My name is Alejandra Villalobos McAnderson, but you can call me Alex. I moved to the United States when I was six years old from Mexico. There’s not much that I remember because I was young. Now, based off immigration documentation, I know my father was involved politically in Mexico. Apparently, he was with the wrong party, and when they murdered his best friend, he had to flee the country. My mother, my siblings and I had to go into hiding until he had enough money to bring us over. We moved from a small town to the big city. We weren’t really allowed to go anywhere except school, and we left once a week to go to Western Union and pick up the money my father would send us. When we immigrated to the United States, we went to Sun Valley, California, and that’s where I grew up. I came to Kansas in 2004 to attend Baker University on a soccer scholarship.
As a child, you don’t really notice what you’re leaving. But you’re going because your parents are telling you to go. Now, in my journey, it is realizing what I left behind as a young adult and growing up. My name is Alejandra, but I go by Alex. I had the epiphany a couple years ago when speaking to one of my students. He asked, “why do you go by Alex instead of Alejandra?” And I remembered in elementary school, it was too difficult for my teachers to pronounce. So, then they nicknamed me Alex. But now as an adult looking back, what other things have I given up in this journey? My name and my identity.
My first name, Alejandra, means defender of mankind and my last name, Villalobos, means village of the wolves which is very fitting for what I do now as an entrepreneur. I do corporate wellness and teach people about mindfulness and meditation. To me, my name means resilience. I think that all the things I have been able to overcome—the challenges through the immigration system, being different, being looked at different, and seeing my parents be treated different.
I came here in first grade, and I had an amazing first and second grade teacher. I remember I used to go to her house in the summertime and she would just tutor me. Now, I would say my Spanglish and my accent kicks in occasionally especially when I'm doing my energy work. Most people assume because of the way that I look and because of the way that I sound that I'm a US citizen and that's helped me in some ways, but I think that's why it's important to share my story and to not judge a book by its cover. I've seen my brothers who are of a darker complexion be treated completely different than myself. I want to share and be able to educate others on my journey and how complex the immigration system is. We can only do that by sharing our stories.