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StoryCorps In Kansas City — Growing Up Latinx

Miguel Morales (left) and Alex Martinez sat down at the StoryCorps MobileBooth to talk about their experiences growing up.

StoryCorps' MobileBooth is in Kansas City until September to collect the stories and memories of residents. This is one in a series of stories KCUR has chosen to highlight.

Alex Martinez and Miguel Morales may be more than 20 years apart in age, but their experiences in the United States as Latinx children speak to the unique challenges they have faced here.

Martinez, the younger of the two, came to the U.S. at 14. His mother had crossed the border six years before, making the excruciating choice to leave her family behind.

"I forgot what my mother looked like," Martinez said. "I thought my mother abandoned me and the adults I lived with didn't care about my well-being, or my siblings', because we were shuffled around from house to house just to survive."

Martinez said the trip across the desert regions of Mexico was physically painful — he was lost, sunburnt and dehydrated — and the trauma of being apart from his mother was something he'll carry for the rest of his life. 

"I love her so much because she risked it all to get where we are today, but that feeling of abandonment and readjustment to everything has not gone away," Martinez said. "The family separation happening at the border, those children are scarred for their whole lives."

Morales grew up in Texas and wasn't separated from his family, but he said his childhood reflects another Latinx experience in the U.S. He had to work in farm fields with his parents and siblings from the fourth grade onward. 

"We would have to go every day in the summer, and we would get up at like 4 in the morning ... and we would work until 5 in the afternoon," Morales said. "That taught me about what work is, work ethic, and taught me that we were different from other people.

"Everybody else was going to Disneyland, going to grandma's house, and we were working."

Still, he enjoyed the solitude of the work.

"When you're out in the fields, it was totally quiet. You had to learn how to deal with silence and have this inner monologue with yourself to learn how to be okay with silence," Morales said. 

Both said that in the current political climate, telling the stories of their lives is important.

"I think it's important to tell our stories, our stories are the most powerful things that we have," Martinez told Morales. "That's the beautiful thing about humanity: There's always common ground."

Matthew Long-Middleton is a community producer for KCUR 89.3. Follow him on Twitter @MLMIndustries.

Cody Newill is an audience development specialist for KCUR 89.3. Follow him on Twitter @CodyNewill.

Cody Newill is part of KCUR's audience development team. Follow him on Twitter @CodyNewill or email him at cody@kcur.org.
Matthew Long-Middleton has been a talk-show producer, community producer, Media Training Manager and now the Community Engagement Manager at KCUR. You can reach him at Matthew@kcur.org, or on Twitter @MLMIndustries.
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