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Finding Home: From Chicago to Durango

Ask 19-year-old Lizandra Nevarez where she's from and she'll say a village in Durango, Mexico -- even though she was born and raised in Chicago. Her mother and grandmother were born in Durango. Not long ago, Lizandra Nevarez decided to see Durango for herself.

Lizandra's trip is a stunning reversal of her mother's and her grandmother's crossings into the United States 30 years before. They walked for days, feet nearly bare, hands rough and empty. Lizandra has her nails manicured, her stiletto boots shined, her hands full.

She is one of a growing number of young people from the Chicago area who call themselves Duranguenses. They are immersed in the culture and romance of that arid, mountainous region -- which was home to Pancho Villa and has often been used as the backdrop for Hollywood westerns.

Lizandra is a citizen of the United States, but calls herself "175 percent Mexican." All year in Chicago, she listens to Duranguense music on her drive to work. She saves what she can from her job at a shipping company to go to Durango. She is determined to forge a connection to her native state.

She heads to Durango with hopes of connecting to her family in the small village, or rancho, of Onze de Marzo. As she soon discovers when she arrives, the past gets in the way.

This piece is part of a larger project called OchoTEEN, produced by Melissa Giraud and edited by Julie Subrin.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Melissa Giraud