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Jessica Ramirez: An International Longhorn

When I first met Jessica Ramirez Guevara she seemed very shy. Now that I have gotten to know her better, I realize that she is not shy but just chooses her words carefully, because English is not her first language. Jessica was born and raised in Matamoros, Mexico, a bordering city which neighbors Brownsville, Texas. Many people may know of Matamoros from the highly publicized violence brought on by the drug wars, but Jessica knows of it as a city rooted in history which she calls home.

Jessica had a good childhood in Mexico and when she began attending school, she excelled in her studies.  In middle school, she had to take an English class every year. Her parents did not think that was enough so they enrolled her in an additional class with a private tutor. Jessica continued to be at the top of her class in high school, which prepared her for her current course load in the McCombs School of Business at UT.

On Sundays her family would get together and fix carne asada, a dish which can be compared to an American tradition. Take away the Spanish name and the tortilla from the dish and you have barbecue, a Texas favorite.  “Barbecues are a very common thing to do on weekends,” says Jessica. Another tradition Jessica’s family enjoys doing is site-seeing.  “We would just drive around the city and look at stuff.” When hearing about this tradition, it is hard not to imagine what Mexico might look like. The Mexico that Jessica describes with a smile on her face is far different from the Mexico reported about on the news. The Mexico that just last year, tourists were warned not to vacation in during spring break because of the violence brought on by the drug wars.  “I don’t want people to think that Mexico is a terrible place, “says Jessica. 

The drug wars have been going on for quite some time now, but have recently become worse within the last two years. “It’s chaos right now,” says Jessica. This is because Mexico’s President Felipe Calderón recently declared a war on drug dealers. At first the drug war was between drug cartels fighting among themselves over the control of territory, but now has escalated to the fight between drug dealers and the government.  The lives of the Mexican citizens are in danger more than ever before with civilians being caught in the cross fire.  Jessica has never witnessed first-hand violence in her city, but has seen the aftermath of the events, which is traumatizing enough.

Two weeks ago, when Jessica was speaking with her family over the phone, her mom said, “right now you can hear the helicopters flying around the city”. The helicopter was there because a reporter had just been shot in Matamoros. The government soldiers mistook him for a drug dealer. The reporter was in town to report on the violence that was happening within the city. “That reporter had a mother, and a brother, it’s terrible; put yourself in the shoes of a mother who lost her son because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time, that’s not fair,” Jessica said.

Jessica attends The Monterrey Institute of Technology in Monterrey, Mexico, which is a partner school with The University of Texas. This partnership made it possible for Jessica to come to UT and get a taste of the American life. She hopes to take the opportunities that she has been given to create a safer life for herself and family. Her future goals include returning to the United States to forge a career in the fashion industry in New York City.

At the end of the fall semester Jessica’s term as an international student at UT will be over.  She will return to Mexico to be a full-time student at Monterrey Tech, which for her is bittersweet.  Monterrey Tech is very similar to an American education system but “I think it’s more work there,” says Jessica. The founder of Monterrey Tech went to MIT and used his experiences there as a model to shape the curriculum.  Although she is ready to be with her family and friends, she will miss many things about Texas, like her favorite TV shows, Whataburger, and shopping!  After being immersed in the language and the culture, she has felt accepted at UT.  She has seamlessly fit into American culture, “I’m a Texan now”, says Jessica.  “The people here have been very nice to me, and I must say thank you.”

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