Ahautenco on My MindBy Dr. Omar Ali, UNC Greensboro / April 12, 2018
Yaseline Muñoz was born in the U.S. but separated from her Mexican parents because they did not have legal documents. She is currently completing a B.S. in Entrepreneurship at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro and works over 40 hours a week while being a full-time student. She founded Mi Placita Latinx Coalition, a student association comprising several Latinx/Hispanic student organizations and groups. She sat with Dr. Omar Ali, Dean of Lloyd International Honors College, for a recent interview.
OA: Yaseline, thank you for taking the time to share some of your history with me and readers. Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and your family?
YM: My name is Yaseline Muñoz, I am U.S.-born, and a proud North Carolinian. My family is from Ahuateco, a small town in the lush green hills two hours south of Mexico City. I was separated from my parents about four years ago. We crossed the border into the U.S. when I was a small child to earn a living here. Our family is poor and my story is the story of a million other families from Mexico who are trying to make a better life. It’s hard. I haven’t seen them since last July, nearly eight months ago, but I’ll be seeing them in three months.
OA: What is the single-most important thing you think people should know about your experience and that of other immigrants?
YM: People often ask, “Why don’t you just go back to your country and do it the right way?” What they don’t realize is that it’s virtually impossible if you come from poverty. Crossing the border isn’t easy. It means leaving everyone you love behind knowing that you may not see them again. People risk their lives because they know that they may end up dying or being killed. Yet, we take the risk. Parents do so because for many it’s the only way to create opportunities for their children.
OA: I can see that you’re feeling emotional. Why is it so hard to talk about this?
YM: To share these experiences is painful. My parents came here in the 80’s in hopes of getting a visa through the Reagan Amnesty. However, they were not able too. I was born in the U.S., near Chicago, becoming a U.S. Citizen, but when I was only two months old my family decided to go back to Mexico because living here without legal documents was very difficult. I spent my childhood in Mexico, mostly Ahuatenco, as well as Cuernavaca, until 2001 when my family felt pressured to return to the U.S. I crossed the border with my family when I was just turning eight. My dad’s thoughts were that if something happened to us at least we would all be together. Because if I went separately and something happened to them then I would be all alone.OA What is a day in the life of Yaseline Muñoz look like? :
YM: My days consist of mostly two things, which are work and school. If I’m not working at my internship then I am either in class, studying, at a meeting, or volunteering. Being involved in school and my community has always been important to me. Growing up my parents worked 12 hour workdays. But on their day off they would volunteer with their church. At one point they directed an entire soccer tournament for children and adults. So naturally I followed in their steps. In 2016 I completed an activity where I had to track what I dedicated my time to for an entire semester. In one semester alone I volunteered over 350 hours. To this day I have over 1,400 volunteer hours and that is not counting planning sessions for volunteer events I have directed.
OA: What is the one thing you wish for the most?
YM: The thing I wish for most is for my parents to be at my graduation this May. Growing up my dad would tell me “la unica razon que estamos aqui es por ti” (the only reason we are here is for you). Their dream wasn’t to be rich. Their dream was for me to have an opportunity to choose what to do with my life. My father was taken out of school in the 4th grade and my mother in the 6th grade to work. So for me to be able to graduate from college is a dream come true for the whole family. It makes me so sad to think that when I cross the stage they won’t be there watching me when none of this would be possible if it wasn’t for the sacrifices they made for me their whole lives.
OA: So, what are you going to do?
YM: I have given myself a three year deadline to work a sales-related job. During this time I will also be building an online business so that I can eventually work remotely full time. I want to be able to manage my own time and work from anywhere so that I can spend more time in Mexico with my parents. They are growing older and I know I have limited time with them. So I want to be able to share as much time with them as possible. My ultimate career goal is to either own my own company or be leading a company that provides the necessary resources to help start-ups and small businesses. In particular, focusing on social good products and services and entrepreneurs and small business owners that come from low-income backgrounds.
OA: You founded Mi Placita Latinx Coalition. What is its purpose?
YM: Mi Placita Latinx Coalition is a platform that unites existing Latinx organizations and promotes the growth and advancement of the Latinx community at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Our ultimate goal is to have a cultural center that provides support throughout the entire college process, from applying to post graduation.
OA: Finally, what are the ways people can help?
YM: Honestly, I don’t have an answer to that. There is so much that can be done–from supporting undocumented students who wish to attend college to asking our government to support a compassionate immigration reform policy. Ultimately, one thing that can help is to realize that immigration is not just numbers or statistics. Every number you see represents an actual person that is part of your community whether you are aware of it or not. While I have overcome many obstacles in order to get my college degree, the obstacles I have faced cannot compare to someone who is undocumented. They have to work so much harder than everyone else and they are often the ones that are the most motivated and dedicated to giving back to our country.
OA: Thank you, Yaseline. You are an inspiration to us all.
Dr. Omar Ali is Dean of the Lloyd International Honors College and UNC Greensboro.