Seeking a better life does not come easy, there are many things one must sacrifice to pursue a better upbringing for themselves and loved ones. These two women packed their bags and left loved ones behind to better their future no matter what challenges came in their way.

Esperanza Castaneda and Gabriela Ochoa Zambrano both migrated from Mexico to have a better future, despite their challenges they both never gave up on the future they saw for their family.

Esperanza Castaneda at Placita Olvera. A place she would visit often when her children were young.

At the age of 32, Castaneda and her husband left their small town in Chimaltitán, Jalisco to make better money and give their 4 kids at the time a better life. One of the hardest things for her was leaving behind her children, luckily her mother-in-law was more than happy to help care for Castaneda’s children.

“We had a farm in our town, and during that time my husband said he wanted to come to the United States.” During that time they were fattening a pig to sell and collect money for their trip to the U.S. With the help of their family they were given advice on how to make money in the U.S.

The day before leaving Castaneda and her husband went to church to receive a blessing before embarking on their journey. On January 6th, 1976, Castaneda and her husband left at 5 a.m. with the goal to make better money. While she traveled on a ride, her husband rode on a mule to the nearest town to sell and receive more money for their trip.

Castaneda was not scared crossing the border, she was sad to leave her kids behind but made sure to remind herself of the goal she had. When she arrived to the U.S she decided to go to school to learn English, where she met some friends that knew of a job that did not require papers.

She worked inside lunch trunks and would wake up every day at 3 a.m. There she learned certain foods and utensils in English. At first, she was working for free and it took a while to earn money.

“I was making $60 a week, I loved my job,” said Castaneda. During this time she got pregnant with her fifth child and was no longer able to work inside the lunch trucks, she then decided to fix clothing items for people and that was her source of income during her pregnancy.

On May 2006, Castaneda received her citizenship and lives the life she dreamed of with her husband, kids and now grandkids.

Traveling to the U.S at an even younger age, Zambrano came with her sisters at the age of 14 and father by car in 1992. The trip was hard for her, she was scared and it required a lot of work, “It was hard because we had to get off from the car and then cross the border and cross the beach and mountains.”

She grew up in Guadalajara, Jalisco and had a comfortable life growing up with her mother and father. Leaving behind her mother was hard but she knew it was for her own good.

Gabriela Ochoa Zambrano standing outside her home. Traveling from Guadalajara, Mexico.

She faced the challenge of the language barrier, and big culture shock. Getting a job while going to school was hard for Zambrano.

“In high school, I wanted to drop out because it was so hard, I couldn’t get a job because I didn’t know the language, so I got a job cleaning houses and [babysitting children],” said Zambrano. She knew having two jobs at the age of 15 was not enough if she did not have an education.

Zambrano pushed through all her struggles and continued going to school, but after her mother passed away her father threw her out of the house giving up his responsibility.

Zambrano reminces about her past with photos.

She stayed with her neighbors until she was able to support herself. She then became pregnant and faced another struggle.

“I went through a lot, I had to work, I had to go to school, I was going through my mom’s death, no place to live and I still made it,” said Zambrano. Getting her citizenship was very hard, she faced a lot of obstacles but proved that she was good enough to be a citizen and became one in 2018.

Both women know that their life would be very different if they had not made the sacrifices to pursue a better life and both agree that life in the U.S is very different.

Zambrano feels good that she faced all her challenges and said all the hardships were worth it. “I want to pass down to my kids that life is hard and sometimes you fall, but you have to get up,” said Zambrano.

Castaneda feels great that she made the decision to come to the U.S, “ I am happy now, I see all my kids well off and my grandchildren are well off and in school,” said Castaneda. She sometimes reflects on how different life would be if she would have never left.

When asked about their feelings on people wanting to pursue the same dream but unfortunately cannot due to strict immigration laws they both have sympathy.

Zambrano said, “I feel sad because everybody just wants to come to work and have a better life, and now all these challenges [with the law] makes me sadder.”

Castaneda feels pity for the people wanting to come to the U.S. to have a better life, but she gives thanks to God that she is not in that position.

These two women sacrificed and worked hard to live the life they are living. Coming to America was not easy, but their stories are a reminder of the dream people want to achieve.

Hello, I love writing about any thing entertainment and sharing great LA based stories on Spanish culture.