2020-2021 Season,  One Acts by Maria Irene Fornes

Experiencias Vividas

by Laynie Calderwood, dramaturg

As a white American, I grew up understanding a single story of immigration. I’ve always been told people come to America for a better life, to pursue their “American Dream.” I’ve always been taught that every immigrant gains more by coming here than what they leave behind. 

In my dramaturgical process, I found that while many immigrants did experience some components of the single story I had been taught all my life, all of their processes were more complex and layered than I originally had assumed. These complexities challenged me; they made me rethink and question a lot of what I felt like I had known. 

Below, explore 8 interviews with people from all over Central and South America recounting their personal experience of immigrating to America.

Paco from Cuba 

Paco just decided he’d had enough. He was either going to fight against the communist regime in Cuba, or he was going to leave. He had heard stories of people building rafts, but after being denied asylum in the US, he headed for Spain instead. 

Paco’s Interview


Correa-Lazaro Family from Peru

Arminda was a women’s rights activist in Peru. She knew the work was important, but that it put her family in great danger. When her husband was jumped on the way home from work, they decided it was time to leave for a safer life. 

Correa-Lazaro Family Interview


Lucas Orides from Brazil

A failed business venture in Brazil caused Lucas to rethink what his goals were in life. Through the help of a few great friends, he applied for a student visa, earned another degree, found great work with the US Health Department and met the love of his life.  

Lucas Orides Video Interview


Carmen from Cuba

Carmen already knew she needed to get out of Cuba, but being harassed in the park by two police officers for not stopping to sing the national anthem was the last straw. She applied for the green card lottery and she won. She’s never looked back. 

Carmen’s Interview


Diego Salinas from El Salvador 

When he was just 5 years old, Diego’s parents fled El Salvador after a series of US foreign policies devastated the country. Now 24, Diego is struggling to reconcile his Salvadoran heritage with his American upbringing.

Diego’s Audio Interview


Eugenia Dreyer from Argentina

Eugenia’s mother couldn’t afford to send Eugenia or her sister to high school in Argentina. Family members in the United States convinced them to come to New York where Eugenia and her sister could both finish their education.

Eugenia’s Video Interview


Elayna Fernandez from The Dominican Republic

Elayna never planned on moving to the United States, but when it came down to keeping her family together, she made the hard choice to leave behind everything familiar in order to immigrate. Now, her heart aches to return to the DR, but she is having a hard time choosing between her life here and her life there.

Elayna’s Video Interview


Maria Angelica Sanchez-Carr from Cuba

Maria’s family decided to leave for the United States when it was announced that a certain number of people who wanted to leave Cuba could leave. But once the fact that they were leaving was known, her and her family were considered traitors. As they waited for their visas, Maria’s father was taken to a labor camp for nearly six months.

Maria’s Interview Transcript



  • Sophia Acedo

    These are all such wonderful stories! How were you able to find these people with these stories? Was doing these interviews difficult for you? What can we do as Americans to be more welcoming and helpful to those immigrate here?

    • Laynie Calderwood

      Two of the stories (Paco and Carmen) are friends of the other dramaturg, Angela and she conducted those interviews in Spanish and then actually translated them. Maria is a member of the cast and Elayna is the mother of a former member of the cast. The rest are friends of friends! I put out a message on Facebook and got quite a few responses!

      In all honesty, it was pretty difficult for me to conduct these interviews. I thought I knew more about the immigrant experience, but after conducting these interviews, I realized I am almost totally and completely ignorant on the subject! Not a comfortable feeling haha.

      As for how we can be more inviting: a common theme that emerged through all of the interviews — that the interpersonal interactions between immigrant and Americans are *mostly* positive, but where they feel discriminated is in government processes. Similar to what Ibram X. Kendi talks about in “How to Be an Antiracist,” we need to do all we can to enact change in discriminatory policies. Be civically engaged!

  • Ruth Eardley

    Reading these interviews, I’ve realized that I also had the single story of immigration in my mind. I’ve never had to deal with something like that, so it’s very eye-opening for me to see new perspectives through these people’s stories. I’m glad that these interviews and plays can help us to become more understanding and appreciative of people’s individual experiences.

    • sgraham

      Thanks for your comment, Ruth! I love that this collection of interviews is helping us broaden our understanding of immigration experiences.

    • Laynie Calderwood

      I am glad you and I had a similar experience, Ruth. Hearing people’s stories is really eye-opening. I encourage you to talk to more people about their story!

  • Sydney Southwick

    Laynie, these are amazing stories! Each time I read a new one, I learned something new. Now I’m thinking about my ancestors who left their homes to escape religious persecution and wishing I could interview each of them to hear their experiences. It is interesting how we often think of pioneers, immigrants, and refugees in different ways, even though they are essentially the same thing! I hope to be someone who welcomes those who come to my country seeking relief.

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