Into the Night

What makes the desert beautiful . . . is that somewhere it hides a well.” — Antoine de Saint Exupéry

That summer night in the desert a few weeks before my seventh birthday is etched in my memory forever. We met our smuggler around sunset, when he came to our motel room to pick up my mom and all six of her kids, each of us with some degree of ailment—a broken arm, a bacterial eye infection, a cough. We followed the smuggler into the Tijuana-San Diego desert through a hole in a metal fence. By nightfall, we were hiding from helicopter lights above looking for people like us.

The enormity of what was happening was palpable: my mom was risking our lives for “the American Dream.” This was a single night in our long story of resilience in the face of uncertainty. Life adversities can build character but can also tear it down. Growing up in minority communities that met trauma with resiliency also meant I witnessed the deadly impact of living with a lifetime of cumulative stressors.