English and Spanish, tattoos that are mixed with costumes, business with bilingual posters, even tex-mex food. Around the famous Monument of the Revolution in Mexico City was born Little L.A., a meeting place for thousands of deportees and their families, a new American dream.
Francisco Hernández is 34 years old and cuts his hair in one of the most popular barbershops in the neighborhood (neighborhood) Tabacalera, a job he combines in a “call center” that allows him to exploit his bilingualism.
“If we were in the United States, we would work in a kitchen or in construction, here in Mexico they give us another opportunity, better than what we had there,” Francisco explains to Frank, for friends, while he cuts a client’s hair.
At the Alameda hairdresser the two languages are mixed and he, deported for the second time from the United States a year ago, tells a story similar to that of many.
Frank came to Chicago as a child and studied until he was a teenager, when his girl got pregnant and he left the books to be a gardener.
At age 21, looking for a better life for his family – today he has five children – he ended up in prison for drug trafficking. He purged seven years and was deported.
Years later, with the desire to see his family, he returned, but they stopped him. Now he lives in the Mexican capital, away from his own and afraid to return and be imprisoned.
“I try to help my children financially, I talk to them through ‘messenger’, that’s when I can see them,” says, melancholy, this man who recognizes that as a child he did not know he was “an illegal” and regrets having been a gang member.
His current exile continues in the United States while he dreams of prospering in Mexico despite the differences. Celebrate the existence of Little L.A., shelter for those who are not from here, nor from there.
Israel Concha is one of the promoters of this new community through the NGO New Beginnings, which offers free assistance to returnees in search of employment, psychological help or language certification, among others.
Since 2015, the civil society has helped some 5,000 returnees, among undocumented Mexicans who committed some infraction in the United States and were deported or even “dreamers”, tired of living in a limbo after the cancellation of the DACA program by Donald Trump.
“It’s a humanitarian crisis, we do not care about the problems between countries and laws, we want that human right to be together with our families,” says Concha.
According to the National Migration Institute, in 2017 there were 166,986 Mexicans repatriated from the United States.
In Little L.A, he explains, about 2,000 returnees congregate. Some opened their own businesses or work in others such as “call centers”, where their linguistic capacity is valued. There is also a shelter for migrants and young people living on the street.
“We want Little L.A. to be a success story that can be replicated in several places,” he says.
For Concha, it’s not just about helping: this NGO and the neighborhood are a “therapy”. Resident in Texas, he grew up knowing he was undocumented, but that did not stop him from studying or opening his own company. He got married, had a son, but everything was truncated when he was sanctioned for speeding.
He refused to sign the deportation and spent two years in a migratory center. Mexico arrived three years ago, alone.
Not all stories are so sad. Ivy, for example, is a 22-year-old Mexican-Filipino girl who works in a call center. He was born in Chicago and at 11 he came because his father was deported.
Risueña, shares a cigar in the “break” of working with Alondra, who arrived in Atlanta nine months and recently returned to Mexico with her father. “I came to not be all my life thinking that they will grab me for being without a license,” says Alondra.
“What’s up man”, two young people with tattoos, loose shirt and dropped pants greet each other.
Abraham Armando Quintero was deported at age 17 for drinking, driving, and not having papers. He admits that he was “on bad steps” and he remembers nervously when they left him in the dangerous border town of Matamoros.
He has on his arm a phrase from the late rapper Tupac: “To every dark night, there’s a bright day after that (For every dark night, there’s a bright day after).”
“Here in Mexico, with tattoos, we are discriminated against a lot, it can be seen as gangs, but nothing to do,” he says.
Jeimmy Leyva is a volunteer in the organization New Beginnings. He is 22 years old and spent all his childhood in the USA. until his parents, who were chaining precarious jobs, decided to return, starting “from scratch”.
At school he suffered “a lot of discrimination” for not speaking Spanish correctly and dressing differently, he says.
When he finished his studies he had several jobs and today he works in a call center. Despite the culture shock, it is clear: “I feel happy in my country, I want to be out of the golden cage.
(In the United States) you go through discrimination because you do not have a piece of paper. “For Concha, the returnees can be an engine for Mexico, but they need more government support.” The American dream can also be achieved in Mexico. Why not? “He concludes.