Samantha & Manali

New Orleans, LA

“People make assumptions about me. They assume I’m not from this country, which is not true; I was actually born in Iowa.”

Samantha’s story:

My parents came here in the 1980’s. They definitely brought their culture with them, food especially. Fried plantains are my absolute favorite. My mom makes this cabbage-based dish – it’s a bunch of vegetables with meat in it and you serve it over rice. My parents always showed me the resilience of Haitian people. I admire how resilient and strong they are. I can see it everyday through my grandmother and my mother.

Education is a huge thing in my culture. Especially since my mom was really lucky to have gotten her education. She was an only child to both of her parents. Coming here and making sure that we had a very good quality of life is very important to my family. So I was put in a private school even though it was really, really expensive for my parents. They generally could not afford it but they made it work because that component was just so important to them. They sacrificed a lot for me to have a better life.

Manali’s story:

My dad came here from India for a master’s degree in the late 1980’s. Then he went back to India, married my mom and they came here in 1992. Education is really, really important in our culture. I come from a very small ethnicity of Indian people, so growing up with a lot of family members, it was always emphasized to me that family is one of the most important things. Your education comes first, your family comes second, and everything else is just not as important.

People make assumptions about me. They assume I’m not from this country, which is not true; I was actually born in Iowa. People ask me questions about arranged marriage, or my parents’ marriage. I actually find it really hard to keep connected to my culture here. There aren’t a lot of Indians around so I’ve found online communities to keep up with Bollywood stuff. I also really like to keep up on Indian news and politics. It makes me feel like I still know what’s going on back there.


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