Betty Graham

Transcription of Betty Graham
Interviewee: Betty Graham
Interviewer: Mark Lecker
Date: May 30, 2014
Place: Chicago, Illinois
Transcriber: Mark Lecker
Total Time: 53:35 minutes

Copyright © 2014 Edgewater Historical Society

ML: This is Mark Lecker. I am interviewing Betty Graham. The date is Friday May 30th, and the time is 4:51. Now you were born in Haiti, correct?

BG: Yes.

ML: And you were born in Port Au Prince?

BG: Port Au Prince.

ML: Ok. And what was it like growing up there?

BG: At the time, I was a child. The only thing I remember is a lot of destruction. Because it was a time where we were changing from one president to another. And so there was a lot of killings, a lot of ransacking. So that’s what I remember.

ML: And even as a child, you remember that?

BG: That part I remember the most, because it happened when I was probably five, six.


ML: Do you remember playing as a kid, or have those memories kind of overruled?

BG: [Sighs] I remember one part of playing. It was mostly with cousins. But they made us study a lot. Playing…playing meant like on weekends, with dad and mom, we would go to the mountains, and have…how you call that, we will eat there, we will sit…

ML: Picnic?

BG: Picnic, in the mountain. And the fun was to actually climb the mountains. But we had some good times also, at the beach. At the beach, and every time it was a different beach that my parents will choose to go. Yeah. And the beautiful things about the beaches that I recall are that there was sweet water, on the sand, you can just dig and it was sweet water. And then you go with the ocean, and then you go back, and where you have dug in, and then you rinse up. And that’s because all of the rivers just drain in the ocean. So that was the thing that always attracted me. I wanted to go and see whether I could find where the flow was. Yeah.


ML: You mentioned your parents, do you have any siblings?

BG: I have one. Yes. She is in San Francisco now.

ML: Older or younger?

BG: Younger.

ML: Younger, ok.

BG: One year younger.

ML: Did you pick on her when you were younger?

BG: No, she picked on me. Yes, she picked on me. I would not dare to do anything to hurt her, you know? She was a tomboy, so she would do the picking.

ML: So when you left Haiti, how old were you?

BG: I think I was six or seven. Seven, perhaps.


ML: And where did you move from Haiti?

BG: From Haiti, we moved to Mexico City, you know. And in those days, Mexico City had six million people. Today, it’s about twenty-four million. But we were six, and it was…well it ‘s still a beautiful city. But then, you could actually enjoy, and…enjoy the monuments because there was nothing to obstruct them. And the architecture, every single place was something monumental. The different cultures can be right next to each other, you know. Because anyplace they would dig, it would be like another…the word is civilization. And they sometime have three different architecture depicting three different civilizations. And it was wonderful. Every place you went in Mexico was a history spot.

ML: Did you explore a lot, at the archaeology sites?

BG: Oh yes. That’s where we spent our picnic days. Yeah. The [unintelligible], you know. When there was nothing there, that’s when we were there. It was completely… Now it’s like a touristic, it’s more touristic, they have dances, and stores, and things like that. In the days that I was there, there was just the pyramids, and perhaps one or two people selling crystal, they make crystal figurines there, beautiful and you can see the people doing it and blowing the…the glass. It was beautiful.


ML: Do you feel like there’s been a loss because so many people live there now, and it’s so built up?

BG: Yes. Yeah. You cannot appreciate the beauty of Mexico City of, like I said the architecture that was there because now they are buildings… The windows are just square or oval, and that’s it. Because they don’t have time to waste, they have to just erect something for five hundred families, you know? At one time…now it’s a little bit more stable, but at one time parking…they were parking on the sidewalks. And I was, “Oh, what is this?” I used to take… We moved from Mexico City to the suburbs, and to go to school, I went to school in Mexico City, in the city. And the bus used to take only maybe twenty minutes, half an hour. Now, two and half hours.

ML: That’s a major difference.

BG: It’s a major difference. I went six years ago, where I was staying in the hotel, it took me three hours to visit my girlfriend, and this appears that it was a straight line. They didn’t even have to go inside the city. And at night when they were bringing me back, half an hour. Oh! Something interesting happen. They’re bringing me back, and the car, it appears the cars were coming together. I said, “I know my friend didn’t drink, so what’s going on?” So when we got to the hotel, they told us there was an earthquake, and I go, “No wonder!” [Laughs]. No wonder the car was doing that!


ML: And you didn’t even notice the earthquake, or…?

BG: I notice that the car and I said. “Oh that’s interesting that he’s driving like that.” The car next to us. But the driver who is Mexican didn’t say anything. He just kept on going sideways and…but I thought it was strange. And I know he didn’t drink, so…I don’t know, I thought it was strange. They were not driving properly or something.

ML: He just shrugged it off?

BG: When we got there, in the hotel, everybody was scared, and screaming. And we said, “What’s the matter?” Then my girlfriend was in the car with us, had to call home, and her daughter was under the table, saying, “Mommy when are you coming back?! There was an earthquake!” So, yeah.

ML: Between living in the city in Mexico City and living in the suburbs of Mexico City, which did you prefer?

BG: Well…


ML: Or were they just different and you can’t compare the two?

BG: They were different at different stages of my growing up. When I live in the city, I was much younger. And it was fine. And we knew the neighbors, and we played with…we were all young. It was fine because it’s not…it wasn’t a big difference. The only difference was that in the city we could walk to places, and in the suburbs we would have to take the bus to go to the next suburb to go to a restaurant, let’s say. Or to the movies. Whereas in the city, the movies were in the community. But, the greatest time was in the suburbs. Because those were our teenager years.

ML: Ah.

BG: Yes. We were, close to…I would say, twenty girls, about the same age. And as many boys, and the community was awesome. We had a little church that they were building up…you know. My dad was a musician among other things, but we had parties in our home, where all the parents and the children…well, youngsters, because that’s the way it was, you went with your parents someplace else. After a while, they allow them to come to my home alone without being chaperoned, because my dad just played music. He had a big organ that every time he started playing, cracks will come in the house [laughs].


ML: It wasn’t a quiet instrument.

BG: It wasn’t at all. But he played so beautifully, that people would come out of their home, and put their chairs outside, and listen to the music.

ML: Free concert.

BG: Yeah. Because he was classical, at the same time that he played modern romantic tangos. Oh the tangos sounded fabulous in that organ. He maneuvered that thing beautifully. As big as that organ was, as big as one that you can see in the church, because it has different levels…so you can imagine. Little home made out of bricks…it wasn’t bricks, but it was blocks, the big thing, so you know everything went just [laughing]. Yeah.

ML: Easy way to wake the kids.

BG: Oh. No, my friend just loved him. He was very good with this. Yeah.

ML: Was that the only instrument he played?

BG: No, he played classical guitar, also. And in his childhood, he played the violin, but in Mexico it was accordion, the organ, the guitar. But before the organ, the guitar and the accordion more, and then at one point I think he…is it around the ‘60s, that organ, people were making organ ‘talk’, you know with music, so he went into that. He enjoyed it. It was good exercise: you have to use both of your legs, both of your feet, and your hands. And he was good, he was good at it. And all of the stuff he was able to play in the guitar, he played in the organ because you can change the instrument. And that was good.


ML: So you lived in the suburbs of Mexico City until you were in your teens?

BG: Until I was nineteen, when I came to the United States.

ML: Ok. Where did you move to when you moved to the United States? Did you come straight to Chicago?

BG: New York.

ML: Ah. What brought you to New York?

BG: My mother was living in New York.

ML: Ok. New York City or New York State?

BG: New York City. Manhattan.

ML: Manhattan?

BG: Next to Broadway [laughs].

ML: And at nineteen that must have been very exciting.

BG: Um, well…a nineteen year old coming from Mexico City, or Mexico, it was not that exciting. It was scary. It was very scary.


ML: Why do you say it was scary?

ML: So why was it scary moving to New York?

BG: Um, it was amazingly crowded, in Manhattan, especially, especially around Broadway. In West End. Although we had…first of all, when we arrived, we arrived and my mom received us in a Residence Hotel. And the first thing that was interesting to me and I didn’t like was that we had to go out whether it was very cold, snowing or not, about three times a day. Because somebody had put cigarette butt on one of the receptacles, and caused a fire. Or smoke. And since they didn’t know where the smoke was coming from, everybody has to get out. And in Mexico, I don’t remember even hearing that we had fires. I don’t remember ever [laughing], so it was very new to me.

ML: So your first experience was with careless people [laughing]?

BG: Yes. And then we heard the siren of either ambulance… Oh my G-d, ambulance was constant. And the fire department coming. Yeah, that was one. Then when we started going to school, we went to high school, and even though we were older, but we had to learn the many nuances of the American English. And they would tell us that the east side and the west side, and the uptown, and the downtown, and I said I would never learn this language. Because I don’t understand. And the nuances were so slight that… But we learned it. We had mostly, in Mexico we had gone to a British school, so a lot of things like, OK, is something we were not allowed to say. Which was then said, there was no OK in the British dictionary? OK doesn’t exist. Or didn’t exist. Maybe today it’s slack. And you have elevators, and we have lifts, you know? Although you had some lifts here, but they were not for passengers. You know they were for the laundry [laughs].


ML: I can imagine that that produced a lot of confusion.

BG: Oh! I said, “Why do they change the beautiful language? Why do they change it so much?” [Laughs]. And then…but going to school, in the subway…it was…it made me mad. It made me…when I say mad, I think I had some mental issues with anytime I went there, I wanted to scream, because the noise of the train, and the people pushing you. And there was a lot of sexual touching of adults to us, going to school. So that’s what I…that’s the part that I didn’t enjoy. And in those days, in those days…people didn’t do anything, you know? So you can be watching them, tears in your eyes, nobody asks, “Anything going on with you?” Because the person doing it will probably stick a knife into the other person that said something, and nobody would know what’s going on because it was so crowded, so crowded. So that’s why…so New York I am still scared to be in New York. I know some people enjoy it. It’s enjoyable to go shopping on Fifth Avenue of course.

But as a…well, as a teenager, coming from a country like Mexico where we were in this community in the suburbs, and if we were running late for school, anybody coming out of that community pick us up, and drop us in the city. To school. And there was no fear, you know? And here everybody’s there, adults, and they were the ones doing the mischievous things. So that’s why…so that, the part I think also I did get very depressed. So probably that’s good for your thing [referring to me being in psychology] very, very depressed. To the point where when I went to college, because I had to take the subway, so it was like a torment for me to take it in the morning. And if I stayed in school, because I was going to another, how do they call them…like I went to college in Brooklyn…borough! It’s called borough. So you have to go to Brooklyn, then in Manhattan a short while, to take another train to Queens, where I lived. So between Brooklyn and Manhattan, it was horrible. And so I…that’s the part I didn’t have a good time. I was constantly afraid, you know?


ML: How was going to school here? Going to college, um, the level of difficulty? Was it much different than going to essentially primary school in Mexico?

BG: In Mexico, let me see… We did very well in school in Mexico. We did very well. Coming here, there are some…we had diff…for example in high school, they had us, because of our age, they had us do two years high school. So they put a bunch of topics on us. The ones that I had difficulty with, to tell you the truth, was math. Because they wanted to reteach me math. And I didn’t get it. First of all, I counted in French, so it slows you down. Then they want…actually they were teaching math, but they were teaching the science of math. It wasn’t just one and one is two. It’s why one and one is two. Why one and zero cannot be zero, or why one and zero has to be one, you know? They teach you, and I was like…

ML: They over-taught it.

BG: Yes. And I’m like…so I did very badly in that part of math. But I passed. In math, what I did…when I started, the teacher was amazed, when I had trigonometry. No problem.

ML: So you can do trigonometry but you didn’t like algebra?

BG: Algebra ok. But this, they way you guys do your divisions and your multiplication, it’s too much. I can do it, and it’s finished. Why do…anyway. I don’t have to dissect it! I just get you the answer [laughs]. And the teachers want to see the in-between, I don’t understand what they talking about.


ML: The old showing your work problem.

BG: Yeah.

ML: I had the same problem.

BG: Did you really?

ML: I did it all in my head, and then get yelled at. You said you counted in your head in French.

BG: Yes.

ML: Is that the primary language in Haiti?

BG: Yes, yes. And I still do.

ML: You still do?

BG: Yeah. I have difficulty counting or doing my math in English. I have to think about it.

ML: Do you find other splitting…. You said you speak several languages, right?

BG: Well, just three or four.

ML: [Laughs] “Just three or four.” Do you find that you split other things? You say that you count in French. Do you think of some topics in, like Spanish, and some in English, or is it all pretty much one, and then French is that one, number area?

BG: You will find interesting that even though for many years I didn’t speak French. But in my first year in professional school, my mom sent me to Switzerland. My first night, in Switzerland, my dreams were in French, and I spoke perfect French. The next day, I picked up a literature book and I understood everything. And I was, “What’s going on with me?”

ML: [Laughing] Where did it come from?

BG: Where is that come from? And suddenly it was like…but when I speak here with people, I feel that is heavy. But over there, people said, “You speak very well!” And I’m like, “I don’t know how!” But it’s there.

ML: Well, it’s interesting because a lot of people in this country only speak English, and some people don’t speak English that well. And so speaking more than one language is considered a skill, and speaking multiple languages is almost unheard of, so it’s very interesting.

BG: I can explain chiropractic in English better than I can explain in Spanish. And that’s…and clinical words in Spanish, although…one of them, its sprain and strain. In Spanish, it’s torcedura, I mean it’s…it took me a long time…why that word for sprain? Sprain? Strain? It doesn’t make sense! Torcedura means like torsion…


ML: To twist.

BG: To twist! Where do you see twisting in sprain and strain? Sprain and strain is only…is differentiating where it’s ligamentus¸ or muscle. Well, we don’t have it…

ML: So Spanish just lumped it all together.

BG: Yeah. So that’s the only place…although I do very well with my Spanish patients, but I explain things instead of giving them a word. I explain that. And they tell me what it is.

ML: So after New York, you moved there when you were nineteen, correct? How long did you stay there?

BG: I stayed there perhaps seven…let’s see…seven years. You know, between high school and college.

ML: And then after college, where did you go?

BG: I went to Lombard, Illinois to be a chiropractor.

ML: And you mentioned professional school, is that where you went?

BG: That’s where I went, yeah.

ML: Ok. And what was it like going to a professional school even after college? You’d think most people would be done with school after college.

BG: Oh, no, no, no. Not in our culture. Yeah, it’s something that you do. That’s it. So it wasn’t…


ML: It was just expected.

BG: Yeah, it was expected. After high school, you go to university, after the university, you go further. And if it was medical school, after medical school you go for your specialization. No problem. We don’t, you know we don’t…cry on education. At all. It seems us, normal.

ML: My family is the same way.

BG: Yeah. Right? Isn’t it amazing? That some of the people’s like, “oh, I have to take a break from college!” What do you mean?

ML: It’s hard to go back after you take a break.

BG: Oh, it is. It is very hard. I’m trying to tell my niece not to…just keep on doing, study something, but don’t. Just go, either working, or just…traveling with your girlfriends or something like that.

ML: So you went to chiropractic school?

BG: Yes I did.

ML: Does that mean you’re a chiropractor then?

BG: Yes I’m a chiropractor.

ML: Are you still practicing?

BG: No, I had to retire. Because of physical…I wasn’t able to do it anymore.

ML: After school in Lombard, did you come to Chicago, or did you go somewhere else?

BG: Yes, I practice in Chicago, in Chicago proper. And after almost twenty-seven, thirty years of chiropractic, I went to school, I went back to school to Loyola, and I became an RN, a nurse.


ML: A rolling stone gathers no moss.

BG: You know? And unfortunately, I’m at a point, again, because of my physical limitations now, it seems that I’m going to have to retire again. Yes.

ML: Well, you’ve had a pretty good run so far, though! [Laughs]

BG: Yes, yes, yes. I’ve loved every minute of it.

ML: So what brought you from Lombard to Chicago?

BG: Um, that’s a very good question. I thought, because of my background, and I started noticing in school that there were prejudices. And I felt that if I went to a city, a big city, instead of staying in the suburbs, that I would be lost in the crowd and nobody will say, like if I went to a suburb and let’s say it was predominantly whatever, I would stand out. So I thought coming [to] the city, we are more mixed and nobody will give me a hard time. Yes. And that’s why I came to Chicago.

ML: Have you found that to be the case?

BG: I’ve…yes. I’ve…for example this building is very mixed. And I have had no problem whatsoever. However, where I have worked, I have had problem. Not because of me, but because of what they perceived of what I could be. And things like that. And if I didn’t belong to a specific group, then I was pretending to be something else. And I’m a mutt. I cannot…and that’s part of your thing, too! I’m a mutt. I don’t see myself either black, or white, or…I’m just it. You know? I don’t even think about it. I, you know? My anthropologist says “anyone who asks you, say you’re Homo sapiens sapiens. That’s it.” [Laughs] That’s great.


ML: Fair enough.

BG: “What are you?” Homo sapiens sapiens [laughs].

ML: It’s not wrong!

BG: No. But some people think you’re wrong, they want to put you in a special category. And first of all, my accent. I cannot, people really place. And I’m not used to not being able to go places, thank G-d. I have had that passport, you know, because of my education, to be open doors, many places. That’s very sad, because it has made my workplace, I feared to go to work. I never know what they would do, because they were mean people, they scratch your car, they stab my tires, and I keep scratching my head, it’s like, “What did I do?”

ML: When you moved to Chicago, did you move straight into the Edgewater area?

BG: Uh, no. I moved…when I moved to Chicago, I didn’t know what it meant to live in the Gold Coast. I lived on Astor Street. Even though it was in a mansion….

ML: Mansion?

BG: The mansion had the first floor. Iit seems that it was like a family kitchen, with dining, so they converted it into like a little apartment. And that’s where I lived, when I graduated from chiropractic. But it was amazing that every time I gave my address, everybody, ”Your home?” And every year, we would have open house, and everybody on Astor Street will come and visit our house, and I’m like, “Where am I? What’s going on here? Is this the way they do it in America?” Whatever [laughs]? And something also is like, that was…the first time that I saw something like that was in a movie in Paris. And I saw people with long fur coats, walking their dogs, on State Street. Or on Astor Street. And…what’s that street, Division? And I thought that was fascinating, “Well I guess I’m ok.” I just need a poodle and a fur coat, which I didn’t have.


ML: Well now you have a poodle.

BG: Now I have my poodle, yes. Yes. But that was interesting, in that area.

ML: So what brought you to the Edgewater area then? Why leave the Gold Coast? [Laughs]

BG: [Laughing] Are you kidding? Once I found out where I was, and I couldn’t move someplace else [laughs], because it cost a fortune! You know apartments start at like a quarter of a million dollars, you know?

ML: There is that [laughs].

BG: [Laughing] and you wonder why I’m confused. It’s like I just graduate. I live on the Gold Coast, and then the only thing I see is fur coats and poodles, and my next door restaurant was a Maxine’s, and high…French restaurant, and the next door to that is the Ambassador, and so that’s the only places I used to…I walked there! I would walk! What do I know?


ML: You had a little bit of a skewed perspective [laughs].

BG: [Laughing] yes! Yes! No wonder I didn’t fit anywhere [laughing]! Now, telling you, now I know, ah! Completely screwed up! No wonder [laughs]. Then from there, there was a little problem with the work, and then I went back to Lombard, and I lived there for a little while, then I moved back because I opened my own clinic, on LaSalle street, was very nice, but I don’t know anything about business, so…and then I live on 1100 North LaSalle, in a studio. That was my little castle, but it was close to work, and [sighs].

Unfortunately I had a bad experience there. In those days, Cabrini Green was very active. And while parking my car, I was attacked. So that left another bad thing, from New York here, this…made it worse, you know? Then from there, I moved to 3600 Lake Shore Drive. Which I found very safe, twenty-four hour’s guard. But then one day…and we have parking, by…is valet parking. So I entered, and somebody was following me, in a car. And they follow me all the way inside the garage! When he saw that I gave my car, and he didn’t know how to get out, that’s how they caught him. It’s like, why follow me? So that’s…then, I dated a cop. And he told me, “Betty, according to our…how you say…ok, they study your facial features.” He said, “I want you, when you buy a car, buy a two-door. Don’t buy a four-door. That will prevent you to forget…” Because in those days we didn’t have all electric that you can close your… He says, “Just two-doors. When you go by Division…Diversey…Division also, and you have to cross Cabrini Green. It’s not…you don’t stop in red light. If you see that the light is changing, is better you go slow, or your go zoom. That’s SOS there.” I said, “What’s SOS?” He said, “Shoot on Sight.” Ok. So I was not allowed to go around that area, I was not allowed to go…where is that, somewhere…what’s the name, some of the Spanish neighborhood. That he also told me is an SOS area. And also he told me to keep my glasses on, not to have any eye-contact with people, and not to turn when people were blowing the horns. So I follow those [unintelligible]. And now I don’t go anywhere where there is no valet parking, and if I don’t have money, I just don’t go anywhere. That’s it.


ML: Did you feel safer, do you feel more confident after hearing those tips, and kind of utilizing those tips over time?

BG: I use them every day. And I do avoid things. I do avoid taking public transportation, and I know it’s terrible, but I…if I happen to take even a bus from here to go downtown, which is rarely…I’m not comfortable. I’m…like this [tense] with anxiety.

ML: And it’s just not worth it at that point.

BG: No. And I can walk on the street, with Tutu [her dog], here, when it’s light like this, but I don’t adventure myself at night. I don’t go at night.

ML: And that’s just basic safety.

BG: Yeah, yeah. And that’s it.

ML: So what eventually brought you to the Edgewater area? Did you move here into Malibu East?

BG: Well, I was married. And I got divorced. We were living in West Rogers Park. A little bit…somewhat secure area, because on our block, there were only captains and police officers, and things like that. And rabbis. And uh [laughs], and we all prayed together, on the balconies. Iit was nice. It was nice because they were so sweet. I even remember the wife of one rabbi, helped me clean my car when it was snowing one day. And she came. She said, “Don’t worry!” And she helped me. That was so sweet. The children are playing [in] the backyard. We had a Rottweiler. They loved the dog, and the dog loved them. And then when I got divorced, I could not stay by myself in that big house. No. Even though…and I think the dog kind of let me know, it’s not worth it. Especially to wait for people to clean your hallway, you know your alleyway, stuff like that. I was not comfortable by myself there. So I look for someplace where…this is like a little city. We even have a bank. We have doctors, dentist, laundry, store…


ML: In here?

BG: Yeah.

ML: I didn’t know all that!

BG: Oh yeah. Store, and Jacuzzi, and health rooms, and gazebos,

ML: Why would you ever leave?

BG: If there is bad weather, we are very happy here. Very happy here. Yes.

ML: You mentioned earlier about how this condominium building is very diverse. Does that help bring everybody closer, because it’s not primarily one, it’s everybody mixed together?

BG: Yes. First of all, I don’t have any problem like that. I love it, because I can say a word in all of their languages, in a way. Just…I love it. I know some people don’t like it, like that. But, lately we have not have it, that I know, any problem. Everybody respect each other. At one time I think there was a problem with some people regarding putting the…how I put the name. But it’s for a Jewish holiday, and Christmas, and they put the Christmas tree…I had no problem with it. Because actually I observe the Jewish holidays with my neighbor, and we go to the Seder, and we pray. Because she’s married with a Christian, and stuff like that. So I find it fascinating. She starts singing in Hebrew, and here I go! Just [laughs]…it’s amazing. I love it.


ML: Is there anything that would…take you away from here?

BG: Yes.

ML: What would draw you away from this area?

BG: Oh, the area? Finances. Finances. Otherwise I’m very, very comfortable here.

ML: That’s not an uncommon answer.

BG: Really?

ML: If I found a cheaper place to live, I’d move there in a heartbeat, and I love my apartment. If you have a place that you love just as much, and it’s cheaper…that’s kind of the way it goes sometimes.

BG: Yeah.

ML: So I know that you said earlier you don’t identify yourself as anything other than Homo sapiens sapiens.

BG: Oh, you want me to tell you what I identify myself with?

ML: Well, I was going to ask, when people ask you where you’re from, because it’s a common question, what’s your normal answer?

BG: Haiti.

ML: Haiti?

BG: Uh huh.

ML: So…if asked, hypothetically, would you describe yourself as Haitian, or would you describe yourself as Mexican, or American…?

BG: Legally, I’m supposed to say I’m American.

ML: [Laughs] and realistically?

BG: Realistically…the thing that brings me to tears…the melancholy that I have is Spanish. It’s Mexico. Yeah. Anything that is from there, and I transform.


ML: So you have a deep connection to Mexico.

BG: A deep connection to Mexico.

ML: Have you tried bringing, or have you kind of found yourself bringing any of the Haitian culture with you as time goes on?

BG: Like what?

ML: You tell me [laughs].

BG: I don’t know, I don’t know.

ML: Do you find yourself doing that…anything different that you would do in Mexico that you do in America, do you find yourself bringing any of that Mexican culture into your life?

BG: Oh, it’s there. It’s there, all the time. The Mexico culture is there all the time. Although I respect everything, but…I do what I have to do, where am I, and what is expected of me.

ML: And that makes sense.

BG: And that’s it. But if I go to a Mexican restaurant, if I hear the music that I used to hear, and if I listen to mariachi, it’s like an electricity that get in my body, and I start singing, and like there was no tomorrow, and that’s all there was. I really don’t know too much about my country to say what I bring like from Haiti in my everyday life. My mom is close to me, and the only thing I know is like our…our behavior, perhaps. We have that French thing about us, but I don’t even cut that, that’s an education. [Unintelligible] But I also, if I hear like a mariachi I can stand dance the hat dance!


ML: When you hear the word ‘home’, what’s the place that you think of?

BG: Oh, my G-d. Mexico.

ML: Mexico? Do you identify ‘home’ as here too?

BG: Yes. Yeah. Especially now that Mexico is so bad, I feel that I lost…I left my heart there. And definitely I have, today I have more connections in America than over there. Especially my father passed away, so there isn’t… my girlfriends, everybody’s married, and doing something. But I have some close friends that are still there.

ML: Do you get to visit?

BG: Not anymore. Even my friends, they tell me, “Don’t even come. It’s too dangerous. It’s too dangerous.” [To her dog] Ok honey, you should sleep. You should sleep. You should sleep.

ML: Is there anything that I may have forgotten to ask, that you would like to tell me, or…?

BG: I think we touched quite a bit, and I gave you more than what you were expecting.

ML: You gave me great stuff.

BG: Great stuff. Yes.

ML: So if you had to give one piece of advice to somebody who was looking to immigrate…actually, I have one more! How was the immigration process, overall? Would you rate it as pretty good, pretty bad? A lot of heartache, or pretty easy? It was expensive? How would you describe your process?

BG: Well, you’re talking about something that happened forty-seven…forty plus years ago. More than that. And because my mother was here, and we were over there. The ambassador of United States in Mexico was very nice to us, to my sister and I. I think that he recognized that we wanted to be with my mom, and we were going for education, so he gave us the pass just like that.

ML: So pretty easy then! Well…ish [laughs].

BG: Ish. Because I think that he realized, we [were] going with mom. When we told him we were going to do, he says, “But your mom doesn’t make that much money,” and we said, “Oh, we’ll do part-time!” We didn’t even know what we were saying, but we will do little part times, taking care of children or something like that, which is what we did. So he said, “Ok.” And he sent us here. So that was…


ML: Pretty good then.

BG: Pretty good, and within five years we became American citizens, and that was it.

ML: So, last thing: if you had to give one piece of advice to somebody who was immigrating in from Mexico, what would that advice be?

BG: Take care of all the headache of immigration over there, first. Because life here is really not as rosy as they think. It is, especially if you don’t speak the language, and you don’t have an education, it’s not that easy. And that money…you cannot really find it, on the floor. Yes, you can have pennies and stuff like that, but you cannot live on pennies. And so you have to pay your dues here, and whatever you have to do to come in, the right way, the legal way, do it that way. Otherwise you will suffer.

ML: Thank you very much for the very, very, very interesting story.

BG: Thank you.