Along the beautiful coast of Acapulco, Mexico, there was a three-year-old adventuring out in the soft current of the Pacific Ocean. Unknowingly heading for a deep dip in the sea, his uncle swam out and saved him from the drop off.
That was Jesse Nava’s uncle, in her hometown where she learned to value family, culture, and love through the warmth of her Mexican heritage.
However, her life has not just been calm waters. There have been harsh waves of family conflict, relatives dealing with drug abuse, and finding her place in the world as she transitions from a male to a female.
In her home town of Acapulco, Nava lived on a small street with only houses and a few small stores. Only a 10 minute walk from the beach, they visited and played in the ocean frequently.
“I learned how to swim at a very young age because we were always at the beach. I have this vivid memory of when I was about 3, I left my uncle and brother on the beach and went swimming and I was getting to the part where there was a cove and then my uncle got on the jet ski and took me back and he was frightened I was out that far,” Nava said. Her love for the beach and swimming is still present because it makes her feel connected to where she came from and her family.
“My culture is about being so connected, not just with your family, but everyone because we’re all going through struggles in the same way, but different experiences,” Nava said. With struggles indeed, after living with her extended family, at around age 4, she moved back up to Oregon and lived with her dad and three brothers.
Her dad is Mexican and mom is Caucasian and that makes her feel she has two different worlds she goes back and forth with.
The difference in cultures is stark. Her mom has struggled with drugs since she was 12, and she has been distant from Nava’s life. Drug abuse is something not too far from her dad’s side of the family either.
In 1995, her dad wanted to move to America to have a nice home for his family. For about a decade, her dad was tied up with some illegal business. As soon as he knew he was going to be a dad, he quit his job. Throughout the years, her relationship with him was rocky but has recently improved because of the great lessons and advice he passed on to her.
Her relationship with her dad has really grown, especially in the past few years. “My dad kind of forever changed from a strict Catholic man to a loving more flexible person because he had a son that liked guys and now has a son that wants to be a girl,” Nava said.
Nava has dealt with some challenging family situations, but she always looks for the positive side of things. She wants, and already has, to make a positive impact on not only the people around her, but the world. Nava looks forward to a full ride scholarship to attend the University of Portland next year and wants to major in psychology. She plans to make a career helping people out of addiction.