"I Was Harassed In My Town For Speaking Spanish And I Had To Go": Ana Suda

Ana Suda and Martha "Mimi" Hernández lined up to pay for milk and eggs at a gas station in the small town of Havre, in the northern United States, when a Border Patrol agent asked them where they were from.

The women, born in the United States (Suda in Texas and Hernández in California), were speaking in Spanish when they were questioned by the official, who then asked for their identification documents, according to Suda's testimony to BBC Mundo.

The incident, which occurred in May 2018, was captured by the woman with her cell phone and was broadcast millions of times in social networks and replicated in the media.


When Suda rebuked the agent asking if it was illegal to speak Spanish in Montana, he replied: "No, ma'am, but it's not common here."

BBC / Angelica Casas

Ana Suda, 38, was held by the U.S. Border Patrol in May 2018.

The women decided to sue the Office of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) for discrimination.

In a statement, CBP told BBC Mundo that it was not commenting on a case currently in dispute.

But it wasn't just that incident. Suda had to move out of the state recently after being a victim of "harassment and insults" by the community, as he described BBC Mundo.

This is her first person story, edited from several interviews with her.

In 2014, my family and I moved to Havre, a small town in Montana because my husband was given a job there and he is from there too.

I was born in El Paso, Texas, and raised in the neighboring city of Ciudad Juarez, in Mexico.

There are not many Latinos in Havre, so at the beginning, there were people who saw me and asked me where I was from, but I felt they were doing it in a good mood and out of curiosity.

Courtesy Ana Suda

Ana and Shawn Suda got married 16 years ago.

All that changed after the incident with the Border Patrol agent.

When he asked my friend Mimi and me for identification, I told him that I would go to my truck to find my cell phone to record it. He accepted.

The agent held us for a while and people saw us as if we had done something wrong. At one point I asked him if speaking Spanish was illegal in Montana and he said no, but that it was very unusual to hear that language in that area of ​​the country.

When I returned home, I felt very confused and helpless and talked to my husband.

He is an official at the Customs and Border Protection Office and told me he thought it was incredible what had happened to me.

That's when I decided to upload the video on a Havre Facebook page and comments started coming from some who said the agent was in full right to ask for my identification.

The video ended up going viral and from there the situation became very difficult.

Some people thought that I wanted to hurt the city and they took it personally.

Courtesy Ana Suda

The couple lived in Montana with their children since 2014.

However, just as there were people who left rude comments, others supported me.

But things kept getting worse.

They sent me offensive messages that said I left this country, when this is my country too.

I liked to go to eat at restaurants or have a drink in a bar and I stopped going after they yelled at me that it was "illegal" and that I should withdraw the claim against CBP.

I stopped taking the children when I was going to buy the Walmart because they attacked us. They yelled at me, people kept looking bad at us. The treatment they gave us was very ugly.

A very different treatment from the beautiful people I met when I arrived; Now it was completely different.

It was very difficult with my 8-year-old daughter too because she speaks Spanish and one day she said very sadly: "Mommy, so we can't speak Spanish anymore?"

Courtesy Ana Suda

Suda describes that his 8-year-old daughter asked if they could no longer speak Spanish after the incident.

That touched me very deeply and gave me courage. My daughter has to feel proud of her roots. It is hard to see her and she is afraid to speak Spanish with her friend at school.

That fear also touched other people. The Latino community started not wanting to speak Spanish, even I stopped doing it for a while.

There came a point where I could no longer with the situation in Havre and I had to go.

It was very difficult to make the decision because I left my husband there since he had to keep working.

I traveled with my children from Montana to El Paso, where I have family. But my children miss their father very much and we still don't know when he can come to be with us.

My life is no longer the same. That incident changed my life completely.

BBC / Angelica Casas

Ana Suda moved to El Paso, Texas, but her husband still works in Montana.

That agent ruined my life. Having to leave everything you have … because I was happy there, I had everything and with my husband we planned to retire and die there.

I also separated from Mimi, my great friend. She also went through unpleasant moments in the town and now I just want her to come to live here.

Spanish is my mother tongue and the language that connects me with my family. I want my daughter to continue speaking it and understand that it is her right in this country.

* This note is part of the series "Do you speak Spanish?", A BBC World trip through the United States to show the power of our language in the Trump era.



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