SO, I'M A PROFESSOR AND I HAVE STUDENTS (and feelings to work through).. it's a long read.. sorry / by adriana monsalve

I have been an adjunct professor at Texas A&M International University (TAMIU) for about 8 months.  It's not something I tell people, not because I hate my students or hate the job.. it's quite the opposite really.  I find that being an educator is the most humbling and rewarding experience of my life thus far.  I've packed a lot into these 32yrs, but I never thought I would be a teacher.  I've had the privilege of sitting in classrooms of Professors I look up to and admire that today are friends and mentors.  I've always loved school, I love academic achievements, they are my favorite kind.  I value this profession greatly.   I just never thought I would do it.  Because as an artist I've always thought this is how I will make my living; as an artist.  Selling my stories, being commissioned for stories etc etc.. making enough money with the work that I do.  

I committed to being a photojournalist 100% at the age of 28.  Before than, I had jumped in and out, dabbled here and there, always claimed photographer and story teller, but I wasn't all in.  It's been 4yrs since I've been all in.  It's hard, It's really hard, being a creative will make you cry a lot but sometimes, most times, if you really want it, it doesn't matter.. it's worth it.  I think the fact that I'm still doing this past 30, means I'm here to stay.  *Anis Mojgani, says it best.. from his poem HERE AM I:

"..Using his sharpie tip writing: 
I was here
I was here, mothafucka
And ain't none of y'all can write that in the spot that I just wrote it in.."

He's eluding to something being made concrete.  He's solidifying lost memories / nostalgia from his youth.  He's claiming ownership on his life as its seen by others and himself in a permanent way.  And that resonates with me.  I am a photojournalist.. I am just beginning the work.  The fact that I am a professor does not take away from the fact that I am a photojournalist.  For a long time, until today actually; with the help of a homie; I was able to understand that.. 

You see, the reason I haven't told most people that know me that I'm a professor is because saying it, makes me feel like less of an artist.  Makes me feel like a sell out in many ways.  But I know very well that more than one identity can live inside of me at all times.  

So yeah, I'm Adriana and I'm an adjunct professor at TAMIU and this is a project that I did with my favorite class (yes we have favorites - don't believe us when we say we don't).  I shot these portraits and interviewed the subjects 2 weeks ago.  Some publications ran this story last week but they left out many of the students, so I've decided to post the whole thing here with everybody included and a write up by me  ^_^

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//// BORDER YOUTH ////

The Mexico-United States border is an international boundry running from the pacific edge of California, USA / Tijuana, Mexico to the South West edges of Texas, USA / Matamoros, Mexico. This boundry is a literal wall through most of the variaty of the terrain it traverses. Except for in specific areas of Texas. What we have in many border towns of Texas is a borderless border.  In the sense that, there is no barred wall that keeps one from entering; it is simply a river that separates two nations: The Rio Grande.  From one side of the river you can see into Mexico and wave at those washing their clothes by the river banks. They are two countries side by sidesharing resources, commerce, travel, work and more. But, if you dare cross, you are at risk ofbeing shot by Border Patrol.

Laredo is located on the north bank of the Rio Grande in South Texas, across from Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, Mexico. Laredo and Nuevo Laredo are sister cities. They share the same name because they share the culture and the recourses as well as the people. After all, Laredo is 96% Latino.  It is a fast growing city, said to be the fourth highest populated border town in the US. It is a major import/export city with more than a billion dollars worth of commerce moving across the USA and Mexico daily. Laredo has no barred wall. Trump wants to change that. When you hear him talking about building a wall, he is specifically speaking about the Texas border, because California already has a wall, it is Texas that proposes the "problem".

Worldwide more homes have been invaded and barricaded because of a wall. Talk of a wall in this town is everywhere and the fear is felt throughout the city. It seems we are at the edge of something violent and chaotic. The media coverage of immigration and the wall is pervasive as it repeats Trumps agenda. But in these bordertowns live the communities that will potentially feel these changes on all levels of their lives.

I am a photojournalist and adjunct professor at Texas A&M International University (TAMIU) and these are some of my students. What will happen to them in the coming months could shift the direction of their lives. These are their thoughts and views on what is happening right now and how it effects their daily lives and the things that matter to them most.

  ANDY ALVAREZ

ANDY ALVAREZ

“As a young American, what matters to me is my future.

If Trump wins I will be very disappointed in my country. We’re the country everyone is risking their lives to be in….and all for this loser to win the election?!?! No creo yo!” (Translation: I don’t think so!)

I’ll feel the need to work that much harder because I have no idea what Trump has in mind aside from a giant wall. This country should welcome anyone who wants to live a better life. I understand there’s certain arrangements people have to make, and that’s why I feel that the U.S. should make the citizenship process move a lot quicker for families and others that sincerely want to live a better life, because this is the country to do it in.

I’m not sure what I would tell someone who wants to become a citizen… like are you sure you wanna do this? My country be acting up and they show signs of hope only every so often.”

  CARO

CARO

“What happens in the coming elections matters.. the choice hasnt happened yet… so its not real. Once someone is chosen, ill be freaking out.

I wanna finish school already. I wanna decide wether to get my masters or not, I wanna do it in communications, and I don't know what that would take. There's so many things I wanna do and not finishing school is somehting that stops me from doing all those things. School is my fulltime job. One more semester and im free.

My family and freinds matters alot. I dont have a lot, but their cool. I've never been at a point in my life where I feel good with school freinds and work freinds and so close with my family.

Another thing that is really important to me is, figuring out who i am. thats taken me a long time. Im 23.. and I still don’t know who I am.

I wanna get into Roller Derby. When I’m done stressing out with papers, I'll be able to completely dive into that aspect. I really wanna try out. Even if I don’t get on the team, I wanna be a ref.”

  KAREN NAYELY JASSO

KAREN NAYELY JASSO

"Trump's plans will hit not only me but most of my family.  They come across from [Mexico] and some of them don’t have papers. My mom does, but some of my aunts don’t, my grandma just got her permit to come, and my uncle doesn’t have one either.

I don’t cross. I haven’t ever been to Nuevo Laredo. My mom crosses to visit my grandma.

If Trump was president, I just don’t know; a lot of people would be pissed. A lot of people in Zapata are pissed, even people that do have papers or were born here, because everyone in Zapata or Laredo or just the border, has family there. If Trump became president it would be a whole war.

What people should know is that just because they’re coming from Mexico, it doesn’t mean they’re coming and asking for money. My uncle, who doesn’t have papers, is a supervisor at the oil rigs. My aunts in Victoria don’t have papers and they own three of the biggest restaurants in Victoria, Texas.”

  CLARISSA ASTUDILLO

CLARISSA ASTUDILLO

“So i’ll admit I was sad when Bernie decided to drop out. Him endorsing Hillary… im still kinda weird about it. I do not want Trump to win, right now the world is really negative, its dark. With his racism and his rude comments. And last night, with the speech of his wife Melania, she did a speech about integrity… and the way it went down was the complete oppostie. And Pence is scary. To be honest, I think hes a little bit worse than trump. He has signed, for business not to allow Queer people to go in and out. He doesn't beleive in evolution, global warming or that smoking kills. And with those things ?!?! I'm already like NOPE. this man is crazy. All these things effect the border!

Number 1: We have a gay community, downtown, right next to the border. Its a small gay community, but we do have one. Bringing in more hate is gonna create more chaos. Like what happened with Orlando.

Number 2: The Wall !! thats gonna be horrible. My backyard is technically the river. Its awesome that you can see across the border. Like thats Mexico, this is Laredo, and literally two cultures are just hanging out doing the same things. Hanging out by the parks, and fishing at the same river. Downtown has a bad reputation already.. The wall would ruin it. I feel like it would look like a prison. Especially with our growing downtown area and the parks.. the parks probably wouldn’t exist anymore.

Number 3: There has been so many immigrants in my life that have helped me. Growing up I had a nanny, and she was from VeraCruz. She was just here working temporary, That woman is like another mother to me. Right now, there is a lot of violence going on in Mexico. I worry every day because I have a lot of family in Alcapulco. And thats one of the worst places right now with the drug cartel. I always think about them and their safety. They are stuck there, they have so many regulations, and if the USA goverment does pull security even tighter, when am I ever going to be able to see my family? I cant even go to Mexico anymore. The last time i went to Mexico I was 14. When I was young, I used to go every year to Alcapulco. But because of the Violence… Nobody in my family crosses. They dont cross and we dont either. I haven't seen them since I was 14."

  OJ RODRIGUEZ

OJ RODRIGUEZ

“My family is split half in Mexico and half here in the United States. There is no reason why you should look down on us, but since we are all hispanic we are all targets.

I’ve always imagined myself in a big city, I want to move up north.I love travelling: I’ve been to Las Vegas, LA, New Orleans, Atlanta, Washington DC, and New York ,but its a small list compared to a lot of people.

I wanna prove people wrong about my narcolepsy. People think I’m limited to whatever I do because of it. And that’s why I want to travel.

People ask me if Laredo is so dangerous, but I don’t feel danger here.

Danger is everywhere, but it’s on another level on the other side of the border. Laredo is a good place to live in, a good place to settle down. Laredo has so much potential. Hopefully Trump doesn’t win.’’

  KIMBERLY LISETH

KIMBERLY LISETH

“Right now, I am focused on school and doing the best I can academically. My job matters, because with my paycheque I’m able to help out in my house with expenses.

The border matters to me because my family and I happen to go over there for medical purposes, and most of my family live over there too.

If Trump is the next President, and a wall comes up and security at the border gets tighter? Well, first of all, this would become a problem for people who live on the Mexican side and cross everyday to come to school or work. I have familymembers who cross everyday for these reasons.

Everything will change. I don’t think I would feel safe, because Trump has some ideas and plans that would threaten the residency of my family, and there will be so many jobs taken away as well a decrease in education.

Honestly I would leave the border if I ever have an opportunity to do so, that will benefit me and the well being of my family, I won’t hesitate to leave.”

  ALE CADENA

ALE CADENA

“I travel across a lot, but I don’t have a passport. I’m sure if things change with the new presidency, this is gonna be troublesome.

Not being able to go back and forth would impact me directly: I visit my grandparents and my uncles and aunts. I don’t have medical insurance, so i go to the doctor in Mexico a lot. It’s also the simple things, like buying Mexican food – avocados are really cheap over there.

The misconceptions of the border are that in every house is a drug dealer and every house is going have illegal immigrants. No, like, that’s not the case. I’m a U.S. citizen, I’m going to school here, I’m not a drug dealer.

I love living here. I would never leave, it’s just so convenient for me, I get the best of both worlds.”

  GIGI CABALLERO

GIGI CABALLERO

“If Trump becomes president, it's going to effect Laredo a lot. Laredo has always been very, ‘Lets do things consisting of both sides!’, very Mexico and US sides together. Thats part of the beauty of it. The American side celebrates the Mexicans side independence day, Sept 16.  Downtown has so much to do with Mexico.  If you go and hang out you will see most of who is downtown is from Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. A lot of the business owners cross to open their shops here every morning. They will tell you that they have a lot of family that shouldn’t be here, and it’s hard and how they are trying to get papers for their family.

I have a bunch of family in Mexico that comes and stays with us. I have a tia that owns a restaurant right on the other side. We want her to come live here but she says her roots are there and she will never leave. And yeah theres a lot of danger but I love going to Mexico, thats where my culture is. My family crosses for everything. I don’t have insurance here so I go to the Doctor over there. My mom always says that if she could she would be in Mexico. And I’m the same way, don’t tell me twice, I’ll stay. Make me move to Mexico and i’ll be happy. If your scared of everything, your never gonna do anything, so I make sure we go.

If I was to leave the border, I would end up in Mexico. I would end up on the other side of the border. We still do a lot of the things that Mexico does because the culture is so entangled here but its not the same to cross as it used to be. Now you need your passport to cross, if you don’t have it they pull you in and ask you all these questions and it's just getting harder and harder.”

  AMANDA HERNANDEZ

AMANDA HERNANDEZ

“If the wall came up it would effect my boyfreinds family. His parents and his brother weren’t born here, only he was. That concerns me cuz dunno whats gonna happen to him. I don’t know if he would move to Mexico with his family.

Im still discovering myself. Im trying to figure out what I'm passionate about, if I can find that then I can find out maybe what I wanna do for work. Art interests me and opens me up a little but idunno yet. Im unsure what I wanna do after I graduate, Im interested in getting a masters but I dont know in what.

My main goal is LOVE. That's it. As cliche’ as that is. My siginificant other is my priority. I want a family, I want things I didn’t really have. There wasn’t affection that I wanted, So that's what I want.

I dont wanna leave Laredo cuz my family is here. I also wanna explore, but i dont wanna do it alone. My boyfreind has different priorities. His main goal is education. So hes going for his dreams, dunno what's gonna happen.

The border is not that bad. I still dont know spanish but i realize theres more things that i dontknow and i live here.”

  ARLEEN RODRIGUEZ

ARLEEN RODRIGUEZ

“Personally, If Trump becomes president, my life wouldn’t change that much if he were to build a wall. Im not a person that goes across often or has family members that live over there. Im not around people that depend on family to come. But it would effect the city tremendously. You have a lot of people that come every day for work or for school. That would be so hard. Those that come illegaly to work, I know theres a lot of people with their visa's but they actually come to work and make their living. I wouldn't wanna be in their shoes.

Laredo would be effected tremendously. It would probably effect Laredo economically, people cross and buy their stuff here.  A big blow to Laredo. It would become one of those cities… that if you drive by and you blink.. you dont see it.

I think i will always stay relatviely close to the border. I wouldn’t feel comfortable anywhere else. And thats because of family and race. I have had some experiences with racism, but not full blown because of how we live here; its just so hispanic. I don’t wanna feel that, I always wanna feel welcome. So in that case, I’ll always stay within the border.

What is important to me right now, at my age, where i’m at, getting school done, getting a degree is a top priority. I need to set the foundation, my security for the kids, for the family in general. My kids are my number one on my Mama Bear list, and my husband; I need to maintain my relationship with him and God, and my grandma."

  FRANKIE VERA

FRANKIE VERA

“All these potential changes to the border could have a big impact. We are talking about the wall coming up. Like me, personally, I’ll be fine. I can go back and forth as I want, thats my privilege of being an American. Most of my family lives in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, so we're talking about right across the border. And some of them actually struggle just coming to the United States just to pay a visit. It's not like they have a hidden agenda to come and make business over here, they just want to visit family for a day or two and then go back. That would get lost, in the future. I can always go visit them. But there are many who are not like me; they may not want to visit Nuevo Laredo because of the violence.

We are not talking about just my family or any one family.. we are talking about half of Laredo or more. That on it's own, changes the culture here. I don’t want to say that I’m completely proud of the culture we have here. But it is something so unique, so how could you want to lose it. And that's not only here in Laredo, thats border life, McAllen - all those other cities. Personally speaking, I can’t really tell you because for me, I can do whatever I want. I am really easy to adapt to changes. If it happens it happens, I don’t want it, but if it does it does.

The first 11 years of my life I was in Nuevo Laredo, Mex. I just immigrated here like 10yrs ago. I was born here in Laredo, but my parents are on the other side. I would consider leaving the border but it’s not linked to the violence or the lifestyle. I think for me it’s about trying to broaden my horizons. I am about to get married and me and my fiancé have been speaking about what we are going to do. Some people never get to leave the city. But for us, it's about experiencing more than we have here. Like I can’t say I want to go, but I definitely don’t want to stay.”

 * ALEX VARGAS

*ALEX VARGAS

 * YVETTE MEDELLIN

*YVETTE MEDELLIN

*The last two students were not available for interviews
*To see Anis Mojgani perform his HERE AM I poem, which I highly recommend.. click here