These are the stories of immigrants. I knew all of them. I was several of them.
A gentleman was an elementary school teacher in rural Mexico, in a town where families often didn’t have enough to eat. Regardless, parents brought their children to him so to learn. But at the end of sixth grade the same parents were waiting outside of the small school to send their kids to work in El Norte.
Many of us come believing we’ll stay here long enough to save some money and return home.
A woman and her husband owned a small lot adjacent to the college she attended. They married and came to Los Angeles, thinking that with the money they’ll make here they would build a house on that lot and then their children would graduate from the same university. The oldest, a boy, was 10; the daughter, just 6.
Unique immigrants stories
But the money they made was consumed by necessities here.
Today their children are young adults. They grow up, acquire partners and stay here.
If the parents go back, they go alone.
Other parents, this time from Uruguay, arrived in Los Angeles escaping the political conflict, full of ideology and militancy. Here they wrapped themselves in distant memories and a display of prudence. Years passed by and their children know nothing about their parents’ past. If they told them, the kids would consider it a good action movie, too good to believe.
Another one came from Israel because out of every 12 months in the year, 2 were dedicated to the obligatory military reserve service. He survived two wars thanks to two miracles and his wife made him swear to try his luck in “America.” Doing whatever, but alive. That was me.
The change destroyed the relationship. They divorced but lived close to one other, because of the kids.
An old co-worker was a school administrator in Guatemala. When the school hit financial problems she lost everything: house, car, all of her money,her job. She came.
“Why did you choose the US?”
“What other country?”
People come here because of different reasons: economic, political; for an adventure, to be far away from parents. Some came because of the military junta. Others blame the return of democracy. I know all of them.
I came, says one of them, because I was offered a diplomatic visa. The visa is no longer valid, but he stayed here.
I came because I lost my land. I came because of the Sandinistas. I came because I fell in love with a gringo. I came because I was a Marielito in Cuba. I came because in Mexico I was robbed four times.
I risked everything
I didn’t want to come but I had no choice: hunger drove me away. We came, they all say, because what we had there was not enough.
I came because of this, this, and this. That’s why I came. I risked everything and here I am.
And so, my hands shielding my body to cover myself, because I have even lost my clothes, I arrived in the United States. To “America,” the dream.
And when we arrived, those of us that migrated as grown ups broke down. We lost our belonging and confused our identity. The images we see each day are unknown to us. We smell and don’t recognize what is it that we smell. The food, the faces, the customs, the speed of life, the music, the words, everything is foreign to us.
Twenty years later we are still strangers. We speak English, but inside, we keep speaking the other language.
Just to survive we have to be reborn, to live in inches instead of centimeters and degrees Fahrenheit instead of Celsius. We gather and call ourselves a new name: “Latino“. And pretend to ignore that we are not wanted.
We will never again be who we once were, before we became immigrants.
The one who was Don Alejandro in Buenos Aires now is washing dishes after midnight and is Don Nadie, Mr. Nobody.
How about going back? Those who really wanted to already did it.
But they remain foreigners even there. They go back but never really arrive. Their childhood streets are too narrow; the buildings are too flimsy, and nobody understands them. At the end they are unhappy here and there.
They live in circles.