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Instead, like many second-generation Mexican Americans who return to Mexico, she wound up being confronted with her Americanness. I grew up listening to cumbia, but on the other hand my education was from the United States,” she told me.

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They are the features of a violinist, which she has been since she was eight years old., a shared experience of having family on both sides of the border.

We started talking by phone every Monday night, after she’d finished her 12-hour day of commuting and work at a security firm as part of the Fulbright Binational Business Program.

Vianney would run to her younger sisters’ room and try to shield them from the sound of his violent retching. When she was eight she started playing violin, and by the time she was 10 her music teacher declared, “You’re going to be great one day.”“I was the roughest of kids in the hood,” Vianney told me. She was angry, and she repressed this anger as best she could until one day at school she got in a fight with another girl.“That anger was crazy,” she said. She was sent to the police station, and then, per her parents’ acquiescence, to a detention center, where she caught a glimpse of her potential future: pregnant 15-year-olds, 16-year-olds who’d overdosed on meth.

I struggled to imagine this; it seemed as likely as a university professor declaring she’d once been a pro wrestler. “I felt like I could’ve done some serious damage if there wasn’t anyone there to break us up.” The police were called, and the incident likely would have ended there if Vianney hadn’t kept raging. But also a sense of community, of shared differentness.

She and her sisters had grown up in some of the most marginalized neighborhoods in Los Angeles, struggling against failing schools, crime, racism, and poverty.

Vianney had come to Mexico City expecting to embrace her past and to be embraced as a long-lost daughter.“She’s beautiful,” Vianney said, and we started chatting.Vianney’s English is quintessential California: lots of “likes” and drawn out “yeahs” and “killed its,” with big vowels and sentences that curl at their ends into question-like realizations. Her wavy black hair is often corralled in a low ponytail, and her features are chiseled: fine cheekbones, fine collarbones, delicately contoured fingers.She applied and was accepted to California State University–Chico, and she turned down a music scholarship at California State University–Northridge in order to go.At Chico, Vianney was one of only two Hispanic students in her seven-story dorm.Her family here in Mexico, she explained, thought of her as American: a deserter of her home country, wealthy and privileged, a gringa come to strut around with all the gringa’s carefree assumptions of power.

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