That year in particular had been a hard year for their family. A dear and young grandmother and died from cancer, the father had almost died of pneumonia, and their son-in-law had been gunned down in the middle of town. Miraculously the son-in-law survived, but it was clear he and his family would never be allowed to return home.
It wasn't really an untypical home. The morning gossip often carried news of murders, and there was so little health care to be had that every disease and infection was a terrible battle. Their village of 1,500 didn't have electricity or reliable running water, and there was no real government system to keep things under control. Almost all girls were pregnant and "married" by 13, and all the boys had found a spot in the drug trade by the time they were fifteen.
I spent a lot of time with Lucero, who was probably 16 at the time. She was my sister's best friend and the daughter of the family I was staying with. I remember sitting on the top of a mountain that overlooked the town, and she talked about how much she loved this place we had grown up in and how much she wished she could help change things. She asked me what I thought it would take. What would it take to get through to all these people that a different kind of life existed? She loved everything about this place, and so desperately wanted something better for the people who lived there.
Lucero was the fifth child of seven. I'm not sure if anyone in her family ever made it passed middle school. I know her dad quit school after second grade, and her mom never made it passed sixth. But at the time Lucero had been living 5 hours from home, in the city, determined to graduate from high school.
And she did graduate - with flying colors. She's incredibly smart.
Lucero holding my niece at my bother's wedding.
This week my mom and sister flew back to Mexico to celebrate her graduating from college. I wish so much I could be with them. She's graduating with a degree in chemistry, and I have no doubt she's at the top of her class. Raised in a world where the most a girl could hope for was a husband that wasn't too much of a drunk or that her children made it through life without being brutally murdered - Lucero stepped outside of it and is graduating from college.
I think back to the conversation we had on top of that mountain,and I hope she knows. I hope she knows she's part of the answer to her question. Because she's just given hope to all the girls behind her who now have someone to look up to. All the girls of that small town now have someone who proved to them there's a different kind of life to be had, and it's attainable.
It's not often that you get to witness someone beat such incredible odds - someone who "changed their stars" as that old movie once put it. There's no doubt that God has played a huge part in Lucero's life, and I'd venture to say she's more proud of the work God has done in her life than any educational level she's achieved. But her determination to find a different way of life and all the work she put into it is noteworhy, and I couldn't be more proud of my little Mexican sister.
So cheers, Lucero. Cheers to all that you've braved to get to where you are. And cheers to all that I know you'll do with that degree.
Linking up with Casey's blog once again.