Immigration Stories – Marcela’s Migration: National Borders, Identities, Love – by DyAnna Grondahl. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports
If someone were to ask my sister Marcela why she migrated, she would smile and say she moved for love. “I met the love of my life in Honduras 8 years ago. A friend of mine introduced me to my now husband.” Connor and Marcela’s love story often sounds like something that would sell in paperback at the grocery store. He was a U.S. Marine who didn’t speak Spanish. She was a Honduran woman who didn’t speak English. She didn’t think they had a connection and decided they wouldn’t go out again, but a few months later, he messaged her and asked if she would see him. She thought it through, said yes, and that was it. They rekindled their romance with a night of dancing. Navigating the relationship was still challenging in terms of communication. “It was still awkward in the beginning, but we had something special that even though we couldn’t talk that did not stop us from being together.” As their relationship grew, she worked on picking up the English language and his Spanish was improving. Through this budding relationship, Marcela introduced Connor to much of her family.
Their relationship’s challenge soon moved beyond language when Connor was in a major accident that left him badly injured and back in America. Their relationship continued through his healing process via Skype. They talked at length about where their atypical long-distance relationship was going to go from there. Unfortunately, it wasn’t feasible to fly from Honduras or the U.S. for a weekend visit from time to time. Connor decided that the only way the relationship was going to work was if he were to ask Marcela to marry him. Today she looks back on when she said yes, “we had strong feelings for each other and decided that in order to give our love a fair chance, we had to be together and we knew it’d be a long and difficult process, but we made it through it all.”
The day Marcela came to the United States to stay was February 9, 2011. The day was filled with a mix of emotions. She was happy to start a new life in a new place with her soon-to-be husband. She was upset to be leaving her country, the place from where she grew, her home, her family’s home. She was especially sad to be leaving her mother, as they were very close. To make matters worse, her experience with U.S. Customs was less than satisfying.
It began when the customs officer analyzed her papers and asked the basic questions. After she was finished with that line of questioning, she was sent to the immigration room for another line of questioning. She reported having been frustrated, because she had done everything right. She had all her papers, she had a valid passport, and this was not her first trip to the United States. She waited in the immigration room for half an hour. Another officer came in and asked the same questions that she had been asked in her previous interview. She answered them again, and was asked to sit again. She waited for another half hour and this time it was a customs supervisor who delivered the same line of questioning yet again. After she answered all of the questions this third time they let her go.
After that entire process it was time for her to grab her bags. When she got to the luggage pick-up one of the customs officers called to her asking which bags were hers. She was thankful he spoke Spanish. When he saw that one of her bags contained Marine Corps uniforms he became upset and threw all the bag’s contents on the floor. He suspected she was doing something illegal, or that she was misrepresenting herself. Marcela recalled the incident’s frustration:
“I did not know that it would be treated with such suspicion. He repeatedly asked me why I had this with me? I told him that those uniforms were my boyfriend’s. He clearly wasn’t believing me and almost made me cry. He decided to called my boyfriend and he explained why I had those uniforms and thankfully let me go promptly once they discovered that he was a diplomat in Honduras that had to leave due to a medical emergency.”
According to Marcela, the terrible day with customs was relieved, as it only could’ve been relieved, by seeing her fiance when she finally got to the other side. He greeted her with nothing but love and a bouquet of flowers.
Looking back, Marcela mentioned she misses her family and Honduran food. More specifically, she misses pupusas, made with corn dough stuffed cheese and with encurtido ( a pickled slaw of cabbage, vinegar, salt, and sugar) on the top . She misses is especially considering the lack of food diversity in her new home in North Dakota.
What Pembina, ND, lacks in good food, it makes up for it in people and community. Marcela mentioned that is what she likes most about her new home. Of course, she also brought some of her old home into her new home, including a photograph from her sister’s wedding, which is important to her, because her late grandmother is pictured in it.
Though she has come a long way in her studies of the English language, Marcela cited that her greatest challenge she faces in her new home is learning to speak and write properly. Even so, if she had the chance to share one story with her new neighbors, she would tell them about the challenge of migration:
“Not just because you have to leave your family, but because your whole life changes: your lifestyle, food, customs, and sometimes even how you think. It’s like your born again even though you are an adult already. Coming here helped me to open my mind in different way. I am very glad that God gave me the opportunity of experience this journey because after all the struggles that I had and those that I continue to go through, I love that person that I have become. Life as a female immigrant comes with a lot challenges and those challenges are helping me to grow.”
From Professor Liang’s Fall 2018 Global Human Rights class.
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