Jesus M.

Jesus was born in Guerrero, Mexico and was brought to the United States by his parents, who were leaving their home for a better life at the age of six years old.

 

“I crossed through the Port of Entry in a car and my mother crossed through the mountains. My mother was caught various times trying to cross over to the US. It was a quick process for me but not for my mother, it took a week for her to get across. We've been here since 1998.”

 

Growing up Jesus carried sadness because he was not able to remember his home country. It’s not until recent times that he’s been able to reconnect to his memories through family photos.

When coming to the US, Jesus and his family decided to stay in San Diego. Growing up in the US from age 6, Jesus did not understand what it meant to be undocumented. Even with the understanding, he did not have paperwork, Jesus would carry huge pride for being Mexican. He liked the thought of being fully Mexican and not half.

 

“I remember that I really enjoyed learning Spanish and English. I learned the language early on and still kept my Mexican identity and held it really close to me.” 

 

His years after elementary school were tough. He began to lose interest in school and in his school work. 

 

“It's unclear what I was going through at that time. Pair that with knowing I was different. I didn't know what queer was, I didn’t know what gay was. I didn't know what I was feeling when I was little.”  

 

In elementary school, Jesus carried uncertainty about his family staying in the US. This kept him from having certain experiences as a young boy.  “I was going through the process of feeling different. I really didn't know if we were going to go back home to Mexico the next year.”

Being brought up Catholic, Jesus was encouraged to join the church youth group. While being part of the youth group, Jesus would participate in yearly church retreats. During one of the retreats, he received guidance from a retreat counselor who talked to him about being better in school. In many religions being LGBT is not accepted, this caused Jesus to feel confused and a disconnect from his religion.

 

“I remember Googling Sodom and Gomorrah, which according to the Bible, the men of Sodom were wicked, sinners against the Lord, and He decided to destroy them. I remember reading what people interpreted Sodom and Gomorrah as. I mean, I don't know if it exists or not, but now I have a different relationship with religion and spirituality. I was able to ultimately come to terms with who I am now.”

 

Jesus used the ways the church taught spirituality, faith, and acceptance by weaving his inner feelings about himself into the workshops and into the retreats.

 

“I remember using the space of the church program to be able to share my story as the way to also speak about my queerness, subliminally.”

 

Through his involvement with the church, Jesus was able to lead workshops and gain skills around community organizing and public speaking to groups of people.

 

“I ended up leaving because I didn't feel comfortable sharing my queerness and being part of the church. I couldn't continue denying my queerness.”

Jesus didn’t understand what it meant to be queer in his younger years growing up. He felt there was something very different about him in regard to the other boys in his class, something he could not put his finger on.

 

“I remember in middle school, a classmate called me something like “puto.” I remember being so angry at him and holding onto that for a while. I also remember not wanting to be that, to be that “joto” (or) “puto” Whatever he had called me.”

 

Having been referred to by these derogatory terms in his formative years, Jesus internalized his feelings around the negativity surrounding these words. In his high school years, Jesus found support around his sexuality through his friendships.

 

“There wasn’t any Gay-Straight Alliance in high school because my school wasn't that open to LGBTQ, it was like ‘yes or no.’ There were still challenges. It was not until after I graduated, and an openly gay person made it into the cheer team, then it started pushing the boundary at my school.”

Jesus came out to his friends as bisexual and in 2011 came out as queer to his family. His experience coming out was different than what he imagined it would be. Jesus assumed his father would react in a negative way and his mother would be more understanding of his decision. 

 

“It felt good to come out and have my parents know me for me. When I came out to my parents it was interesting because my dad reacted like I thought my mom would, and my mom reacted like I thought my dad would.” 

 

His parents were supportive of his decision. Jesus identifies as queer because it is an umbrella term.

 

"It’s ambiguous, it’s not just one way of being.​ I connected with queer more because of its politics and challenges, it pushes back that it’s abnormal, different, weird. At first, I didn't embrace the term because I didn't yet embrace a critical identity. You can be queer and trans, you can be queer and pansexual, you can be queer and bisexual. It is fluid.”

Jesus continued struggling to keep focus through his high school years. During his last two years, he reached out to his school college advisor for guidance. Around the same time, Jesus began to explore what it meant to be undocumented. It was then when he began to see his academic potential. He began to try harder in school, bringing his overall GPA from a 2.4 to a 3.0.

 

“My parents came here to give me and my sisters a better life. I spoke with myself and told myself, ‘okay, Jesus, your family is here working hard and I'm over here not taking advantage of opportunities and being the best, I can be.’” That's when things started to change. I started to do more of my school work and I start asking more questions, engaging.”

“In 2010 there were resources for undocumented people but not as much as there are now. I also had disbelief of going to Community College. I felt that I was ‘less than’ and only dumb people go to Community College. I had to undo that mindset. I told myself that you're not better than anybody else for going to Community College and you're not less than anybody else for going there.”

He attended Mesa College where he joined various activist groups and took classes in Chicano/Chicano studies and Black Studies. He began to learn more about his culture and the ways in which people of color face injustices. The class he enjoyed most was black studies. He loved the learning environment his black studies professor created. They would learn from lectures and story-telling.

 

“Rarely, we had power points and things like that. She spoke about the black experience and spoke about the African thought of seeing the world. It really opened me up to a lot of things that I've never put attention to. That class was very healing.”

During his time in Mesa college, Jesus joined various extracurriculars such as Chicano Student Movement of Aztlan M.E.C.H.A . and The Black Student Union.

 

“Through joining M.E.C.H.A.  I fell into a pool of organizing, really that's how I ended up being here. Of course, I said yes to a lot of things along the way, I did not passively arrive here.”

 

He represented the Mesa Community College M.E.C.H.A club in the collaborative group called “Enero Zapatista” which host events for the month of January to commemorate the Zapatista movement in Chiapas, Mexico of the year 1994. He organized the art and gallery shows.

 

“I've met amazing people during this time which some of them are still my very close friends, it became a community.”

 

Enero Zapatista was the start of his interest in organizing. After being part of the collaborative group, Jesus was invited to meet with other immigrant youth to talk about the community’s needs. Out of those meetings, the collective agreed they needed a center for undocumented youth. The San Diego Immigrant Youth Collective was then created as a platform to come together to reclaim our humanity and support our collective and individual work to uplift ourselves and our communities. Through this group, I was able to immerse myself into organizing around immigrant rights.” Being part of these groups has allowed Jesus to raise his voice in several ways.

Jesus was the Co-MC for a rally in May 2015 for Anastasio Hernandez Rojas, a migrant who was allegedly killed by border patrol in 2010. About 20 border patrol agents have been charged with harassed and beating Rojas to death. To this day, there has been no justice for Rojas’ family. In 2016 when the supreme court ruled equally on DAPA, Jesus was invited to share some of his poetry during power hour at Alliance. “Alliance” is a community empowerment organization working to ensure that all people can achieve their full potential in an environment of harmony, safety, equality, and justice.

 

"Poetry and I, we met in school. Poetry was very rigid, poetry was very European and nonetheless, it was saying ‘come with me Jesus, let’s write."

 

Using his poetry, Jesus facilitated a workshop with Alliance in response to DAPA. Shortly after, Jesus worked as a canvasser and then Human Rights Organizer for Alliance.

Despite obtaining his DACA in 2013, most of his activism work has been voluntary. During this time, Jesus was transferring to San Diego State University. Jesus also applied and was awarded two internships during this time, where he was able to meet and network with more activists in a formal setting. One internship was with the ACLU, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that reaches out to and represents anyone whose fundamental freedoms have been violated. The other internship was with Project Yano, a project that primarily serves young people who are looking for job training, wish to go to college or want to make a difference in other people's lives.

“I didn't think I would be working in the organizing field I wanted to until I reached 30 years of age, so DACA definitely sped up that process.”

On September 5, 2017, the Trump administration announced they will be rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Prior to this decision by the current administration, Jesus prepared by taking a bath in some herbs to release the negative energy and tension he was carrying. He prepared for the worst by expected the best. He Co-MC’ed the DACA rally in front of the San Diego County Administration where DACA recipients and allies came together to express their anger and pride with each other.

“I'm glad that even though I am undocumented, although I'm not privileged in certain ways, I am privileged in certain ways because of my DACA status. I don't know how I would be had a grown up in Mexico. I think it's very interesting that I had to be brought all the way over here to learn Mexican history.”

 

Jesus feels pride for being from Mexico but also feels strange with the reality that he didn’t grow up in Mexico. “I grew up here and this is my home, but also Mexico is my home. They’re both my home.”

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