BY: Erika Murguia
Experiencing Our Town:
In The Words of Women Immigrants in Columbus, Indiana
I have lived in the United States for almost 12 years, and in Columbus for six years now. Columbus is now home; I have now experienced that feeling when I am away traveling for work that I want to come back to quietude and the safety of this town.
When we arrived back in 2011, one of the first places I visited was Viewpoint Books, the downtown independent bookstore, where I would spend a couple of hours reading the staff reviews in order to choose my next reading pick. The next obvious choice was the library, with its great outreach program. It was in the library that I met my realtor and loan officer, who have worked with us on both of our house purchases. As that first summer arrived, I was introduced to the Farmer’s Market and my favorite vendor, Bruce. I was pregnant with my twins and craving beets. Now that I know him, I have been a faithful customer of his for seven consecutive summers. That’s what I love about Columbus; locals are so warm and welcoming of foreigners and I trust this community to make it my own.
My happy place, though, is Viewpoint Books; when the previous owners announced it was for sale, I was so worried that the town would not have a place where I could find those unique books that I like to buy for my family and me. Later on, when the new owners were announced, I was happy to learn that they had big plans for it. In that bookstore, as well as in the Library, my daughters could listen during story time. Ms. Polly, at Viewpoint, made them curious about what happens if you eat a watermelon seed or how a dinosaur says “Goodnight.”
On any given Saturday during the summertime, we will stop by the Farmer’s Market early in the morning to visit Bruce and get our produce and eggs. Invariably, the girls will drink a glass of lemonade there and then we’ll stop by the bookstore so I can look around while they plot how they’ll spend their hard-earned savings. After that, we’ll visit the Library to hand in their summer reading cards (this year), drop off any books and DVDs we had checked out, and get some new ones.
I am part of a family of immigrants: several generations in my family have been immigrants. That has taught me the value of confidence, speaking out, and resiliency. Back in Mexico, I lived within walking distance of a library and bookstore, hence those places will always be familiar to me regardless of where I am in the world. I might be wrong, but I have never met a bookseller or a librarian that does not like to talk—about books. Those are the places that I first visited in this town and that I still do on a regular basis.
When I was moving to the US back in 2005 a Lebanese friend in Mexico recommended that I should get to know the people that provided services to me: the postman, the person in the neighborhood restaurant, the UPS driver, the person in the register at Target. All those people provide not only a sense of community, but they could also provide a safety net when faced with a problem, e.g., they could know my whereabouts, my habits, etc. I did follow his advice: I have gotten to know these people who have provided services and help and, yes, knowing them by name, wishing them happy holidays, etc, does provide a sense of community.