Eladio Babodilla
August 19, 2014

With the end of my first summer of research comes a time of reflection.

First of all, I want to thank the Franklin Humanities Institute for granting me this wonderful opportunity to do research in the Central Valley and to speak with some truly inspirational people.

Secondly, I want to thank everyone who opened their homes to me, who told me their very private and sometimes very painful stories, so that others might know who they are, what they do, and what they have been through.

During this research trip, I met people who truly touched my heart: elderly folks still working in the fields to make a living, young people who cannot get an education because of their immigration status, families living in fear that immigration will tear them apart… None of it was easy to digest, and I came to realize just how important the historian’s task is, to feel a burden that was both uncomfortable and energizing.

Eladio Bobadilla fatherI also come to see how much I have yet to learn, how wholly unprepared I was for this experience. When tears derailed a man’s story, when my own emotions overcame me and forced me to press for different queries, when I found myself bumbling for the next question—all of these experiences revealed a weakness in me, sometimes emotional, sometimes academic. But at all times, I was self-aware and self-critical, and I hope to heave learned not just about the lives of undocumented folks but about myself: my weaknesses, my biases, my limitations.

In future years, I hope to arrive to these interviews better prepared and better trained.

But in the end, I will always remember these first interviews fondly because despite my obvious lack of experience and my palpable nerves, these people opened up to me as if I were an old friend, at times reassuring me more than I could have reassured them. Every man and woman I interviewed looked past my inexperience and offered me poignant accounts of their youth, their crossing journeys, and their lives as undocumented workers (and many of the transition from undocumented to American). They all spoke eloquently and with dignity.  And they all trusted me with their deeply personal anecdotes, memories, and thoughts.20140723_174500

I only hope that whatever comes of this summer’s research does some justice to their lives and their stories. Whatever failures emerge are mine alone. Whatever good comes of it surely is to their credit.

Special thanks to my father and mother, Benjamin and Lucina Bobadilla, for facilitating many of these interviews and to my nephew Danny Murillo for doing the same.

And of course, thank you to the men and women who gave me their time and shared their stories with me: Israel Vera, the Torres family (Edgar, Alfonso, Maria, and Rocío), Agustin Guzman, Eliseo Murillo, Silvina Murillo, Elizabeth Murillo, Abel Guzman, Silvia Guzman, Rito Garcia, Emma Garcia, Isidro Jauregui, Antonio Garcia, Manuel Guzman, Fidel Rodriguez, and the two women I will call Lisa and Vera to protect their identities.