After the arduous journey to from Latin America to the U.S., Joselina finally made it to California. She lived there with family for about five years and during that time met her current partner. Joselina’s goal for coming to the U.S. was to make money, so she looked for employment and was able to find work at a clothing store.
At the clothing store Joselina was paid $5 an hour, had no vacation time and was always “on-call”, even on her days off. She continued to work there for 5 years, because it was one of the few jobs she could get with limited English-language skills. The experience of working at a clothing store with no benefits and little respect, is what pushed Joselina to realize that the American Dream is hard to attain; if it even exists.
It was at this store where Joselina realized how pervasive discrimination was. She remembers many times during her shifts, different sweaty, dirty-looking men would walk into the store, purchase clothes and leave. Most of the time, none of the employees wanted to help them, so Joselina would approach them and help them. As she started talking to the men, she learned that they were recently-arrived migrants. They had just crossed the Mexican-American border though the desert and had to buy clothes to “not look so suspicious”. She was able to relate with these migrants in their struggle to “make it” in the United States. Yet, she saw how other employees and other customers looked at the men and realized that discrimination and stereotyping is real in the United States.
In order to get ahead financially, Joselina decided to get a second job; she worked as a coat-checker at a local night club. She worked at the store from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Then at 8:45 p.m. she would head to the second job until 3:00 a.m. She worked this way for two years, all the while thinking about how the realities of being an immigrant in this country and how difficult it can be. She understood how much migrants struggle to get ahead in this country.She says, “It’s a thing that people who come to this country don’t realize. It’s a lot of work”.
Joselina was not expecting the racism and discrimination that migrants face in the United States. She explains ” I never thought they would look at immigrants the way they do, and that they would mistreat them like that. It’s not just treatments, its the jobs they get, they pay, and even psychological”. Joselina feels that all these factors contribute to a sense of not belonging in this country. She felt that she was trying to become part of a culture that she did not really understand and did not make sense but ” you have to do it”. On several occasions Joselina felt that ,because she didn’t speak English, people would look and talk to her like she was stupid. This kind of stereotyping and discrimination was not something she was prepared for when coming to the U.S.
After a few years, Joselina’s partner began to encourage Joselina to enroll in college courses. Although she received backlash from family and friends who believed that “school is not going to help you”, Joselina felt that education was an important opportunity that she had to take advantage of. Joselina and her partner then decided to move to New York. Although Joselina says that many of people from her hometown live in New York, she “never really looked for them”. Her experience in California left her thinking that linguistic enclaves actually deter people from learning the English language. In those enclaves she saw many Latin Americans who were U.S. citizens but continued to live in those spaces and did not have the desire or social networks to get better jobs. Joselina wanted to move away from that, so she did not maintain strong ties to those enclaves. With her partner’s support, she also began taking college courses and English classes.