BY: Magda Gamez
Experiencing Our Town:
In The Words of Women Immigrants in Columbus, Indiana
I came to the US about 17 years ago. When I first heard that there might be a possibility for our family to move to the US it filled me up with both sadness and excitement, so finally when my husband was offered a position in Charleston, SC, I had second thoughts. My oldest daughter, who was in 7th grade at the time, was not so thrilled about moving since it meant she would have to leave her school and friends. I also thought about leaving our families and friends behind.
In 2008, my husband was offered a new position within his company in a different city, Columbus, Indiana. Again it implied some changes in our family: my oldest daughter, already in college, would stay in SC; I would have to leave a job (again) I learned to love and now my youngest would have to leave her school and friends. However, the move also meant we would live closer to my family in Chicago; we were already familiar with the culture, and saw it as a new opportunity to meet new people, new places, and embark in new adventures. We arrived in Columbus two weeks after the flood, so it was very hard to find a house for rent since our house was being built. So we had to live in a very small one bedroom apartment for a couple of months.
I had heard there was a large Hispanic community in town, and a week after I arrived to Columbus I was invited to attend a baby shower, and what a pleasant surprise! I found a room full of Hispanic ladies, mostly from my hometown and we started speaking our language, talking about our hometown in Mexico, streets, restaurants, etc. I remember getting back home telling my husband “I think I am going to love living in Columbus” even if it snows in the winter! I made new friends that same day and it felt wonderful! I enjoyed the first snow in our new city and home and had to learn to shovel it from our driveway since my husband took care of the lawn during the summer.
A couple of weeks later I joined a non-profit agency whose mission was and is to assist the Hispanic community in town. I learned that unfortunately being an immigrant in the US is not the same for everybody and felt very lucky to have had the experience I had, even with the difficult times I went through the first couple of months when we first moved to the US. Some people suffer real challenges being immigrants in this country; they have to overcome several barriers to keep on living, lacking abilities to speak the English language being the most important of all. I had to quickly learn about services Columbus offers to its citizens, assistance agencies, places to visit, etc., in order to help these families the best way possible. Sometimes even only moral support is what these families needed to feel a little better; I knew the feeling about being in a different country from a totally different point of view, so I learned from these families about their different needs to assist them better. I continue to work with Hispanic families, but now in education, encouraging students to graduate from high school and continue postsecondary education. I tell them the sky is the limit and to do the impossible to fulfill their dreams, I would love to see one day when someone sees an immigrant, in our case Latinos, to think of him/her as someone who is not only an immigrant, but also a bilingual and bicultural person.
Living in Columbus has been a delightful time. I get to enjoy all the seasons of the year with its beautiful colors. I also learned to love a small city where I feel safe, have a job I love, and have the best of friends. I enjoy walking downtown, going to the library and just being around caring people and a wonderful and diverse community—I’m very happy to call Columbus my home, too.