Guatemalan seeks American dreamWORTHINGTON — For half a dozen years, Adelina Hernandez watched her friends with their parents and wished she could be as lucky.
By: Julie Buntjer, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — For half a dozen years, Adelina Hernandez watched her friends with their parents and wished she could be as lucky.
The holiday Dia de las Madres — Mother’s Day — brought tears to her eyes because her own mom had left the young girl with grandparents when she fled to the United States to find work.
“It was kind of hard because I saw all these friends with their moms and my mom was not there,” said Hernandez, a native of Takna, Guatemala.
She was just 6 years old when her mom left for southwest Minnesota to join her husband and earn money. The two would later divorce, and Doriselda took on two jobs to be able to send a little something back to Guatemala for her family.
In time, Hernandez began to forget what her mom was like.
“I didn’t know her like a mom,” said Hernandez. “She just sent pictures, but it’s not the same.”
Her older sister, Elvira, was already in college when their mom left for the United States, and Hernandez rarely saw her. It was like her family had fallen apart, but she still had her grandparents who raised her.
Hernandez has never known her father. He left for the U.S. when she was still a baby, and after his divorce, he returned to Guatemala.
Still, Hernandez remembers celebrating Dia del Padre — Father’s Day — without him by her side.
“When it was Father’s Day, (Grandpa) was always there with me. I never cried with that. My grandpa was there with me, and that was cool,” she said.
Quest to the U.S.
In 2007, at just 12 years old, Hernandez traveled with some family members to Worthington to be reunited with her mom.
She knew no one — barely even her own mom — and couldn’t speak the language.
“When I came here, I stayed in the house all day long — no school, no nothing,” Hernandez said.
Her mom eventually enrolled her in the Worthington Area Language Academy, where she would spend half her day learning Spanish and the other half learning English.
When Hernandez complained that she was having trouble learning English, she was transferred to Worthington Middle School. There, she was immersed in the English language.
“That was kind of hard again, and I asked, ‘What’d I do?’” she said with a laugh.
In the end, Hernandez realized it was for the best. She was enrolled in ESL (English as a Second Language) classes and “started learning English a lot.”
Hernandez also benefitted from having a younger sister who could speak fluent English, and a mom who “was so smart” because she had learned English in Adult Basic Education classes.
School to work
Now age 16, Hernandez has dropped out of public school in exchange for taking online courses to get her GED. The move allowed her to work during the day to earn money for the family, and get her education in front of the computer by night.
“I like my life,” she said, despite not being able to see her friends in school and having to work to help support her family.
“In high school it’s a lot of drama. I have a lot of friends who do drugs and it’s kind of hard to see it,” she added.
Still, she’s proud of them for still being in school.
“I don’t know how they do it,” Hernandez said. “Some get pregnant.
“Sometimes I talk to them about what they want in their life and they say, ‘I don’t know — nothing.’ It’s sad,” she added.
Though trying to work and get an education, Hernandez said she hasn’t lost sight of her dream.
“My dream now is to help people. I want to graduate, to get a diploma,” she said. “I was going to be a lawyer, but it’s a lot of years and a lot of money.”
A more immediate dream for Hernandez is to see her mom not have to work so hard. Doriselda works at PM Beef in Windom and then comes home to eat and go to sleep.
“That’s her life, and it’s kind of sad to see it,” she said. “In the United States, everything you’re going to do, you need money. That’s why I’m homeschooled.”
When Hernandez was 12 years old, she thought coming to the United States would mean her family would have money. She’s since learned it’s not that easy. People have to work for what they have.
“When I came and I saw some people so poor they were walking with no shoes — they can’t go to school because they have to help their parents to eat. … I said I’m going to get money so I can send to people to have food and clothes to wear,” said Hernandez.
She has not returned to her homeland of Guatemala because it costs too much, but Hernandez hopes to get back there someday to see her grandparents again.
“I have a little brother and a little sister who want to know Guatemala and Mexico, so we’re going to try to do that,” she said.