Jazmin Garcia identifies as a Mexican American saleswoman selling technology for nonprofits to grow their objectives. She was born and raised on the border between San Diego, California and Tijuana, Baja California. She currently lives in Chicago.

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Sergio: Please describe your childhood home

We lived in an apartment complex in San Diego, California, very close to the beach. Literally not even five minutes by car to the Tijuana border. We moved in my adolescence to a duplex owned by my aunt. We paid rent to her but she lived in the duplex with us. I am the oldest of four siblings and for most of my childhood, I lived with both my mom and my dad in the house. We tried to venture out at one point to living in a single family residence home, first in Tijuana because we couldn’t afford the United States. In this neighborhood, my friends called me La Gringa … Then we tried in Hemet as well. The housing crisis in 08 happened and my parents lost that home. My family was always encouraging us to be outside. To play outside. This idea of being on an iPhone or Tablet is shocking to me. The phones were for emergencies. After middle school, my dad was out of the picture and my mom tried to make due for me and my siblings. She worked a lot of hours. We wouldn’t see her most of the day. When she came home, we would try to make her food or give her massages. She used to tell us that whatever we did, we did not want to end up like her. You don’t want to be so exhausted that you can’t enjoy your life.

When I picture my childhood home, I picture parts of all three of my childhood homes, the apartment complex where we built community and everybody looked like us and we had birthday parties … the house in Tijuana … Then, the home in Hemet that was more about my immediate family.

We only spoke Spanish in the home. By the time I was in preschool and kindergarten, I was noticed for not having an accent when I spoke in English given that all my paperwork said that I was in a Spanish-dominant home. We were so Mexican in our food, music, and when things were good, my parents blasted corridos and banda. I was taught to be very proud of who I am. I remember one time I was at a restaurant and somebody told me my skin was dirt color and I didn’t understand what it meant and I told my mom and she said that some people just don’t like us. To this day, when I walk into any space, I carry an energy with me that shows that I am proud of who I am. I have confidence when I enter a room.

Sergio: When did you begin to fantasize about prosperity and did you tie your vision to an image of a home?

We were always crossing the border at Tijuana. My classmates weren’t doing the same thing. They weren’t waking up at 4am to sit at the border to cross into San Diego, so I wondered a lot about why we were having to do it. We moved around a lot and I knew that meant that we didn’t have money. Both of my parents were factory workers. One day, my mom’s hand got caught in a machine and she lost three fingers. Nobody helped her and she was no longer employed at that factory. So, I began to understand about sources of income and your job and your home. Tijuana wasn’t necessarily safe for somebody that they considered La Gringa because they associated that with money but I knew that wasn’t the case for us. When we lost our home in 08, I began to wonder what stability looked like. So, yes, I began to picture what my life and home would look like if it were more prosperous, stable and safe. A yard in the front, a yard in the back, light entering the home, light outside the home. A very white picket fence fantasy. 

Sergio: What inspired your fantasy?

Growing up, I did not have an ounce of Mexican American representation of what affluence looked like but I did watch the Disney Channel and Nickelodeon; nobody looked like me on the shows I watched. When I watch it now, I am shocked by the lack of representation. I loved Lizzie Maguire. I can’t believe I was watching this white girl in her white life with her white family and loving it. I didn’t make that connection and I didn’t get that her best friend Miranda was a Latina, I think Cuban, but she got sent away and we never got to understand her character at all. It was always about the white girl with her blonde hair. Even today, I want to be honest with myself, I wonder why I have my hair dyed blonde when it’s not my natural color. I am still today working through why I unknowingly have such a distorted view of beauty and why I equate blondeness to beauty. I am very bothered by the lack of sun that I have access to in Chicago and I feel so pasty and I feel so Vitamin D deficient but I remember the days when I had dark brown hair and my caramel skin. For years, I saw only white women on TV, I am only now understanding all its complexity.

Sergio: What does your home look like present-day?

My present-day home is a luxury skyscraper. We live on the fourth floor. Corner apartment. It is very community centered. We have two bedrooms. Me and my partner live in this home and we use the second bedroom for our guests because we have big families. I have 4 siblings, she has 8 siblings. She is Colombian and Puerto Rican. We have everything near us in downtown Chicago, close to parks, close to stores, I can see the Sears Towers from my floor to ceiling windows. Beautiful landscape of the entire city. Walk-in closets with a full bathroom. Living room and kitchen for community building. Six community rooms, two gyms, two pools … it’s very nice. This home represents both me and my partner. We put a lot of Colombian artifacts and my stuff from the Mexican culture with the bright blues, whites and yellows.

Sergio: Is there a connection between your former fantasy and your current reality?

When you compare my childhood fantasy with my current reality, I know that I have surpassed my dream. I feel very safe. I feel a profound sense of inspiration and hope because of the view that I wake-up to everyday. When I become a mom, I do have a vision that is different from how I am living but I am currently literally living a dream.

I do have the fantasy of owning a home but I never had the means to afford it. It was only recently when I got the job in corporate America that it became more possible. My salary jumped exponentially and my credit is built but I needed to have some history at my current job before I could get pre-approved. My partner and I are working toward the goal of living in the suburbs because that is ultimately what we want. My future family home dream is now a multi-family unit where we can live on one floor and then rent some of the other units. Then, our children could inherit them and have that safe, stable home. 

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Sergio C. Muñoz is a Mexican banker living in Floral Park, CA. He is the owner of Intelatin, LLC. His work has been published on PBS and in ReVista, the Harvard Review of Latin America, Studio 360 and...