Nancy, age 3

Nancy, age 3

Nancy as an adult

Nancy as an adult

What’s your name?

My full name is Nancy Araceli Palencia Ramírez, it’s a mouth full but I go by Nancy.

Where did you grow up and where do you live now?
This is always a complicated question for me to answer because it’s a long-complicated answer. I was born in San Luis Potosi Mexico and moved to the US when I was three. I then lived in California and Texas until I was 23. When I left the US, I was not allowed back for 10 years. In that time, I lived in Japan, Mexico, the UK, Spain and now I call Sweden home.

Can you share a little bit about your (or your family’s) immigration story?
My family has been traveling to the US for work for decades. My indigenous heritage is rooted in people coming from Northern Mexico and Texas. Both of my grandfathers participated in the Brazeros Program. Migration became an issue when the US decided to build a border. My family decided to move to the US in the early 1990s to escape cartel violence and to provide my brother and me with better educational opportunities.

What drew you to the Immigration Initiative at Harvard?
I grew up as an undocumented immigrant and spent so much of my life feeling shame and fear. Being an immigrant is beautiful and powerful and I want to help young immigrants like myself understand that they are not alone and impower them to make the lives they deserve.

What are you working on now that you are excited about?
I am the lab manager for IIH, so I get to have my foot in all our projects so it is difficult to choose. But, I am working on a children’s book to explain deportation to young children. I want to provide a developmentally appropriate way for children impacted by deportation to process their emotions and understand that they are not responsible for adult rules.

What is your favorite film, memoire, or novel depicting the immigration experience for young people?
I absolutely love The Undocumented Americans by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio. When we talk about the immigrant experience it is easy to deal in the difficulties. This book shows the immigrant struggle but does not make you feel bad. It makes you feel punk. It shows how incredible immigrants are because survive inhumane treatment and retain our dignity.

What is your “mommy” food—the food that you shared in your family growing up that you go to when you just want to feel good?
I know a lot of people say this, but my mom really is the best cook. Her Queretaro enchiladas are my absolute favourite food in the entire world and I have eaten in quite a few places.

What do you wish more people understood about the immigrant origin and youth experience?
We create our experience— we do not find it.

What advice would you give to your 7th grade self?
You are not ugly! You are just not White. You will create a community of people who love and celebrate you for the wonderfully complex person you are.

Nancy Palencia Ramirez