© 2024 WOSU Public Media
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
WOSP-FM 91.5 Portsmouth is off the air. In the meantime listen online or with the WOSU mobile app.

The Bind That Ties: Choco Valdez And Jennie Valdez

courtesy of Choco and Jennie Valdez

Choco Valdez was born in Mexico and came to the U.S. the most difficult way – on foot, at night, through the cold desert. His wife, Jennie Valdez, knows the story well.

Transcript (edited lightly for length and clarity)

Choco Valdez: When we get close to the border and it's like, it starts in the vegetation, some bushes, that's it, [I'm thinking] in a few days I would start walking and then [I was] very intimidated.

Jennie Valdez: And did you think that you could die? Did that cross your mind or did you just push that far away?

Choco Valdez: I pushed [...]that thought away. It's like after midnight, one or two in the morning. And we we were walking with no lights.

Jennie Valdez: Just out in the dark.

Choco Valdez: Yeah. In like the direction to a mountain you can see far away. The wind is blowing very hard. It's very, very cold. I just don't feel in my face and my jaw started shaking so bad and like that day I was almost sure like I can't go any more far, you know, I'm done. I remember finding a ditch in the desert. Everybody go lay together.

Jennie Valdez: Lay together, all curled up in the fetal position. Is that how it was? How many of you?

Choco Valdez: I... I'm not sure. I don't know anyone over there, but I guess like around eight or nine people, I was shaking and I don't feel half of my body. And I thought, well, God, it's your choice. It's my time. Just it's just ....so painful.

Jennie Valdez: So in that moment, you did think you might die?

Choco Valdez: Yeah.

Jennie Valdez: That really you couldn't push that thought anymore. It was staring you in the face that you might not wake up.

Choco Valdez: I was very scared.

Jennie Valdez: It hurts. It hurts so much to imagine you in that position wishing that there was something I could have done to help you.

Choco Valdez: Yeah, and every night when I go to go to bed, I lay down and lay I pray for these people and I hope everybody ..

Jennie Valdez: Made it,.

Choco Valdez: Or not made it, but is fine.

Jennie Valdez: So just recently, we were talking about how different our life is, being able to have the freedom and not worrying because now you finally have a visa after many, many years. How has that been for you being able to live and not feel like you have to be in the shadows?

Choco Valdez: All these years I imagined that I'm going to scream and be so happy.

Jennie Valdez: Yeah.

Choco Valdez: But now it's completely the opposite. I don't know how I'm gonna explain this. I feel guilty.

Jennie Valdez: Mm hmm.

Choco Valdez: And in Juarez, Mexico, when I went to the interview and I saw people left and right be denied,. Yeah, I remember meeting you outside.

Jennie Valdez: Because I couldn't go in with you...

Choco Valdez: And holding the paper Actually, I think I put the paper in my in my pocket. And I don't want anybody see it.

Jennie Valdez: How did you feel when you saw your parents in your home after all those years, 18 years of being apart?

Choco Valdez: I remember getting to Mexico City...and feel more than ever before in my life. And I don't know why I going to see my family. But.....

Jennie Valdez: For me, that experience of finally meeting your family and seeing where you lived and where you grew up, even though you had described it to me so many times, it was very eye opening for the first time in my life, I was really able to see and experience the poverty that you grew up with. That was very important for me because that was something you and I have tried to explain to so many people in the United States trying to have them understand what the poverty is like. But I myself hadn't truly experienced it. So finally, being there and seeing it, just having a much better idea of what it was like for you growing up and why you had to make a really difficult decision to come to the United States the way you did.

Choco Valdez: I don't - I don't know every day I think how I'm the lucky ones. Yeah. And I know that God has a....

Jennie Valdez: A plan

Choco Valdez: a plan for everyone. And I just want to try for it.

This story was created at the Eichelberger Center for Community Voices at WYSO and was edited by Tony Holloway. The project producer is Mojgan Samardar.

Copyright 2021 WYSO. To see more, visit WYSO.

courtesy of Choco and Jennie Valdez /

Neenah Ellis is the general manager at WYSO. She began her radio career in high school, working at her parents’ commercial radio station in Valparaiso, Indiana. She came to WYSO in 2009 after 30 years as a radio documentary producer in Washington, D.C. She’ s been a producer for “ All Things Considered” at NPR and has won three Peabody Awards, broadcasting’ s highest honor, for her work. She is also the author of “ If I Live to be 100: Lessons from the Centenarians,” which is based on her radio series about people 100 years of age.