From leaving their homes and dealing with

From forced immigration, to fleeing countries as refugees, each immigrant has a story to tell. To immigrate is to move to a different country to settle down or build a life. This year we have the privilege to learn about diverse people’s colorful stories; some happy and hopeful, and some sad and full of sorrow. Immigration happens on a daily basis, but it has also defined great parts of history. Reading about these strong men and women through their own poems and narratives gave me a completely different perspective than the one i’ve been hearing during history class for years. Through poetry and writing, immigrants from different times and places can fully express themselves, telling the readers about the most challenging parts of leaving their homes and dealing with the after effects of moving. This essay will demonstrate all that I have learned, as well as that these stories have had a positive effect on my opinions about immigration. I hope my work does some justice to the authors that are featured in this book.
The first things we read gave us an introduction to what immigration was originally about. “Melting Pot or Salad Bowl?” was the first narrative that we spoke of; it used an interesting metaphor to demonstrate what cultures were supposed to be and what they are now. Basically, in the beginning, the United States was a melting pot. The melting pot represents a country with a mixture of cultures and traditions that coexist together and become one big nation with the same customs. This is what “The New Colossus” was explaining as well. This poem tells us what the United States is supposed to stand for. A country that invites everyone who needs a home over to this place. The poem speaks about the Statue of Liberty, which is supposed to represent an invitation to refugees and others who need welcoming. They originally wanted the US to adopt people from different places so they could all be the same; nevertheless, that is not what happened. The United States is a salad bowl. Like a melting pot, all the ingredients are together in a same place, but the ingredients in a salad bowl don’t melt together like the melting pot. The ingredients in a salad bowl are all the different cultures and customs that have come to stay in the states, however they never mixed into one. Every individual from other places just keep to themselves. The US is not what the people wanted it to be, but it’s what occured due to the way immigrants were treated when they got there. These first two narrative presented what the United States were supposed to be, but it also demonstrates that it is not what really happened.
The first immigration story we learned about was about the Puritans. In the late 1920’s they decided to move out to the New World. Their plan was to form a plantation or colony in America. The purpose of this writing was to persuade other puritans to move with them as well. It was a tactic of persuasion, a campaign to attract new settlers. John Winthrop, a Puritan leader, is the main writer of the pamphlet we read in class. Different points were given to show than immigrating was the best choice. Although it was rich of information, this was personally my least favorite narrative. We did not get any details about what occurred after they left for the New World. We don’t know if they prospered, or if they were segregated like many other that emigrate there. I would have liked seeing their perspective of America after they got there.
The next two narratives we learned of were telling a story of forced immigration. Forced immigration means that the immigrants were taken away from their homes against their will. An example of forced immigration, one that went on for centuries, is the slave trafficking occurring from Africa to the New World. “A Slave Narrative” is Gustavus Vassa’s personal narrative. This man was an african who was taken to the United States when he was just eleven years old. Demonstrating the slave trafficking from a slave’s perspective changes everything for us in school. We had never seen any writing from a person actually experiencing this. The narrative begins when they are taken from their homes and are walking on their way to the ship. The child was scared and confused, since he has not been told what they are going to do to him. Seeing that these tall, white men seemed vicious towards them, (to their own men as well,) he believe that he would be killed or eaten. As they got to the ship, he was horrified by the treatment they were receiving. All his people were chained together, in a place where they could not be set free. Not to go to the bathroom, eat, or sleep. They were beat severely for not complying with the things they asked of them. Forced immigration must be one of the most painful things to endure. Another narrative demonstrating forced immigration was “Old Skibbereen.” This was ballad about a son and father speaking about their story. They had to leave since taxes were high and they could not care for their animals and plantations. Since their economy depended on these, they couldn’t stay anymore. The people of old Skibbereen were practically pushing the family out. This is why the man, his wife, and his two year old son had to leave. Sadly, the child’s mother died before they reached their destination. This gives us an insight on how hard it must be for people to immigrate.
The Gold Mountain Poems were written by the chinese. They tell a story about the 1850’s, when many chinese had to move because of the poverty in China. These immigrants seek to move to California, which they called the Gold Mountain. We see how the people are excited and happy to start their new life. However, the author says that they were completely disappointed when they got to the US. The gold fields of California, the place that was supposed to be their salvation, was full of people that would never accept them for being there. Similar to what happens today with latinx and hispanic people, the chinese did not feel welcome in the states and did not live a fulfilling life; you can assume so when they say “here even a proud man bows his head low.”
Lastly, we were presented with “The Pogroms Were All Around Us.” Similar to what we read about the african slaves, this is a personal narrative that deals with segregation. From 1880 to 1924, Jews were immigrating away from their homes due to severe racism. At that time, you would be blamed for the smallest and most irrelevant things just because you were a jew. The writer of this personal narrative is named Shmuel Goldman. He tells us the experience he and his family had when they moved away to Russia. Their living conditions weren’t better once they moved; for the jewish were poor. He states that “always the children were dirty and barefoot, always the dogs were skinny and mean.” The way he talks really impacted us students, how he says that they would barely look at the churches as they passed, even though “the beauty would draw them like moths.”
People need to talk more about immigration. It’s important to express the difficulty that it actually takes to move away and start again. It sickens me that so many people, in the United States, mainly, don’t have any consideration for refugees and families who need help. So many people move away to find a better lifestyle, and not all of them got a warm welcome. Stories like “Gold Mountain Poems,” “The Pogroms Were All Around Us,” and others are a huge example of this. I read a story about a family in Mexico who didn’t have much money. The mother was working as a waitress when her husband was killed. Her and her many children fled Mexico immediately so they could find better education, salaries, and a better lifestyle as a whole. The eldest daughter, Marisela, was determined to be a good role model to her many siblings. It’s terrible that this grieving family, moving to the United States to fix their lives, probably had to fight a lot to find respect.
For some reason, it is a stereotype that immigrants are criminals, terrorists, etc. Not just today, but in the past as well (see “The Pogroms Were All Around Us”). I hate that people with so much potential are questioned simply for being. The people around Marisela didn’t stop her. Her and her younger siblings thrived at school, and later, Marisela became a police officer, so she could prevent that what happened to her father to someone else. To conclude with, no immigrant story is the same, but I hope that all immigrants are treated equally. The US is supposed to be welcoming to everyone. No one should feel ashamed for who they are and where they come from.

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