BY: Veronica Wong
Experiencing Our Town:
In The Words of Women Immigrants in Columbus, Indiana
I never considered becoming an immigrant; it was not part of my personal plan. As I recall, being an immigrant was part of the past, it was only part of my family’s history: my grandfather traveled from Asia to the American continent in 1920. He came from China and decided to stay and make a family. He settled in Chihuahua, one of the northern Mexico states known as a territory of industry, commerce, livestock, and fruit producing. In my early youth, I visualized the “American Dream” as well as many of my friends from the border did. Unlike those who aspire to live in the US, we aspired to work on the American side and live on the Mexican side. In other words, the dream was to earn in dollars and spend in pesos. However, in 2010, circumstances changed and we hand to find alternatives for subsistence, have our family in a safe place, and take advantage of job and career opportunities, which fortunately were granted to my husband, but 1575 miles away from our homeland in the Midwestern part of the United States. I decided to accompany my husband.
I realized, upon entry to the United States, that I did not have the rights that I had in my country, such as the right to work. It was harsh. Now I must wait another two years to complete the requirements to obtain a license to practice my profession as it is stipulated by the laws and regulations of the state of Indiana. Frustration stems from the fact that, since a very young age, I had worked, being self-sufficient and having the responsibility to contribute in some way to the community. As a social worker, I have seen the needs faced by many other immigrants, both those who are equal to mine, who are mostly women, as well as other migrants in less fortunate circumstances.
Unfortunately, the year 2016 was very difficult for my husband, my children, and for me. We lost a loved one in Mexico. In addition to the sadness of his death, we had the misfortune to be momentarily unable to leave the United States and it was not possible to meet our loved ones for fear of having some conflict on our return due to visa changes and our immigrant status. Among other things, during that time I was deprived of having a valid driver’s license, so for more than a month I required the support of friends and the public transportation in order to fulfill my responsibilities. Another lamentable fact was during that year some people changed negatively and they mistreated me at institutions and stores.
It has been a long journey to find a suitable place and finally to be able to settle here, a place we consider with stability and convenience for our family plans. I think what helped us from the beginning was to appreciate that each place has its charms, as I say to several of my acquaintances who are just arriving in Columbus. Having this in mind makes the adjustment more bearable. After living in places as diverse as the state of Texas, northern Indiana, and in the suburbs of Chicago in the timespan of just two years, it is very satisfying to have our home here in this small town for almost five years now. In spite of all the vicissitudes mentioned and perhaps the ones that we will find in the future, I am very grateful and I greatly appreciate what Columbus represents for me today and for my family.
One of the things that I enjoy is the ColumBUS transit system, which I consider to be a good option to get to know where you live, whether it’s a metropolis, a small town or the border. The best way to get to know the guts of that place is by using public transportation. I think it is useful to “take a dip in town” as we would say in my country of origin; that is, it helps you to have contact with the immediate reality in which its inhabitants live. And it is precisely for this reason that one of my favorite places in the city is the grove near the Bartholomew County Public Library, on 5th Street in front of the Irwin Gardens between Pearl Street and Lafayette Avenue. It is a place for inspiration, it gives me peace of mind, invites me to meditate, and gives shade and respite from the sun, especially after having passed a long journey, such as the Mill Race Marathon.
When I pass through the streets of downtown, I can imagine other Mexican migrants who, like me, ventured to try their luck in this land far away from our homeland. I must admit that these last seven years have made me feel proud being an immigrant and that this fact is part of my identity.