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Check Out Andrea Ambriz-Alvarez’s Story

Today we’d like to introduce you to Andrea Ambriz-Alvarez.

Hi Andrea, we’re thrilled to have a chance to learn your story today. So, before we get into specifics, maybe you can briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today?
I’m the daughter of Mexican immigrants. I was born and raised in Long Beach, California. I grew up alongside my older brother, Agustin. I grew up surrounded by my Mexican culture. I would listen to mariachi music and watch telenovelas with my mom as she cleaned around the house. During my childhood, my parents worked their butts off to provide for us. My father worked as a line cook, and my mother was a stay-at-home parent and part-time community college student. While we were living paycheck to paycheck, I was oblivious about it at the time. I honestly don’t know how they managed to do it, but I can’t think of a moment where I felt the financial pressures our family was going through. 

When I was around three years old, my parents put me in a preschool program for siblings of deaf children. My brother, Agustin, was born deaf, and one of the most important things to my family was that we all learned American Sign Language to communicate with him. By the time I entered kindergarten, I lived in a household that spoke Spanish, American Sign Language, and some English. I didn’t learn how to speak proper English until I was a couple of months into my kindergarten year. 

School is usually considered the path to success in many immigrant families. So I did my best to get good grades and focused on my extracurriculars in music and volunteering. I was never one of those kids whose parents kept track of all of their exam scores or homework assignments. However, I put an immense amount of pressure on myself to be the best student I could be to help take care of my family. In the end, my efforts paid off, and I ended up graduating with a full ride to the University of California. 

The transition to college was one of the most frightening moments of my life. I had never been away from home before. I was also unsure of my decision to study Media and Film. Would there be any money in that? Would I be able to find a job? Would I disappoint my family? All of these questions came to my mind before I had even arrived on campus. I managed to make my way through college by finding communities that I felt accepted in. I joined Mariachi Luz de Oro, UC Berkeley’s very own student-run mariachi band. I felt most connected to my culture with them. I also lived in the Berkeley Co-ops, housing for low-income students. I met some of my closest friends there, and I’m so glad that I could find a place away from Long Beach that I could also call home. 

After finishing my undergraduate career, I found myself lost. I was so burnt out from being focused on school and working 24/7 that I honestly found it hard to find my next path right away. So I took some time off to be with my family and re-familiarize myself with my hometown. Soon after, I began applying for jobs, and I got an internship with the Disney College Program. 

Then, the COVID-19 pandemic hit. As a recent hire, I was in one of the first groups of people to be laid-off. As quickly as my new path had appeared, a giant roadblock got in the way. I coped the only way I know how, by getting the creative juices flowing. 

This was when inspiration struck me to begin my podcast, That Would Never Happen. I decided to start a show where my friends and I analyze the films that I grew up watching with my mom. Films that I was always too embarrassed to admit were my favorites: romantic comedies. Through my show, I have reconnected with old friends and refined my production, editing, and marketing skills. During the first weeks that the show went live, the joy I felt encouraged me to start job-hunting again. Luckily, I got a remote internship at a PR firm in San Francisco. I have recently been hired on full-time.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
When I was 13, my mom was diagnosed with late-stage cancer. She was the head of the household, a dedicated mother, on her way to become a special education teacher.  By the time my 14th birthday rolled around, she had lost her battle with the disease. It all felt so unfair. How could a person so loving and full of potential be taken so soon?

Everyone feels grief differently, but I felt like I couldn’t let myself fall apart for a while. I had to keep my grades up to get into a good college. So I put my head down into the books and poured all of my energy into my studies.  I also took on more responsibility in my household, trying to be even a slice as impressive as my mother.  It wasn’t until it was all over–the funeral, the wake, the masses of people packed into our tiny apartment–that I let myself really feel all of it: the anger and the sorrow. 

Things got more complicated when puberty hit. Without another woman close to me, I had to navigate that whole “change” by myself: the pimples, the body hair, the mood swings. There is nothing more embarrassing than putting a box of tampons into the shopping cart for the first time when you’re at the grocery store with your dad and brother. Trust me.  

I feel that my family and I got through the grief together.  It wasn’t pretty, but we were each other’s rock. After a couple of months of inconsolable sadness, we got back on the horse and began to move forward with our new lives. As difficult as it was to keep going, we eventually got back into the swing of things. We miss her very dearly, and I hope she’s happy wherever she is. 

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
I am currently learning the ropes of PR at my current job. I don’t think it’s a career that I’ll necessarily be in for the long haul, but it has opened up my interest in becoming a publicist for people in the film & music industry. Ending up in some type of role in a creative field has been a goal of mine and I continue to pursue it.  So far, I think I’ve made her proud.

We’re always looking for the lessons that can be learned in any situation, including tragic ones like the Covid-19 crisis. Are there any lessons you’ve learned that you can share?
Oh my goodness. I’ve learned to not take anything for granted. Like, I miss being able to hug people and touch things, in general. I’m a homebody, but damn I miss going out to the movie theatre. One of the positive things that came out of the Covid-19 pandemic is that I learned to appreciate the time that I got to spend with my brother and my father during those first two weeks of lockdown. I’m pretty sure that’s the most amount of time we had all spent together in our whole lives. I also learned that having nothing to do in terms of school and work really gets the creative juices flowing.

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Image Credits
Victoria Sanchez – Personal Photo

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