Julieta Altamirano-Crosby is quick to mention that it had never crossed her mind to move to the United States. She was born in the town of Dos Caminos, later moving to the tiny town of El Ocotito in Guerrero-Mexico when she was six. Offering a little bit of paradise, El Ocotito was a safe place for children to thrive because, in large part, everyone looked out for the children. She describes her childhood as idyllic and peaceful, full of folklore, laughter and song. Her days were spent playing with other children outdoors in the open air made warm under a constant sun. She recalls going to elementary school with her oldest brother Nicolas, where she played the drums and basketball.
The tight knit community of El Ocotito also had a middle school where Julieta would have gone, but her parents wanted to give her a more challenging opportunity. Because El Ocotito was a rural agricultural town, its middle school focused on teaching children agrarian skills and crafts indigenous to the area, such beekeeping and how to make natural products that were later sold by the students in the small town. When she reached the middle school years, her parents decided to send both Julieta and her brother to school in Chilpancingo de los Bravo, the capital and second-largest city of the state of Guerrero.
Everyday Julieta and her brother Nicolas took a taxi and traveled an hour to reach school in Chilpancingo, where students spent more time in the classroom focusing on more rigorous academic programs. Julietta recalls, “We woke at 5am every single day and to arrive early at the taxi area, so then my brother and I could walk to the school.” Julieta and her brother were always first to arrive at school. They purposefully taxied to school early, just in case something like a flat tire or car problem happened on the road. “You had to be early,” she says.
Travel to Chilpancingo always presented the possibility of danger. Anything could happen on the road. It was a huge sacrifice for her parents to send her to school so far from home, but for them it was important to see that their children would be educated. While Julieta’s mother, Matilde Navarrete Leyva, had gone to middle school, her father, Nicolas Altamirano Muñoz, had only a third grade education. Tremendous courage and a deep religious faith gave her parents the strength to give their children the opportunities that they had not been given. Julieta’s father always told her brother to take care of his sister. “My dad always told Nicolas—you have to take care of your sister.” She describes her father as “her hero,” someone whom she admires as both a father and a leader.