Andrea & Mariano, Angelika, Alexandra

“I always knew something in America was great because after every trip, when they got back they’d open the suitcase and it smelled like America. It has such a distinctive smell, I can’t put my finger on it but I remember it vividly.”

Mariano’s story:

I am originally from Mexico City. I came to live with my aunt and uncle in Indiana when I was nine years old. I had visited before for two weeks and I was glued to them. They wanted to have another child, but my aunt had a miscarriage. They liked me too, so they offered to help my parents out by taking me on like one of their own kids. It was actually easy for me, I wanted to come. My parents came to visit but they never wanted to live here. I lived in Indiana until I graduated from college in 1986.

I was voluntarily deported, believe it or not. I never got a student visa for college. The whole process took two years, the judges finally let me finish school and then I was supposed to leave the country. So I graduated and three weeks later I was on a plane back to Mexico City. I stayed there for about four months, then I came out here, got married, visited Tucson and decided to stay.

What do I want to pass down to my children? I just want them to learn Spanish. By the time I was twelve I considered myself a U.S. citizen. For the first five years, I went back at least every year. They actually used to send me to Mexico as punishment. I had all these friends in Indiana and wanted to stay. So, if I wasn’t good, they would send me to Mexico for months at a time.

Andrea’s story:

Mariano and I met online through Match.com eight years ago. We never had an official wedding back in my country, but we’ve finally planned enough and will have a celebration with my family.

I am an example of doing everything right to get citizenship but it backfired. I grew up in Czechoslovakia during a difficult time. The only connection to America I had was my mom’s sister who immigrated here in 1968. She crossed the border, shoved everything in a car, and left her house, her friends, left everything behind really. When I was six years old, my parents left us with my grandma so they could go visit her for one year.

When they came back I didn’t recognize my parents. I was five. My parents were thought to have spied on the communists at the time so they were treated as outsiders, just because one of their relatives emigrated in 1968. I always knew something in America was great because after every trip, when they got back they’d open the suitcase and it smelled like America. It has such a distinctive smell, I can’t put my finger on it but I remember it vividly.

My uncle, who also immigrated in 1968, left everything behind and worked really hard the first couple years. Within five years he established a restaurant business. Then he opened three more restaurants in Chicago. I learned about opportunity in America from his experience. The U.S. was like a dream country to me. It showed me there was an opportunity to be somebody.

I applied for a student visa, which I got. But after, you can only live and work here for up to one year. After that, you have to go back. So I just kept going to school. Then this guy I knew suggested that we just get married. We were married for about two years. We are still great friends. But then I met my true love two years later, Mariano.

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