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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.