I was the only one in my family born in the United States. Brooklyn, NY to be exact. My mother came to the US from the Dominican Republic in the late 70’s, with my father following not long after. I came along not long after that in 1980 and my brothers were about 13 and 14 when they arrived to the US in 1982. Since I was born prior to my brothers arriving in the US, my parents couldn’t wait to hop on a plane to introduce my brothers to their new baby sister. I think I was 2 months old when I first travelled on an airplane.
My first birthday was also celebrated in Dominican Republic to make sure that my brothers can celebrate with us as a family. My mom has the cutest picture of all of us at my first birthday standing behind a birthday cake at my first birthday party. That’s the picture I wanted to share, but she is not letting that picture out of her sight. I’m a picture thief. Mostly because she moves around a lot more than I do and I’m terrified that all those pictures we took growing up will somehow disappear. I even have a black and white picture of my brothers when they were younger.
Anyway, due to my brothers being in Dominican Republic for two more years after I was born, we travelled a lot during that time. This picture is of my mom, dad and I at the airport posing for a picture before we boarded a plane to the Dominican Republic. Her favorite thing then was to wash my hair and let it naturally dry into a curly fro. This is one of my absolute favorite pictures of my parents and I. Someday I hope to pass it along to my kids to cherish along with the love of a culture that I love so much.
To me, this represents a lot more than just a day of travel. My parents struggled to get here to give my brothers and me an opportunity for a better life. Things didn’t work out as perfectly as the four of them immigrating at the same time and I was a surprise baby. Imagine feeling like a fish out of water in a new country, with a new language and now a baby on the way while you still cry for the two sons left behind with family members. Scraping all the cash you have together to be able to fly home as much as you can to see your children. My mom went to school and became a hairdresser. She graduated when I was only 6 months old and she didn’t even speak English. We joke about our “first world problems” and how “the struggle is real” but this puts that saying in a whole new light.
This photo to me represents my Hispanic Heritage. I can almost smell the beautiful aroma of Dominican Republic and feel that tropical sun on my face just by looking at this picture.