The Journey of Erica Alfaro

“When you want something, all the universe conspires to help you achieve it”

rica Alfaro has become a viral success almost overnight, that is because as a present to her parents for her Master’s Degree graduation, she hired a photographer and took pictures of herself wearing her cap and gown and her parents standing in a strawberry field in Oceanside- a place her family knows well as they have worked on these fields for many years. After posting this picture on her social media feed, the picture went viral and in a blink of an eye she was being sought after by major national networks. She became famous for being the daughter of migrant field workers who achieved such a high educational milestone. And while she is highly recognized and celebrated for this achievement, we decided to meet with Erica to learn the backstage story about her journey. Not many women, as young as her, have overcome as many challenges as this young Latina.

Her family comes from Oaxaca, Mexico, her parents came to the United States with the hope that their children would have a better life than they did. Her parents don’t speak English or Spanish, they speak Mexica, therefore Erica speaks English, Spanish and Mexica. Her parents work at the different fields in Oceanside, where Erica grew up, and was often taken there as a young girl to work as well. She remembers telling her mom how tired she was, and her mom’s words were “If you don’t like this life you have to get an education”

Erica attended Oceanside High School, at age 15 she found herself pregnant and moving to Fresno with her boyfriend. A relationship that turned abusive quickly while she was far away from her family. The turning point came one night when her abusive partner forced her to sleep outside of their home for the night with her baby. “That night I remembered my mother’ words- ‘If you don’t like this life you have to get an education’- and I held my baby in my arms and promised him that I would go back to school”.  Erica enrolled herself in a homeschool program and managed to finish high school. She moved back to Oceanside with her family and left her abusive relationship behind. Her mother encouraged her to study and if she wanted to go for her college degree, she would support her.

Up to that point she had never left her baby with anyone else, and leaving him with her mom for the first time proved very difficult. For many of us, this might not make much sense, perhaps it seems like an exaggeration; but let us take you back to the cultural background that is at the root of her essence. In Oaxaca, women are expected to raise children and marry a good man; they are discouraged from going to school and getting an education. Erica’s father had frequent quarrels with her grandfather for letting them go to school. She also endured a great deal of resistance from her extended family who kept telling her to remain with the father of her son because she would “never make it as a single mom”, and what is worse, when trying to finish her high school diploma, her abusive boyfriend would rip her homework telling her “Do you really think you can finish high school- you don’t even speak English”. It was in college that she met Candelaria, her counselor, who was the first Latina with a professional career that she had ever seen. Thanks to her she was able to dream bigger. Candelaria sent her to a conference, the Latina Leadership Network, and it was there that the little insecure girl that she was, began to dream. Candelaria, her counselor, encouraged her to go to graduate school. She signed up for Cal State yet at the same time, her son was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy. This was more than she could handle, so she lost her academic status and was forced to drop out. She was taking her son to extensive therapy and at one of those sessions her son asked “Mommy, do you have a career yet? Remember you promised you were going to get one?”. This was the last push she needed to move forward. 

By now she had already gained some local attention, when she received her Bachelor’s Degree and was selected to deliver the commencement speech. When her story was published, and she mentioned that her dream was to obtain her Master’s Degree, she caught the eye of a very special person. A man who was very inspired by her story and contacted her in a surprising turn of events, he told her that if she was serious about getting her Master’s Degree, he would cover all the tuition costs. And so he did, he sent a check directly to the school paying for her entire tuition. All he wanted in return was for her to pay it forward. And that is exactly what she has done, not only by inspiring other women and girls when she is asked to speak for groups and share her powerful story; but she started a side business, “Jenel Jewelry”, an online silver jewelry site that began with only 5 rings, and now has over 500 models. She knows college is expensive, so she uses the profits of her online business to help women who want to go to college to buy textbooks.

Erica has come a long way, and she has rewritten the story for her family for generations to come. Erica’s grandmother, like many women in her community, was forced to marry at a very young age, and to stay with her husband for the rest of her life. Before she passed away, Erica visited her at her home in Oaxaca, and she asked her if she thought she did the right thing by leaving her abusive boyfriend, the father of her son. Her grandmother’s response in her native Mexica was: “ I wish I had had the same courage as you”.

It is a sunny day for Erica now, she has now remarried to a good man and her son is now in Middle School. And even though this new found fame has her wondering what the future holds for her, we can assure you that she is bound to make some powerful moves. Her message to our readers is to not be afraid to dream big, everything is possible if you are willing to work for it. She can best put it in the words of Paulo Coelho, as she experienced it firsthand:

“When you want something, all the universe conspires to help you achieve it”

The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho

She is a strong Latina, stronger than domestic violence, stronger than cultural binds, stronger than fear and stronger than doubt. 

We love Erica Alfaro because she grew up reading El Latino Newspaper, she shared with us how she grew up with it. She has always loved reading, and even though her parents did not know how to read, her dad would always bring it home. It was the newspaper that was always available to her community, and she did not have to buy. We are so proud to have been an influence in her life and her family.


El viaje de Erica Alfaro

Erica Alfaro se ha convertido en un éxito viral casi de la noche a la mañana, esto se debe a que como regalo a sus padres para su graduación de maestría, contrató a una fotógrafa y se hizo tomar fotos con su toga y birrete al lado de sus padres parados en un campo de fresas en Oceanside, un lugar que su familia conoce bien ya que han trabajado en ellos s durante muchos años. Después de publicar esta imagen en su feed de redes sociales, lse convirtió en viral y en un abrir y cerrar de ojos se hizo famosa por ser hija de trabajadores migrantes que lograron un hito educativo tan alto. Y aunque ella es altamente reconocida y celebrada por este logro, decidimos reunirnos con Erica para aprender la historia de su viaje entre bastidores. No muchas mujeres, tan jóvenes como ella, han superado tantos desafíos como esta joven latina.

Su familia viene de Oaxaca, México, sus padres vinieron a los Estados Unidos con la esperanza de que sus hijos tuvieran una vida mejor que ellos. Sus padres no hablan inglés ni español, hablan mexica, por lo tanto Erica habla inglés, español y mexica. Sus padres trabajan en los diferentes campos de Oceanside, donde Érica creció, y a menudo la llevaban allí cuando era niña para trabajar también. Ella recuerda haberle dicho a su madre lo cansada que estaba, y las palabras de su madre fueron “Si no te gusta esta vida, tienes que recibir una educación”.

Erica fue a Oceanside High School, a los 15 años quedó embarazada y se mudó a Fresno con su novio. Una relación que se volvió abusiva rápidamente mientras ella estaba lejos de su familia. El punto de inflexión llegó una noche cuando su compañero abusivo la obligó a dormir fuera de su casa durante la noche con su bebé. Esa noche recordé las palabras de mi madre: “Si no te gusta esta vida, tienes que recibir una educación”, y sostuve a mi bebé en mis brazos y le prometí que volvería a la escuela”.  Erica se inscribió en un programa de educación en el hogar y logró terminar la escuela secundaria. Se mudó de nuevo a Oceanside con su familia y dejó atrás su relación abusiva. Su madre la animaba a estudiar y si quería ir a la universidad, la apoyaba.

Hasta ese momento nunca había dejado a su bebé con nadie más, y dejarle con su madre por primera vez fue muy difícil. Para muchos de nosotros, esto podría no tener mucho sentido, quizás parezca una exageración; pero permítanos llevarle de vuelta al trasfondo cultural que está en la raíz de su esencia. En Oaxaca, se espera que las mujeres crien a sus hijos y se casen con un buen hombre; se las disuade de ir a la escuela y de recibir una educación. 

Fue en la universidad que Érica conoció a Candelaria, su consejera, que fue la primera latina con una carrera profesional que había visto en su vida. Gracias a ella pudo soñar más grande. Candelaria la envió a una conferencia, la Red de Liderazgo de Latinas, y fue allí donde la niña insegura que era comenzó a soñar. 

A estas alturas ya se había ganado algo de atención local, cuando recibió su licenciatura y fue seleccionada para pronunciar el discurso de graduación. Cuando su historia fue publicada, y mencionó que su sueño era obtener su maestría, llamó la atención de una persona muy especial. Un hombre que estaba muy inspirado por su historia y se puso en contacto con ella en un sorprendente giro de los acontecimientos, le dijo que si se tomaba en serio la obtención de su título de maestría, él cubriría todos los costos de la matrícula. Y así lo hizo, envió un cheque directamente a la escuela pagando toda su matrícula. Todo lo que quería a cambio era que ella lo pagara. Y eso es exactamente lo que ha hecho, no sólo inspirando a otras mujeres y niñas cuando se le pide que hable en nombre de los grupos y comparta su poderosa historia, sino que comenzó un negocio secundario, “Jenel Jewelry”, un sitio de joyería de plata en línea que comenzó con sólo 5 anillos, y ahora tiene más de 500 modelos. Ella sabe que la universidad es cara, así que usa las ganancias de su negocio en línea para ayudar a las mujeres que quieren ir a la universidad a comprar libros de texto.

Erica ha recorrido un largo camino y ha reescrito la historia para su familia durante generaciones. 

Ahora es un día soleado para Erica, que se ha vuelto a casar con un buen hombre y su hijo está ahora en la escuela secundaria. Y aunque esta nueva fama la hace preguntarse qué le depara el futuro, podemos asegurar que está obligada a hacer algunos movimientos poderosos. Su mensaje a nuestros lectores es que no tengan miedo de soñar en grande, todo es posible si están dispuestos a trabajar por ello. Ella puede expresarlo mejor en las palabras de Paulo Coelho, ya que lo experimentó de primera mano:

“Cuando quieres algo, todo el universo conspira para ayudarte a lograrlo”

El Alquimista, Paulo Coelho

Erica es una latina fuerte, más fuerte que la violencia doméstica, más fuerte que los lazos culturales, más fuerte que el miedo y más fuerte que la duda. 

Nos encanta Erica Alfaro porque creció leyendo el periódico El Latino, compartió con nosotros cómo fue que las páginas de esta publicación la han acompañado. Siempre le ha encantado la lectura, y aunque sus padres no sabían leer, su padre siempre lo traía a casa. Era el periódico que siempre estaba disponible para su comunidad, y ella no tenía que comprarlo. Estamos muy orgullosos de haber sido una influencia en su vida y en su familia.