Yolanda Chávez Leyva
Latina Leaders El Paso
Summary of Interview
Alicia was born in Ciudad Juarez Chihuahua, Mexico. When Alicia was 16 years old she got married and crossed the border thru the river and head to Albuquerque, New Mexico with her husband. As a young immigrant, she couldn’t get a job so she started cleaning houses and her first cleaning job was at a Doctor's house. With the money that she earned she saved a portion every month and used to send it to her mother back in Juarez.
Alicia then moved back to Juarez while her husband went and worked in Los Angeles. After a couple of months, her husband came back and moved back again to Albuquerque with her, during this period of time Alicia was pregnant with her first child. Once in Albuquerque the border patrol went and knocks on her neighbor’s door when she was there drinking coffee. They started asking them questions and were undecided about taking Alicia because she was pregnant, the border patrol decided to let her stay in Albuquerque because she was very young and pregnant. Once she gave birth to her baby, Alicia and her husband went back to Juarez and lived there for a year. While in Juarez Carlos Alicia’s husband worked in a newspaper from 6 pm to 6 am and they didn’t see him that much. Alicia got tired of not seeing her husband so she decided to go to the Consulate and ask what she needed to make her baby a US citizen. After 15 days they all got her citizenship and went back to Albuquerque and Alicia had a second baby.
After a couple of years, they moved to El Paso and joined a committee that then evolved into an organization to help agricultural workers, during this time they already had three children. While on the organization, Alicia helped organized the food and transportation in protests. After a couple of years the organization started focusing in different things, but always to help workers. They also started including the Bracero Project. Alicia felt great satisfaction by being able to help many workers with very little resources.
When Alicia was asked if she felt like she was a leader, she describes herself as a person who helped many people because she wanted to and because she did it by heart. Alicia thinks that you should do everything by heart without expecting something in return. All of the workers saw Alicia as a family because they were able to talk to her about everything and felt a close connection with her and her experiences.
Alicia mentioned during her interview that education is very important for her, but she says that sometimes education is not needed to succeed in life and she sees herself as an example. Alicia mentioned that back in the day it was very difficult to get an education and now a day you receive more help if you want to study. Her children got scholarships and went to college, while talking about college Alicia mentioned that it doesn’t matter if you are a man or woman you can always receive an education no matter what and that back in the day no one used to finish their education.
Alicia feels that she really got to accomplish everything she wanted to in her life without having an education and she want to continue helping workers fight for their rights.
Date of Interview
Length of Interview
Interview with Alicia Marentes by Yolanda Chávez Leyva, 2016, "Interview no. 1706," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.