What if multiple truths can exist in a single reality? How many of us feel confined to the labels we’ve been given, and what does it look like to create new narratives for ourselves? Ernesto Rocha, lovingly known as “Undocubae”, is a sought out storyteller and community organizer who is unapologetic about his immigration status. Listen as we dive into how mindfulness has played a crucial role in overcoming “Imposter’s Syndrome,” and how returning to breath has given him the confidence to share his story on stages such as TedX.

7 favorite tips on how to tell a story

View Ernesto’s tedx talk:
 I am not my status: an undocumented immigrant's perspective


  • I wanted to pay homage to my younger self, the young 8 year old kid who came with his brothers and mother to reunite with his sisters in the United States. When I started writing my talk, that 8 year old self kept coming back. I imagined he was just sitting in the classroom and saying, “I’m ready to say something.’ So it was really an homage to Little Ernesto. The experience of being more of a speaker and telling more stories on a public platform really brings back all of those memories that I have shoved down and put on hold and put on a shell and said ‘Not right now’ but i think storytelling is really about revisiting those moment in time where you experienced something so profound that you were not willing yet to discover what it was.”

  • ON COLLEGE: “Being undocumented in the mid 2000s was kind of like going around in any public space and having a sticky note in front of every single place saying ‘You’re not welcome here. You can’t access this. This is not for you. You can’t get a driver’s license or bank account.’ It was this imaginary sticky note that said, ‘i couldn’t’ or ‘i shouldn’t’ or ‘i won’t have access to’. So my experience as an ‘underground undergraduate’ was figuring out how to get access to that.”

  • “Instead of trying to have other people bestow joy onto me, I knew that I had to generate it from inside. Part of that acceptance of ‘i am not my status’ came from my experience with a woman truck driver who had a tremendously difficult job. She was one of the only women in her company, and she had this old flip phone where she took pictures of everything. She took pictures of her truck, her food, the clouds, of dogs that were just in and around the port. Of flowers. And one of the lessons going through her photography is I just find joy where it is. Joy is in a flower, joy is in a dog. A dog doesn’t know about President 45. A dog doesn’t know about my undocumented status. It just knows that it’s either hungry or it wants to play, and for the most part they’re mostly joyful. She taught me how to find beauty in the smallest things, and that led down this longer road of internal transformation, of really finding that, ‘yes, i’m undocumented, but that is not the entirety of my existence. “

  • My spirituality needed to connect to my brain. There was a sense i was missing something. And thankfully i found Thich Nhat Hanh’s book, Peace in Every Step, and i have never read any other book as fast as i read this book.

  • One of the most important visuals that i have when i step on stage is water and a sequoia tree. And i always think about the ebbing and flowing of the ocean and as i’m about to go on stage, the ocean is  doing its thing. And the sequoia is still growing, it’s still providing shade, and we are just fine. And so we struggle through the conversations, and we talk about the difficult stories, the trauma if you will, and then i take a moment to breathe and know that sequoia is still there. The water still flows.

  • “What would it be like to have a storytelling night where folks of color can own the entire space and not feel like they have to hold back on anything? And so we created Cocoon storytelling night.”

  • In every story, multiple realities can exist. There can be the reality of that frightful parent who says ‘Please do not share this story because it’s going to bring you harm’ and that is just as true as the 8 year old kid who longed to see Goofy. So those two things can exist at the same time and the same place. So its important to visit these stories over and over again.”

  • “When you can tell a story in seven different feelings and feel it through those perspective, then you truly understand what that story is about. I can be joyful, upset, angry, stressed, fearful about one particular story over and over again.”

  • “This is your story, your experience. You get to choose what feeling you place in that story and what energy you can transfer into that story.”

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Ernesto Rocha is an organizer, storyteller, transformational coach, TEDx Speaker, and advocate for social, racial, and economic justice. Ernesto's twelve years of organizing experience include working and advocating for immigrant rights and low wage workers in various industries, including nursing homes and port trucking. An avid storyteller, Ernesto co-created Cocoon Storytelling, a bi-monthly, live storytelling platform designed for people of color to share their lived experiences with their communities as a way to heal, transform and liberate themselves from their current conditions. Most recently he delivered his first TEDx Talk at CSULB entitled, I AM NOT My Status: Perspectives of an Undocumented Immigrant. In it he explores the theme of identity formation and the process of personal liberation through storytelling. He graduated from UCLA in 2016 with a Bachelors in Political Science and Chicana/o Studies.


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