"I felt like a stranger in my own country."
It took only a few words out of Ernie’s mouth to realize wasn't from Mexico, even though he looked it. He spoke fluent English, with no accent, and referred affectionately to “the other side." After talking for a bit we learned he spent a good 90% of his life in the states: going to school, working as a chef, and raising a family before, admittedly, getting caught up in some frowned upon extracurriculars.
After a lengthy legal battle, Ernesto was deported for five years and sent back to Baja, where he had no family, no job, and no longstanding relationships.
With less than two months left in his deportation he reflected on the past four-year-and-ten-month stint with fondness. He looked back at his time spent in Baja as a chance to learn about his people, about his heritage, and to help those going down the same path he was.
When we met Ernesto he was leading a group making money for a halfway house in Ensenada by driving up and down the peninsula selling flowers they had made to raise money, and keep the lights on at the clinic.
He spent the better part of five years learning about his once-distant culture and himself. On October 14th 2014, he goes home.