by Christine Khayat

Adam Regulla was 14 years old when his mother decided to send him to the United States in hopes of salvaging his future.  Adam had a reputation of getting in trouble and she felt he would only end up in prison if he stayed.  Adam lived in Burgos, Spain with his mother and younger sister, until 1998 when he was went to live with his uncle in Berkeley, Ca.

I think about Spain a lot.  I lived in a middle class area of Burgos; everything was just average.  People would always talk about how they wanted to leave Burgos and go somewhere better, but I always thought differently.  Nobody knew it, but I loved it there.  It was a beautiful, tight-knit, artistic community.  I had two friends I was very close to growing up who lived just down the street from me.  On nights that there wasn’t anything going on, we always found something to do, even if it wasn’t lawful or safe.

My mother was a single mother raising my sister and me.  Since my father was never around (my mother refuses to tell me who or where he is to this day), I, as a young boy, took advantage of my mother’s weaknesses and lack of disciplinary skills.  By the age of 14 I had already had six “run-ins” with the police.  I was caught three times for vandalizing, or “el arte de las calles” as my friends and I used to call it, “the art of the streets”.  I was caught once for breaking into private property, and twice for stealing.  My mom became worried about me, but I just didn’t care.  I was just having fun and I wasn’t thinking any further than tomorrow about my future.  My mother would repeatedly tell me I was breaking her heart and that I wouldn’t live past the age of 18.

As a result of my behavior, my mother decided to send me to live in California with her brother.  I was so angry with her; I yelled, I argued, and I cried.  I’m not entirely sure what convinced me to board the plane that day.  As I was waiting in the airport, I just remember thinking that I wouldn’t make any friends in America, and that I’d be back in a matter of weeks.  I cried the entire plane ride because I was so scared.  The whole “tough-guy” persona I had used all my life finally came crumbling down.  After several transfers I arrived at the Oakland airport crying.  I was greeted by my uncle who had a warm smile on his face, and I still thought of him as a threat to my chances of going back home.  This was my uncle Arturo.

My first few weeks in the U.S. were by far the hardest.  I arrived in the summer time and unexpectedly received a curfew.  The entire concepts of half of my uncle’s rules were unfamiliar to me.  I obeyed partly because I figured if I was behaving my mother would let me return sooner.  California was not my home, and my real home, Burgos, was always on my mind.

When School started I thought I wouldn’t make any friends.  I assumed kids wouldn’t want to talk to me because of my accent.  Surprisingly, my accent was a conversation starter most of the time.  The other students wanted to know about where I came from and why.  I made friends quickly, but I still felt distant and isolated from my classmates.  I began conforming, and the first thing I did was try to get rid of my accent.  Since my uncle didn’t speak Spanish to me, and I didn’t know many other Spanish speaking students, I stopped speaking the language altogether.  I was already for the most part fluent in English, so I had no problem transitioning.  I stopped practicing what little parts of my culture I used to back home.  I also became engulfed in the American culture, especially the music, art, and poetry scene, in and around Berkeley. 

In Spain, I would have most likely spent my weekends causing trouble around the city with my friends, but after I came to California, I changed.  After school and on weekends I would walk around the UC Berkeley campus, admiring the students there.  They were both smart and creative.  I always associated doing well in school with a loss of personal identity, and the students here showed me otherwise.  I would go there to do homework sometimes too.  I would pretend I attended school there just so I could see if I would be able to fit in.  I was inspired to study hard and attend UC Berkeley when I graduated from high school.  Having this goal, I was often discouraged by some things my teachers and classmates would say.  My uncle, however, was always there to remind me I could accomplish whatever task I worked hard at. 

I currently still reside in Berkeley, Ca with my uncle Arturo.   He has become like a father to me, and has helped me whenever I needed it.  I call my mother every few weeks, but talking has become slightly more difficult because I’ve forgotten much of my Spanish.  She constantly tells me how proud of me she is now, and how she knows she made the right decision.  As much as I miss Burgos, I know that the decision to send me here was the right one, and I thank my mother for making such a difficult decision for me.  Although I will never forget Spain, the United States has become my home.  I know I belong here.

Adam Regulla