“When I think of my inspiration, all I can think of is my father,” said Crystal Estrada, a nurse practitioner and associate of the National Association of Hispanic Nurses.
Estrada has travelled from Chicago to Indianapolis for work, education and personal ambitions for nearly 15 years. She recently sat down with the Recorder to share memories of her upbringing, her perspective of Hispanic culture and motivations for a better life in the United States.
“Many Hispanic families are led by strong, labor-working, macho man figures. By the age of 20, my father moved over 1,000 miles away from La Piedad, Michoacan, Mexico to Chicago, Illinois, to find work for his family with only a third-grade education. Leaving a wife back home, he found a way, learned a language, worked and saved until he was able to move his new wife to this new town with him.”
Estrada said that her father’s hard work and sacrifices enabled her to achieve personal success.
“That determination for a better life for him and his family has now, over 35 years later, led me to be able to sit here as a college graduate living a better life than he had back in Mexico. To him, I am forever indebted.”
The journey to where she is now had many obstacles along the way.
“One of the biggest challenges Hispanics face in the United States today includes being seen and automatically immigration status is thought of or questioned,” Estrada said. “The focus should be on the person at hand; the person helping support and raise a family; the person who is the first in their family to go to college; the person who kindly communicates with effort in their non-native language.”
Many organizations in Indianapolis help immigrants combat these challenges, such as the Immigrant Welcome Center, which provides an array of services. Marketing coordinator for the Immigrant Welcome Center Mistie Rivas shared the organization’s stance on immigration enforcement and support.
“The vision of the Immigrant Welcome Center is, ‘Every Immigrant in Indiana is thriving,'” Rivas said. “We advocate for pathways to citizenship as well as equitable access to resources for ALL immigrants regardless of their background, religion, language, legal status or country of origin.”
Estrada acknowledged the contributions Hispanics have made to the U.S. despite the ongoing contention surrounding citizenship status.
“Some contributions that come from Hispanics include agriculture, diversity, food, among many hardworking families who just want to be a part of society in all aspects,” Estrada said. “Though immigration status is always questioned, the hard work and taxes given to the country goes undervalued.”
According to Rivas, the Immigrant Welcome Center provides legal resources to people who want to become citizens.
“[The] Immigrant Welcome Center’s dedicated staff offer legal resources to clients, from providing legal referrals to trusted legal service providers as well as other legal procedures,” Rivas said. “We host quarterly citizenship workshops where we assist eligible legal permanent residents with completing their N-400 application for naturalization. We also hold 8-10 week citizenship classes to prepare clients for their U.S. Civics exam and interview.”
“For nearly fourteen years, I was undocumented,” said Gustavo Rodriguez, a Hispanic immigrant who successfully navigated the naturalization process. “I went the military route towards my Citizenship” — the INA 328 and 329 statutes of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services provide immigrants who complete at least one year of military service a pathway to citizenship.
“We have a saying in my country, ‘Sí se puede,’ which basically means, ‘Yes, we can,'” Rodríguez said. “Nothing is impossible.”
Estrada shared similar advice for young Hispanic people living in the U.S.
“Never be discouraged; never feel disadvantaged; never feel you cannot do something,” Estrada said. “Being alive, having family or a community is more than enough reason to believe in yourself despite any barriers placed in your way. If our people were about to move to another country, learn a new language, build a foundation, most in their early 20s, you can do anything!”
Contact multi-media staff writer Noral Parham III at 317-762-7846 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NoralParham. For more news from the Indianapolis Recorder, click here.