My father, Fernando Espinoza emigrated from Colombia to the United States in 1968, with a few hundred dollars and a limited understanding of English. I admire him, the journey he embarked on and the challenges he overcame to create a better life for himself in America. Espinoza left behind a violent and dangerous childhood, where his father and sisters were murdered, to pursue his version of the American dream.
Espinoza was born in a small village in southern Colombia in 1951, where he lived with his family. During the mid 20th century, Colombia’s government stability was increasingly uncertain, as guerilla soldiers instigated random violent attacks across the country (Cantor 20).
At the age of 6, while traveling with his family, my father became one of the many victims of these attacks, as his father and sister were shot on their way home. Espinoza and his family moved around the country quite routinely after the attack, never staying in one village for too long. And just a few years later Espinoza, his mother and his two sisters were on their way to New York. They were not alone, as more than 4 million Colombian families were displaced by the political violence between the government and guerilla fighters. (Cantor 20).
My father worked for years as a janitor, a deejay, and a tutor while trying to get his bachelor’s degree and land a job as a teacher in America. After he got a teaching job, he pursued his master’s degree at night, and eventually earned his doctorate, and tenure as a university professor. For this alone, I admire my father very much. He created multiple opportunities for himself, and with little help from anyone or any connections.
The current political climate in the United States has given me a new sense of admiration towards my father, and the adversities he has had to continuously overcome. Being an immigrant has never been easy, and it is particularly polarizing now, with the rhetoric perpetuated by President Donald Trump. Trump has labeled immigrants coming from Mexico, southern and Latin America as rapists, drug dealers and criminals (Barbash). He has encouraged racist and xenophobic sentiment in his supporters, and since he’s been in office there has been an increase in hate crime attacks directed towards immigrant Americans (Federal Bureau of Investigation 2017 Hate Crime Statistics). This has created a tense environment throughout the country, one that can even make speaking Spanish in a public place a risky choice. As a first generation American, I have the luxury of assimilation that my father doesn’t have. Wherever I go, people do not immediately assume my background is very different from theirs, and do not treat me any differently. But my father does not share that experience. Living in an area where many of his neighbors voted for a man who openly speaks against his community, Espinoza has to hold his head high every day, and look into the eyes of many people who may not respect him. His plight is not new, as immigrants for hundreds of years have shared the same struggle to be accepted by “traditional” Americans when they enter the country (Clarke 101). But this does not make it any less admirable.
Cantor D. J. “The Colombian guerrilla, forced displacement and return.”Forced Migration Review37 (2011): 20–22
Barbash, Fred. “Trump’s Racist Comments Can Be Used against Him in Court as Judges Cite Them to Block Policies.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 16 July 2019, www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/trumps-racist-comments-can-be-used-against-him-in-court-as-judges-cite-them-to-block-policies/2019/07/16/6ed0ea6a-a7f1-11e9-86dd-d7f0e60391e9_story.html.
Federal Bureau of Investigation, ‘2017 Hate Crime Statistics’, (FBI Uniform Crime Reporting Program, 2017)
Clarke, Duncan. A New World: the History of Immigration into the United States. Thunder Bay Press, 2001.
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