From what my mother told me, we landed in Florida around midnight on February 17th, 1991. What I remember was a car ride in a place I called “Nueva York”, because that was where I thought I was before I would learn that I was in fact in Nueva Jersey. Luis and Claudia sat in the backseat. I sat on my mother’s lap, trying my best to see what was ahead of me past the snowfall. I was three years old, however, much too short to see anything even with her help.
The weather had not changed the entire ride to 290 Summer Avenue in Newark, where my grandmother Juana lived. My gray jacket did almost nothing to protect me from the cold when I got out of the car. The first thing I noticed as I entered the house was the red carpet. My toy cars and I would get acquainted to the incredibly worn down quality of them later, but for the time being it looked royal.
We all walked into the small kitchen. That was were I met the other sponsor for our residency in the United States — my step-grandfather George. He was a skinny little man from Pennsylvania that, despite his grumpy demeanor and two-packs-a-day voice, was very friendly to me.
Of all the memories from that day, the one that truly stuck to my mind was the family dog. He was a mixed German Shepard named Bobby. Everyone loved his excitement in meeting the four of us, but I was terrified for his barking and size. I wasn’t even as tall as he was, and I never really got used to him in the three years we lived in that house.
That was twenty-one years ago. My father was still tying up loose ends in Peru, so we didn’t get to see much of him in that first year. I picked up English, at least vocally, from watching episodes of Bonanza with George and music videos. While most of my memories of that time frame are almost purely fictitious at this point, I still remember that cold day, and my mother’s warm lap, and that goddamn scary dog.
I’m an immigrant, and even if I have been here almost all of my life, I don’t forget that. So today, I’m writing a story on Latinos in space, drinking chicha, and reading news in Spanish. In other words, what I do every other day. Feliz Migra Day to me.