One Foot On Each Side of the Border Fence

Words & Images by Melissa Moreno

I was born in Tijuana, Mexico to an "American" mom and a Mexican dad. She is Hispanic, but was born in East L.A. So because of that fact, I have derived citizenship and am a bi-national citizen of the US and Mexico. Proudly. What that means in simpler terms is, I can cross the border often, legally, and reside in either country. Legally. 

At the young age of six we moved just across the fence, 5 miles north to the other side, and came home. To my home, Imperial Beach, California. From Imperial Beach, you can take a walk on the beach, head south, and actually walk up to the international fence that extends into the Pacific Ocean, see the people buying street food on the beach in Mexico. But you can't touch it. Because CBP (Customs Border Patrol) is constantly patrolling it. Although that's another story. 

The border crosser life for me at age 6, was far from over. See, for my Hispanic family it is quite difficult to let go of family. It is fearful to start over in another state. To have Sunday dinners in the kitchen by yourself. Things are also cheaper. And life is a bit simpler. Dad's business was run in Mexico. My oldest brother lived in Mexico. My big brother's and my life took place in the US. Our place of origin was 5 miles south. So we would commute. Back to TJ (Tijuana). Back to IB (Imperial Beach). Every weekend. Everyday. While we sat in three hour waits at the port of entry. Yes, every day. At one point. 

Having one foot on each side of the U.S./Mexico border fence as a young woman has been peculiar, but living consistently crossing the border as a child, learning to love the sunrise while sitting in a car, and memorizing how to people watch, is what taught me to exist without much and appreciate the world's and people's beauty. 

As a 10 year old, my brain thought in English. The Pledge of Allegiance I would recite was to the American flag. The friends I would make were American friends. When I returned to Tijuana on weekends, yes I felt out of place. I missed home. As a teenager I missed out on high school socials, get-togethers, and experimenting. The friends I had, I didn't see till Monday. Because on Friday's we went to TJ. 

By age seventeen, I was the talented drummer girl. But only in the US. In Mexico I was just the awkward introverted girl who relied on her inner creativity to express life. Well, maybe I was that in both countries. In both countries I didn't learn how to apply makeup. I didn't dress in dresses. I didn't want to dance the Mexican rancheritas or the cumbias that my cousins were dancing. Because I was clumsy. Because I wasn't graceful. In both countries my taste in music includes a number of distinct rock music sub-genres. I could live off my pair of Chuck Taylor's, a hamburger, and my disc-man in my backpack and I would be okay. The siblings I have: male. The best friends I had: boys. I learned to find the friends who would be okay with the same stuff, such as no makeup, no dresses, and hamburgers. 

Now interestingly I have two extraordinary daughters, 7 and 2, and the coolest baddest women friends. In this precise moment in life I find myself living in Tijuana, Mexico, and crossing the border every day for work. Never did I think I would do this again. But the turns life takes, eh? The time I have spent in Tijuana, Mexico as an adult this year, however, has taught me to grow a little bit of love for this overlooked corner of the world. A love I thought I'd never feel. Sort of like that annoying ex-boyfriend you just love to hate. But here I am. Dining out at every taco stand, taking every walking tour, meeting the coolest people, trying to fit in, but always feeling so foreign. And when I go back home, I do admit, I'll always feel too foreign for home, too foreign for Mexico, and just never the right amount of homegrown for both.

Melissa writes about feeling beautiful, expressive, imperfect in her own awkwardness while celebrating being an introvert in a world that's always talking. Her message is that hatred or rejection due to judging differences is not okay and that there is a purpose for all humans. She hopes to remind young girls or women that they are enough and invaluable.