Immigrant Stories:  Elizabeth Monarrez

Published by Program Manager on

Immigrant Stories: Elizabeth Monarrez

Maria Elizabeth Monarrez was born in a little town in Durango, Mexico which is where most of her family still lives today. In Mexico, she had what she considered “a simple life.” She grew up taking care of her father’s cattle by taking them to the paddock and feeding them, tasks that she would still occasionally do as an adult. Otherwise, once she was married and had children, her days centered around family:  sending her kids to school, cleaning and doing household chores throughout the day. When there were events in the town plaza, such as sporting or other school-sponsored events in which her kids participated, she and her family would attend.

Maria Elizabeth values time spent with her husband and three children.

Like many migrants from Mexico, Maria Elizabeth has come to the US to work, in order to support her family – her three children and her parents – who still live in Durango, Mexico. Maria Elizabeth first came to the US in September 2021 but returned to Mexico in February 2022. She then came back to the US in July 2022. This was during the coronavirus pandemic, when Maria Elizabeth lost two of her family members. The pandemic also delayed the process of coming to the US for Maria Elizabeth.

Coming to the US was difficult for Maria Elizabeth because it required leaving her parents and kids behind. But her goal is to move up in life, by working and being promoted to better positions in her job, and to offer better opportunities for her children too. She sometimes calls her kids in Durango while she is out with her husband and knowing how far they are from one another makes her sad. Her hope is to have her kids join them in the US soon. She wants her kids to continue with their education through either trade school or college.

Maria Elizabeth dreams of being able to bring her children to the US so that they can benefit from better educational and professional opportunities than are available to them in Mexico.
For Maria Elizabeth and her husband, living in Texas represents a geographical compromise between their homelands: Chicago and Durango, Mexico.

Maria Elizabeth’s husband is from Chicago, but he agreed to relocate to Bryan, Texas to meet Maria midway, in a location closer to the US/Mexico border. She loves Bryan, for its small size and calm environment. She does not like huge cities, considering them “chaotic.”  Bryan is also where her brother lives and she was happy to be able to reunite with him after 20 years apart. Maria Elizabeth has a job at a factory in Bryan. When she is not working, she is likely looking after her adored cat or cooking dinner. Her hobbies include reading books and novels in Spanish and English or sometimes doing crossword puzzles.

The first time Maria Elizabeth visited BIIN was in September 2022, to take the placement exam required for English classes. She recalled that during the exam she felt very nervous and shy about pronouncing words in English. But now she attends English classes on Mondays and Wednesdays. On the days she works, she goes straight to BIIN for her English class. During a typical day at BIIN she begins by signing in, taking her seat, and attempting to do the warmup exercise written on the board. She enjoys the company of the classmates at her table and believes they all complement each other in the class. She loves the fact that students at BIIN do not look down on classmates who are struggling; everyone knows they are there to learn and to help each other. She is very thankful for the teachers, the interns, and the volunteers as they all help with their education – whether it be by planning lessons, modeling pronunciation, helping them understand the material, or in other ways.

Ann Willaert, teacher of the Level 1 English class, invites students to work together to describe the people in the pictures she gave them.
Participants in BIIN’s English classes gathered before Thanksgiving for a celebration of the holiday.

Initially, Maria was not aware of the other programs BIIN has to offer. But as we spoke, she learned about the IRA program. A few days later she stopped by BIIN during an IRA clinic, and the volunteers were able to help her. She hopes that more people will take advantage of all the programs that BIIN has to offer. She also suggested that expanding our radio presence would be a good way to reach others. Maria is very thankful for all the help that people at BIIN have given her and hopes that more people go to BIIN so that they can help them as well.

Thanks to fall 2022 English class intern Jonathan Cortez for interviewing Maria Elizabeth, and to English Program Coordinator Viviana Castillo, for editing and obtaining photos for this portrait.