Carla & Florencia

  • Carla & Florencia, Tucson, AZ

“We were not living rich. It was garage sale city. We came with nothing.”

Carla

I’m from Argentina. I moved here back in 1985. My mom took a job at Louisiana State University in New Orleans, and so the entire family came, which included my sister, brother, mom and dad.

Florencia

She was only supposed to be in the U.S. for two years; they had asked her to come for research in neuroscience. Twenty years later, her contract kept on getting extended for her research. We have been here almost 30 years now.

Carla

I originally planned to go back after two years. I was 17. It was kind of hard for me to adapt to society in high school in New Orleans. My mom said, “Let’s just stay here because you’re just getting friends and you’re thinking about going to college.” She said, “Let’s just see what happens in the next three years.” After six years, I just figured I might as well stay, and they thought the same when they saw that we began developing friends and starting this whole new life. We went back to Argentina after three years, and the change was so huge, I felt like it was my home but not my home.

Florencia

We didn’t know where we belonged. Everywhere I would go people would call me “Yankee.” I was the only one in the family without an accent because I’m the youngest of the family. So going back to Argentina made me wonder where I belong. I don’t belong in New Orleans because I eat tacos and live in a teepee. At that time, there was no Hispanic community there. So I didn’t belong there, but I didn’t belong where my family was either. It was very awkward.

There was apparently a family meeting, and that is when they decided we were going to stay. I don’t remember the family meeting but that’s what I was told. But they recognized that we started new lives and made new friends and there were new opportunities. These are things we wouldn’t have had in Argentina. I think mainly it was their decision.

Carla

I was very depressed for a very long time.

Florencia

Because she was older, more aware of what was going on. I would always get teased at school. I was 5 when we moved.

Carla

And I was 15. The language changes constantly; we have a whole different dialect in Argentina now. Through the years people use different words, and we haven’t been able to catch up with that. Every time we go back, it feels so ‘80s to them because of the words we are using. Another thing, in the beginning, in the ‘80s and the ‘90s, it was hard to communicate with our cousins and uncles. I remember everything was through writing notes. Now everything has changed. We are so connected, and I love it. Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp.

Florencia

Yeah, the connection now isn’t a problem like it was before. But also there’s this sense of community and family that we brought with us. We are very close to our parents.

Carla followed me to Tucson, and after Hurricane Katrina hit we relocated our family here to Tucson. We had been living in New Orleans for twenty years, so we lived through all the hurricanes until Katrina. That is when we said, “We’re done.” It was such a stressful time because there were two weeks when we didn’t know if they were okay because there was no ability to communicate with anybody. They all came here after that. Our parents divorced when they came here, but it’s wonderful because they became great friends. And my dad actually lives next door to me, next door to my husband and me. Then Carla and my mom are together, and they’re about 15 minutes away.

Carla

Every Sunday we get together and have a family dinner, which seems unusual to a lot of my friends. So I think a part of what we were brought up with is a connection to family. Back in Argentina we would do the same thing at Grandma’s house, so it’s a family tradition and we just kept it. We still try to make Argentinian dishes.

Florencia

I think the importance of family is what I want to pass down to my children. And then respect for others. There are a lot of kids we have seen and known who are a little disrespectful to their elders, and that’s a shame. My kids are going to grow up speaking Spanish and French. My husband’s Cajun; he’s from Louisiana. So hopefully we can bring English, Spanish, and French to our children’s lives. My dad was a pharmaceutical rep in Argentina. But he comes here, he speaks no English, so he couldn’t do that job here. He had to start from zero. You had mom the scientist, the Ph. D, the highly regarded professional, and you had dad over here, poor guy working as a delivery driver because he couldn’t do what he had done before. It badly affected their relationship.

Carla

We were not living rich. It was garage sale city. We came with nothing.

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