From left to right, top: Sylvana Proaño y Azriel Almodóvar<br />From left to right, bottom: Fernando Gutiérrez Calderón y Ligia Andrea Monterroza Orellana
From left to right, top: Sylvana Proaño y Azriel Almodóvar
From left to right, bottom: Fernando Gutiérrez Calderón y Ligia Andrea Monterroza Orellana
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Usos y costumbres

The Immigrant Nostalgia

Four Testimonials

Por Nayeli Sequeira y Waleska Brito
December 2022
Every day, millions of immigrants think at least once a day about their pasts in their countries of origin. Many of these people come looking for new beginnings to experience what the famous American dream is, leaving behind their memories and childhood, willing to share their culture in new ways.
Many people have a hard time adjusting to the new culture, new traditions, and new language. We asked four Hispanics about their experience as immigrants and here we share their responses.

The 26-year-old Nicaraguan Fernando Gutiérrez Calderón came to the United States less than a year ago from the southern side of the Caribbean coast, in the municipality of Rama. He now lives in the state of Massachusetts with his family of five. “The first thing that comes to mind when I hear my country mentioned is family, culture, and customs. Although not everything I remember is rosy. I lived in the countryside, in a region far from the city. One of the things I miss from daily life in the countryside is being around the animals, the foods you eat there, especially the typical foods during festivities, such as enchilada, nacatamales, and pinol. Also, the difference is that here there is not so much freedom, although in my country you are not so free to express your opinion because of the government, you definitely feel freer than here. Here I feel more tied to the laws as they are different from what we are normally used to. I feel very far from home. Here I feel subdued, although I am used to the silence of the countryside. The energy is more subdued here and is felt more by remembering the energy with which I was surrounded there. Because here if you want to try to make connections it's harder because the language, the culture and the system are different. And that makes nostalgia consume us every day”.

While the noise of the festivities approaches our homes, the absence of our hearts is felt by the distance. Can you beat nostalgia? Fernando says that it is not necessary to try “since it will always be there, it is more than anything how to use it to move forward, have a main objective. I've always wanted something and being with my family here helps me with my goal and that keeps me going. I also miss my family from Nicaragua, the customs, the food, and everything. One thing that unites us immigrants is the desire for something better, some come here to seek a better life, some want to have something, others perhaps want to settle down with a chelito, many things, but that makes us migrants have the same desire in common; the desire to get ahead, the desire to have a better life. I experienced many connections with other immigrants who, although they came from different countries and their experiences were different, the objective was the same and that united us,” reflects Fernando.

From the Dominican Republic, Azriel Almodóvar is a third-year philosophy student at Bard College. Prior to his arrival in the Hudson Valley, he graduated from the Bronx School for Law Government and Justice. Why did Azriel come to this country? “Because my father thought that by sending us to live in the United States with our aunt, we were going to get better opportunities in life compared to a life in the Republica.”

Although he doesn't feel like he has a good relationship with his home country, Azriel explains that he follows many old connections from afar, “I'm always supportive. As a college immigrant, I keep my roots thanks to the other students who share my experience and help me reconnect every day. I also maintain my cultures through my family. We stick to our roots and traditions and try not to stray. I just try to keep a little bit of the past so I can go back to childhood, but I don't stay on top of all our traditions."

Azriel says that he couldn't get over the culture shock, instead “I just got used to it over time and was able to continue living in a world that seemed new. I had so many problems and doubts, but I just kept a positive attitude and time resolved it."

Ligia Andrea Monterroza Orellana is from El Salvador. She immigrated to New Jersey at the age of 14, where she completed her high school studies. “The truth is that this longing was an opportunity that arose in my mother's heart. I was only 14 years old when we moved, and I didn't understand why because I was still little. Personally, I did not want to come to the U.S. since my family, my friends, my life were in El Salvador, but for mami it was an opportunity that she knew would benefit me after all" explains Ligia, who currently lives in Annandale-On-Hudson , New York, as a college student at Bard College completing her studies toward her undergraduate degree in Chemistry.

Do you still have any relationship with your country of origin?

My parents are divorced. My biological dad, his wife, who I also call mom, and my other sisters still live in El Salvador. After all that country saw me grow up and my heart belongs to El Salvador, even though I'm not physically there.

As a university student immigrant, how do you try to maintain your roots of origin?

It has been a struggle because I am a first-generation student. The educational system, the health system, the American system in general, has been something very unknown to my parents. Entering the university for me has been a process in which I had to learn it alone and especially the new language. This is not something that should be blamed, rather it is the circumstances in which we find ourselves and at the end of the day we can say that it was achieved. Being a first-generation student studying chemistry and also being involved in a field where Spanish-speaking women are few and far between and dominated more by the male gender, it has also been difficult for me. Throughout my life I did not have opportunities such as tutoring or extracurriculars that helped me reinforce those desires towards science. So as a Latina woman whose first language is not English, I feel proud to be able to represent my country with great humility and a happy heart always in this area of ​​study.

How did you overcome the culture shock between your culture and the new one?

My social base, values, ideologies, beliefs were all created in El Salvador and for that part I believe that it is a process that is not over yet, that I will continue learning every day. But one thing that has helped me is having an open heart and mind, willing to listen. To be patient, to have grace with others, with oneself and recognize that we were raised in a certain way, but outside there are endless new things to learn, new cultures in which we can also add to our knowledge. Even starting to question how we do things. I know that this helps me to continue contributing to my culture and to be able to compare the two and to be able to identify which one suits me better and which one doesn't. After all, you have to understand that there are different cultures, perspectives, and different ways of doing the same things with each other.

While the memory of our childhood land is bathed by the crying of the moon and the stars, laughter and memories fill our hearts from a long distance. We asked Sylvana Proaño, 52, originally from Quito, Ecuador, who has lived in Berkshire County, Massachusetts for almost 28 years, with her partner and their two daughters, how she has adapted her culture and tradition to life daily. “I think that instead of waking up to live in nostalgia and sadness, I take advantage of what can be lived with the two cultures here. I have also been lucky to have my mom and sisters close by as they can travel and visit our family here in the United States.” Silvana acknowledges her luck in being able to travel to visit her family in Ecuador so as not to feel that nostalgia more strongly and adds, "I think that culture not only comes from a country but also from the people closest to us, like my mother, for example, one of the people who raised us and taught us everything. I try to promote all their teachings here, and pass them on to my daughters, Isabella and Daniella, who were born here, so they know how beautiful our culture is, just like the American one, but always keeping our roots in mind."

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