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“If you don't’ work, you don’t eat”

Rosa Sapien, was an Apache whose parents

left the reservation in New Mexico, because
they were starving and ill treated. In a mostly
white town of New Mexico near the Mexican
border, a group of white men took the law in
their own hands by scalping, raping, and killing
their parents and most of the kids.

Her older sister, Petra, escaped with Rosa and

her younger brother,Jose, by taking cover in
some bushes. A friendly mexican farmer took
Rosa and her siblings in. His wife was sickly
and soon died. Petra married the farmer at
thirteen. And raised Rosa and her younger

Rosa had a hard life and many chores. Petra

made sure they learned many things such as playing the guitar and harp. She would go to the
river to wash her clothes and bathe. While at the river, when Rosa was thirteen she met a
mexican man who was working in the U.S. mining. He fell in love with her and took her to
Mexico. In Mexico, she had a hard life because his family was Spanish-German and very strict.
The mother was very mean to her because she was different from them. She was tiny and
darked skinned with dark eyes while the rest of the family had blonde hair and blue eyes. From
the time she was thirteen, she had a kid every year until she was thirty three and then again at
fifty six.

Her life was miserable, and the family would always tell her “If you don't work, you don’t eat.”
She would work in the fields, around the house, with the livestock, and taught the children to
read and write in English, Spanish , and German. She also made sure that the kids learned the
harp and piano, which were her mother-in-law’s favorites.

She grew tired of living in Mexico because of the harsh conditions and no prospects for her and
her children. She wrote to her sister Petra who’s husband who was fifty years older than her had
died and left her money. She had since moved to California and told her she would take her and
her children in San Diego. Because Rosa had left the country when she was thirteen and being
an Apache born on a reservation, she had no papers. Petra still being an American citizen
vouched for her and her birth, and also served as a guarantor for her and her children. Rosa
was excited but her husband, Sixto refused to leave Mexico. So, she made the hard decision of
leaving him there with her eight kids.
He had a hard time with the kids and came to America. Because Sixto had blonde hair and blue
eyes, he had no problem entering the country, whereas Rosa was hassled. She continued
working and made sure all her surviving kids graduated college and became successful. She
overcame the harsh conditions of starvation, reservation life, racism, language barriers, and her
lack of formal education by striving to always learn and be better.