Carrying one small suitcase and a load of dreams, my parents immigrated to this country in 1965, from the Dominican Republic. Two years later, they were married and I became their first born child. A middle school dropout, my mother’s first job in this country was in a leather coat factory as a seamstress. My father, college educated, also worked in factories most of his life.
Like many first-generation children, I grew up being my family’s cultural broker, helping them navigate life in America. As young as 12 years old, I used to take my grandmother to her hospital appointments and advocate for her rights as a patient with MS (Multiple Sclerosis). I translated for my parents during parent/teacher conference nights with my teachers. I was the one who called customer services to report a complaint on behalf of my parents who didn’t speak English well. I was well into college and still taking care of my parents in more ways than I can describe.
The older and more Americanized I became, the more I became a cultural bridge to my parents, extended family and neighbors. I was the go-to person for anything American, institutional or in English. Not an easy role to fulfill, especially because it gives children more power than they can truly handle. But despite these major responsibilities, these bicultural experiences transform first-generation individuals into resourceful and empowered people.
Angélica Pérez is an iVoice on iVillage focusing on issues affecting Hispanic women.