One Common Thread in the Blanket of Dreams

One Common Thread in the Blanket of Dreams

by Stephanie Muñoz, July 2014

The American dream is something that a lot of immigrants moving to America are trying to fulfill. Many people have different ideas of the American dream, but in the end are just looking for a better way of life. For one man in specific, he has faced quite a few challenges to try to achieve his own version of the American dream. This man’s name is Ramón and he moved from Ecuador to the United Stated to complete his American dream. Ramón had envisioned his American dream to be in a place of progressing. His early life was not the best because he lived in poverty. There was a lot of corruption where he lived and moving to America would be the stepping stone he needed to get his life together. As Ramón tried to grow in his life, he viewed the American dream as a better way to live, and was going to accomplish his American dream with his ambition and hard work.

Ramón’s life started out difficult. It was at the age of seven when he his best childhood memories came to a halt and he had to grow up more quickly. His dad was always leaving to America to try and make some money so that he could support the family. Ramón and his mother moved in with his grandmother. He is the oldest of four sisters and a brother. When he got older and left, he barely got to spend time with his younger siblings because he left at a pretty young age. He did not finish his education and eventually decided to join the Ecuadorian military. His father was always pushing him to do something with his life, but it was hard to do anything in Ecuador due to corruption. People in Ecuador would only help someone if they knew the person, or had money. Everyone else was a victim of low income. Some people in Ecuador have a different mentality. They are not ambitious, and do not try to do something else to make life better life for themselves. Ramón believed that in America, if he worked hard enough he could achieve whatever he wanted. America was a place where he wanted his dreams to come true and not be another victim in the corrupt environment of Ecuador. The first few years of his life were hard, but then he had the chance to move to America. His father paid for someone to cross him over the border into the US so that Ramón could start his new life. After looking for a while, a family friend told Ramón about a company that he could probably work for. Ramón got the job and immediately started saving money. He acquired his residency and from there everything seemed to come more easily. At first, Ramón wanted to go back to Ecuador, after a few years, because the money made in America is a lot of money when taken back to Ecuador, but then decided that he liked America better.

At first, thought, the American Dream can be easily defined as the chance to create an opportunity. It is when one begins to work at it that one discovers how multifaceted it actually is. It involves so many variables to define the American Dream. It depends on the person, the timing, the location, etc. The American Dream is a blanket made up of many different threads. It is unclear when the American Dream actually began. The Library of Congress has outlined the different time periods the American Dream could have begun from the authors of the Declaration of Independence to the homesteaders, or from when the immigrants who first arrived to when veterans would come back from fighting and wished for more (LOC). For each of those groups, each dream was different as well. One common thread in the blanket of dreams is money. It is universally acknowledged money that can help people reach many dreams. This is not limited to immigrants searching for better pay, but true for everyone. Money extends to the other threads that create the dream. It can lead to higher education and therefore a better paying job. A higher education opens more doors, creating a social status and security (Lazerson). It could be more simplistic like having enough money to feed a family or more materialistic and have enough to splurge. The message of the American Dream is to inspire the idea of the grass being green on the other side, that one day it will get better.  The dream can stay constant or can shift over time. Life finds a way of altering it. Perhaps that is why it is so hard to attain the American Dream, because of its ever-changing fluidity. In order to fulfill the dream, people go through all possible measures. Immigrants leave their counties, their homes, to sow what they hope will be enough to bring back. A person can take more than one job and sacrifice a lot to stay on track. The more effort put into the dream, the more desirable it is.

When Ramón was just a young man, he dreamed of accomplishing his American dream. He had pictured his own version of the dream, and described it: “I thought it was a country you can progress more easily than my own country. I think there are more opportunities to progress in this country than my country.” It was clear that Ramón thought that America was a country of opportunity, whereas Ecuador was not. He explains that there is a lot of corruption in Ecuador and that, if someone is working, there is no chance of ever getting promoted unless he or she knows someone or has the money. If someone works hard, he or she will not get anywhere, but in America, Ramón believed that if he worked hard enough he could progress. He believed that in America there were more opportunities for him to change jobs and make more money, while in Ecuador it seemed impossible. Usually, if someone quits one job, he or she would be lucky to find another job. People sometimes end up staying with the same job and only make a little bit of money. Even if someone works hard, it is hard to get anything. Then, on top of that, it was hard to get a job. Many people would move outside of the country. After he turned eighteen years old, that was the official moment when he decided that he wanted to move to America and make a better life for himself. When Ramón would see friends coming back to visit Ecuador, he noticed that they were living better lives in America. He would imagine himself getting paid for his hard work and his life would be better financially. Ramón wanted some of the average things in life, and says, “My dream is to have a house, a good job, a nice car, and to have money.” Although he wanted some of the basic necessities to live a happy life such as shelter, transportation along with a steady income, he wasn’t too sure of how he was going to complete his goals. He mentions, “I was not looking for a career, only for a better way of life.” He believed that he would achieve these items with hard work. Most importantly he believed in himself, that he could attain success. Ramón felt that he was capable of accomplishing his American dream.

Ramón’s early life is what led him to chase the American dream. Even if he worked hard in Ecuador, he would not get paid enough. He says that many companies will only hire someone for three months before they fire him, so they will not have to give the worker benefits. Ramón explains, “Life was very scary because I thought it was easy to make money, but I realized that living here was tough.” Unfortunately, Ramón only had one job throughout his twenty three years of living in Ecuador. When he got older, he did not go to college, and even dropped out of high school in his third year. He reflected, “School was boring and I was not a good student.” Ramón really did not like the idea of going to school. At the age of eighteen, he joined the Ecuadorian military. He thought that the military was better than going to school. The military in Ecuador used to take in anyone. They would find people that were uneducated and did not know how to read or write. Ramón’s first year in the military was the first year that they had educated students, meaning that they at least knew how to read and write. Therefore, he sincerely takes pride of when he joined the military in Ecuador because they were the first graduating class that was educated. Since they were the first educated graduating class, they only had to stay six months whereas all the other men had to stay at least one year. After he was done with the military, he chose not to stay because he didn’t like people telling him what to do all the time, like wake up early. There were too many rules for him. Their military, however, did not get any benefits either, but he stayed because he was not doing anything with his life. He explains, “I wanted to prove to my dad that I was good for something and I wanted to do something with my life, my dad was very strict and always pushing me to something.” His dad went to America a few times to try to make a living. Ramón would live with his grandma and they suffered a lot. His father would come back to Ecuador, and then leave again. When Ramón was nineteen, his father left Ecuador to go to the United States one last time, so when Ramón turned twenty three, his dad said, “This is your last chance to make something of your life.” It was hard to accomplish his desires in Ecuador and he was still without a job at twenty two, so that was the moment that Ramón made a change in his life and decided to just chase after the American dream.

After having a challenging early life, Ramón decided that it was time to make a change in his life. It was at the age of twenty-three that he realized that he did not want to just be stuck doing nothing with his life, so he stopped contemplating and started doing. With the help of his father, he finally took action and made his first step to make his American dream come true. Ramón’s father paid for the process to come to America because he did not have any money. At first, Ramón flew from Ecuador to Mexico City, with a visa. From Mexico City, he met up with someone to take him to Tijuana, Mexico. Ramón did not have the visa to travel from Mexico to the United States, so he had to meet up with another person to help him cross the border illegally, known as a coyote. Moving from Tijuana and over the border, he went to San Diego to meet his dad. Later, his dad brought him to Orange County. They went to Orange County because his dad was currently living with his brother-in-law. The whole process of coming to the US from only took about four to five days. The first thing that Ramón remembers about when he got to America was that his father took him to Pioneer Chicken, which is a takeout restaurant. At first, he didn’t like America, as he demonstrates, “I didn’t have a job, I didn’t have money, no family here I live with my uncle. In the beginning, it was hard. The beginning is too hard. I thought after 4 o5 years I would go back to my country.” It was not until he got his first paycheck that he changed his mind about America. His father left shortly after he got Ramón settled in America, but left his uncle’s place after one year; when he got a job, so he was on his own most of the time. He then says, “After I got my checks, I started liking the money and the country too.” Eventually, living the American dream did not seem impossible anymore. Becoming independent and being ambitious is what got him to the first step of accomplishing his American dream.

The next step of Ramón’s life in trying to attain the American dream, was getting a job. Before his dad left to go back home, he tried to help Ramón look for a job. A family friend told Ramón to go to this company and luckily they accepted him and he found work. It took him a year to find a job, and in that time he did not have a car or any transportation, so his dad bought him a bike. He used this bike to get to work, where he was a laborer at an electronic company. It was scary for him in the beginning and he remembers, “I use to work at night. One time, I was driving my bike at night and someone threw something at me. It was scary to go to work in the graveyard shift at night.” However, nothing stopped him from achieving his goals. Ramón struggled a lot, but eventually explains that, “My first check I got, I was so happy. It was the first time I had my own money, my own things.” He worked hard and achieved his first glimmer of hope that his life would have meaning. Ramón says that at the place where he worked, about ninety percent of the people were not legal citizens. This is the reason why he decided to apply for residency. After he moved out of his uncle’s house, he looked at the newspaper and found a place to rent. It was cheaper to rent rooms in a house than to rent an apartment. In the beginning, he would live in one room with three or four other people and even live in bad places for about six to seven months. He didn’t want all of his money to go into his living situation at the moment, but wanted to save money for a better place in the future. Sometimes, it would get up to five or six people living in the same room, which caused Ramón to move a lot and look for cheaper places to live. He summarizes, “One time when I was renting a room, I went to work at four o’clock in the morning and when I went back the house was empty. Immigration had come at six o’clock in the morning. If I was there they would have got me too.” He was extremely lucky, but it was a close call. Ramón eventually got laid off and had to start looking for another job with barely any work experience, but he managed. It took him a while to learn English because 90% of the people where he was spoke Spanish. To learn English, he would watch a lot of TV in English, and the sports channels were his favorite. Slowly but surely, Ramón was adapting to the American culture. It took him about ten years to finally get used to living here, but now he was on his way to completing his journey of accomplishing the American dream.

Finally knowing a little bit of what he wanted to do with his life and earning a steady job, it was time to make it official and become a legal resident. He started small at first with trying to obtain a driver’s license. Ramón’s uncle’s friend let him borrow his car so he can learn how to drive and receive his license. He learned how to drive within the first year of moving to America. Then made the next move and bought a car for six hundred dollars. During his early years, they did not give people a hard time for not having legal residency, so it was easier for Ramón to get his driver’s license. Ramón lived approximately fifteen years without documentation. Later, he went to school to try to acquire amnesty. He applied for amnesty so he could do legal work in the United States. At that time, the government approved immigrants to apply from other countries. Next, Ramón applied for his green card. Getting his green card was a little more difficult because he did not have any papers, only an ID. He ended up getting approved within a year, which was good because his job required him to have a green card work. In the year 2000, Ramón explains, “After I see my friends getting their citizenship I decided to apply. My friends did not even speak or understand English and they still got their citizenship.” With all his friends receiving citizenship, Ramón believed that he had a chance of finally becoming a legal citizen of the United States. He was forty when he got his citizenship. The company he worked for now would fire him if he did not have legal status. It was actually quite simple for him to receive US citizenship because he was truly a good man. He demonstrates, “I did not have problems with the government; I paid taxes, I have not been to jail I was a legal resident, and everything they needed, I had it.” He knew a little bit of English at the time so when it was time for his interview, they gave it to him in English. In the interview they asked him, “Who was the first president of the United States?” to which Ramón replied, “George Washington.” Then they asked him to write, “The rabbit is color purple.” After the interview he checked the answer, he said, “Ok, your paperwork will come in the mail.” Then, he waited to get sworn in and about five to six months later he got all his paperwork in the mail. He exclaimed, “I was very happy.” After all of Ramón’s hard work he had now made an American identity for himself. He has now made the final step to accomplishing his American dream, more smoothly.

Ramón’s life now is much better than it was before. He states, “Life now is much better and I’m about halfway to accomplishing the American dream.” He explains that he still wants to accomplish more, and is not completely satisfied just yet. Life now is better financially living in America than is Ecuador, but he still has a little bit of stress. He is much happier and says, “I love it here. I have my house, I have my work and I am learning more.” Ramón also has a beautiful wife and two daughters. He seems to have more in the United States, and says that he doesn’t want to go back to live in Ecuador again. He loves Ecuador, but he would only want to visit for vacation. Ramón has achieved a lot of to get to where he is today and has faced many challenges, but that did not stop him even a little bit because his desire was to strong.

Although Ramón is not yet completely done accomplishing his American dream, he has achieved a lot. It started with a dream and a strict father who pushed him to do something with his life. Then, he started to realize that his dad was right and that he needed to do something with his life. In an effort to impress his dad, he joined the military, but that was not enough. Finally, he decided that, to make a better life for himself, he was going to go to America, and leave his home country. He started with nothing but a place to stay at his uncle’s house, but came to the conclusion that he want to pursue more. After getting a job, which pushed him a little bit more to apply for amnesty, he finally got his green card and was able to obtain residency. In the end, he has faced many challenges in life and overcome a lot of them. He has accomplished half of his version of the American dream and did it with hard work and not giving up.

Works Cited

Lazerson, Marvin. Higher Education And The American Dream : Success And Its Discontents. Budapest: Central European University Press, 2010. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost). Web. 22 July 2014.

Leon, Harmon. The American Dream : Walking In The Shoes Of Carnies, Arms Dealers,  Immigrant Dreamers, Pot Farmers, And Christian Believers. New York: Nation Books, 2008. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost). Web. 22 July 2014.

“The American Dream:What Is The American Dream?” Students. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 July 2014. < http://www.loc.gov/teachers/classroommaterials/lessons/american-dream/students/thedream.html>

 

 Transcriptions

Stephanie: What is your name?

Ramón: My name is Ramón Chavez.

Stephanie: Where did you immigrate from?

Ramón: I came from South America Ecuador.

Stephanie: How was life like when you lived in Ecuador?

Ramón: My life was a little bit rough.

Stephanie: How was it rough?

Ramón: Cause when I was little my dad came to United States to live in New York. My mom didn’t have money to take care of my sister not enough money to take care of me and all my sisters. Then after she move to United States. They left us with my parent’s tor your uncle to take care of us. I grew up with no family sometimes with no clothes or no shoes. Later as a teenager I was thinking about coming to United States.

Stephanie: Did your parents come back?

Ramón: Later on they dad use to give may mom a hard time to my mom about money. Money money. That’s why I decided to come to the Unite states for a better life.
Stephanie: Did your parents Where your parents legal when they came to the United States?

Ramón: I believe my mom came legally. My father came 3 or 4 times illegally. Trips. So they are not us citizen. My father lost the papers, but he help me come here illegally.

Stephanie: So how was life before you decided to come to America?

Ramón: No too happy, I don’t have money have to depend on my mom and dad. No opportunity to make money

Stephanie: So how’s was your journey over here over her?

Ramón: I came through Mexicali, we had somebody to my dad paid for everything. My dad was living her in the US at the time,

Stephanie: How did you get to Mexico?

Ramón: I had a visa. They crossed with the coyote.

Stephanie: So what did you right when you crossed the border?

Ramón: My father came to pick to up. We went to live with my uncle. My dad bought me a bike.

Stephanie: Where did you work?

Ramón: In a electronic company. I was a laborer.

Stephanie: Do you have any experience when you work there?

Ramón: I use to work at night. One time I was driving at night and someone through something at me. It was scary to go to work in the graveyard shift at night.

Stephanie: So why did you decide to stay here?

Ramón: After I got my first check I was so happy. It was the first time I had my own money. If you work hard you can whatever you want. In my country you work hard you don’t get anything.

Stephanie: So what do you mean when you work hard you don’t get anything?

Ramón: If you work hard you don’t go higher and higher. You only stay at the same level. Here you can go higher higher, you can change job to get higher over there you don’t progress you don’t have opportunity over there that’s why people stay at the same job.

Stephanie: So were you still an immigrant undocumented when you were working at the factory?

Ramón: Yeah I did I was working for about 10 to 15 years with out legal papers. Later on when amnesty came I tried to apply for legal work status. That why I applied for green card I got it.

Stephanie: So how tell me the story of how you got it.

Ramón: It was a little hard the company say it you don’t have legal status you would get fired. That’s why I had to go to school to learn about how to get my legal resident. I had to go to school to learn about the amnesty. Tough

Stephanie: How long did it take you?

Ramón: I had my legal status to work only to work I don’t have my Later on I applied for citizenship. My citizenship was not a hard time because I pay my taxes, or never been to jail …. Later applied and 6 months later they call me to do an interview I qualified and I past the test. I was happy everyone wants to have a citizenship.

Stephanie: Were you happy? What kind of questions did they ask you in there interview?

Ramón: I was talking with him I know a little bit of English, he took me to a room, he ask me question He asked who was the first president of the United States. He check my papers, he asked me to write the rabbit is color purple. He check the paper and said everything is all right. He said the paperwork was all. Your paperwork will come in to get sworn in. Then he waited to get sworn in. to do the I don’t know.

Stephanie: Say it in Spanish,

Stephanie: Oh do the court thing

Ramón: Everything took about 5 or 6 month. Applica, and citing not like other people 1 to 3 years. That’s why have my citizenship now.

Stephanie: So when you were working why didn’t decide get your citizenship while you were working in the factory.

Ramón: Because all of the company has to be legal 90% of company was illegal they didn’t have the papers. Most of people were illegal without paper that’s why I did my resident first then my citizenship, that’s why I applied for citizenship.

Stephanie: So were you living there with your dad and your uncle?

Ramón: Yeah, then my dad left me and I stayed with my uncle. I stayed with my uncle for 1 year. After 1 year I left my uncle and 1 room 3 or 4 people in 1 room, I did that for 1 year some places were very bad.

Stephanie: So you didn’t know the people you were renting the room from.

Ramón: Cheaper place to One time I read the Spanish newspaper to rent the room when over there they gave me the price and. The lady said only me and other person in the room, but later people kept coming and coming and there were about 5 or 6 people in the room for 6 or 7 months I had to stay, I didn’t have anywhere else to go. I went to look for another place rooms were cheaper the apartment were more expensive. I just rented rooms, it was cheaper.

Stephanie: So how long did it take to learn English?

Ramón: Most people in the company spoke Spanish. A long time. 90% of people speak Spanish. Someone told him was no good, you won’t learn English. The way Learn English is watching TV I used to watch sports, that how I learned how. I watch a lot of sports channels. My English is not perfect but that the way I learn I understand more but I don’t speak as well.

Stephanie: So what did you put on your resume for work experience.

Stephanie: How did you get your 1st job?

Ramón: Some family friend told me to go to this company to get a job. Later on, the company laid off and I had to look for another job. After

Stephanie: So, did you like it here at first when you came?

Ramón: Really No

Stephanie: Why not?

Ramón: I didn’t have a job, I didn’t have money, no family here I live with my uncle. In the beginning it was hard. I lived with my uncle for 1 year. At least I had food, family. After I got a job I left. But after I got my checks, I started liking the money and the country too. My country has too much corruption, the people, but only if you have money it was
Stephanie: Why did you chose American and not like Canada.

Ramón: My father and my mother came here already.

Stephanie: So why did you choose California?

Ramón: My dad came to California and I have a aunt. She had a house in Santa Ana. And my dad lived here so that why I came to live with my dad.
Stephanie: So what was your dreams to accomplish? When you came here?

Ramón: My dream is to have a house, a good job, a nice car, and to have money.

Follow-up Questions:

1. How did you view the “American Dream”? (Your view of America)

I thought it was a country you can progress more easily than my own country. I think there are more opportunities to progress in this country than my country.

2. When did you realize that you wanted to come to America?

After I turned 18 years old, I saw families and friends living better in America when they came back to visit us in our country.

3. What did you imagine yourself doing when you got here?

Working and getting paid for my hard work. It’s better economically.

4. What kind of career did hope to get when you came here?

I wasn’t looking for a career only for a better way of life.

5. How did you think you were going to accomplish the “American dream”?

With hard work.

6. How was your early life?

Very scary. Because I thought it was easy to make money, but I realized you have to work hard to get your goals.

7. What made you want to move?

I realized there weren’t any opportunities in my country to advance economically.

8. Did you try to accomplish any goals while you were in Ecuador?

Not really, because it was hard for me to accomplish my desires.

9. When was the exact moment when you completely decided you were going to try to accomplish your “American Dream”

When I was 22 year old and I didn’t have a job in my country.

10. When were you actually prepared to move/ were you prepared to move?

When I was 23 I didn’t want to be stuck doing nothing with my life.

11. When did you move?

At the age of 23.

12. What was the first step to your move?

My father helped me move.

13. What was the next step? (keep asking this question until he finally tells you how he got to America.)

My father paid for the process to come to this country. Because I didn’t have any money. My father was living in California. He paid for my flight from Ecuador to Mexico City. From Mexico City, my father paid someone to take me to Tijuana. From Tijuana I passed over the border to San Diego. They took me to Orange County where I met up with my father.

14. What was the first thing you did when you got to America?

My father took me to Pioneer Chicken.

15. When did you get a job?

After a year.

16. How did you get your residency?

I applied for amnesty because at that time the government approves immigrants to apply from other countries.

Where were you living before? (when you first got to America)

I was living with my aunt in Santa Ana, California.

17. Were you scared immigration would find you when you did apply for residency?

I was worried until I got my residency.

18. When did you get your green card?

After I applied for amnesty, but I had to wait to get approved.

19. How did you get your green card?

I just applied.

20. Was it easy?

Yes, I never had any problems with the law or government so I got approved within a year. Also, my job required me to have a green card to work.

21. When did you get your citizenship?

In 2000, after I see my friends getting their citizenship I decided to apply. My friends didn’t even speak or understand English and they still got their citizenship.

22. When did you get your driver’s license?

A year after I came to California.

23. How did you get it if you weren’t officially a U.S. citizen?

At that time it was not required to be a citizen.

24. How is life now for you?

Much better.

25. Would you say that you accomplished the “American Dream”?

Halfways. I still want to accomplish more.

26. Are you satisfied with how far you got with accomplishing the “American dream”?

Not completely satisfied.

27. Is it better or worse than what you wanted/expected?

It’s better financially living here than in my country. But with a little bit of stress.

 

Exile for Yedel

Exile for Yedel

by Ruth Alemu, December 2013

Has it ever boggled your mind why people want to leave their counties and struggle through different cultures just to start a whole new life? Or have you ever wondered why some people don’t just work hard in their own countries and better themselves? Well, people leave their families and countries to find better life, peace, freedom, money or love. A conducted interview with an immigrant named Yedel Sew, who currently resides in the Bay Area, explains why people are exiled to other countries. Yedel Sew is from Ethiopia and grew up in a good neighborhood in the historic city Bahir Dar. He was exiled to the United States to find freedom for himself because he was punished for criticizing the Ethiopian government about forbidding the freedom of speech and the choosing of one’s own political party. For a long time, he had refused to give in to anger or exile; instead, he resisted the government threats.The government accused him of being a terrorist when they found out that he was working with the opposition political parties to bring about a fair democratic government. Despite the fact that no accusation had evidence, many of his friends were imprisoned and killed. Yedel wanted to leave the country when he realized that most of his friends had been thrown in jail or killed. According to Yedel, the torture was extraordinary; for instance, the males were forced to carry and pull heavy weights tied on their genitals until they pointed out one of their political member. For this reason, Yedel left his country and exiled himself to the United States of America (USA), and suffered through lots of misery. He left his good job, family and fiancé behind. His exile to the US was more devastating for his fiancé and his mother, not only because he was their source of income but also they couldn’t flee with him. During his journey, he was hungry, slept in refugee camps, was imprisoned, and almost lost his life while he was traveling on a boat. Although arriving to the US seemed to promise a life with freedom, being an undocumented immigrant made it difficult to find jobs and start a new life all over again. Until he acquired legal papers that allow him to stay in the US, he worked under the table, which was difficult for him because employers often felt free to pay him low wages and ignore dangerous conditions since he had no legal way of complaining. Along with significant language and cultural barriers, exile left him with a lengthy bureaucratic procedure until he established his new legal status. People that are facing political problems in their counties, like Yedel, should exile themselves to other countries in order to gain freedom regardless of encountering multiple setbacks and struggle during the journey because it will help them live better lives.

Being a refugee from third world country was challenging due to the rising of anti-refugee sentiment in many industrialized countries; the journey to the US was not as smooth as Yedel assumed. He started his journey from Ethiopia to Cuba with legal visa (a passport), but from there to the US, his passport was useless not only because he was travelling by car and boat but also because he was coming from a third world country, which didn’t guarantee him a pass or respect. He described how he left his passport in Ecuador: “I threw away my Ethiopian passport since it is no longer helping me to transfer, because I couldn’t get any visa with Ethiopian passport” (Yedel). Having an Ethiopian passport definitely prevented him from getting a visa because most of the people from third world countries are running from their homes scared of war and poverty, like him. His long travel includes the countries Cuba, Ecuador, Colombia, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico and lastly, the United States. Yedel and his two friends started the big journey together without any knowledge of where or how to go. Eventually, they contacted some smugglers to assist them through their journey. Besides the payment paid to the smugglers, they had to bribe the officers every time they got pulled over. He wrapped a stack of pesos with a U.S. dollar and handed to the police officer to make it look like a lot of U.S. dollars because he couldn’t afford to pay them in dollars every single time they pulled him over. Long drives, walking, staying in refugee camps and being thrown in jail without knowing for how long they would be kept, the journey was extremely distressing. There was a time when Yedel almost lost his life; he was trying to cross the border between Colombia and Nicaragua with a small boat made out of wood that carried around fifty people without any access to restrooms. He says, “The smugglers told us we will arrive in two days, but it took us eight days. We were lost in the middle of the journey and the boat run out of gas, so we put bed sheet to move the boat with the help of wind. The phone inside the boat stopped working; they said no battery. Also, we were moving without any compass and we didn’t eat anything else except one apple a day” (Yedel). It was a life and death situation for him to be in that boat because there was lack of basic survival necessities such as food, water and restrooms in addition to getting lost in the middle of nowhere. The boat was overcrowded, making it potentially dangerous, but they continued with the journey. The trip lasted days; the waves were high and they suffered more when the motor stopped and they began moving through the help of the wind. When they finally reached land, it was like liberation. Even though being from a third world country was a setback on his journey, he felt liberated when he reached the freedom land.

Although Yedel wanted to stay in Ethiopia, the government dictatorship made him run from his country due to the fact that there was no equality between ethnic groups and also political difference was not accepted. While he was in Ethiopia, freedom of speech was like a dream. The dictator leader wouldn’t let him live because he was against the system. He explained his experience in anger: “While I was in Ethiopia I had a very nice job with the field I graduated and I had a good life. But I have been jailed and beaten around three four times only because I was spoken the truth during community meetings. When you say I need freedom, they will look for trouble and beat you up” (Yedel).  The so-called “Democratic Party” controls the country. If a person talks about what is wrong and what is right, that person will end up in jail. That is why an independent and ambitious young man like Yedel could not live in Ethiopia because he believes in speaking out. He fought not only for himself but also for people who can’t fight for themselves as well. In reality, he doesn’t have security or the guarantee of his life because they can throw him in jail any time. Hence, Yedel left his country even though he wanted to stay and do something tangible to improve his country. Before he left, Yedel was becoming wealthy because of his hard work, but the ruling party was not happy with what he was getting and wanted to destroy him. In the 2005 election, Yedel and his friends participated in the opposition political party. The idea was to push the government to have a free and fair democratic election but the government was harassing the opposition parties and was using systematic political control, which made the election difficult. At that time, the majority of the people were supporting the opposition party, so, if the government didn’t want to have a fair election, they wanted them to give up power peacefully but when the government found out about their plan, they put his life in danger. Yedel fought until he couldn’t take it anymore; however, waiting for his death was not possible for him because some of his friends got imprisoned, tortured, were deprived of sleep and food and lastly killed. Given these actions, Yedel left his country in order to flee from extreme and almost humiliating politics.

Knowing his basic rights helped Yedel to gain his freedom, yet many times he was denied it. While crossing a border, there was moment when they put him in jail without letting him know how long he had to stay there. They were caught at the Nicaraguan border by the border police and imprisoned for forty-five days. During those forty-five days staying there caused a lot of suffering; the food was not etable, the hygiene was bad and they were sleeping on the floor. Because of the bad treatment they received, Yedel and his friends planned to do a hunger strike in order to fight for the basic human rights they were denied. The hunger strike went very well as he explained, “We didn’t eat for eight days while we were in the journey and again we did four days food strike, so some of the people got constipated and sick. Normally, they are not allowed to have under age prisoners in the facility but one of the guy that fainted was not even eighteen. They were scared of being sued so they begged us to eat and promised to let us go” (Yedel). This shows that they knew this strike would attract human right fighters’ attention, which in the end helped to free them. Besides, the guy who fainted was not even eighteen years old; thus, he was not supposed to be imprisoned with them. Fighting for their rights allowed them to continue their freedom journey. Then, Yedel and his friends left Nicaragua because the Nicaraguan government asked them to pay for every night they stayed at the camp. As they had planned already, they continued their journey to the United States and left Nicaragua. In the book Underground America, a collection of the narratives of undocumented immigrants compiled by Peter Orner, a storyteller, Abel, was abused by his employer but knowing his rights and fighting for it saved him from abuses. He said, “Some of us are more comfortable speaking up about our rights—we know what we are entitled to. We speak to Americans, people who do have papers, people who work at organizations, people who can do something for us. The bosses of the companies are afraid of these organizations because they support us” (Orner 132). Even though he didn’t have legal papers to stay in the country, knowing his rights helped Abel to fight for himself. Yedel did the same thing too; he stood up for his rights, looked for organizations to fight for his right. Therefore, knowing his basic human rights minimized the suffering during the exile.  

Although Yedel felt ambivalent when he discovered that his expectations about the United States were unrealistic, he was happy because he gained freedom, which was the center of his journey. Life in The United States started out great for him though it was not as he expected. Although the job market and the economy was not as good as he expected, he did not complain since his main reason of moving to the US was to gain freedom. He said, “The main reason I exile from my country is because of freedom so I am okay with any economical or personal disappointment like missing my family. I was not respected in my own country but I am living here freely. Nobody touches you” (Yedel). While he was in his country, he had a good job but in the United States, because of his legal status he wasn’t able to get a better job and he was a little bit disappointed by that; plus, by the time he arrived in the United States, the economy of the country was not in good condition. The other thing that makes him disappointed is missing his family; in fact, he can’t reach his family any time soon. Yedel has missed not only his family but also his longtime fiancé who he was about to get married to within a month before leaving the country, but he was waiting for her to graduate. He was preparing for their wedding but sadly he had to leave right away to avoid putting his life in danger. During his journey, he couldn’t communicate with her because he was not in good condition either. That created a big gap between them and it was too late to fix the problem because she got married and had kids. She couldn’t wait for him since he was not able to go back to the country. Yedel said, “It is hard to get that kind of love right now. I don’t have that kind of satisfaction and happiness right now.” He loved his fiancé too much and can’t bring the old time feeling and satisfaction with anybody else.

Things haven’t gone smoothly with his family either; the family business that he took care of is now out of service, and the cafeteria he owned was sold to cover his expense in the United States. His family is not at the same economic level; his brothers got fired from their jobs because they were working for a government office and, since they are connected with Yedel, the government took revenge on them. After four years, one of his brothers started working some low level jobs even though he is a graduate from the university and had been working for long time. Yedel was full of anger when he talked about the crises in his family. He couldn’t support and provide his family like before because in the United States the working situation is different. He doesn’t have motivation like before when he used to go to school while working long hours and taking care of his own business. He said that he was taking care of all that responsibility just to get rid of the stress he had in his country. More or less, he is happy in United States, though he is not in the position that he supposed to be. Altogether, Yedel lost three major things in his life: his family’s economic status, his job, and his fiancé.  But freedom has balanced all his losses.

Even though it’s hard to predict the future, Yedel believes change will come through time with the help of an endless effort. In the future, Yedel has some expectations for his life and has already planned to do lots of things in the coming New Year. He wants to go to school, work hard, start a family in the United States, and help his country to gain a free media because the ruling party controls most of the media. His passion for his country is still fresh. Surely, he wants to participate more in politics; so far, he writes articles and gives donations every month to private medias organizations because he believes the media plays a big role in politics. The Ethiopian government has banned almost all private media outlets for reporting facts about the government’s hidden actions. “The Anointed Leadership,” an article written by Makau wa Mutua, shows the current image of Ethiopian journalism: “Human rights groups estimated that over 60 journalist have either been imprisoned, detained, or are awaiting trial for being critical of the government” (Mutua 2). Government authorities have imprisoned journalists on a mass scale on terrorism charges only for speaking of the truth. Only government medias can talk about politics; around twenty non-governmental magazines have been closed but four private magazines are still open only because they allow the government to manipulate their messages. They will not report reality; they do not talk about the people who are lost in the dessert while trying to escape from the country. Even though he lives from paycheck to paycheck, he knows that, if he contributes something, it will help a lot. He said, “I support the media because I want to know what is going on in my country and the only means I can get that report is from the private media. I cannot forget about my country. I will not sleep until I see freedom in my own country like other countries” (Yedel). This shows the last ultimate vision of Yedel is to see the free flow of information and freedom of expression without the influence of political units. Ethiopia lives in a world where information is literally fabricated for the people as truth but nowadays bloggers play a big role in spreading information. Yedel helps these bloggers financially. One of the anonymous bloggers said in the articleThe Hazards Of Dissent,”“The blog carried reports and analysis of the trial of opposition leaders. In some cases, international human rights group like Amnesty International have followed through the leads in my blog and demanded the government stop its human right abuses. Under pressure, the government released some prisoners and closed torture chambers” (Zagol 62). Not only do the bloggers increase the flow of information but they also help justice to be served. Therefore, because people like Yedel supported the media, for example the blogger mentioned above, the increase of the flow of information has brought the government to reconsider their decision, which fulfills Yedel’s hope for change.

 In conclusion, although people like Yedel go through multiple setbacks and struggle when they flee from their countries due to political problems, finding freedom and living in a country where freedom of speech is respected brings feeling of accomplishment in life. Migrating would also allow others like him to continue helping their countries as he has with the support of media as mentioned in the above paragraphs. On the contrary, others may think that, instead of fleeing from one’s country, one should stay and face the problem in order to solve it. People like Yedel do not choose to flee from their countries to make money or to relax; instead, they are exiled to the US to spare their lives from ending up like his friends—imprisoned or killed.   

 

Work Cited

“The Hazards Of Dissent.” Index On Censorship 36.4 (2007): 59-63. Academic Search Premier. Web. 12 Dec. 2013.

Mutua, Makau wa. “The Anointed Leadership.” Africa Report 39.6 (1994): 30. MasterFILE Premier. Web. 12 Dec. 2013.

Orner, Peter, and Tom Andes. Underground America: Narratives of Undocumented Lives. San Francisco: McSweeney’s, 2008. Print.

 

 

I am Unique and So are You

I am Unique and So are You

by Michi Hosokawa, May 22nd, 2013

 argentina

When a guy moved in next door to my house last year, he started on building a deck in front of the door of his house. This guy, wearing a T-shirt and a cap, has been working hard on the project every weekend. This is Mario Morento, whose friendly smile makes wrinkles around his round eyes. When I was assigned an oral history project, I noticed that he spoke Spanish with a carpenter, which made me wonder if he was an immigrant. When I called up my courage and talked to him about my project, he pleasantly agreed to do an interview with me; he said, “It’s me. I will volunteer for it,” with his friendly wrinkled smile.

He was born in Argentina as the second child in his family, whose family tree has roots in Ecuador. His skin is dark due to his family roots, which make up a minority group in Argentina, whose people’s roots are mostly in Europe, and his mother tongue is Spanish. His parents were skilled leather artisans, but their life was in poverty due to economic crisis in Argentina in the 1960s. When Mario was eight years old, his father left Argentina, first for the U.S. to escape from poverty, and called for his family, his wife, his daughter, and Mario, three years later. While Mario hardly had opportunities to see new things and places in Argentina, he traveled through the nation and saw a lot of new things in the U.S. While he adapted himself more and more to the U.S., he gradually lost his physical and psychological connection to Argentina. Now, he feels that he is “home” in California, where he lives. On the other hand, he identifies himself as an Argentinean; he is proud of being an Argentinean. How has his identity and his concept of “home” developed in such way? Interestingly and uniquely, his nostalgia and experience have developed them. While Mario’s nostalgia for Argentina has allowed his sense of identity to become solid and fixed as an Argentinean, his different experiences in the U.S. have allowed his concept of “home” to have flexible content, wherever he is.

His nostalgia for Argentina, where he was born, survived with his family, and emigrating from Argentina has allowed him to strengthen his sense of identity as an Argentinian. In the article “The adaptation of migrant children,” which is about emigrant children’s assimilation to a new country and preserving their home country’s languages, values, and customs, Alejandro Portes, a sociologist and a scholar of Princeton University, and Alejandro Rivas write, “Place of birth and length of residence in the host society are powerful determinants of self-identity. The native-born second generation is significantly more likely to identify itself with the United States than are youths born abroad and brought to the United States in infancy.” This idea applies to Mario’s case, too. While he identifies his family members as Ecuadorian because his family is from Ecuador, he identifies himself as Argentinean because he was born and grew up in Argentina after his family left Ecuador for Argentina. Although he has lived in the U.S. for more than forty years since he left Argentina at the age of eleven, he still retains his sense of identity as an Argentinian. Where he was born and where he was a resident in his early life is the “determinant” of his identity.

Moreover, Mario’s experience with his intimate family has allowed his sense of identity as an Argentinean to strengthen. Even though the boy “Mario,” whose family is of Ecuadorean descent with a darker complexion, notices that people treat him differently from traditional European-Argentineans with fair complexions, he says, “I am proud to be an Argentinean in many ways, the culture, the food, and my memories.” His family lived in poverty due to price inflation in Argentina; however, his parents do their best to give their children, him and his ten-year elder sister, opportunities to have good education by paying for school shoes and uniforms on installment plan. They lived in a tenement house in Buenos Aires and slept in one bed all together. When he was eight years old, they had a family meeting about how they could leave their poverty. When they agreed that the only way was for his father to leave Argentina for the U.S., everybody in his family gave money for his father’s journey to the U.S. The boy, “Mario,” had to do his best to live up to his parents’ expectation and trust them to be a big part of his family’s responsibility. The gender roles at that time may have influenced him because he was going to be the only “man” in his family during his father’s absence. Being a part of his family meeting, understanding his family’s decision, giving money for his family’s future, and waiting for his father’s calls, was a huge responsibility for the eight-year-old boy; however, he completed all of them. His unforgettable accomplishment has allowed his pride and identity as an Argentinean to develop.

Finally, Mario’s experience of “leaving Argentina” has firmly established his identity. Mario recalls when he boarded an airplane to the U.S. at the age of eleven and says, “This is probably the happiest time of my life.” He may be relieved very much, not only from life in poverty, but also from his father’s absence for a quarter of Mario’s life. He may also notice that he will never go back to Argentina as a resident, so that he has to adapt himself to the new place, the U.S. While his new life excites him, it may sometimes evoke his nostalgia for Argentina, which emphasizes differences with Argentina, such as language and culture, of which he is proud. He may adapt himself to the U.S. very quickly in his adolescence; however, knowing that he has emigrated from Argentina and never gone back to “his” country highlights his sense of identity that he is from Argentina, his soil. From his birth, his identity has had a journey; however, it did not change but become more and more firm and solid because his nostalgia can become his psychological lens through which he may read the world to understand his identity: “I’m proud to be an Argentinean” (Morento). Although time and place can influence one’s self-identity, Mario’s nostalgia has developed and fixed his sense of identity as an Argentinean through his experiences since his identity was simply determined by his place of birth.

While Mario’s sense of self-identity has become firm and solid through his being in his birthplace and leaving there, his concept of “home” is quite flexible. Although the word ‘‘home’’ often carries strong sentimental connotations and refers to a past place, his concept of “home” is simply where he is because his new experiences have allowed him to update the concept through adapting himself to where he is.

Many people may think that the concept of “home” is a past place, which is strongly connected to nostalgia for “home”; for example, a synonym of the word “nostalgia” is “homesickness.” Both words of “nostalgia” and “homesickness” refer to emotional states of longing for home and sadness of one’s absence from there, and people believe that these emotional states are the main concept of “home.” Another example is in the article “Re-imagining home and belonging: feminism, nostalgia, and critical memory,” which is about how nostalgic longings for home create strong concept of “home.” The author, Samah Sabra, who is a Lebanese instructor of Carleton University in Canada, writes, “Home … refers to a past place from which one ‘comes’ and to which one desires to return.” She considers that nostalgic longing for home are a necessary aspect of the concept of “home;” however, the attitude can also recreate a romanticized, utopian concept of “home,” which is not actual place but a series of mental images. It is painful for people who left their countries, where they cannot return, to hold such illusory state. In the article “What Is Home?”, which is about different aspects of home, Natania Rosenfeld, who is a professor of English of Knox College, writes, “New York is a city of immigrants…; hardly anyone has deep roots, and that rootlessness, paradoxically, creates the sense of home.” Immigrants in New York represent immigrants in the whole country. They create a sense of “home” where they are residents because what they need is flexible, multiple concept of “home” rather than holding illusory images. Otherwise, they may have to live as “forever foreigners.” Thus, the concept of “home” can be a mental image of a past place where they lived; however, it can also be a present place where they currently live. In other words, the concept of “home” can be flexible and multiple. Since his birthplace determined his identity, Argentinean, his unforgettable experiences of surviving and leaving Argentina have allowed his self-identity to be reinforced.

Compared to Mario’s sense of identity, his concept of “home” is flexible and simple, which is quite interesting and unique. In her memoir The Invented Country, which is about her nostalgia for her homeland, Chile, which exists only in her mind, Isabel Allende, who is a journalist, playwright, children’s writer and novelist, writes about when she arrived in California after visiting her homeland, Chile, thirteen years after she had left: “On the return flight, when I saw San Francisco Bay from the air, I gave a sigh of exhaustion and, without thinking, said: Back home at last. It was the first time since I’d left Chile in 1975 that I felt I was ‘home’” (192). After her marriage to an American guy, Willie, and moving into California to live with him, she often feels she is out of place in the new place. The culture she carries, her clothes and attitudes, feel like oddities in California. She also does not write her works in English but in Spanish. However, she feels she is “home” when she arrives in California because, there, or her husband, Willie, is the place to which she belongs.

Mario’s time probably has passed like hers. He actually forged through the period of adapting because it was not easy but necessary for the boy “Mario.” When he arrived in New York, his first place in the U.S., he might not have felt that he was home because of his language, culture, and attitude; however, while he was adapting himself to different places in the U.S., New York, Boston, Texas, and California— he gradually began to feel at home in the U.S., finally much more than in Argentina. He says, “Home is where I live today, [the] San Francisco Bay Area, and, it must be a good reason [as it is] where I always come back since I have left.” He does not say that San Francisco is the only place for his “home,” but implies any place can be his “home.” He started his new life with his family in the Italian district in New York. Children in his neighborhood speak Italian and speak English at school while he speaks Spanish. His happiest moment when he boarded the airplane to the U.S., dreaming of new opportunities in the coolest place in the world, New York, may quickly turn into the hardest time for the boy “Mario.” After New York, a melting pot of races, cultures, and religions, he moves to Boston, Texas, and, finally, California. While growing up and becoming independent in different states, he may not have the chance to look back to his past place, Argentina, but may force himself to step forward and keep looking forward.

In addition, he very appreciates the opportunity to travel around the U.S. and to see many different things compared to when he could not have such experiences in Argentina. Mario says, “I see the U.S. as a heaven,” and he continues, “Our family’s economic reality in Argentina would have never provided the opportunities that we have enjoyed in the U.S., so in many ways, expectation were surpassed.” When he and his sister talked to each other by phone recently, they laughed at their dreams that they had before leaving Argentina for the U.S. because, although the dream was like an unreal image from American movies, their lives are more satisfying than those. They celebrate their life that they have in the U.S. His appreciation for the places he has lived and opportunities he has had in the U.S. reflects his concept of “home,” where he is. Thus, his experiences and his gratefulness to them have allowed him to have a flexible concept of his “home.”

Through the interview with Mario, I found that he has had three types of journey. First one is his actual journey, from Argentina to the U.S. and in the states of the U.S. The second one is the journey of his sense of self-identity. The third one is the journey of the concept of his “home.” My question, how Mario’s nostalgia for Argentina, where he was born, has affected his sense of identity, and how his experience has affected his concept of “home” through the passage of time, seemed like a riddle, and it interested me to read the riddle. Although some immigrant children flexibly combine their identities with American identity, Mario’s nostalgia for Argentina with his unforgettable experiences, has strengthened his self-identity as an Argentinian. On the other hand, he has flexibly updated his concept of “home” with appreciation for various opportunities, which he has had in the U.S. and would have never had in Argentina, although the word ‘‘home’’ often carries strong sentimental connotations and refers to a past place.

His three journeys are quite unique and interesting, but anybody can have an identity crisis and consideration of what home is. As Mario has done, these opportunities can be psychological journeys, which may be able to lead the person to a new awareness of his or her self-identity and his or her concept of “home.”

Work Cited

Allende, Isabel. My Invented Country. London: Harper Collins, 2003. Print.

Morento, Mario. Personal Interview. Apr. 2013

Portes, Alejandro, and Alejandro Rivas. “The adaptation of migrant children.” The Future of Children Spring 2011: 219+. Academic OneFile. Web. 12 May 2013.

Rosenfeld, Natania. “What Is Home?” Southwest Review 98.1 (2013): 45+. Academic OneFile. Web. 15 May 2013.

Sabra, Samah. “Re-imagining home and belonging: feminism, nostalgia, and critical memory.” Resources for Feminist Research 33.1-2 (2008): 79+. Academic OneFile. Web. 19 May 2013.

An Interview Transcript

His name is Mario Moreno, Argentinean. He is in middle 50s and a hospital eligibility supervisor at a hospital in San Francisco. He lives next to my house last December.

·         Where are you from?

I am from Buenos Aires, Argentina (Yes, where the new pope is from and yes he is also named Mario) I’m sure just a coincidence …or is it??  What is actually interesting is that I am the only Argentinean in the entire family tree.  Reason being that my family travel from Ecuador, where everyone else is from, and once they settled in Argentina, I was born, so even my own sister is from another country, kinda funny.

·         When did you leave your home country?

I came to the US when I was 11 years old.

·         How many countries or states have you lived?

Just Argentina and U.S., but I have lived in New York, Boston, Texas and now Ca.

·         Why did you leave your country?

My mom and dad were self-employed designing and creating high end ladies leather handbags, snake, crocodile, cow, ostrich, etc.  My parents always sacrificed to give us the best they could.  They paid extra so we could go to catholic school and get a good education.  We all slept one bed in a small tenement in Buenos Aires.  Compared to many of my friends, we were considered poor; I was even embarrassed to invite my school friends over to our place.

When I was about 8, we had a family meeting and the decision was that US was the only way to open opportunities for us to get out of poverty.  Every penny we had was invested in my dad coming to the US.  My dad’s cousin brought my dad to Washington DC to test the waters and my dad was hired as a designer.  He was then hired by Coach, yes that one!!  He brought the rest of us over after 3 years of working and saving and we moved into our first apt. in New York.

·         What do you see differences between your homeland and the U.S.?

In terms of the country’s themselves, they could not be more different.  In Argentina, the economy has become awful in that what it costs to buy milk today would go up or double the following week as the “peso” would just devalue.  Mostly due to corrupt government that mismanaged (stole) the value.  As an example we were laughing with my sister the other day remembering that my parents would have to buy our shoes and school uniforms on credit! Crazy huh …  So being poor really becomes a lifelong sentence.  We hardly traveled in Argentina, so I did not know many places that I do now.

The one major thing, that I told my friends when I went to visit for the ’78 Soccer World cup, was that while I may have opportunities and things … they have a solid family unit.  Every Sunday, you can walk down the streets in the barrios of Buenos Aires and smell the delicious BBQs and families getting together.

In the capital, where I lived, there’s more of an upper society feeling for a good part of that area.  Much like US, once you get outside into the provinces, they don’t like the “spoiled” Buenos Aires residents, they are more cowboys like.

Since my mom passed some years ago, my dad went back to Ecuador and my sister lives in Dallas and Chicago and my grown son lives in Fremont, so “which is better ? ” is really a relative question.  But of course, here once can be much more in charge of their destiny as in Argentina.

·         Do you like your homeland? Why?

I am proud to be an Argentinean in many ways, the culture, the food, and my memories.  However, Argentinians are traditionally European decedents, including many Germans that escaped there during the war, but most have solid roots from Italy and you can see that flavor mostly in Buenos Aires.  Therefore, since I was descendent of Ecuadorans, a darker skin culture I found myself being treated differently than the typical euro-like Argentinean.  My friends from school saw me as one of their own.

·         Do you like the U.S.? Why?

US, like Argentina, has different regions that are night and day to each other so it’s hard to paint with a single brush.  As a whole, however, I see the US as a haven for many cultures and opportunities to those who are willing to risk and work hard with dedication.  I would never have had similar opportunities in Argentina, just not possible.  I have seen more of the country here than I would ever had while living in Buenos Aires

·         When was the happiest time in your life? Why?

While I treasure many childhood memories and the day I jumped on that plane when I was 11 years old; this is probably the happiest time of my life.  To have my own little place, making come out to what I want it to be and living in a cool little town close to the nicest city I’ve ever lived in.

·         When was the hardest time in your life? Why?

Besides my divorce when I distanced myself from my son, I could not compare too many other times.  But, I do recall being sad when we were waiting for my dad to call us to come to the US.  We were alone, I was not allowed to tell anyone that we were planning to leave the country and we felt that everything could fall apart any minute.  I learned about risk in a very real way !!

·         What do you think is your ethnic group?

I consider myself a Latino, don’t much care for the description of Hispanic, I don’t have any panic (lol)… Latino best describes me because I come from Latin America.  We are a proud ethnicity that oftentimes in extreme situations causes friction with other cultures.  At times, young Latinos will act out with violence to prove their identity, which in some ways embarrasses me.

·         Where do you consider your homeland?

Even though I am the only Argentinean in my whole family tree of Ecuadorians, I do consider myself Argentinean since it is all I know, I have only visited Ecuador a few times, and do not find much resemblance other than my skin.  Most Argentinians are European decent and I may have at times not fitted their view of an Argentinean

·         What is a concept of home for you?

Home is where I live today, San Francisco Bay Area, since I have left and always come back, must be a good reason for that.

·         Since moving, how has your perspective changed about your homeland?

Since I left Argentina when I was 11 years old and really no relatives left behind there and few friends; I don’t really miss it.  I do not follow politics or other news.  As a soccer enthusiast I do follow the sport to some extent, but that’s it, I have lost the connection

·         Since moving, how has your perspective changed about yourself?

I feel very independent and self-sufficient, which is very different than the common family units know to be prevalent in Argentina.  People don’t; must have around much there, due to the economic limitations, so families tend to live near each other and therefore enjoy the benefits of family’s’ support, very different than my situation.

·         While your voyage, what did you expect your life in the US?

I’m not sure I understand this question.  But if you’re asking how I viewed the US before coming here, it was just the images we saw in movies growing up, vast landscapes, warm, riches, etc.

·         How was your life different from your expectation?

While I am not be enjoying all the things I saw as other’s experiences living in the US from the movies, I see that my dreams as a child to be even at a reach of such beauty is now closer than I would ever be living in Argentina.  Our family’s economic reality in Argentina would have never provided the opportunities that we have enjoyed in the US.  As an example, my sister and bro -n-law own two huge homes in Texas and Illinois and live in each for 6 months at a time.  We laughed recently, that those thoughts were not even in our minds growing up as a wildest possibility.  So in many ways, expectations were surpassed