Yolanda Ocañas Argüello

As interviewed by Jaxie Niles Argüello, March 18, 2018

Yolanda Ocañas Argüello: In Her Own Words

I was born in Mexico in a little town called General Terán.

How old were you when you first came to U.S.?

I was six almost seven.

What was it like moving to the U. S. as a child?

It was very different -- you know, different environment. Because in Mexico, even though we were still poor we lived in a home, and I went to school and my mom went to work, and my dad worked.

But when we came here we were living in little shacks -- probably no running water, definitely no indoor plumbing -- and of course we didn’t go to school because it was summertime. Thank goodness it was summertime we still had a little bit of time to adjust.

And well my dad worked out in the fields picking cotton but my mom didn’t know how to do that kind of job, and she wasn’t strong enough. So it was a huge change because it was migrant work -- so even though we only did it for maybe three or four months, we pretty much went all over South Texas I would think. So it was different.

And as a child when you first -- when summer was over and you got to school... Did you feel welcome?

Kind of, in a way I guess -- because all the kids were Hispanic, and they all spoke Spanish. And they all tried to help each other out as far as like, “Yeah, this is what he’s saying.” Or “What she wants you to do...” Or whatever, you know. Because the teacher, I don’t recall if the teacher was bilingual but I definitely know that with the help of my friends, I felt more comfortable. Yes.

Was there anything that made you feel particularly unwelcome?

No, but I mean you had to be more kind of watching-your-back kind of thing. It’s strangers -- everybody was a stranger to me, the neighbors, the people at school. So I think it was kind of rough for maybe six months or so until I adjusted a little bit. But the kids at school, I think we were probably all immigrants, so we kind of all were in the same boat, so to speak. And they definitely tried to help me -- and hopefully I tried to help others.