By Maria Danniella Gutiérrez- Salem
Foreign Lawyer – Venezuela
When do dreams of achievement begin? We are so used to believing that adults are the only ones who have dreams of achievement. However, this country is full of children who have left their homeland in search of a better future. Yamileks Castro is only 20 years old and she comes from Las Placetas San Jose de las Matas, Dominican Republic. In her father’s search to fulfill a dream, which has now become her own dream, she has seen the vision of her family, her studies and her country change.
Yamileks told me enthusiastically about her family: “After my parents’ divorce, my father Joseph Castro decided he must seek a better future for my siblings; therefore, I decided to come to New York in 2003. I was just eight years old and at that time, my mother, Ingrid Nunez asked me if I wanted go with my father and I said yes. That simple act of asking was important for me. It was very hard to leave my mother, and it continues to be. Sometimes, I spend up to three years without seeing her, but thanks to technology, I can keep in touch with her. My love for my mom has not changed, but I matured very quickly and became independent. God is very generous and my father remarried an exceptional woman who loves my brothers and me as if we were her children. Her name is Alejandrina Perez. I know that not everyone is this lucky and I feel blessed by it.” I could notice how her face changed from sadness to joy with her words.
I asked Yamileks how difficult it was to study in the United States. “Elementary and high school were not a problem, but when I started college it became difficult because I did not receive financial aid at the start and my father does not have a high income. However, everything became easier in Danbury. I looked for jobs to pay for my studies, and then the government started helping me, although I still continued to work. I like being independent. This is a country of opportunities. If you work hard, then everything is possible. I want to be a radiologist in the future. For now, I’m attending Naugatuck Valley Community College, earning my associate’s degree. The teachers here do their best to support us. I share the classroom with people from many countries and I realize I’m not alone. When I feel discouraged, I think of all the things I can accomplish and this makes me feel a lot better.” I find it comforting to hear someone so young talking with such coherence. We must not underestimate our youth.
When asked, “Do you miss your country, the Dominican Republic, a lot?” Yamileks replied, “I do; the heat is different.” I asked, “How it is different?” With happiness and great sincerity, she explained: “The heat is not humid; it does not feel sticky there. Also, there is warmth and friendliness in the people. Although they may not know you, they will still greet you. Families always find time for one another. If you get sick, you can count on everyone. Everybody has a different sense of humor; it’s as if every Dominican has a sparkle in his or her heart, a joy not only when they dance, but also when they talk. Our accent is unmistakable. But despite all, this is my country now.” I noted that she seemed to love her home country, and asked why the United States is her country now. She replied in all seriousness: “Unfortunately, I am aware that in order to get what my family has now and what I know that I can achieve as a professional, I have to be in a country where I’m not afraid to go out to the street, where I can find a job and where corruption is not the most common thing. I’ll never stop loving RD [the Dominican Republic] but I must be grateful to this country. I want to give back what I received.”
Finally, I asked, “Do you have a message for young people that come to America?” She answered, “It is that they open their hearts and love this land of progress, that they learn as much as they can, because we have to study to achieve all goals in life, that they love their family, as they will always be there no matter what happens and that they value the opportunity of being in a big country like this.” Surely, Yamileks will achieve her dream, for she is clear with regard to what she wants.
Danniella Maria Gutierrez-Salem practiced law in Venezuela before pursuing her own American dream of becoming a writer in the United States. For those wishing to recommend a story or make comments, I invite you to be costars in this column by contributing ideas and suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.