Many Immigrants come to America to have a fresh start in life, or to pursue into institutions. In the novel “The Book of Unknown Americans” by Cristina Henriquez touches on a topic that deals with immigrants who came to America for their families and individuals who came to pursue their dreams. The Toro’s and Rivera’s family are having doubts about the decision they made to moving to the U.S. for their families. The Rivera’s left Mexico for their daughter, Maribel who suffers from a brain injury, and the Toro’s family left Panama because of the revolution that had taken place three years before they moved when their two children, Enrique and Mayor were younger.
The Rivera’s family moved to Delaware a year after their daughter Maribel’s brain injury accident, which takes place in Mexico where she fell off a ladder of a two-story building at a construction site where her father worked (Henriquez 100). The family moved to Delaware to enroll Maribel into a school called “Everst”, which helps children who are disabled improve on their learning and behavioral skills. her parents knew that this school would help her get back to her old self again, well at least a part of her. Upon arriving to the U.S. Alma found that everything was quite different from Mexico. On the second day of their arrival the Rivera’s family went out to look for food when they found a gas station they ran into a few problems. First, they didn’t know what kind of food to get because nothing looked familiar accept the word salsa, secondly, they couldn’t understand what the cashier was asking for when he needed two more dollars to pay for the food that they were purchasing. When they were walking upon the gas station Alma noticed a young boy around Maribel’s age standing by the wall with his skateboard watching them walk inside. After Alma and Maribel walked out the gas station the boy (Garrett who’s name we find out later in the novel) started steering at Maribel looking her up and down this made Alma uncomfortable, and as they were walking back to the apartment Alma doubled check behind them to see if the boy was following them (Henriquez 9-10). A few weeks later when Maribel was at school and Arturo was at work Alma was home alone getting ready to go outside when she saw the boy from the gas station watching her apartment. Hoping that he would turn away he stay watching the apartment for five minutes then got on his skateboard and skated away, that’s when Alma started to feel worried saying to herself “What had that been about? Was it only because he like Maribel or was it something else?” When the landlord came by that same day to give the mailbox key to Alma he tells her she doesn’t have to worry about the boy because he does not live over there and he explained that everyone who live in the complex is just like them all from different countries including himself and she doesn’t have to worry about anything (Henriquez 35-36).
When individuals who are from other countries move to the U.S. have housing priorities which they move into their own apartment or move into an apartment filled with a group of individuals with families. Things like this can cause an outbreak in crime or it can be helpful to one another by allowing them to open up to one another and learn how they all relate. Individuals can also get taken advantage of either by their landlords or by others from that country because they don’t know anything about that place nor leasing in that country (Silka). The Rivera’s were fortunate for to have their apartment because Arturo’s job helped them with the apartment and their visas. Arturo works at a mushroom farm where picks mushrooms all day in darkroom out of a box for nine hours with no break. When Alma found out about this she was devastated because back in Patzcuaro Arturo could come home and eat lunch then return back to work at the construction business that he owned. Alma felt guilty because she was the one who convinced him to move to the U.S. she said to herself “was this where I brought him?……The thought of it cut through me. And guilt once again reared its head” (Henriquez 25-27). Once the Rivera’s got familiar with the area they met one of their neighbors one evening while shopping at the Dollar Tree who names were Celia Toro and Mayor Toro her son. Celia invited Alma over to her apartment if she wasn’t busy. The day Alma finally visited Celia she her all about what to wear during the winter, all the names of the neighbors and a place called the community house where they offer immigrants any type of services if they needed it (Henriquez 55).
The Toro’s moved to the U.S three years after the war from Panama because they didn’t feel safe anymore. Once they got to the U.S. they tried to go back but the boys end up getting into school and Rafael got a job as a bus boy then upgrading to a dishwasher.felt once they got to the U.S that they were already Americans. Years after living in the U.S. the Toro’s decided to get their citizenship to where they were officially Americans. When Celia met Alma at they had already been living in the U.S for fifteen years, so they knew everything about the U.S that they needed to know how to speak English, how to find a job, what type of food they had, and even the political issues that’s being dealt with. During every election Celia mad sure she voted every time no matter if it was for the state or the country. Celia always wanted to return to Panama to visit her sister but they never had enough money saved up and Rafael didn’t want to lose his job. One day when Rafael high school reunion was coming up he decided that he would take Friday off fly out that night leave after the reunion on Saturday night to be back to work for Sunday morning. Rafael never wanted to go back to Panama because he felt that it was not the same from when they were there. Rafael got conformation a couple of weeks before the reunion when he called to RSVP they guy made a smart comment saying to Rafael “We didn’t Know the gringo royalty was coming. We’ll have to get the place repainted before you arrive.” The people in Panama was humbler before they left. These comments led to Rafael saying, “We’re not going.” The comments the guy made to him was expressing how Americans are high maintenance and stuck up One year later two weeks before Celia birthday they decided that they were going to try and go visit Panama again then 9/11 and that stopped them because they didn’t want to get on a plane so Rafael took everyone to the beach on a beautiful winter day where Celia said, “It almost was like a piece of Panama” (Henriquez 77-88).
Alma decided that she wanted to go to the community house what Celia was tell her about and figured that she would see what she could do up there. Once she got there she ended up stumbling into the first day of a English speaking class she figured she could learn English too since Maribel was learning it. When Alma got out of class she took the wrong route because she wasn’t all to familiar with the buses nor her surroundings yet. It was an hour before Maribel got home from school that Alma took the wrong bus because she didn’t know English it was very difficult for her to get back home to Maribel. When Alma was lost all, she could think about Garrett would somehow see Maribel standing waiting for her and how he would hurt her. Once Alma got on the right bus back home she found Maribel safe with Mayor Celie’s son which was a relief for her. Maribel and Mayor started hanging out going back and forth from her house to his house on one of the occasions where Maribel didn’t come home from Mayor’s place Alma got worried went outside to look for her and found Garrett with Maribel against the wall with her shirt up. Alma got to her before anything could happen this led to Alma again thinking this wasn’t the right decision for her because a lot of bad things kept happing to everyone after that Arturo lost his job because of the economy. They were about to get their visas taken away because only Arturo was the one who could only work because it was mandatory. After Arturo lost his job the Rivera continued to pay their rent with the little money they had in saving. With Arturo out of a job the family was on a verge of getting kicked out because they money from the savings was almost gone until Arturo got shot by Garrett’s Father, Alma and Maribel was forced to go back to Mexico.
Some immigrants aren’t always fortunate get the chance to go back home because one they have no home to go to and two they are afraid that it won’t be the same once they go back. Immigrants have the most trouble adjusting to things because they come from countries who cultures do things different like the way they cook, how thy eat or even how they sleep. Like the Toro’s and the Rivears family new that they were from places they will always call home even thogh they are in the U>S
Silka, Linda. “Immigrants in the Community: New Opportunities, New Struggles.” Analyses of Social Issues & Public Policy, vol. 7, no. 1, Dec. 2007, pp. 75-91. http://web.a.ebscohost.com.chaffey.idm.oclc.org/ehost/detail/detail?vid=6&sid=0680038a-779f-4cc9-9055-3621fdf8f231%40sessionmgr4008&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#db=a9h&AN=27785081.
Henriquez, Christina. The Book of Unknown Americans. 2012