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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Each Friday morning we bring you another installment of StoryCorps, the oral history project that travels the country collecting the stories of everyday people. They interview each other. Excerpts are archived at the Library of Congress. This week's installment comes from a mobile StoryCorps booth in Los Angeles. There, Blanca Alvarez talked with her daughter Connie. Blanca remembered coming to Los Angeles more than 30 years ago. She came to join her husband after illegally crossing the border from Mexico.

Ms. BLANCA ALVAREZ (StoryCorps Participant): We were walking and walking through the mountains --

Ms. CONNIE ALVAREZ (StoryCorps Participant): And the desert.

Ms. BLANCA ALVAREZ: Uh-huh, and, uh, the man, he told us to take our shoes off because it was a lot of rocks and he said I don't want no noise because the dogs are very, very good to detect every noise--

Ms. CONNIE ALVAREZ: Oh...

Ms. BLANCA ALVAREZ: --and he said, I'm going to whistle and you're going to duck and it was the point where he whistled, you know, we went out on our stomachs and we stay there, oh my god, I can see ants, (laughs) big ants, crawling and I was so scared. And he said when the border patrol changed shifts --

Ms. CONNIE ALVAREZ: Yes.

Ms. BLANCA ALVAREZ: --you know, you gotta run. I remember there was a torture in those rocks without shoes so I, we run as fast as we could and then he said, you're going to walk through that bridge, I'm going to walk behind you, and you're going to give me the money there and then from there you're on your own.

Ms. CONNIE ALVAREZ: What, uh, what kinds of jobs did you have since first arriving in the country?

Ms. BLANCA ALVAREZ: We were gardeners and we were cleaning offices.

Ms. CONNIE ALVAREZ: I remember the offices.

Ms. BLANCA ALVAREZ: You remember that? We had the night shift, cleaning. That's why, you know, we had to take you, you and your brother. I didn't had a babysitter.

Ms. CONNIE ALVAREZ: I have memories of running into everyone's office and eating candy from their candy dishes. I remember being with my brother in our pajamas with the little plastic feet and I also remember you would always buy us a cup o' noodle from the vending machine--

Ms. BLANCA ALVAREZ: Right.

Ms. CONNIE ALVAREZ: --like a snack, and then, and then put us to bed on people's office couches and then you'd carry us to the car when you guys were done cleaning the offices. I remember that. Did they ever know? Did your bosses ever know that you took your kids?

Ms. BLANCA ALVAREZ: No, I don't think so.

Ms. CONNIE ALVAREZ: (Laughs) Is there anything that you've never told me but want to tell me now?

Ms. BLANCA ALVAREZ: When we first came here we went through a lot of things like not eating.

Ms. CONNIE ALVAREZ: Oh...

Ms. BLANCA ALVAREZ: I guess for six months your father lost his job and we never told you that.

Ms. CONNIE ALVAREZ: I do remember a lot of beans, bean tacos (laughs).

Ms. BLANCA ALVAREZ: If when you ask, ask why, why the same thing? Remember?

Ms. CONNIE ALVAREZ: Yes, yes.

Ms. BLANCA ALVAREZ: I, I didn't want to tell you why.

Ms. CONNIE ALVAREZ: If you could do everything again, would you raise me differently?

Ms. BLANCA ALVAREZ: I would dedicate more time I guess. You know, I was so busy going to school, too, that I guess I neglected you a little bit.

Ms. CONNIE ALVAREZ: Now, for me, watching you go to school with two kids and trying to make ends meet, that was the biggest inspiration for me to finish college. I thought, there's, there's nothing that could stand in my way that didn't stand in yours more, so... (crying) It's the most important thing for me, having gone to college, and I feel like anything I do from here on out is okay because I've already achieved my dream. Everything else is icing on the cake.

(Soundbite of music)

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

That's Connie Alvarez speaking with her mother Blanca at StoryCorps. Connie graduated from UCLA.

If you'd like to learn more about StoryCorps, make a reservation for your own interview or hear additional stories. Visit NPR.org.

Copyright © 2006 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

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