Nevada Immigration Profiles: Vicky

by Maribel Cuervo

Image - Maribel Cuervo

Vicky was born a male in Mexico and grew up in a small town outside Guadalajara.  He arrived in Reno on his 11th birthday and has lived in northern Nevada since then.

Listen to an interview with Vicky.

“I came here because my grandparents came,” Vicky said. “They were living here, my grandparents. My grandpa always lived in LA (Los Angeles). He always lived in Downey, California. And all my uncles were in the Polo business and all those things. So one day, he decided to move to Reno and he decided to just bring my grandma who was living in Mexico at the time, and I was always with my grandma,” Vicky said.

With the onset of sexual awareness, the young boy began to change into the person who would become Vicky. Her grandmother was an important role model.

“I grew up with her living with her very close with me. Always she was a businesswoman, and I was always like her right-hand woman,” Vicky said. “I was always helping her, always working by her side. So when she decided to make the move and migrate over here, she also decided to bring me. She was like, well, you need to go to the United States and learn English and just go to school. She had a lot of plans for me.”

Maribel asked if Vicky was excited to be in the United States. Did she embrace American culture and looking back, is it what she expected?

“I wanted it badly. I wanted it more than anything in the whole world. Because, you know, I was just into like the whole American TV shows and I always wanted to live here. Obviously, it was a completely different world in my mind than what it really is, but I still love it.”

Vicky speculates that being transgender in the United States is easier than in Mexico.

“For me being transgender, I feel like if I would have lived in Mexico, I wouldn’t be as free as I am here. But then again, I’m just thinking that because I didn’t live there, right? I lived there, but not as a teenager. I got here right on my teenage years, and everybody was so accepting. Everything was like almost normal, and everybody was just always supporting me.”

Vicky said she probably would have been as successful and happy living in Mexico as she has been in the US.  She does not want to disparage her home country through comparison, but perhaps more than anything about the US, Vicky said she values the openness of American society and loves living in the US and in Reno in particular, especially as a transgender person.

“I feel like if it would have been in Mexico, I would have been a little more scared. The fact that I went through my teenage years here and I didn’t have to worry about everybody that knew me and my crowd. I will say it was a whole a fresh start for me. I could be whoever I want it to be.”

Maribel commented that it sounds as if Vicky’s transition to the US has been without major problems, so she asked if adapting to the United States as a transsexual has been easy.

“It has been very … not always easy, but there’s always been potential,” Vicky said with a smile.

Throwing honey at hate

“I’ve had a pretty smooth transition for the whole thing because I started really young,” Vicky said about growing up transgender in northern Nevada. “People never really liked me as a male. I would say I feel like I fit in the community as a woman. People accept me, and I have a partner and I feel safe and respected. Reno’s a very good place, very understanding. Obviously, there’s some close-minded people, but like I said, I’ve always found a way to prove them wrong, and they always end up loving me. I throw honey at hate,” Vicky said.

The power of empathy and positive energy guides Vicky’s actions.

“I don’t live for nobody. I live for myself. And if they’re not happy, then that’s their problem, their mind,” Vicky said. “If they can’t accept that, that’s their problem. That might be something they need to work on themselves,” Vicky said. “I’m happy and I live my life fully. I’m kind to everyone. I’m a firm believer that you get the energy back that you put out, so it’s worked for me this far.”

For Vicky, stemming the rise of anti-immigrant sentiment so prevalent in the United States today is a matter of education and honest communication between communities.

“If you let things like that affect you, they will bring you down and they’ll get to you. They’ll get to you and make you want to quit or stop doing something for fear of people, close minded people judging you whatever. But I just take it as an opportunity and then encourage myself to prove people wrong, you know. Give them a different perspective that we (Latinos) are good, hard working people, and we’re here to make it better not to take anything or make it worse.”

Vicky works in the food service industry and said she inherited the traits of determination and working hard from her family.

“I encourage them (my fellow Latinos) to live freely and live happy and live with no fear. As long as you wake up every day and fight for your dream and fight to make yourself happy. Nothing can stop you. All these things that people speculate about. They just, it could take 5 to 10 years for any of those things to really happen. Live in the moment and make, make yourself better every day,” Vicky said.

What was the most difficult aspect of US culture and society to reconcile?

“I was always surrounding myself with obviously all my Latinos and I’m very open to hanging out with anybody that wants to be friends or whatever. The culture shock was, it was at first, it was like a lot because obviously I didn’t speak the language. I knew scripts from movies, Disney movies, the Little Mermaid and things. That’s how I learned English you know. The language was a big barrier at the beginning.

“I wish people in Mexico would start picking up more English and stuff, which I’m sure they are now, but back then in those years there was not as much internet and stuff as there is now, so I want to say that the language barrier when I got here was the most difficult thing. But you know, I applied myself to school and within a year or two I was I was able to communicate freely with everyone.”

Home means Nevada for Vicky.

“Reno became home. Home to me is Reno. People ask me, ‘where are you from?’ I’m from Reno because I lived here longer than I lived in Mexico now. I’m always going to be Mexican. I am so proud. I love my culture. I love my Spanish. I love everything about my background, but I also grew up here, so Reno is home to me.”

Only a strong economic opportunity would pull Vicky away from Reno.
                                                                                           
“Well, there’s definitely things, there’s places that I will like to live and explore, but I think that in the end, I’ll always find a reason to come back to Reno. Like maybe a job. The project that I’m working on right now, they’re talking about opening locations in Miami and other exotic locations. And of course, that will be something that will bring me out of Reno. So profitable opportunity will be a good reason for me to move away from Reno.”

When asked if she has advice for others who come from other places, especially Spanish speaking countries, Vicky had a positive message.

“Even if it’s half a step towards something great, something that makes you happy, go for it. Don’t let nothing, no fear, or anybody else’s thoughts stop that.”