Coming to America

Dominican-Republic4

Christina Lorenza Aybar (Peralta – her mother’s maiden name which was removed when she became a U.S. citizen) was four years old when she moved from the Dominican Republic (DR) to the United States. She grew up in Washington Heights in Manhattan, New York, and now lives in South Texas. She is a wife and a mother of three children. She works with children at a school as the Science-Technology manager.

Q: Okay, so to start off, do you remember anything from the day you came to America?
A: I remember when, on the day, we were coming to the United States, I remember saying bye to everybody.

Q: Did you know what was going on? Were you sad?
A: I think I knew we were leaving to move somewhere else. Yeah, I was sad saying goodbye to everybody.

Q: Do you remember anything from the trip?
A: I remember being on the plane and looking out the window, and then I remember fussing with the curtains, and it feel down. I guess it broke, and I fell asleep until it was time to get off.

Q: When you were sixteen and visiting the Dominican Republic, did you wish you had never moved? Or were you just happy to be visiting?
A: I was happy to be visiting, happy to be meeting my cousins for the first time that I had never met before, but I was happy I lived in New York.

Q: Who was in the U.S. when you came over?
A: My mom, dad, one sister, and one brother.*
*Christina is the youngest of ten, she has six sisters and three brothers.

Q: How old were you when your parents moved away?
A: I think I was about two and a half when my parents first moved from the Dominican Republic.

Q: Do you think you know enough about Dominican history and culture?
A: No. I wish I knew more.

Q: Did you ever want to live there or move back?
A: No, I never wanted to live there because I was used to living in the United States, and over there it’s very different. The electricity goes away for periods of time and the water comes and goes, as does the hot water, and I couldn’t get used to that.

Q: Where were you born?
A: In Santiago, well, in the country…but I don’t remember the name. En el campo.

Q: In New York, what were your parents’ jobs?
A: My mom worked as a seamstress in a factory, and my dad had several jobs, but when I got there he was a dishwasher in the Sheraton Hotel.

Q: So were they gone a lot because they were always working?
A: The way it worked, my mom worked during the day and my dad worked at night. He would make me breakfast and lunch, then around 3 o’clock, we would walk halfway to the train station (subway station), and my mom would pick me up. Then he’d take the train to work, and my mom and I would walk back home.

Q: What’s your favorite thing about the Dominican Republic?
A: When I visited when I was 16, and then again when I was 20, it was so peaceful and everything was nice and clean, just the country itself. Skies were blue and the trees were really green. People could leave the doors open and not have any problems.

Q: So you visited again when you were 20?
A: My parents had retired, so they went back and I went with them. I visited and I was going to live there, but I had a job back in New York before I left, at Albert’s Hosiery, and the owner kept sending messages asking me to come back, and I hadn’t gotten a job in the Dominican Republic, so I decided to go back to New York and work.

Q: You said you loved that the Dominican Republic was peaceful when you were younger. When you visited when you were older, it wasn’t as peaceful anymore?
A: Things had changed, there was more violence. We stayed in Santo Domingo with my mother-in-law. No, it wasn’t as peaceful.

Q: What’s your favorite Dominican food?
A: Sancocho. It’s kind of like a beef stew, rather than soup, I guess. It has the meat and a mixture of vegetables.

Q: And your favorite Dominican dessert?
A: Dominican cake with a guayava filling in the middle.

Q: Did you get to go to all of the “cool” places in DR?
A: No, not all of them. When I was sixteen, I went to Puerto Plata with my uncle. We stayed at this resort kind of thing, called El Sombrero because all of the huts were in the shape of a sombrero. And then we took telefericos, cable cars, to go up into mountains where the huge Jesus statue is. It’s beautiful up there and there are these beautiful gardens with plants and flowers. It’s really beautiful.

Oh! And on the way to Puerto Plata, when we were almost there, we were on the cable cars and we could see a house built on the side of the mountain shaped like a ship facing the ocean. I thought it was really cool!

We went to a beach, Puerto Escondido, or Playa Escondida, and it’s called that because it’s hidden. You park and then you have to walk through trees and stuff, and you get there and you see the beach and the water’s clear and everything.

I went to Santo Domingo, to El Malecon, which is a big wall by the ocean where people go to hang out and there are restaurants there. I visited the Basilica en Higuey when I was older, it was my first time there. It’s beautiful, and we saw La Virgen de Altagracia – she’s treated the way La Virgen de Guadalupe is treated by most Mexicans. I went to la playa de Sosúa, which is near Puerto Plata too.

When I was sixteen, we’d walk from my uncle’s house to el monumento de Santiago, and people would hang out there. It was a long walk, but my cousin, Milagros, and I would do it anyway.

Q: Anything else?
A: No, I’m sorry I can’t remember a lot about coming to America. I was little…I’ve forgotten a lot.

Although Christina may not want to move back to DR any time soon (or ever), she is happy to be from there and happy to be able to visit whenever she gets the chance.

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