Lindzee Alvarez: Bright Opportunities
These immigrant stories are biographies and brief interviews of local immigrants.
I was born in Yakima, Washington to a hardworking family. My dad had worked in orchards, as a garbage man, was drafted into the army and served in Vietnam, worked in cement, and eventually was identified as someone who had great “people skills” and brought in from the labor work to the office. That one chance changed our family. My parents wanted us to have every opportunity out there. Circumstances were not great in Yakima, so my parents decided to move us to the Seattle area. I went on to earn a Bachelor’s, Master’s, and post Master’s. I’ve taught in the Federal Way, Highline, and Bellevue School Districts. In addition to working in the Bellevue School District, I have also been working with the University of Washington in the area of Environmental Health. Although my work takes a great deal of my time, my biggest pride and joy is my son Colby. Being a mom has been my biggest accomplishment.
Why did you choose to come to America?
My grandparents came to the United States from Mexico for employment. Due to the fact that our family at the time had little education, opportunities were limited. The lack of education wasn’t because it wasn’t desired, but because the family needed the children to work as well. The path of their migration was dependent on the agriculture need. They would come into Texas and go to places like California, Nevada, and eventually ending in Yakima, Washington. Yakima provided work almost year round. This was where they grew roots. More and more family members came to Yakima.
What were you expecting? How did reality match up?
My family has already talked about all of the many opportunities. They were able to send their kids to school and the adults work. This was ideal.
What was the process/journey of coming to America like?
The journey was not easy for them. Because they were not in one place for very long, the living conditions were not always good. My dad tells stories of them living in the orchards in make shift housing. They eventually saved money and purchased a home. This was the first time they had running water. The home was small and there were multiple children sleeping in the same beds. Food sometimes was scarce. The eldest boys would get more food, and sometimes the only food because after school they were then working in the orchards with the adults. Since my dad was the youngest, he says he was often hungry. Even clothes were scarce. His feet were wet and battered because they didn’t have full soles. Teachers at his school would often send home food and clothing. He also would get the school Christmas tree before the winter break to take home to the family. He still talks about that to this day. Eventually they saved enough money for a cow and chickens to provide food. My grandfather worked in the orchards until his death at the age of 83.
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What was life like outside of America? What was life like as part of an immigrant household in America?
I hear stories of how they were encouraged to only use English when they were outside of the home. This was a way my grandparents thought it would help them “blend” more. Eventually the language started to fade. That became an issue because our family felt like they were losing their Mexican roots.
What were yours/your parents’ occupations like before and after immigrating?
My dad started out working as a kid working in the orchards. He eventually went to college and got into International Business and became very successful.