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Fronteras: The story of one undocumented mother’s journey to the U.S. highlights universal fears, hopes and aspirations

Behind every person who migrates to a new place is a story that explains why they chose to leave behind everything and everyone they know.

The story of immigration is often universal: someone leaves their home in search of better opportunities and a better life.

Most Americans can relate to immigrant stories — even if they are not immigrants themselves. However, there are long-ingrained perceptions and opinions about immigrants that prove difficult to erase.

Some immigrants are still seen as “better” than others because of the way they arrived to a country, while others are considered the wrong color, the wrong religion, or come from the wrong countries.

Claudia García (not her real name) is a woman who has experienced anti-immigrant rhetoric.

She left her home in Mexico and came to the U.S. illegally in 2013 with her then two-year-old daughter Natalia (also not her real name), who had a hearing impairment.

Medical anthropologist Elizabeth Farfán-Santos explores Claudia’s harrowing journey to the U.S. in search of better medical care for her daughter in the book, “Undocumented Motherhood: Conversations on Love, Trauma, and Border Crossing.”

Courtesy of Elizabeth Farfán-Santos.
Elizabeth Fafán-Santos included blind-contour drawings in her book. The practice includes someone looking at a subject and drawing their image without ever looking down at the paper or lifting the pencil from the page. This image portrays sketches of Claudia García. Farfán-Santos says bling contour drawings speak well to the process of studying the same subject over and over again and getting different results.

Farfán-Santos says Claudia’s story is one many mothers can relate to.

“You can be a mother and not be undocumented and understand maternal guilt, understand aspiration for your kids, and fear,” she said.

Farán-Santos also connects Claudia’s story to the sacrifices her own mother made when she emigrated to Mexico from the U.S.

“I was trying to very carefully handle Claudia’s traumas and her wounds, I was also opening my own,” she said. “And I thought that was such an important thing to convey.”

Hear part 1 of the conversation with Farfán-Santos here.

Norma Martinez can be reached at norma@tpr.org and on Twitter at @NormDog1
Marian Navarro produces for Texas Public Radio's Morning Edition and Fronteras.