For Reyna Grande, love is complicated. The author of “The Distance Between Us” (2004 ) grew up with the kind of poverty where most often times, there wasn’t enough food in the house or money to pay for electricity. Reyna and her sister Alma were raised by Reyna’s undocumented parents in Los Angeles until Reyna was nine years old. Reyna writes, “I remember the hunger and the fear of being discovered, but I didn’t really remember much else from those days. In many ways I was still a child. ” Grande’s mother eventually decided that Reyna and Alma would have a better chance at a future in Mexico than they would ever have in America.
Reyna remembers being told she wouldn’t be returning to the United States until she finished college despite Reyna reacting emotionally to leaving her friends behind. Reyna states, “When we arrived in Mexico City, I felt as if my life were over. As an American citizen born in Tijuana, going to school there seemed too surreal for me… I had no real sense of what it meant to be Mexican. ” Reyna remembers being taunted for her American accent and was often made fun of because Reyna wasn’t fluent in Spanish. Reyna displays all the fears she had as a soon-to-be immigrant child, she was afraid of being raped or kidnapped.
Reyna’s parents refused to let Reyna go out alone so Reyna rarely got to socialize outside of school. Reyna states, “We were prisoners waiting for sentencing, not knowing what crime we had committed that would keep us locked up forever. ” On rare occasions Reyna would go visit her father’s side of the family who lived half an hour away from Reyna’s mother’s house. Reyna started working at age eleven washing dishes in a restaurant in order to help her family. Reyna got a job at a call center when Reyna was fourteen that paid for Reyna to attend private school.
Reyna says she felt “liberated” by being able to leave the house every day and Reyna recalls feeling more confident about herself after being allowed to wear makeup, short skirts, and high heels. Reyna describes a visit from an immigration agent when Reyna was fifteen years old saying he already knew she’d been born in Tijuana even though Reyna had never applied for citizenship papers. Reyna’s best friend insisted on going through everything in Reyna’s bedroom so they could clean up before immigration arrived but despite their best efforts the agents found some of Reyna’s father’s belongings Reyna was storing for him.
Reyna recalls, “I didn’t know what to feel. I had been told again and again by my mother that the American government was evil and would do anything to destroy our family… But all of a sudden there they were, four young white men in blue uniforms walking into my bedroom as if they owned it. ” Reyna’s parents were deported to Tijuana after spending one night at a jail in Los Angeles even though Reyna’s father had no criminal record. Reyna stayed behind with Alma because Reyna could not afford to move back to Mexico herself at age seventeen without her parents’ financial backing.
Reyna started working as a maid again saying she felt “like a slave. ” In Reyna’s old bedroom Reyna discovered a stash of letters written by Reyna’s father to Reyna when Reyna was an infant. Reyna found out that she had been born with a heart defect and her parents decided that Reyna would receive better healthcare in America than Mexico so they moved north of the border for Reyna’s sake. Reyna eventually applied for citizenship under President Reagan’s Amnesty Act while sneaking across the US-Mexico border which allowed undocumented immigrants who arrived in America before 1982 to become legal residents.
Reyna writes, “I felt confused about what I should feel about my mother after everything she’d ever told me about coming to this country… But I also knew there were many times I had felt guilty about being American. ” Reyna Grande is a Mexican-American writer and activist. Reyna Grande immigrated to the US from Mexico with her family when Reyna was thirteen years old due to Reyna’s older sister, Alma’s medical condition which required better healthcare than Reyna’s parents could get in Mexico.
Reyna Grande earned a Bachelor of Science degree in biology at UCLA and later earned a Master of Arts degree in literature at Cal State Fullerton. Reyna also got married and had two sons named Hector and Diego during this time. Reyna began writing memoirs after she became interested in immigration issues while participating in rallies on behalf of United Farm Workers who represented migrant field workers that were often exploited by their employers. Reyna says that Latino immigrants often face the stereotype of the “lazy Mexican sleeping under a cactus and eating chili and beans.
Reyna Grande currently resides in Los Angeles with Reyna’s husband and two sons. Reyna writes for The Huffington Post and has also contributed to Latino Magazine, journal of UCLA’s Chicano Studies Research Center, Parents magazine, and memoirs such as Mariposas which was written by Reyna Grande. Reyna Grande has been published in more than twenty-five journals including the Chicago Tribune which made her essay about her life as an illegal immigrant into a series of ten articles.
Reyna is especially interested in exploring the experiences of first generation Americans. Reyna describes herself as someone who thrives on commitment and hard work according to Reyna’s mother Reyna. Reyna Grande also loves to travel with Reyna’s family and is currently working on her next memoir which will focus on Reyna Grande’s mother. Reyna Grande was born Reynalda Huerta in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua Mexico. Reyna’s parents divorced when Reyna was six years old after Reyna’s father became physically abusive towards Reyna’s mother.
After the divorce Reyna stayed with her father because she wanted to be near her sister Alma who had rheumatic fever which caused heart problems due to clogged arteries that required surgery at age thirteen months old. Before Reyna turned seven Reyna moved back in with her mother after she begged for permission to come home saying that Reyna’s father was physically abusive towards Reyna, Reyna’s mother finally allowed Reyna to come home.
Reyna earned a degree in biology from the Universidad Autonoma de Ciudad Juarez and later spent a year working as a biochemist for a pharmaceutical company Reyna describes as “one of those American-owned labs that exploit Mexican labor. ” Reyna eventually became disillusioned with her job because she saw little possibility of improvement or promotion due to Reyna’s limited opportunities as an immigrant worker. In one incident at work Reyna discovered two small children under the age of twelve locked inside a bathroom without food or water while their parents worked in isolation rooms nearby.