My daughter and I only saw him a couple of times in a year. I remember that one day my husband arrived home from work and our daughter did not even recognize him.
All the sacrifices I had to make in order to come to this country and to start a new life were all worth it, because I knew that it would pay off.
My name is Liliana Gonzalez (name was changed for this article). I grew up in Lima, Peru, the capital. In the district of El Agustino, a humble place in front of a park, in an apartment in which my parents, my three sisters, and I lived. The apartment was a small, single bedroom, and it was really hot in there during the summer. One thing I remember about my childhood was that when I would be dismissed from school, my mom would make me take care of my younger sisters.
While my mom would work, my sisters and I would play house, pretending we were a family. I always acted like the mom, because they saw me as a mom. I treated them like if they were my daughters. I would always defend them, teach them what is right from wrong, and I would teach them how to cook Peruvian food. I would make my youngest sister get on a baby stroller to make her look like my baby. I enjoyed taking care of them because I loved each and every one of them. I felt so honored having that responsibility because my mom trusted me. My mom once said, “Yo estoy bien orgullosa de ti. Tu te vas a convertir en una buena mujer.” I am very proud of you because you have become a wonderful and strong woman.
I am the person I am today because my life as a teenager was calm. My parents were conservative people and that is how they raised me. I would always obey their rules because I did not want to be a bad role model for my younger sisters. I was really focused on my education, because my goal was to go to a university and work as an accountant. My parents were strict, so I had curfews and I was not allowed to have a boyfriend. They thought that having a boyfriend would be a distraction and it would interfere with my education.
Therefore, one of my favorite memories from my childhood was when my mom prepared a scrumptious dinner for Christmas. My mom cooked turkey and made a rich Russian salad, and then she would make hot chocolate milk called Sol De Cuzco with Paneton. We would invite all of my tias.
However, we were short on money; my parents would buy new clothes for my sisters and I only three times a year. One was for our birthday, Independence Day in Peru, and Christmas. The funny thing is that my parents would always buy us the same clothes, just in different colors.
However, in my country, the presidential candidates promise so much to help improve our country, and once they get elected, they would fail to do what they promised. After presidency, they get investigated, and the investigators come to a conclusion that the mismanagement of income, poverty, and the lack of work is the government’s fault.
I graduated high school, then I graduated from University, and then I started working in offices. I got married at the age of 28. The wedding was so beautiful and it seemed unreal. The next year, I gave birth to my beautiful daughter in August 2001.
My husband and I heard that in the United States, there are better opportunities. Moving there was not really an option for me, because I knew that my family would have a better quality of life and we would live in safer place.
We left Peru because it was a struggle to have family time there. My husband would work for a lot of time because the payment was very low. My husband worked outside the capital for about three to seven months. So my daughter and I only saw him a couple of times in a year. I remember that one day my husband arrived home from work and our daughter did not even recognize him. The lifestyle I wanted to live was to have a house of my own with my family united, and to give my daughter and future kids a better future than what I had.
Since I was expecting a baby boy, my husband and I decided to take action and go to the United States. We came to New York with a tourist visa. I was very scared that when we would arrive at the New York airport, the immigration control would realize that I was pregnant and return us back to Peru. I feared that because I believed that they would think that the only reason I came here is to give birth to my son in the United States, so he can be a citizen here with documents.
We finally arrived in New York because I have an aunt that lives there. She helped us by giving us housing assistance. It was great living there, but the weather was very bad. One day when I used to live there, I was walking to a grocery store and I almost slipped because the street was covered in ice. I could have lost my baby that was inside of me. That was when my husband and I decided it is best to move to a place that has a better climate, that is similar to Peru’s warm climate.
However, my husband has family in California so he traveled to San Francisco, California, alone. He then called me and said, “Liliana yo estoy apunto de conseguir trabajo, ya es hora que vengas. Además el clima aquí es mucho mejor que en Nueva York y podremos obtener licencia de conducir aquí.” Liliana, I’m about to get a job, it’s time for you to come. Besides the weather here is much better than in New York and we can get a driver’s license here. My daughter and I came to California in December around Christmas time. It was difficult for my husband to find work and we only had $20 left. I was unable to work because I was pregnant. We started to live in a garage, and it was very small and hot in the summer, but it was what we could only afford. When I gave birth to my son, I was still unable to work, but my husband did work. I had the help of vouchers and coupons to collect milk and other things in supermarkets.
Apart from that, it was very difficult to adapt to the English language. When you arrive to this country, the first thing you have to do is work and take care of your family, and there is no time to study. In my case, as the children grow, there are more activities in and out of school, and sometimes we do not have time for ourselves. My first job here was in a laboratory. I learned a lot and they liked my work, but I did not last long there since they checked my documents, and I could not continue to work there.
Apart from learning a new language, my physical appearance changed a lot because when I came here, I ate a lot of hamburgers and pizzas. This was because I did not have time to cook and do exercises because I was focused on working and taking care of my children.
The one thing I really miss is my parents. Without them, I think I would not be the person I am today. Luckily, they can visit my family one or two times a year because they have visa.
I am blessed to have a beautiful family. My husband and I have almost 17 years of marriage, and I feel that we have come together closer since we came here because we love, appreciate, and respect each other. Above all, we have a very good communication. My children are doing well in school and they are very good people. My husband and I are doing a great job of supporting them until they reach their goals. Their teachers congratulate us for their diplomas and how responsible they are. Our friends tell us how well-educated and respectful our children are with other people. That motivates my husband and I to assure that our sacrifice was worth it. I could not imagine what my life would be like if I did not come here, because I cannot say something that did not happen, but I think it was worth having immigrated to this country.
This story was written by the immigrant’s daughter, a student in the Bay Area.