Andrea & Mariano

  • Andrea & Mariano Angelika(2), Alexandra(6), Tucson, AZ

“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.

All of our stories are a part of the American Story. What's Yours?

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