kansas City and my two brothers live on the border in Juarez, Mexico. My mother and father are still in Tres Valles.

When I was little I wanted a job where I could sit at a desk. I liked to work mentally. But I was only able to afford two years of college.

When I was 17 I left my house and flew away with my boyfriend.

I was scared to introduce him to my family. My parents are very religious and the rules in our family were very strong. Boyfriends were not allowed. He was my neighbor. He wanted to ask for permission, but I was so scared. One time we went to a carnival. When I noticed it was late, like 11pm, I said, “Oh my god that’s too late. I can’t go home, I’m too scared.”

He said, “Well, if your parents don’t want me to go ask for permission and they don’t let you go out, what should we do? Maybe you shouldn’t go home.” I didn’t. We stayed together for a year. Until I had a baby.

After the baby my mom and dad wanted to help take care of me. But they were very controlling. When my boyfriend wanted to see our baby, I went in to get him and my dad locked me in the house. My boyfriend was very angry. He destroyed a window and my dad called the police.

After that my dad gave me two choices. He said, “Listen, you’re young. You’re a very good student. You’re smart. Do you want to go back school? Or do you want to raise your baby?”

I preferred to stay with my baby and I wanted to be with my boyfriend because I loved him. And my dad said, “If you don’t stop seeing him, you know what will happen? I will find him. And will [makes punching noise].”

So I said, “Please stop, don’t do that. Don’t do it. I’ll stay with you.” So I decided to work and raise my baby. But I was under age in Mexico. Adult age is 21, so my dad decided for me. He sent me to my uncle. But I didn’t feel comfortable there and came back home. My salary wasn’t enough to pay for diapers and milk. So, I left Tres Valles Vera Cruz for a town on the border with Texas. I lived there for two years.

The first days were so hard because we didn’t know what to do or where to go. We walked a lot six hours a day, under the sun, with no money. We were hungry, sweating, thirsty - looking for a job. We stopped at a body shop. The man there fed us and gave us a reference letter for a job.

That job was a blessing because I got a lot of experience. I started as a cashier, and then a month later I was in charge of a department. Eventually, I realized we weren’t being paid well for the hours we were working and got another job with an American company. That company built airplane parts. I was happy there, until my sister called and convinced me to go to Kansas City. She’d gone when she was 15. But I needed my parents’ permission for a passport and visa since I was still underage and they wouldn’t do it. So I paid someone else to act like my mom and do it for me.

But then, they wouldn’t let me cross the border without a parent. I called my sister and told her I couldn’t cross. She said, “Okay, let me make some phone calls.” Two days later, somebody knocked on the door of my hotel and said, “Hey, I got you permission. You can cross the border right now.” It was so cold and I didn’t wear a jacket. I just had a little sweater. And I was shivering because I was cold. There was a dog in front of me, and I am so scared of dogs. But they put my name in a computer and told me I was free to go.

Finally, I took an airplane to Kansas City, where I stayed with my sister and another roommate.

She got me a job in housekeeping. I had been used to dressing up for work, heels, doing my nails - and for this job she said I needed tennis shoes. I don’t like tennis shoes. I didn’t understand what housekeeping meant and I didn’t speak English. The job was at Children’s Mercy Hospital. They gave us pagers and they paged us when they needed someone to clean up (makes vomiting motion). One day, one nurse wanted me to clean up the surgery room.

I didn’t understand what she wanted me to do. I said, “I’m sorry I don’t understand.” She was so mad. She said,

“Give me that, give me the bucket, give me the broom. Give me everything and get out of here."

And she closed the door. I started to cry.

I called the manager, and the manager said, “Okay mamacita, I’m coming. Wait for me mamacita. You just stay.” I sat down in the office crying and my sister was trying to get me to calm down. The manager went to the Nurse and said, “In Kansas City you can’t yell at people. That’s not right. You’re in trouble with my ladies here.” The manager of the whole building was from Korea. My manager reported to her and she told the nurse, “Not in this building. And sorry, but you’re fired.”

I felt bad. I told the interpreter I didn’t want the nurse to lose her job. But they said, “Trust us. We are doing the right thing.”

Eventually we made friends, and the hospital nurses taught us how to speak English. I would point at things and sign. And then we would teach them Spanish.

I became a supervisor of 13 people and I sat at a desk. I feel like everybody can grow if you want. This country is for growth. Not for staying in one spot. You can pick everything good for yourself. I was a single mom for a long time. I am a survivor of domestic violence. Sometimes I had a $0 in my hands and I would think about my children.

I have power in my heart. I am a mother, I have to fight with my teeth, with my nails, with everything to raise my children no matter what.

Now I am a permanent resident of the US. Thanks to God.

I got involved with New Roots when I left my job. I have this little girl and I couldn’t find her a babysitter. I was cooking and feeling sad, because I wanted a farm - my family had a farm in Mexico. I picked up my phone and checked social media. And there was a lady talking about a scholarship for farmers and for immigrants. So I called, and applied, and got a spot.

When they told me I got in I jumped and cried and immediately called my boyfriend.

I’m just starting, but I’m excited to grow everything. I especially want to grow corn - to represent Mexico. We can make a lot of things with corn - tortillas, tamales - stuff that is so delicious. And also, tomato, jalapeno…

Some people think I’m crazy to farm. There’s not enough money like the other jobs I’ve had. But I tell them, it’s not about the money. It is about what you feel in your blood. I want to cultivate. I want to learn more about agriculture. I want to learn as much as possible. Because I think in my future, I will get land, not just to cultivate. I want to teach others how to love food, where the foods come from. I want to teach them how hard it is to get vegetables on your table. A lot of people just get the food and throw it away. You shouldn’t throw away a blessing. Who’s planting that with their hands? How much love is spent on that?

If somebody asks you for help, help. It doesn’t matter who they are, help. Hate is not for us as human beings.

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