Karim & Ellen

  • Karim & Ellen, Miami, FL

“He couldn’t leave, especially because at that time his family was being targeted for political reasons. They actually murdered his father for political reasons. So that’s why, when the embargo happened, his mom said, ‘You’re not coming back here.’ And she told him to stay in the U.S.”

Karim’s Story
In the early 20s, my grandfather got on a boat and left Palestine because of a religious war between the Muslims and Christians. He was a Christian, so he left Bethlehem to go to a safe haven. Some of my family moved to Haiti, some went to Mexico, and some to Honduras. My family on my mother’s side is from Lebanon. Both of my grandparents on my mother’s side were born in Haiti.

I was born in Haiti. I came here for vacation, and while I was here, there was an embargo in Haiti, so I had to stay and go to high school here. After that, I applied to college. I couldn’t leave; I couldn’t go back to Haiti at all.

Ellen
He couldn’t leave, especially because at that time his family was being targeted for political reasons. They actually murdered his father for political reasons. So that’s why, when the embargo happened, his mom said, “You’re not coming back here.” And she told him to stay in the U.S.

Karim
That was in 1994. There was a military coup that took the government down and wanted to rule. The coup took the elected president out. In the process, the U.S. put an embargo on Haiti. I was here by myself too. I lived with my aunt, my dad’s sister, for the first year. I was in high school, and she was living here already. She was the only family member I had here, and her kids were all at least four years older than me. I stayed there, graduated from high school, then went to college and lived by myself.

Ellen’s Story
We met in high school during the year he was here Miami. I was in 10th grade and he was a senior; it was his last year. We became friends, and a year later, we started dating. My parent have always been super strict. I had my first little silly boyfriend at church for a short while, but then I broke up with him because it wasn’t really anything.

And my parents said, “Since you just broke up with somebody, you have to wait another year before you date anyone else.” We happened to meet in French class. That summer, after one year, and the day before school started, we made it official. We’ve been together ever since. We’ve known each other for more than 20 years. I knew it was love right away. I knew that he was the one I wanted to marry.

I was born in Brazil, and my parents also were born in Brazil. My grandparents are from Italy and Portugal. They came to Brazil during the war in Europe. They were Italian Jews, and they were wealthy in Italy. They were all doctors, so they came to Brazil where they had their own hospital. My grandmother, Jewish and upper class, met my grandfather who was a poor worker from Portugal. She was completely prohibited from seeing him. She ran away from home to marry him, and they lived happily ever after. Her family disowned her, of course. She had 14 children and adopted two homeless children. So, she raised 16 children.

I came here when I was 8 years old. My dad wanted my brother to come here so he could get a college education. As a family, we were very tight­ knit, so my father would never consider sending my brother away alone. We were happy; we all adjusted fine. I speak Portuguese, my first language. At home we were only allowed to speak Portuguese.

Karim

At home we only speak Creole, so she had to pick it up.

Ellen

Otherwise I wouldn’t be able to understand anything. When they come together, that’s it—only Creole. I said, “Wait, I am not staying out of the conversation!” One hundred percent of our conversations were a mix. When we talk to each other we constantly mix French with Creole and Portuguese and English. I speak Portuguese to the baby, and Karim speaks French. We know that he’s going to grow up learning English on TV because he was born here, but we want him to have a good foundation for languages.

Karim

My favorite cuisine became Brazilian food because of her.

Ellen

He loves the black beans and the rice and the churrasco and the farofa.

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