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Betsybell Sanchez posing with the Peruvian flag
Betsybell Sanchez posing with the Peruvian flag; Courtesy of Geneva Lawson.

When my mom set her mind to come to America, I know it wasn’t easy. I know that she’s stubborn and I know you tried to change her mind. But I also know it’s that same drive that gave her strength to build a home here, the drive she still brings into every room she walks into today. When you reminded her of the fact she’d have no one to take care of her if she ever got sick, when you wouldn’t let go of how she would have no family here, and as you couldn’t get over how she would struggle to speak the language.

I wanted to let you know that you were right.

My mom did struggle to speak the language, and still does today. She was learning English as my brothers and I were learning too, and she still sends me pictures of the letters she gets in the mail but can’t read. I don’t mind translating.

The idea of not having family here to take care of us if we got sick made us take care of ourselves that much more. She’d wake up super early to make us food before leaving for work all day. Peruvian food is really all we grew up on, so trust me when I say we never lost that part of the culture. My dad knew it was quicker to buy food with the hours he’d work, but they both valued home food so much and they passed those values on to us, too. They both made sure we spoke Spanish at home so that we would never lose it. It was my first language and I have to tell you how thankful I am because I take pride in being bilingual. To be honest, I speak Spanglish. Still, I imagine what would’ve happened if we grew up with you. I wonder if you would’ve taught me Quechua, our native language. I know life would have been different if I grew up with you but that was the point. We found people who’ve looked out for us from the beginning, they’ve watched my brothers and I grow up, they laugh and cry with us. Seeing how almost 21 years have passed, I’m just happy you got to see the home we built here. I’m not sure you saw me but I’d pay attention to how you’d journal about your time in America. I know we are family because I do the same. I know your memory fades but I still read your journals now and reflect about how my parents changed the course of our family history forever. I know it must have been hard but, trust me, it was worth it.