It is my privilege to be able to use this blog as a vehicle to share a series of stories from across the country about the American immigrant experience. More on this project here. The seventh story is by Rosa Soy:
I arrived in the United States on February 9, 1962, a day forever etched in my memory. I was sent here by my parents through the “Peter Pan” program, curiously named after a boy who would not grow up, which allowed children from Cuba to be welcomed to the U.S. The political undertones of this project were, of course, unknown to us at the time.
Having been uprooted from the relative comfort of our middle class lives, we were called “refugees,” and placed in shelters, orphanages, and foster homes. We came alone without our parents who, we were told, would later join us. The program had the dual purpose of embarrassing the Castro regime, and protecting us, so that we would not be taken from our family and sent to the Soviet Union. Our parents assured us this was only temporary and they would join us in a short time.
Temporary or not, the wounds of separation left lifelong scars. The interrupted childhoods the loss of homes, relatives, friends and pets, all that was familiar and dear to us, took its toll. The promised protection came with a price -- separation from those we loved the most. And, as our parents encountered numerous obstacles to our reunification, the separation was often unbearably long and painful. In spite of Peter Pan, we did grow up, apart from our families, making choices we did not always understand. We learned to relish our independence as immigrants to this nation. We mastered a new language, became accustomed to new landscapes, tastes and smells. Grateful for our good fortune, we pledged allegiance as new citizens, while longing for the people and places we had left behind, which had slowly begun to fade from our memories.
Today, as an immigration attorney, I am often taken back to the pain and struggles of the early years. But I am rewarded by assisting a new wave of young people who long to be accepted and welcomed as immigrants to their new land.
Rosa H. Soy
Rosa Soy received a “Meet the Composer” grant for the “Future Feminine”a mixed-media project, and is the co-writer of The Rose Slippers,a children’s musical, an award recipient of the 2004 Jackie White Children’s theater competition. Rosa’s plays Esperanzaand The Planhave received staged readings at New Jersey regional theaters. Her play Venial Sinswas selected for the 2004 Samuel French festival in New York. And her short playPigeonswas presented at the 2005 Samuel French festival in New York. Her play “Off Balance” was presented at Luna Stage Theater Company in Montclair NJ. Rosa served as playwright in residence for Passaic County Community College during 2009 and 2010. She is currently working on a book about her experiences as an immigration lawyer.
**Special thanks to Ricardo Arechiga for his graphic design of the project logo**