I’m from Arizona, I grew up there. My dad is from there and my mom is from a small village on the Altam reservation, just a small mining community west of here. My grandfather and father worked out there until it shut down. I worked there for a year before it shut down; I was like eighteen or nineteen years old. It was devastating for the community when it shut down. It was rough because they were on strike before it shut down for three or four years. People had to work, so a lot of people crossed the picket line. They started working and families were divided, everybody screaming at each other. The towns were divided by union workers and non-union workers. Everybody left so there were a lot of vacant houses, blocks and blocks. It was pretty bad. Then I had to come over here and find work. I started out just working in fast food restaurants. Tried running my own business but that didn’t pan out. Now I’m working for IHS, I’m a housekeeper there, keeping everything clean.
I can probably trace my family in this part of Arizona to my grandparents. My dad’s dad was a miner in the 1930’s or 1940’s. When he retired he moved to Sacaton, Arizona. My mom’s parents were probably five or ten miles away from the border, from a small village of less than five hundred people. My mom’s mother passed away when she was young so she had to work in the cotton fields. My family has been here forever. My grandmother would not really tell us too much. I don’t know my own language because my parents wanted me to be raised in white society so they thought it would hinder me if I learned my own language. My grandmother would tell stories about the little ramada they had on the reservation. They would talk about the eagle man who would come down from the mountain. He’d be hungry and see the little kids playing so he would come down and scoop them up and take them up to the crest and basically eat them. Then they built a little place where the kids could safely play.
When my mom left the reservation she was a little girl, and went to school, she couldn’t speak English. I guess she had a hard time understanding, so she figured that if I wasn’t confused with the language like she was, then maybe I would have a better chance.
I met Maria through karaoke. We became good friends. It’s relaxing, you just feel like you need to get something out of your system, and you just let it out. I’m stuck in the 80’s when I do karaoke. I like the stuff now but I just can’t scream to it. Maria’s always been very welcoming. When you walk in she says, “Hey, come on up and give me a song!” She’s really friendly.