Wences Blanquet was only four years old when he illegally crossed the Mexican border into California. Student reporter Paolo Zialcita recently interviewed Blanquet, a Reno resident, for NPR’s Next Generation Radio Program to learn more about his first days in America.
Blanquet said what he remembers most about the journey are the long bus rides at night through Mexico.
“Whenever I smell the diesel smell, it reminds me of being four and going on the start of this big epic trip with my mom,” said Blanquet.
Once in Tijuana, Blanquet recalls meeting with a coyote that led him and a few others across the border.
“I remember we had to sit very quietly with a blanket over us at the back of a car. It was a small car, and it was dark and nobody made a sound, except for the driver,” said Blanquet. “The rest of us were just quiet and huddled as best as we could in the back seat - the floor part of the car.”
Blanquet said his mother, Maria Nelson, actually spent two years in California to establish a residence prior to eventually going back for her son in 1991. During her absence, Blanquet remembered harboring negative feelings towards her.
“It was just anger and sadness for a while, a lot of frustration, and when I was finally with her again, a lot of those feelings came back because there was a lot of unanswered questions,” said Blanquet.
Blanquet and his mother lived in Yucaipa,California during their first year in the U.S., where Blanquet attended kindergarten. There, he said he had a hard time assimilating to his new country.
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This story was produced during the NPR Next Generation Radio program, in partnership with the Reynolds School of Journalism at UNR and Reno Public Radio.