Arizona Republic editorial writer and columnist Linda Valdez has a new book that tells the love story about her and her husband, the ways they tried to get him to Arizona legally and the difficult truths she learned about immigration. Valdez talks about her book.
Jose Cardenas: Arizona Republic editorial writer and columnist Linda Valdez has a new book out. "Crossing The Line, A Marriage across Borders" tells the love story about her and her husband, the ways they tried to get him to Arizona legally and the difficult truths she learned about the immigration system. Joining me now to talk about the book is author Linda Valdez. Linda, welcome back to "Horizonte." We've been a guest on the show wearing your other hat as a journalist and columnist for the Arizona Republic and those two things overlap a great deal. You cover among other things immigration issues but let's talk first about the book. What led you to decide that you wanted to share this very intimate love story with the rest of the country?
Linda Valdez: It is a bit of a departure to put my personal life out there so publicly the reason I wanted to do it is because there's so much ugly rhetoric about Mexico and immigration and Mexican immigrants, and I think a lot of that is born of unfamiliarity. People are afraid of what they don't know and through my marriage and my experience, I got to know things that I certainly never knew, and I think most Americans don't know about life in rural Mexico, what it's like, what the people are like and I thought sharing that has value, maybe people can begin to understand that there really is nothing to fear.
Jose Cardenas: We should begin, we've got several pictures, I want to start with one of you and your husband, I think it's a wedding photo.
Linda Valdez: Yes, that's our wedding photo. That's my husband Sixto and I, 27 Â½ years ago.
Jose Cardenas: How did you meet?
Linda Valdez: I was down there on a trip through Copper Canyon and he was working in one of the hotels down there. He hurt his ankle and he had to take the train back. We sat next to each other and he practiced his English, I practiced my Spanish, we got to know each other on that trip.
Jose Cardenas: And one of the recurring themes is Midwestern girl and how you came to fall in love with Mexico. It took a number of years, in terms of being able to get him across the border.
Linda Valdez: It took us a while to get him across the border. He came to Nogales several weeks after we met. We spent about six weeks with him on that side of the border and me going down several times a week to try to meet with him. We would sit in the plaza down there, we would talk, and we tried to get him a visa. I went through the whole process with the affidavit of support and he would go to the embassy and they would turn him down. Turn him down flat. So after this trying and I felt rather betrayed by my country, I was a journalist, I knew how to go through the process, but the process didn't work. So one day he went through a hole in the fence. Now, it's a little harder to imagine now when you look at the fence because it's become a militarized zone down there but in those days you could go to the McDonald's and you could sit there, the McDonald's on the Arizona side and you could watch people coming and going across the holes in the fence, many of them were just coming to go shopping because it was easier than coming through the official line, maybe they didn't have papers, but now, it's much more difficult.
Jose Cardenas: So he comes through the fence, did you marry shortly after that?
Linda Valdez: Two weeks after he got to Tucson. I didn't drive him up from Nogales. He thought that was risky, he didn't want to risk getting caught and I would lose my job or he was very concerned about those things. He went across the border, he had a passport because we had gone through the process to try to get him a visa. He got on the bus. When the immigration came on, they went down the line and they looked at people's passports, they didn't look for his visa, they didn't ask him anything, he handed them the passport, they looked at the picture, looked at him, handed it back and he was on the way.
Jose Cardenas: That's one of the little miracles, every chapter begins with that and that was one of them, why that thematic usage throughout the book?
Linda Valdez: The whole experience seemed rather magical or miraculous. I certainly did not go to Mexico with the intent of falling in love. But getting to know him, marrying him, changed my life in such wonderful ways. And it changed my mother's life, too. She got to know him. It just was a completely enriching experience and there were many things that happened that felt like this had to be meant to be. Had to be a miracle.
Jose Cardenas: Some of them in Mexico, we've got another picture that has to do with the chicken and is this your mother-in-law?
Linda Valdez: That's Sixto's mother and that's our daughter. And the chicken, the chicken plays prominently in the first chapter of the book. My husband caught the chicken because they felt my mother-in-law needed some soup. She was coughing a lot. Turned out she was very ill, that was the last picture I ever took of my daughter and her grandmother together. My mother-in-law died shortly after that.
Jose Cardenas: And what did you learn about the Mexican people by spending time there? I know there's some culture clash when you first got down there. I've read the book, but what would you say was the most striking aspect of that experience?
Linda Valdez: Perhaps how welcoming they were. I was completely -- I did not speak the language very well. I still don't speak the language very well. But my husband took me down there, introduced me to his family and they absolutely embraced me. And it was a year or so later my sister and her son and my mother and I went down there, we were going to stay with her and then take the train through Copper Canyon. There was a flood and the whole community had to evacuate onto a hill. And we were there for several days. And again, the community just embraced us. I mean, there was no -- there was no sense of oh, these are foreigners or who are these people and why are they here? That's what struck me very much, the loving acceptance and the real sense of community.
Jose Cardenas: And is it your sense that the degree of acceptance by Mexicans on the Mexican side of the border of Americans is greater than American acceptance of Mexicans?
Linda Valdez: I guess it all depends on the people. My family accepted Sixto but I'm not sure that a family of Mexicans who would be stranded in Phoenix would be treated with as much respect and care as we were treated on that hill.
Jose Cardenas: And I want to use our last picture to kind of tie back into the immigration issue. It's a picture of you on vacation on the Statue of Liberty.
Linda Valdez: That was a year ago. We went to the Statue of Liberty.
Jose Cardenas: And you mentioned in the book, I think it's in the book, certainly a description of it, that the border has become the Ellis Island of the United States. Talk about that.
Linda Valdez: Well, I believe that is exactly what it is. We are a nation of immigrants, we've always been a nation of immigrants and today's immigrants are coming across the Mexican border and they will shape the future of this country. And we should be a great deal more welcoming and appreciative of them and what they're bringing to us.
Jose Cardenas: So a lot to read in the book, it's been out what, a few months now?
Linda Valdez: Yes.
Jose Cardenas: And available on Amazon?
Linda Valdez: It's available through Amazon, you can also get it at Changing Hands I believe.
Jose Cardenas: Well, congratulations and look forward to reading your editorials, as well. The book is a definite must-read.
Linda Valdez: Thank you.
Jose Cardenas: Thank you so much. And now an update to tell you about. We first introduced you to the Arizona Autism Charter School, the state's first approved charter school focused on students with autism, on our show last year when we spoke to Diana Diaz Harrison, the founder and director about their mission. Now, the Arizona Autism Charter School will expand from a K-5 school to now serve students into the middle school grades six through eight. The Arizona State Board for charter schools made the decision this month. And that's our show for tonight. Thank you for watching. From all of us here at "Horizonte" and your Arizona PBS station, I'm Jose Cardenas. Have a good evening.
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