This is the story of Fernando de Jesus who came to the United States from the Dominican Republic in 1989. In the process of this interview I learned many things such as the reason my father came to America, his point of view on the “American Dream” and information about the situation of when he came to America. Before this oral history project I thought I knew a lot about my dad coming to America; however, all I knew was that he came and met my mother. In the interview he states “The economic problem was that I didn’t have a job so I came to America in hopes to find one.” I was able to expand my knowledge on the fact that the reason my father came to America was due to him not having a job where he lived, which I never knew. I also learned his age of when he came to America, when he states “I was 26 years old.” This surprised me since I always assumed that he came when he was 20. The reason I assumed he was 20 is because I remember once seeing a picture of him in America in which to me he looked like he was 20 years old. Another thing that surprised me and I learned about was his opinion towards the “American Dream” in which he believed people worked too many hours and that there is no American Dream. This surprised me because I thought that my father believed that “American Dream” was actually true and that people did accomplish what they wanted in America. Hearing my dad’s input on the “American Dream” really changed my definition towards it, because now I feel that the “American Dream” doesn’t even exist for most people and when people from other countries come to America their lives just get filled up with work. Larger historical events shaped the life of my interviewee by things such as 9/11 happening where he had to find out if our family was okay since my mom worked near the twin towers. This made my dad doubt if staying in America was the best choice and if he should move back to his home country with my family but after a lot of consideration he decided not to because no matter where people go bad things will happen regardless.
Interviewee: Fernando de Jesus
Place he came from: Nagua, Dominican Republic
What year did you come to this country and how old were you? Did you come alone or with other family members and/or friends? Did you know anyone who lived in this country?
The first time I came to this country it was in 1989 and I was 26 years old. I came alone without any of my family. No, I did not know anybody who lived in this country so I was on my own and not having anyone to rely on.
How was your experience coming to America at a young age and without anybody there with you?
It was a lovely and great experience because I got to see new things such as downtown Manhattan. I went to good cafés and I was even able to go on a ship that showed me the view of beautiful islands. Those are experiences that I would never forget because they were my way of seeing America.
Which languages did you speak when you first came here?
The languages I spoke were Spanish and French. I know these languages because first off, Spanish is my first language since I am from a Spanish speaking country and as for speaking French, I learned it when I was in college.
Why did you leave your home country? Have you been back to your home country since you’ve moved here?
I left my home country because of economic problems. Yes I have gone many times to my home country since I’ve been here and to be more specific, I go every summer.
What kind of economic problems?
The economic problem was that I didn’t have a job so I came to America in hopes to find one.
What was your first impression of the U.S. after you arrived? Was moving here an easy transition from the place you left?
My first impression was that people work way too much. This is a place where people don’t live but instead constantly work. Yes moving here was an easy transition for me because it was a direct flight for when I was on the plane. I can still remember the hours it took me on plane which was 3 hours and 15 minutes.
What made you get the impression that in America people work too much?
Well I saw people leave to work in the morning and came back in the night exhausted from work.
Looking back at your experience (and the experience of other immigrants who you know) how would you define the “American dream?” How easy or hard has it been to achieve that dream?
The American dream for me is not a dream, for me it’s too much of work. What people come here for is to have a good amount of money because you work a sufficient amount of hours. Like in other countries people work only singular which is 8 hours, here in America people work more than 8 hours like double the amount. It was extremely hard to achieve the dream because you have to work so much. In my experience, I had two jobs where I went from one work to the second one and I worked for seven days which was difficult because I would always be tired.
Fernanda de Jesus '21 (BHSEC Queens)
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