Puerto Rico to America


Isabella Hammers, Staff Writer

How old were you when you moved to America? What year?

I was 9 years old and it was 1958.

Why did your family decide to move to the United States?

For economic reasons. Work was scarce in Puerto Rico at that time. My parents decided it was best to immigrate to America to seek better job opportunities.

How did your family raise the money to move to Chicago?

My father had come to Chicago to work and save money. He was able to save enough to purchase twelve one-way airline tickets. Quite a feat!

What was the first thing you did when you got to America?

When my entire family (father, mother, 10 siblings, my oldest sister’s husband and their child) arrived at Midway Airport in Chicago, we were invited to dinner at my aunt’s house who had immigrated to Chicago two years prior.

What was your life like in Puerto Rico?

Our house was in the middle of large mountains, so it was tropical and at times cooler at night. Even though the neighbors’ homes were located several acres from each other, everyone knew each other and helped each other when assistance was needed. We were vegetarians since meat was not within our budget. We had fruits and vegetables on our land. We walked to school a mile away. We were happy. We were outdoors most of our free time playing and inventing games.

What was life like in America?

We adjusted well after a year. My parents were able to purchase a home after being in Chicago for a year. My teenage siblings completed high school and went on to college and established their careers. We were able to find employment. At that time, jobs were abundant and provided excellent benefits to the employees and their families. I believe that my parents made a wise decision by moving us all to the United States.

How was your life different in America from Puerto Rico?

Life in our very small town in Puerto Rico was tough in that we lacked clean drinking water. Our resources were minimal. I can honestly recall, however, that we never complained about our lives. Life in the United States gave us more options to pursue as far as work or education is concerned.

What struggles did you face in America?

The language barrier – none of us knew the English language. We lived on three acres of land in Puerto Rico and moving here to a small apartment for the first year was a struggle. Several of my siblings came in their teen years and they found it difficult to acclimate. However, if I had to single out one specific struggle, it was the weather conditions in America. It wasn’t balmy, tropical, or sunny.

How long did it take you to learn English?

Since we were enrolled in the Chicago Public Schools, it took approximately six months to learn English and to be able to understand the class discussions.

What is one thing you miss about Puerto Rico?

The friendliness of neighbors. Respect for others. Children being respectful to their parents and other adults. To reiterate – the warm weather.