As a qualitative researcher, my work relies on the quality of the answers I receive from my research participants. Jackson, et al (2007) say that "qualitative research relies on the participants to offer in depth responses to questions about how they have constructed or understood their experience (p.23)". My research allows the participants to express their unique experiences over the years and explores the following research question: How do Latino immigrants describe their experiences living in the United States?
My demographic is middle age (30-50 year old) Latino immigrants who have been living in the United States for more than 15 years. I recruited interviewees from a Latino community in a large urban area in the Northeast in November 2014. The recruits are Latino immigrants who I will invite to my home for the interview.
My interviews will be a semi-structured because I want my participants to be able to freely express their experiences in the United States and move beyond the parameters of my own questions. I will be taking notes during the interview because some participants may feel uncomfortable being recorded. Since the people I will be interviewing speak Spanish, I will be conducting my interview in Spanish and I will be taking my notes in Spanish. I will later translate my notes in English to make it easier to include in my research paper.
My interview will be based on the following questions:
- How would you describe your journey to the United States?
- What problems, if any, did you face as soon as you arrived to the United States?
- Were there any difficulties in adapting to the new lifestyle in the United States? If so, please describe a salient memory?
- Have you ever been a victim of racism or discrimination while living in the United States? If so, explain a key experience that impacted you.
- How has your life changed since your first year in the U.S.?
- Would you ever consider returning back to your country? Why or why not?
Before my interviews, I decided to conduct a pilot study. The results of my pilot study showed me that I was on the right path to conducting my interviews for my research project. Even when the participant of my pilot study did not directly relate to my topic, my participant was able to give an outside opinion on the questions based on his experience with Latino immigrants that s/he knew. I believe that I have just the right amount of questions because while conducting my pilot study, I came up with new questions. My research participant in my pilot believed this interview question worked best: “Would you ever consider going back to your native country?” I hope this question will determin whether the interviewees feel comfortable in the country or would rather return home. None of my interview questions feel flat since that my pilot study's participant was able to answer everything fully. The order of the questions also seemed to work because they start from basic to complex. I believe that each interview will last about 30 minutes and that the personal questions will get the interviewees talking. The pilot study has prepared me to communicate with the people I am interviewing.
|Original Research Findings|
Imagine yourself arriving at an unfamiliar place without knowing anyone there. You have nothing but the clothes you are wearing, and you are unable to communicate with the people around you to ask for help. Throughout the years you face many hardships, obstacles, and the feeling that you're unwanted where you are. Latino immigrants go through this throughout their whole lives, but somehow, for them, it is all worth it. Three Latino immigrants, who I will call Judith, Uriel and Mike, shed light on this Latino immigrant experience.
Fighting for the Ultimate Goal
Some people say that crossing the border into the United States is one of the most difficult things you can do. Judith, who crossed the border when she was eighteen, now twenty years ago, explained that it was extremely difficult crossing the border. Judith also faced many obstacles in her trip. She crossed the desert with no water and would've dehydrated if it weren't for a dirty watering hole that saved her life. These spectacular struggles between life and death at the U.S.-Mexico border are normative for many immigrants.
The length of the trip could last many weeks. You have no contact with anyone so they don't know if you're alive or dead, and you're being led by a person who doesn't care about your life, just your money. The trip could also be short, like in the case of Uriel, who at age nineteen only took ten days to cross the border over twenty years ago; or it could take longer like Judith’s trip which took twenty-five days. During this span of ten to twenty days, you face life and death in a desert. Mike, who crossed the border twenty years ago when he was nineteen, tells us how dangerous and life threatening it is to walk across the desert. He describes the severity of the climate: the days are extremely hot and the nights are severely cold. If the desert wasn't enough to deal with, Mike also had to be aware of assailants who would rob immigrants for the little they had.
|A Video That Impacted Me|
This video was made by the Lamerica group who show the impact that immigrating to the United States has had on Donatila Diego’s life. Diego came to the United States in 1988 at the age of 22 from Guatemala, a country in Central America. She talks about her life back in Guatemala where she had no clothes or shoes and took care of sheep. Diego talks about her lack of education and how she didn't even know Spanish when she came to the country. She learned how to speak Spanish and begna to work once she came to the United States, which she says “changed her life.” Diego also explains when her niece was deported in 2009, leaving behind her four kids. She even questions why she came to the United States in the first place if all she does is suffer. Diego says that she worked hard for her own kids to get an eduction and is thankful that they have succeeded in this country.
This video shows how families are deeply affected by deportation. The daughter of Diego’s niece talks about how it has affected her siblings, especially the younger one. This video also shows how not only are the kids of people who have been deported affected, but also the family members who are left with the kids. She now has the burden of four kids to provide for and works extremely hard out in the fields for them.
One thing that impacted me was when Diego says that she suffers because she does not want the kids to suffer like she did. This video shows the lack of education that immigrants have due to the education system back in their country. It is part of what they want to give to their children. Diego even says that the only reason she is at her current job is because of her lack of education. This video portrays the struggles that immigrants face in this country.
Wouldn’t it be nice if it only took one try to cross the border and not go through the treachery again? That may be the case for some but for the other unlucky ones, multiple tries are needed in order to successfully cross the border. It took Uriel two tries to cross the border while Judith finally successfully crossed the border on her third try. Border patrol caught both Judith and Uriel and they both spent time in jail before being sent back to their home countries. Uriel lied to Border Patrol telling them he was Mexican in order for him to be sent to Mexico. Judith opted to tell the truth and had to return back to her native country and had to start her journey all over again. Some people may ask why would immigrants even take this dangerous and life threatening trip. There are many reasons immigrants leave their country such as poverty, government issues, and violence back home. Uriel came to this country because there were no jobs back in his country and he felt he had no future there. Stepping foot on American soil is a big step but the journey isn't over. It has only just begun.
The obstacles aren't over once immigrants cross the border; the obstacles just keep on piling on once you arrive. You're arriving to a place where you don't know anyone and don't have anything but your clothes on your back and the items you have stored in a bag or pockets. Mike was quickly impacted by the large cities and didn't know how to get around since he was from a small town. The culture was totally different. Back home, everyone knew each other and tried to help each other as much as they could. Mike didn't know anyone once he arrived, let alone knew someone who could help him out.
Judith faced an immediate problem once she arrived. She was a woman in an unfamiliar place all alone with nowhere to stay. She laughed when she talked about how she also had difficulties using regular home appliances like microwaves and vacuums, because they didn't have them in her country back then.
All three shared one major obstacle that they faced as soon as they arrived: the language barrier. All of them only knew Spanish when they arrived which made it impossible to communicate with people. Without knowing any English, they could not get a job which they needed to get money for expenses.
There were also other smaller obstacles such as Mike getting accustomed to the food but ultimately their biggest obstacle was realizing they were alone in a place they were not used to.
Now What Do I Do?
Once Judith, Uriel, and Mike settled down and overcame some obstacles, the question was what to do with their new lives. Alongside the language barrier, their lack of education also limited the jobs they could apply to. As if that wasn't enough to prevent them for getting a job, their lack of legal documentation also didn't help them in their quest.
Once they overcame the challenge of finding a job, it was time to pay bills. For Mike, the first few months in the United States were the first time he had ever paid rent. At the time, he realized that he had to cover his own expenses and that he was on his own. It was “a completely different life” as he described it. Uriel had a difficult time adapting to life without his parents or family. For Judith, it was the first time she had ever left her home so she had no experience living on her own. Back home she depended on her parents and didn't have to worry about housing, food or other expenses like she did in the U.S . Once settled down, Latino immigrants seem to do okay, but other issues arise.
Should I Go Back?
|A Video That Impacted Me|
In “The Price of Immigration,” an interviewee, Jose, talks about the reasons he decided to leave Mexico and immigrate to the United States at the age of seventeen. Dr. James Johnson is then presented in the video to discuss how Hispanics play a pivotal role in the country’s economy. Jose says he feels like he is in a place with four walls where all he does is go to work, go home, and then go back to work. He says “We are not criminals, all we are looking for is a better life.” He describes his experience crossing the border, how he was returned by immigration officials, and how it took him five attempts to finally cross. This video shows how Latino immigrants support their families at such a young age, so much so that Jose compares his experience coming to the United States to a bird that flies and discovers the world for the first time.
One thing that was impacting in the video was when Dr. Johnson said that Hispanics usually do the 3D jobs: Difficult, Dirty, and Dangerous. A key argument was made by Dr.Johnson who said that Hispanic immigrants brought in more revenue than they cost (Education, Health Care, Corrections). This is a great video to watch because it not only includes an interview from a person who has experienced immigration but also includes an expert testimony.
For some immigrants, there is always the possibility of going back to their native country. They come here seeking a better opportunity but sometimes they don't find what they are looking for. They feel unwanted and are sometimes mistreated due to their immigration status. In some cases they face discrimination because of where they come from like in the case of Judith. There were many times where Judith experienced discriminatation, although she doesn't know if other people will view it the way she did. In one of her first jobs, the lady she worked for would not allow her to eat or drink out of the same dishes as th family. Instead she gave her an old plate and cup. She was also not allowed to eat in the dining area like the family; instead the lady sent her to a different room to eat. Mike's experiences were even more intense. He recalled a specifc moment of outright hostility when he was once chased down a street by two white men and a dog who yelled racial slurs at him. These problems would make any immigrant reconsider coming to the United States and going back home.
Uriel was never a victim of racism or discrimination but he did consider returning back home the first few years. He said that he felt lonesome in the U.S. and that he missed his family back home. He contemplated returning back home in order to see his parents, but decided instead to stay and help support them back home. For many immigrants the problems are too much and they opt to return home but Mike, Judith, and Uriel kept on going.
Was It All Worth It?
For Mike, Judith and Uriel who overcame every obstacle to settle down in this country, it was all worth it. They have now established their lives in the United States and have even started new families here. Mike and Uriel have now learned English which has helped them land good jobs. Uriel says he has even become more knowledgeable of the laws of the U.S and how the government is run. They have all had families join them in the United States so they don't feel as alone like they did the first few years. Judith and Uriel are now residents of the U.S. so they can visit their parents and families back home.
The United States gives Latino immigrants more possibilities to prosper and become successful like Judith says was given to her. She can now give her children what she couldn't have in her country. They all agree that they wouldn't even consider going back to their native country. Mike jokes that if he goes back, it'll be only for a quick visit and that he would feel like a tourist. These Latino immigrants seem to have risked and withstood everything in order to achieve their American Dream.
My Final Thoughts
The life of a Latino immigrant is an interesting and tough one. What I came to realize in this study was that no matter the obstacle or problem these Latinos immigrant faced, they stuck through it. Many other people would've taken the easy way out and would have gone home.
Latino immigrants need physical endurance to cross the border, but mental endurance is also needed to survive in the United States. I always knew what Latino immigrants went through on the outside, but never even thought about how they felt on the inside. To me, Latino immigrants are one of the hardest-working group of people in this country.
The Latino immigrant experience is a topic that you could keep on exploring because you will discover more. I only briefly uncovered a bit of the physical issues and the mental issues that Latino immigrants have gone through journey. More research should be done on the mental issues. In my study, I mainly focused on more mature Latino immigrants that have been in this country for many years, but what about teenage Latino immigrants? Teenage Latino immigrants who have recently immigrated to this country should be given a chance to tell their experiences too. We all had trouble in getting through high school, so imagine a teenage Latino immigrant who enters HS in their sophomore year. They don't know anyone and may not even speak English. That would be an interesting topic to go further into. Looking into the Latino immigrant experience is fascinating and they need someone to help voice their experience.
How to Cite this:
Bautista, U. (Fall 2014). “The Ultimate Latino Experience.” Digital Spectrum: First Year Digital Essays, Stories, and Projects, 2,1. Retrieved from https://johnjay.digication.com/digital_spectrum/by_Uber_Bautista