As the daughter of a Puerto Rican mother and an American father, I like to consider myself blessed. I love hearing the stories of travel, triumph, and growth from both sides of my diverse family. Deep down in my heart, I know we all are immigrants and we all have a story to tell. My story comes to me from the eyes of my Abuelita. She could sit and talk about her struggles for days. She particularly liked to recount the reasons why, despite living in the US for many years, she continued to to speak in her native tongue.
Her choice wasn’t because she didn’t want to learn, she just didn’t want to lose her sense of culture. She looked high and low for shops in New York that reminded her of items that were sold in her pueblo. Scavenging stores to look for spices and cultural memories that tied her to her país. Through her stories, she would remind us of her struggles, arriving here with nothing, her only option to work in a factory making dolls. She reminisced about standing on her feet all day, and being paid mere coins for her hard labor.
Although she worked all those hours and was paid pennies, she appreciated all she had and continued to work to provide for my mother and her other children. She expressed that her work made her realize the value of a dollar and the importance of sacrifice. She made a sacrifice everyday working in the factories that held toxic fumes and materials, engaging in back breaking work to get ahead in life. She did this to allow her children to have a better life, with more opportunities. She did it for me, her granddaughter; a mother, teacher, and college graduate with a Master’s degree in Early Childhood Education from New York University. The granddaughter of a Puerto Rican, Taina Indian.
I hear the same stories from my mother-in-law when she comes to visit from The Dominican Republic. She tells me how she sent her children away with her own mother-in-law so that they could be given a better future. She didn’t want them to endure hard labor for scraps and have to deal with the economy and politics of La República Dominicana. She wanted much more. She wanted them to attend high school and college, and to someday be able to provide more for their family than she could for her own.
My husband its with me and recounts how he would ride with his mother on a motora into other pueblos in La República Dominicana to collect money for milk, chickens that were sold, and salt from the fincas (farms). She worked hours and hours of hard labor only to continue her journey of riding around, collecting her money. The money that was not even enough to pay a bill thanks to the difference in the dollar value and the level of poverty of the country.
The journey of our ancestors meet with my husband and I. Together, we are a product of immigration. We, like many, have defied the odds stacked against us. We are working class citizens with great paying jobs. We work hard and have endless goals for our children: the same goals as our ancestors. Thanks to our immigrant families, we have a stronger voice and we can build our legacy together in a country that allows it. We will continue to pave the way for our children and grandchildren and we will continue to fight hard for our people to be given the chance to achieve the same greatness that we’ve experienced!