I was born and raised in Merced as the eldest daughter to two Mexican immigrants. My mother is from the Mexican state of Michoacan and my father from Guerrero. I would never trade my parents for any other parents, I would only trade the experiences my family has lived through. Unfortunately, my family has faced many inequities simply because we reside in the south part of Merced.
From the young age of 4-years-old, I was exposed to gun violence as a result of gangs in my neighborhood. One particular night in which I was in preschool, a gang drove into our neighborhood to shoot at their rival gang which lived across the street from my family so we were caught in the crossfire. I was awakened by the noise of my parents trying to figure out what was going on. My parents were making sure our family was okay, which fortunately we were. This is not always the case, considering 13 deaths occurred as a result of homicide in 2018 in Merced County.
I was curious as to what was happening so I got up from bed and went to the living room. Because the living room and a sliding glass door faced the street, the sliding glass door had been shattered so there was lots of broken glass which prompted my mother to carry me to the bathroom because she thought I needed to use the bathroom. Eventually, I made my way back to bed from the restroom. The next morning, I found out the police had been called to make a report or investigate but at 4-years-old, I never knew the result of that, however, the damage was already done. For those growing up in South Merced, it is not uncommon to experience community violence.
Knowing that my family’s safety had been disrupted in that way is unsettling to think about. My parents did not deserve to be concerned for the safety of their 4-year-old and my then 1-year-old sister. We eventually moved homes from the apartment where the shooting occurred to a duplex where we did not face gun violence but even then it was not very ideal for raising little girls because there was a liquor store across the street from there. While living in this duplex, there were times where we did not have access to a car which meant that if we needed groceries, we had to walk. Considering Cardenas was not in existence when I was in elementary school and Rancho San Miguel was not within walking distance, we had to default to the many liquor stores in the area. Considering Merced County has the third highest food insecurity rate in the nation with our child food insecurity rate being 27.3%, actions need to be taken to reduce such a high rate in Merced County.
Even having to move is unfair because moves are expensive and inconvenient but it had to be done for my family’s safety. However, these experiences should never be occurring.
However, these experiences should never be occurring. For me at 16 to remember the gun violence my family experienced at four years old is not fair. My family deserves to live anywhere without facing any inequities.
Understanding and accepting that my family’s situation is not unique in the city of Merced has been crucial. Thankfully, I have found the power and beauty of community involvement. Every action, no matter how small or how big, has the power to influence something in one way or another to yield results that will ensure that no one is having to live with violence.