Morris Rosen is joined by his cousin Dorothy “Dutch” Idalin Gelson Cohen and her husband, Mordecai “Mortie” Cohen, in this interview. Morris’s son Robert is also present as interviewer and videographer. Morris, born in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1919, was one of four children of Annie Blatt and Sol Rosen. Sol and his siblings, including Dutch’s parents, Zelda Rosen and Louis Gelson, emigrated from Russia in the first decade of the twentieth century, following their older sister Ida and her husband, David Goldberg, to Poughkeepsie, New York, where Dutch was born in 1919. The cousins talk about the Rosen (Rachelkin) and Gelson (Getchen) families of Poughkeepsie and their ancestors in Russia. Morris briefly mentions his maternal grandparents, Mamie Wildman and Morris Blatt, who ran a bakery in Columbia, South Carolina, before moving to Charleston. Morris and Dutch describe how the Rosens wound up in Charleston. Their uncle Sam Rosen moved to the area from Poughkeepsie for reasons unknown and opened a store in Awendaw, a small settlement about twenty-five miles north of Charleston. In about 1919, Sol Rosen and Zelda and Louis Gelson followed and bought an established country store from a member of the Geraty family in Yonges Island, nearly twenty miles south of Charleston. Louis died within a year, and Sol sold his interest in the store to Zelda, who moved the business and her three children to Meeting Street in Charleston after a few years. Sol was in the grocery business and later opened liquor stores. Morris traces his father’s moves from Yonges Island to King and Romney streets in Charleston, to the town of Meggett, and back to Charleston at King and Race streets. Morris and Dutch discuss growing up in Charleston in an area of the city where there were no other Jewish families. They did not experience antisemitism and Morris blended easily with the Catholic teens who lived nearby. The cousins did connect with other Jewish children when they frequented the neighborhoods around the synagogues and while attending religious school. They didn’t notice any friction between Charleston’s Reform and Orthodox Jews and played with children from both groups. Dutch was confirmed and Morris became a bar mitzvah at Brith Sholom on St. Philip Street. The two consider the degree to which their parents were observant Jews and speculate as to why their parents and others of their generation did or did not adhere to certain Jewish traditions. Mordecai “Mortie” Cohen was born in 1916 in St. Matthews, South Carolina, where his father, Isaac, ran a dry goods store and two farms. All the general merchandisers in St. Matthews while Mortie and his two brothers were growing up were Jewish. They met for High Holiday services in the town’s Masonic temple and were joined by families from Orangeburg, Ehrhardt, and Elloree. Most of Mortie’s friends were Christians; he doesn’t remember experiencing any antisemitism in St. Matthews. Mortie recalls how he came to know the Rosens, and he and Morris describe the role of the drummers, or sales reps, who visited retail storeowners when their fathers were in business. Morris talks about how he met his wife, Ida Tanenbaum. Her brother Lou Tanenbaum came to Charleston and opened a clothing store with his brother-in-law Louis Lesser. Morris, an ensign in the U.S. Coast Guard during World War II, was assigned to a LST (Landing Ship, Tank) in the Pacific. The group discusses what they and other American Jews knew about what was happening to Jews in Europe under Hitler.
Sidney Rittenberg, in this follow up to his interview on June 17, 2013, recalls his initial encounters with the idea of Communism. While attending Porter Military Academy, the school chaplain, Reverend William W. Lumpkin, got Sidney’s attention when he stated, “There are people working in little Communist cells around the South, secretly, for equality and justice that are Communists and they don’t consider themselves Christians, but the lives they lead are like Christian lives.” As a teen Sidney was exposed to “socialists, communists, anarchists, everything imaginable liberal,” when he spent a summer at the New Jersey resort run by his maternal grandparents, Martin and Sadie Sluth (Slutsky). “I was struck by the fact that the one who was a Communist, who was a lawyer, was very reasonable and seemed to make a lot of sense to me.” While attending the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Rittenberg volunteered to teach local mill workers how to read and write, and he began working with unions in Durham, North Carolina. Sidney also joined the American Student Union, eventually becoming president of the left-wing campus organization. In 1940, Sidney left school. By that time he had joined the Communist Party [CP] in defiance of a federal investigation of the college’s president, Dr. Frank Porter Graham, “on charges of Communist sympathy.” Sidney traveled to New York and to his hometown of Charleston, South Carolina, to collect CP dues and renew contact with members. The interviewee describes his experiences as a trade union organizer in High Point and Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina, and his work on behalf of the Alabama Sharecroppers Union [SCU] in the early 1940s. Rittenberg and interviewer Dale Rosengarten share stories about union organizer Clyde Johnson and labor organizer Claude Williams. Dale’s fieldwork for her undergraduate thesis on the SCU led her husband, Theodore Rosengarten, to record the story of a black tenant farmer named Ned Cobb, and produce a book called All God’s Dangers: The Life of Nate Shaw, which won the National Book Award in 1974. Sidney describes how his union organizing for R. J. Reynolds workers in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, led to him being drafted into the army shortly after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941, despite being rejected earlier because of poor eyesight. Rittenberg outlines his service in the U.S. Army, particularly while stationed in China, beginning around the time of the Japanese surrender in 1945. Serving as a claims investigator for the army and, later, after his discharge in January 1946, serving as a famine relief observer for the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration [UNRRA], he witnessed the inner workings of Chinese society. “These people were not only in the grip of a terrible backward oppressive system . . . they accepted it as fate, as proper. . . . That’s the great thing that Mao and the Chinese Communists did; they broke up that concept of fate, that you can’t do anything about it, and they made people feel that they could do something.” Sidney joined the CP in China and contributed by supplying books, helping people who were in danger leave the area, and providing whatever assistance was needed. He notes the difference between the CP in the U.S. and the CP in China. After leaving UNRRA, Sidney, intending to head home to the U.S., instead met CP leader Zhou Enlai and General Nie Rongzhen, who offered Sidney a job helping the CP reach out to the American people. Sidney touches on how he coped with being imprisoned in China for more than a dozen years. Imprisonment and solitary confinement “didn’t change me . . . because I believed in the principles. I believed we were working for a better world and there was nothing better to do than that.” He comments on the positive reception he received when he returned to the U.S. in 1980, and notes that “I didn’t really turn from Marxism/Leninism until about a year after I got out of prison the second time. Then I began reexamining basic premises.” In 1993, he co-authored with Amanda Bennett the story of his life in China, The Man Who Stayed Behind. See also two more interviews with Sidney Rittenberg, conducted by his cousin Deborah Lipman Cochelin on July 27, 2013, and October 27, 2013.
Sidney Rittenberg talks a second time with cousin Deborah Lipman Cochelin in follow-up to their recording session on July 27, 2013. Some of the interview covers the same ground as Sidney’s June 17 and June 19, 2013, interviews with Dale Rosengarten, including stories about his family; the unjust treatment of an African American by Charleston, South Carolina, policemen in the mid-1930s; and Rittenberg’s experiences living and working in China. Sidney attended Sunday school at Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim (KKBE), the Reform synagogue in Charleston, South Carolina, and relates his memories of KKBE’s Rabbi Jacob Raisin. When he was about fourteen years old, Sidney met Joseph Nelson Mease, a College of Charleston freshman from Canton, North Carolina. Mease introduced Sidney to topics in natural science and historic figures like Charles Darwin. “The main effect that Joe Mease had on me was that I immediately declared myself an atheist.” Sidney describes his after-school activities, family vacations, and how he befriended medical school students and helped them with their studies while he was still in high school. He discusses why he chose to pursue his college degree at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, instead of taking advantage of a full scholarship to Princeton. For graduate studies, he was sent to Stanford University by the U.S. Army to study Chinese language, politics, culture, history, and anthropology. In September 1945, Rittenberg was assigned to the army’s claims department in the judge advocate’s office in Kunming, China. While in China, he observed that the foreigners who were allowed into the country between 1946 and 1966 came from all over the world and the vast majority were Jewish. “Why? Because, like me, they grew up with, first of all, a natural affinity for oppressed people.”
Ira Rosenberg was born in New York City in 1937, eight years after his brother, Monte, to Bessie Lipschutz and Alan Rosenberg. The family moved to Richmond, Virginia, in the early 1940s, where Ira grew up in the midst of a sizable Jewish community. The Rosenbergs were Orthodox but Ira says his parents “were not very active” in the local synagogue. However, Alan insisted Ira go to shul every Saturday morning and attend Hebrew school in preparation for his bar mitzvah. Ira is joined in this interview by his wife, Anita Moise Rosefield Rosenberg, originally of Sumter, South Carolina. They married in 1963 while Ira was serving in the United States Air Force. Ultimately, they moved to Charleston, South Carolina, where they raised their children, David, Virginia, and Mindelle. Ira describes his career as a pharmacist after he was discharged from the military in 1966. In the 1980s he changed professions and opened his own business as a realtor and real estate appraiser, Rosenberg & Associates. Ira and Anita discuss changes in Reform Judaism and in their synagogue, Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim. They talk about Rabbi Stephanie Alexander, KKBE’s first female rabbi, and the degree of acceptance extended to lesbian and gay members by the rabbi and the congregation. Anita recalls being on the national commission of a program begun in the 1970s by Rabbi Alexander Schindler, a former president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations. The program, called Outreach, was designed to encourage acceptance and inclusion of intermarried couples and their families. See also a follow-up interview (Mss. 1035-461) with the Rosenbergs, conducted on November 4, 2016.
Sidney Rittenberg, born in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1921, is interviewed by Deborah Lipman Cochelin, whose great-grandmother Rachel Rittenberg Sanders was a sister of Sidney’s grandfather Samuel Oscar Rittenberg. Sidney tells stories about his parents, Muriel Sluth (Slutsky) and Sidney Rittenberg, Sr., and his sister Elinor Rittenberg Weinberger. He talks about growing up in Charleston, including the schools he attended and the friends he made. A good bit of the narrative is similar in content to his June 17, 2013 interview with Dale Rosengarten. The cousins recall several members of their extended family and Sidney describes time spent as a child on Sullivan’s Island. See also Sidney Rittenberg’s other interviews on June 19, 2013 and October 27, 2013.
Selden K. Smith, a South Carolina native who taught history for nearly four decades at Columbia College in Columbia, South Carolina, talks about his role in the development of Holocaust education courses. He describes meeting local survivors and says of interviewer Lilly Stern Filler’s mother, “The most compelling person of all—it was all compelling—was Jadzia [Stern].” What started as an experimental course featuring presentations by survivors grew into a standard offering at Columbia College. Dr. Smith notes he was not involved in or even aware of the effort to create legislation that established the South Carolina Council on the Holocaust (SCCH) in 1989. However, he was appointed to SCCH in 1990. He credits Margaret Walden, who then worked for the South Carolina Department of Education, for much of the progress made with Holocaust education in the state. Among SCCH’s projects was a joint effort with South Carolina Educational Television to interview survivors and liberators, resulting in the publication of the teaching guide South Carolina Voices. The interviewee discusses the status of Holocaust education in South Carolina and suggests that the challenge is how to make it “relevant to one’s day and time.”
Rosemary Smith and Keller Barron share their memories of South Carolina Democratic Senator Hyman Rubin (1913–2005), who was elected in 1966 and served for eighteen years. Rosemary, who grew up in Nazi Germany, was the administrative assistant to the Senate Medical Affairs Committee that Rubin chaired. Keller was the research director for the Joint Legislative Committee on Aging, also headed by Rubin. Both women describe Rubin’s attributes and tell stories about his contributions to the city of Columbia and the state. He was a founding member of the Columbia Luncheon Club and the Greater Columbia Community Relations Council, both organized in the early 1960s to facilitate racial integration. The interviewees note that although the senator did not “wear” his Jewishness “on his sleeve,” he did decline invitations to attend functions at Forest Lake Club in Columbia, where Jews were not accepted as members. For related materials, see Hyman Rubin’s May 24, 1995, interview, Mss 1035-024, and Rose Rudnick Rubin’s May 5, 1996, interview, Mss. 1035-072.
Roselen Morris Rivkin, born in 1926 in Romania, immigrated with her family to the United States in 1932. They lived first in Elkhart, Indiana, then South Bend, Indiana. She met her husband, Arnold Rivkin, of Columbia, South Carolina, while he was stationed at Notre Dame during World War II. They married in South Bend in August 1946 and moved about three months later to Columbia to operate Edward’s Men’s Shop at the corner of Washington and Assembly streets. After twenty years, the store relocated to 1625 Main Street and reopened as Marks’ Men’s Wear. Roselen talks briefly about Arnold’s parents, Rachel and Raphael Rivkin, and recalls the Jewish merchants she knew on Assembly Street and Main Street. She found Columbia’s Jewish community to be small, close-knit, and welcoming. Roselen and Arnold raised three children, Mark, Allen, and Lynda, in the capital city. For a related interview, see Caba Rivkin, Mss. 1035-017.
In this follow-up to their June 23, 2016, interview (Mss. 1035-452), Ira and Anita Rosenberg talk about their children and grandchildren and how they observed Judaism as a family when the children were growing up. Ira notes that he was a co-founder of Dragon Boat Charleston, served on the boards of Charleston Jewish Community Center and Charleston Jewish Federation, and is a past president of Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim. He discusses the benefits of Jewish community centers, his thoughts on the recent transition of the local center to one without walls, and his feelings about the presence of Chabad in the area.
Lilly Stern Filler was born in Munich, Germany, in 1947 to Holocaust survivors Jadzia Szklarz and Ben Stern. The Sterns immigrated two years later to Columbia, South Carolina, where Gabriel Stern, Ben’s uncle and immigration sponsor, lived. This interview opens with Lilly describing a Stern (Szterenzys) family photo taken, presumably, in Poland when Ben was a little boy. Ben met Jadzia after the war through Jadzia’s brother Ben Szklarz, who was his bunkmate in the concentration camps. Lilly recounts how her parents were reunited with their siblings after the war and talks about her aunts, uncle, and cousins. The oldest of four, she shares memories of and thoughts about growing up as a daughter of survivors. After encountering antisemitism when trying to join a high school social club, Lilly’s involvement with Jewish youth groups intensified. She elaborates on what Judaism means to her, and what it means to have a Jewish home. The interviewee recalls meeting her husband, Bruce Filler, a Rhode Island native, at Rusk Institute in New York City, where both were working as physical therapists. They married in 1972, moved to Massachusetts, earned graduate degrees, and in 1975 welcomed daughter Rachel before deciding to relocate to Columbia, where they opened their own practice, Columbia Rehabilitation Clinic. Sons Alex and Michael were born in 1978 and 1980. Four years later, Lilly, pursuing a long-held dream, started medical school at the University of South Carolina. She relates some of the issues she faced going to medical school and starting a new career as a woman in her thirties and forties, and as the mother of young children. She describes partnering with Richland Memorial Hospital to open Women Physicians Associates, an all-female OB-GYN practice. In 2000 Lilly followed up on an initiative her parents had started years before to erect a Holocaust Memorial in Columbia. She discusses how the project grew to include various members of the Columbia community, Jewish and non-Jewish. The monument, located in Memorial Park, was dedicated in 2001. The Columbia Holocaust Education Commission was established with surplus from the memorial fund and shared the same goals: “remember the six million . . . honor the survivors and the liberators . . . and educate South Carolinians about the Holocaust.”
Conie Spigel Ferguson was born and raised in Spartanburg, South Carolina, the daughter of Geneva Fulk and Julian Spigel. She talks about her great-uncle Joel Spigel and her grandfather David Manuel Spigel of Prussia, who immigrated to the United States in the late 1800s. The brothers, who were jewelers, lived for a time in the Newberry-Columbia area, where David met and married Theresa “Daisy” Mittle. The Spigels, Joel included, moved to Spartanburg in 1903, where they opened a jewelry store. Conie’s father, Julian Spigel, was pushed to go to medical school by his parents. He met Geneva at a hospital in North Carolina where she was working as a nurse. Geneva came from a family of Moravians and was expected to leave school before completing her education to work on the family farm. However, she left home, took a job and a room with another family, graduated from high school, and earned a nursing degree. She married Julian in 1941, and they moved to Texas where Julian, an M.D., worked at a hospital before being called home to Spartanburg by his father in 1947, shortly after Conie’s brother, Joel David, was born. Julian helped out with the family jewelry business and took over after David Spigel’s death in 1949. He did not work again in medicine. Although Geneva did not convert to Judaism, she raised Joel and Conie in a Jewish household, insofar as they observed all the holidays. The children attended Sunday school, and Geneva was active in the B’nai Israel Sisterhood and B’nai B’rith. As the daughter of a gentile mother, Conie discusses how she was received by the rabbi and members of the temple. She recalls Rabbi Max Stauber who was hired in 1955 and served the congregation for nearly 30 years, noting that he was “like a second father” to her. The interviewee describes her devotion to Jewish religious observance and what she values in a rabbi. She relates incidences of antisemitism she experienced while in secondary school and at Spartanburg Junior College (now Spartanburg Methodist College). Conie responds to questions about race relations in Spartanburg, and reports that she never witnessed any conflicts between black and white students in her high school.
Isidore Denemark was born in 1910 in Mayesville, South Carolina, the son of Eastern European immigrants Sara Lee “Lizzie” Siegel and Jacob Denemark. Jacob arrived in New York and, at some point, moved to Georgetown, South Carolina, where he worked for the Fogel Brothers in their general merchandise store. Isidore doesn’t know when or where his parents married. He describes a number of moves the family made after Jacob left Georgetown. They ran stores in Mayesville, South Carolina, Sumter, South Carolina, and Winston-Salem, North Carolina. They returned to Sumter around 1935 where Jacob went into business with Sara’s brother Harry Siegel on Main Street and Sara opened the Smart Shop, which sold dresses. Isidore recalls his father packing up his merchandise and following the tobacco workers around during harvest season in the Carolinas and Tennessee. The interviewee talks about his family’s religious observances as Orthodox Jews when he was growing up and his practices as an adult. He and interviewer Robert Moses are members of Sumter’s Temple Sinai, a small Reform congregation. Both men express frustration and concern about the lack of attendance at Sabbath services by members of the younger generations. They contemplate the reasons for the low levels of participation and compare the Jewish community of Sumter to the large and vibrant one in Charleston, South Carolina. Isidore earned an accounting degree at New York University and returned to Sumter in 1936 to work for Boyle Construction Company as a CPA. He was joined by his first wife, Gladys “Jimmy” Goldsmith, and they raised two children, Bennett and Adele. He talks about how he met Jimmy, who died in 1966. He married Rae Nussbaum Addlestone, originally from Charleston, who was present at this interview. Isidore was one of six or so people who put up money for a new summer camp for Jewish children. They bought more than two hundred acres in Cleveland, GA, and named it Camp Coleman, for the man who made the largest donation. Isidore and Robert discuss the absence of antisemitism in Sumter and how Jewish residents have been prominent in every part of Sumter life. Isidore addresses the issue of the Confederate flag flying on the South Carolina statehouse grounds.
Joan Weisblum Steinberg Loeb, born in 1918 in Brooklyn, New York, married Matthew Steinberg and moved to his native city of Charleston, South Carolina, in 1936. Joan, a daughter of Elsie Aleskowitz and Philip Weisblum, recounts some of her family history, and describes how she met Matthew, who earned his M.D. from the Medical College of South Carolina, and their wedding in the Weisblum’s Brooklyn home. Her mother-in-law, Anna Bell Kaminski Steinberg, taught her how to keep a kosher home. The interviewee, who had no formal religious upbringing, recalls attending High Holy Day services at her husband’s Orthodox congregation, Brith Sholom. She notes that Matthew served as mohel for the congregation following Reverend Feinberg, who was also the cantor and the shochet. Interviewer Sandra Rosenblum reports that her husband, Raymond Rosenblum, a urologist, later assumed the role. In 1947, Joan and Matthew left Brith Sholom and joined roughly seventy families in becoming founding members of the Conservative Synagogue Emanu-El. Joan points to the leadership of Charleston native, Macey Kronsberg, the congregation’s first president, as pivotal in organizing the faction that was dissatisfied with Orthodox practices. Joan notes the source of discontent: “It was the fact that the women were not part of the service at all, and the families did not sit together. This didn’t satisfy this generation. They wanted the children to be part of it and to learn and to have an interest, and not to have to just be banged over the head in Hebrew school to learn enough for a bar mitzvah, and goodbye Charlie.” Joan and Matthew donated the first sanctuary, an army chapel, for Emanu-El’s Gordon Street property. Joan lists many of the names and professions of the charter members. She discusses the differences among Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform Judaism, and some of the changes that have taken place in her lifetime. Participants recall the mid-twentieth century practices and attitudes of Charleston’s Reform congregants (Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim) and the two Orthodox congregations, Brith Sholom and Beth Israel, and they examine their own, and others’, experiences of keeping kosher—or not. Joan briefly mentions the three women’s organizations she joined in Charleston: the National Council of Jewish Women, the Daughters of Israel, and the Happy Workers. She goes into some detail about why her father thought U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt was the “biggest hypocrite and enemy of the Jews.” Matthew Steinberg died in 1968. Three years later, Joan married B. Frank Loeb of Montgomery, Alabama, where she was living at the time of the interview. She provides a brief history of Montgomery’s Reform congregation, Temple Beth Or.
Sidney Rittenberg, born in 1921, talks about growing up in Charleston, South Carolina. He relates memories of his parents, Muriel Sluth (Slutsky) and Sidney Rittenberg, Sr., and his older sister, Elinor, who married Art Weinberger, also of Charleston. The interviewee’s paternal grandfather, Samuel Oscar Rittenberg (1867–1932) emigrated from Lithuania and, after living in New York for a time, ended up in Charleston working in real estate with Triest & Israel. Samuel served as president of Brith Sholom Synagogue and was a South Carolina state legislator. Sidney Sr. was a reporter for the News and Courier before becoming a self-taught attorney, partnering with Louis Shimel in the law firm Shimel & Rittenberg. He was a Charleston City Councilman, active in local civic clubs, and associated with many prominent Charlestonians of his day. Although his parents often attended Shabbat services at Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim, Charleston’s Reform synagogue, the interviewee notes that they didn’t observe the High Holidays. Growing up, Sidney had Jewish and non-Jewish friends. He says, “I didn’t really like being Jewish because it separated me from the other kids. . . . I thought, ‘I’m an American. Why should I be anything else?’” Sidney noticed tension between the Reform Jews and the Orthodox Jews. “People looked down on each other because they weren’t strict enough or they were too strict.” He describes instances of antisemtism; portrays an African-American man who made baskets and wove figures like dolls and ships; and recalls enjoying children’s programs offered by The Charleston Museum. The interviewee discusses an incident that deeply affected him as a fourteen-year-old; he witnessed the unjust treatment of a black man by the police and was powerless to stop it. See also Sidney’s second interview with Dale Rosengarten on June 19, 2013, and his two interviews with cousin Deborah Lipman Cochelin on July 27, 2013, and October 27, 2013.
Faye Goldberg Miller, born in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1938, talks about growing up on St. Philip Street, one of three children of Polish immigrants Jeanette Altman and George Goldberg. She explains why her father changed his name to Goldberg from Geldbart after arriving in the United States. George followed his brother Israel to Charleston and opened a men’s clothing shop on King Street. The family observed the Sabbath and the Jewish holidays and Jeanette kept a kosher kitchen. Despite encountering antisemitism from a few neighborhood children, Faye says she “had a wonderful childhood in Charleston.” Faye married Ivan Miller and they raised three children, Shira, Robert, and Bruce, in Columbia, South Carolina. She discusses the family business, Groucho’s Delicatessen, purchased in the early 1940s from the Rivkins by Ivan’s father, Harold Miller, with the help of Harold’s brother-in-law John Gottlieb.
Beryle Stern Jaffe, born in 1945, talks about growing up in Columbia, South Carolina. She is the eldest daughter of Sarah Kramer and Henry Stern. After Henry was discharged from the military, the Sterns settled in Henry’s home city of Columbia, where he joined his father, Gabe Stern, in his dry goods business, at that time located in nearby Lexington. Beryle recalls segregation and how prejudice against African Americans manifested in public, as well as in her own home with regard to their hired help. The interviewee married Pierre Jaffe in 1967. Pierre, a native of Paris, France, immigrated as a child to the United States with his mother, who had married an American soldier. Pierre and Beryle raised two children, Jason and Erin, in Columbia. Interviewer Lilly Stern Filler’s parents, Ben and Jadzia Stern, were Holocaust survivors who settled in Columbia after World War II. Beryle and Lilly describe the degree to which Lilly’s parents, particularly her father, adjusted to life in a new country.
Carolee Rosen Fox, born and raised in Asheville, North Carolina, relates some of her Charleston family history. Her maternal great-grandparents, Caroline Goldstein and Isaac Belitzer, lived at 344 East Bay Street in Charleston, South Carolina. Carolee describes the home, known as the John Falls Walker House. It was passed down in the family to her great-aunt Gertrude Belitzer who, in turn, left it to the interviewee’s mother, Selina Leidloff, daughter of Blanche Belitzer and photographer Herman Leidloff. The house, featured in the Historic American Building Survey collection in the Library of Congress, was torn down in 1961. Carolee briefly discusses how her mother, Selina, met her father, Abe Rosen, a New York dress manufacturer.
Iris was born in the city of Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas, Mexico. Her grandmother served as her main caregiver because her mother worked full time and studied on the weekends. She suffered the absence of her mother, but from her she learned to strive for her goals. As a teenager, she was sent to Mexico City to study cosmetology. When she returned to her town, she fell in love and had her first child at seventeen. She had her own hairdressing and beauty business, but she aspired to a better quality of life for herself and her child. Excited by the stories of prosperity coming from the north, she decided to emigrate. She left her nine-year-old son with her sister and embarked on the difficult journey to cross the border. The crossing was plagued by situations of danger and abuse. Life in the United States was more difficult than she had anticipated, and her plans to reunite with her child took six years to complete. The reunion was fraught with difficulties and the family needed a lot of time and determination to heal their wounds. Iris’s son was at risk of deportation but, fortunately, he was able to apply for DACA and receive approval. Iris worked as a promoter in the PASOs program and currently continues to volunteer in the community and her parish.Nació en la ciudad de Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas, México en el año de 1972. Siendo niña estuvo al cuidado de su abuelita porque su madre trabajaba a tiempo completo y estudiaba los fines de semana. Sufrió la ausencia de su madre, pero de ella aprendió a luchar por superarse y lograr sus metas. Siendo adolescente se fue a vivir a la Ciudad de México para estudiar cosmetología. Cuando a volvió a su pueblo se enamoró y a los diecisiete años tuvo a su primer hijo. Tenía su propio negocio de peluquería y belleza, pero aspiraba a una mejor calidad de vida para ella y su niño. Entusiasmada con las historias de prosperidad que le llegaban del norte decidió emigrar. Dejó a su hijo de nueve años con su hermana y emprendió el difícil viaje para cruzar la frontera. El cruce estuvo plagado de situaciones de peligro y abuso. En Estados Unidos las cosas fueron más difíciles de lo que había anticipado y sus planes de reunirse con su niño demoraron seis años en cumplirse. El reencuentro estuvo plagado de dificultades y la familia necesitó mucho tiempo y trabajo para reparar las heridas. El joven estuvo a punto de ser deportado, pero afortunadamente pudo acogerse a los beneficios de DACA. Lopez trabajó como promotora en el programa PASOs, y actualmente sigue ofreciendo su trabajo voluntario en la comunidad y su parroquia.
In the second part of her interview, Margarita recalls the different places she’s worked since her family settled in the Lowcountry. Her first job was in North Charleston in a food processing facility, where she spent most of her working hour processing vegetables in a walk-in cooler. She withdrew from that position because she was pregnant and the long hours of work in the intense cold were affecting her health. After the birth of her baby, she got a job at Carolina Nurseries in Moncks Corner and was surprised by how many Mexican workers the company employed. Currently, she works with her husband in a landscape company. Upon arriving in the Lowcountry, Margarita and her family settled in a neighborhood located behind Midland Park Elementary. Margarita remembers with great affection the Midland Park teachers who, from the first school day, supported and encouraged her daughter and continued providing help, support, and encouragement throughout her time at school. Her daughter, a young DACA, is studying at the University of Delaware. Margarita reflects on the limitations she had as a mother to support her daughter in the process of applying for college and expresses the immense pride she feels for her daughter’s achievements.En la segunda parte de la entrevista, Margarita recuerda los distintos lugares en los que trabajó desde que se establecieron en el Lowcountry. El primero, fue en North Charleston en una cámara frigorífica procesando verdura. Se retiró de ese lugar porque estaba embarazada y las largas horas de trabajo en el frio intenso le estaban afectando su salud. Después del nacimiento de su bebe consiguió trabajo en Carolina Nurseries en Moncks Corner y se sorprendió de la cantidad de trabajadores mexicanos que la compañía empleaba. Actualmente trabaja con su marido en una compañía de jardinería. Al llegar al Lowcountry, Margarita y su familia se establecieron en un vecindario ubicado atrás de la escuela Midland Park. Margarita recuerda con mucho afecto a los maestros de esa escuela que desde el primer día apoyaron y alentaron a su hija y que a lo largo de su vida escolar la acompañaron y la ayudaron a encontrar recursos para progresar. Su hija, una joven DACA, estudia en la Universidad de Delaware. Margarita reflexiona acerca de las limitaciones que tuvo como madre para apoyar a su hija en el proceso de ingresar a la universidad y expresa el orgullo inmenso que siente por los logros de la joven.
Holsapple was born in San Rafael, Mendoza, Argentina, in 1977, where she lived with her family until she left to study drama at the National University of Cuyo in the city of Mendoza. In 2000, while Argentina was in the midst of a severe economic crisis, she decided, like many other young Argentines, to seek new opportunities abroad. She arrived in South Carolina at the age of twenty-three. Although she had friends and acquaintances already living in the Lowcountry, the process of adapting to the new place was not easy. Her life took an even tougher turn when, after marrying an American citizen, she became a victim of domestic violence. Holsapple was determined to leave her situation of abuse, and found refuge in My Sister House, a safe shelter and home for victims of abuse. With the support of professionals, volunteers, and friends, she began the healing process and worked hard to provide proper care for her newborn daughter. A few years later, Holsapple became a citizen of the United States. Currently, she owns her own small business and is proud and grateful for what she has accomplished through hard work and dedication. However, despite these achievements, Holsapple still has mixed feelings about her decision to raise her daughter away from her family and homeland. Holsapple nació en San Rafael, Provincia de Mendoza en 1977 y allí residió junto a su familia hasta que se mudó a Mendoza capital para estudiar teatro en la universidad. A los 23 años en medio de una fuerte crisis económica, decidió al igual que muchos otros jóvenes argentinos, buscar nuevas oportunidades en el exterior. En el año 2000, llegó a Carolina del Sur. Aunque tenía amigos y conocidos el proceso de adaptación a la vida en el Lowcountry no fue fácil. Su vida tomó un giro todavía más difícil cuando se casó con un hombre americano y fue víctima de violencia doméstica. Decidida a salir de la situación de abuso busco refugio en My Sister House. Con el apoyo de profesionales, voluntarios y amigos comenzó a recuperarse y a trabajar para así poder encargarse de su hija recién nacida. Algunos años más tarde, Holsapple se hizo ciudadana americana. Actualmente, es dueña de una pequeña empresa y se muestra orgullosa y agradecida por lo que ha sido capaz de lograr con su trabajo y esfuerzo. Sin embargo, estos logros no disminuyen los sentimientos encontrados que le produce criar a su hija lejos de su familia y su tierra natal.
Héctor was born San Andres Ixtlahuaca, Oaxaca, Mexico. In the interview, he talks about his land, the Trique culture and language, his work, and his love for basketball. Before arriving in the United States, Héctor followed the path of many young people from his region and emigrated to Mexico City in search of work and better opportunities. Just arrived in the big city, life was difficult because he had no acquaintances and did not speak Spanish well. Later, he got married and had three children. After separating from his wife, he returned to Oaxaca. Before long, he joined a group of people from his town who were planning the trip the north and crossed the border with them, arriving in California, where he worked in agriculture. He eventually settled in Moncks Corner, South Carolina. He started working at Carolina Nurseries and later obtained employment in the construction sector. His greatest passion is basketball. Héctor is the coordinator of the Hispanic League of Basketball that convenes numerous families in the area every weekend.Héctor nació en San Andrés Ixtlahuaca Oaxaca, México. En la entrevista habla acerca de su tierra, la cultura y la lengua trique, su trabajo y su amor por el basquetbol. Antes de llegar a Estados Unidos, Ramírez siguió el camino de muchos jóvenes de su región y emigró a la Ciudad de México en busca de trabajo y un mejor porvenir económico. Recién llegado a la gran ciudad sufrió penurias porque no tenía conocidos y no hablaba bien en español. Más tarde se casó y tuvo tres hijos. Después de separarse de su esposa regresó a Oaxaca. Al poco tiempo se unió a un grupo de gente de su pueblo que emprendía el viaje al norte y cruzó la frontera con ellos, llegando a California, donde trabajó en la agricultura. Finalmente, se estableció en Moncks Corner, Carolina del Sur. Comenzó a trabajar en Carolina Nurseries y posteriormente consiguió empleo en el rubro de la construcción. Su mayor pasión es el basquetbol. Héctor es el coordinador de la liga Hispana de Basquetbol que convoca cada fin de semana a numerosas familias del área.
Margarita was born in Santiago Juxtlahuaca in a very small town in the Sierra de Oaxaca, Mexico. Much of her childhood was spent in a shelter for children, where she suffered from the lack of family affection and from economic shortcomings. At sixteen, she went to live with her uncles in Mexico City and began working. "I was rebellious. I wanted to learn, to get out of poverty, to wear beautiful clothes," she recalls. When she returned to Oaxaca, she worked as a bilingual employee at a small local bank. She met a boy who was a seasonal worker in the United States, and they got married and had two children. Facing the scarcity of resources in Mexico, her husband decided to migrate again, and this time she joined him. They left their children with their mother-in-law and went to California to work in agriculture. They missed their children terribly and considered returning to Mexico, but in the end, they decided that it was better for the children to join them in the United States. Together they traveled and worked in different parts of the country until they finally settled in South Carolina.Margarita nació en Santiago Juxtlahuaca en un pueblo muy pequeño de la Sierra de Oaxaca, México. Gran parte de su infancia transcurrió en un albergue para niños donde sufrió la falta de afecto familiar y las carencias económicas. A los dieciséis años se fue a vivir con unos tíos a la Ciudad de México y allí comenzó a trabajar. “Era rebelde, quería aprender, salir de la pobreza, usar ropa bonita”. Cuando volvió a Oaxaca, trabajó como empleada bilingüe en un pequeño banco local. Conoció a un muchacho que trabajaba por temporadas en Estados Unidos, se casaron y tuvieron dos niños. Cuando la necesidad económica los apremió, el decidió volver a emigrar y ella se le unió. Dejaron los niños con su suegra y fueron a California a trabajar en la agricultura. Dado que extrañaban mucho a los pequeños pensaron en volverse, pero al final decidieron que era mejor que los niños se les unieran en Estados Unidos. Todos juntos viajaron y trabajaron en distintas partes del país hasta que finalmente se establecieron en Carolina del Sur.
Carmela was born in a rural community called Ojo de Agua, Santa Cruz, Nundaco, Tlaxiaco, in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico. She grew up speaking Mixtec, learned to speak Spanish in school, and from an early age helped her family with the house and small farm chores. At the age of fourteen, after finishing middle school, she moved to Mexico City. In the interview, Carmela tells about her life in the capital, first under the care of her mother's godmother and then employed with two other families. She tells about the things she learned living in a big city, but also about the situations of injustice and abuse to which she was subjected. Back in her village, Carmela married a childhood friend. Unfortunately, the couple's first baby was stillborn. The loss of her child left her in such deep pain that her family feared for her mental health. Relatives and friends advised them to travel to the United States to distract themselves and recover. Though she was initially unwilling to leave her homeland and terrified to cross the border, she joined her husband anyway and set off along the road to the north. Carmela remembers how they prepared for the trip and the problems they faced in the desert. She also tells of her first impressions upon arriving in South Carolina and how she learned to live in the United States, where her three children were born. Finally, Carmela reflects on work, access to education and health services, her concerns about immigration raids, and her dreams for her family.Carmela nació en una comunidad rural llamada Ojo de Agua, Santa Cruz, Nundaco, Tlaxiaco, en el estado de Oaxaca, México. Creció hablando mixteco, aprendió a hablar español en la escuela y desde temprana edad trabajó junto a su familia en las tareas de la casa y el campo. A los catorce años, después de terminar la escuela media se mudó a la Ciudad de México. En la entrevista, Barrios relata cómo fue su vida en la capital, primero bajo el cuidado de la madrina de su madre y luego empleada con otras dos familias. Cuenta las cosas que aprendió viviendo en una gran ciudad, pero también las situaciones de injusticia y abuso a las que fue sometida. De vuelta en su pueblo, Barrios se casó con un amigo de la infancia. Desafortunadamente el primer bebe de la pareja nació muerto. La pérdida de su niño la dejó sumida en un dolor tan profundo que su familia temió por su salud mental. Familiares y amigos le aconsejaron que viajara a los Estados Unidos para distraerse y recuperarse. Sin deseos de dejar su tierra y aterrorizada de cruzar la frontera, emprendió junto a su esposo, el camino al norte. Barrios recuerda cómo se prepararon para el viaje y los problemas que enfrentaron en el desierto. También cuenta sus primeras impresiones al llegar a Carolina del Sur y cómo fue su proceso de aprender a vivir en los Estados Unidos donde nacieron sus tres hijos. Por último, Barrios reflexiona sobre el trabajo, el acceso a la educación y los servicios de salud, sus preocupaciones sobre las redadas de inmigración y sobre sus sueños para su familia.
Felipa was born in a small town in the state of Oaxaca called Capulín and grew up there with her parents and six siblings. She never went to school and contributed to the family economy by participating in the house and field chores from a very young age. Her father was a seasonal agricultural worker in northern Mexico, and Felipa began traveling and working with him when she was nine years old. At the age of fourteen, she moved in with the father of her first daughter, who later emigrated to the United States and never returned. She met and married a farmworker from Guerrero, and together they decided to try their luck in the United States. They traveled the country, working in the fields and in poultry processing plants. Her marital life was very difficult, and fearing for her life, Felipa returned to Mexico. Determined to turn her life around, she left her children with her mother and returned to work in the United States with the illusion of saving enough money to be able to have the whole family together. "My reason is to bring all my children here in the United States so that I can work and give what they want and they can study, " Felipa said. She is now grateful to have achieved her dream: "When I reunited with all my children I told them, ‘Now I'm happy,’ and even now I'm still happy for it, because a daughter died, but I know she died, I know where she is, I know where she went. But they're all with me, I know what they do, I know what they are going to do. There is one who obeys, one does not obey, but I am with them.” Felipa proudly reveals that one of her sons, Antonio, graduated with honors from Strafford High School and is currently a student at the College of Charleston. Felipa nació en un pequeño pueblo del estado de Oaxaca llamado Capulín y allí creció junto a sus padres y seis hermanos. Nunca fue a la escuela y desde pequeña tuvo que dedicarse a las labores del hogar y el campo. Su padre trabajaba como campesino migrante en el norte de México y a los nueve años, Felipa López empezó a viajar a la cosecha junto con él. A los catorce años se fue a vivir con el padre de su primera hija, quien luego emigró a Estados Unidos y nunca más regresó con ellas. Más tarde se unió a otro jornalero originario de Guerrero, y juntos decidieron probar suerte en Estados Unidos. Recorrieron el país trabajando en la agricultura y en plantas procesadoras de pollo, pero a causa de los problemas matrimoniales y temiendo por su vida Felipa regresó a México. Decidida a dar un vuelco en su vida, dejó a sus hijos a cargo de su madre y regresó a trabajar a Estados Unidos con la ilusión de ahorrar para poder tener a toda la familia junta. “No perdí tiempo”” Mi razón es traer todos mis hijos aquí en Estados Unidos, para que yo pueda trabajar y dar lo que ello quiere y estudiar ellos.” Felipa se siente agradecida de haber logrado su sueño: “cuando yo encontré todos mis hijos les dije, ahora sí estoy feliz y hasta horita sigo siendo feliz por ello, porque una mi hija se murió, pero sé que se murió, sé dónde está, sé dónde se fue, pero todos ellos están conmigo, sé lo que hacen, sé lo que piensan hacer, hay uno obedece, uno no obedece, pero estoy con ellos.” Felipa cuenta con orgullo que uno de sus hijos, Antonio, se graduó con honores en la escuela Strafford y actualmente es alumno del College of Charleston.
Artist and playwright Maribel Acosta was born in Havana, Cuba in 1969. She moved in her twenties to Ecuador and since 2010 has been living in the Lowcountry with her family. Acosta has gained a reputation within the local arts community for her paintings, graphic design, community-based theatrical productions, and community service. In the interview, Acosta tells about her childhood in Havana, her early fascination with the arts, and her training as an artist in the most prestigious Cuban institutions. She also talks about her journey as an immigrant and explains that moving from Cuba to Ecuador represented a true cultural shock. Twenty years later, she decided to emigrate again, this time to the United States, with her musician husband and their two children. In the United States she struggled with learning to communicate in English, but that was not a deterrent for her creative passion and her efforts to share her work. Acosta explains that since her children became more independent she has had more time to focus on her artistic endeavors. She has exhibited her paintings in a private gallery in West Ashley and at the Saul Alexander Gallery at the Charleston County Public Library. Finally, she also tells about her project, "Hola Familia", a radio program in Spanish that is broadcast once a week by El Sol 980. Descripción: La artista y dramaturga Maribel Acosta nació en La Habana, Cuba en 1969. A los veinte años se estableció en Ecuador y desde el año 2010 reside en el Lowcountry junto con su familia. Acosta es reconocida por sus pinturas, diseño gráfico, producciones teatrales y servicio comunitario. En la entrevista cuenta sobre su infancia en La Habana, su temprana fascinación por las artes y su formación como artista en las más prestigiosas instituciones cubanas. También relata su historia como inmigrante y explica que el paso de Cuba a Ecuador representó un verdadero choque cultural. Veinte años más tarde cuando decidió radicarse en Estados Unidos junto a su marido músico y sus dos hijos tuvo que aprender a comunicarse en una nueva lengua. Este desafío no le impidió seguir creando y compartiendo su trabajo. Acosta explica que a medida que sus hijos se han vuelto más independientes ella ha encontrado más tiempo para enfocarse en sus proyectos artísticos. Ha exhibido sus pinturas en una galería privada en West Ashley y en la galería Saul Alexander de la Biblioteca Pública del Condado de Charleston. Finalmente, habla de su proyecto “Hola Familia” un programa radial en español que se emite semanalmente por El Sol 980.
Diana Salazar is a Mexican American born in Homestead, Florida. Her father and grandfather worked as labor contractors, supplying immigrant workers to farmers on the Eastern Seaboard. In the interview, Salazar remembers when she was twelve and a teacher told her “do not become a statistic Mexican girl that works in the fields and gets pregnant. […] You go get your education because you’ve got it in you.” She also recalls that as a child she witnessed an immigration raid on a labor camp in Maryland. Though she knew she was not at risk of being deported, the events left a deep impression upon her. Around the age of sixteen, her parents moved to Orlando and stopped being migrant workers because they did not want this lifestyle for their children. Later, they moved to Hollywood, South Carolina where Salazar completed her high school senior year at Baptist Hill High. She returned to Orlando, Florida where married her first husband. She came back to the Lowcountry in the 1980s with her second husband and first child. Salazar tells about her extensive work experience and activism. In 2006, when massive immigrant protests were held around the country to raise awareness about the struggles of undocumented individuals and demand comprehensive immigration reform, three thousand people congregated in Marion Square in Charleston. Salazar tells she organized the march with the guidance and support of her cousin Emma Lozano, a Chicago activist, but she found no support from local politicians. Salazar is proud of her achievements, among them being the recipient of the Martin Luther King Picture Award. Descripción: Diana Salazar nació en Miami, Florida. Su padre y abuelo trabajaron como contratistas, supliendo de mano de obra de trabajadores inmigrantes a los agricultores de la costa este de Estados Unidos. En la entrevista, Salazar recuerda dos eventos que la marcaron siendo niña. El primero fue una conversación con un profesor que le dijo "no te conviertas en una estadística, otra chica mexicana que trabaja en el campo y se embaraza joven. [...] ve y edúcate". El otro suceso fue una redada de inmigración de la que fue testigo en un campo de trabajo en Maryland; a pesar de que sabía que no estaba en peligro de ser deportada quedó profundamente impactada. Cuando tenía aproximadamente dieciséis años sus padres decidieron dejar la vida migrante y se establecieron en Orlando, Florida. Más tarde se trasladaron a Hollywood, Carolina del Sur y fue allí, en la escuela Baptist Hill donde Salazar curso su último año de la preparatoria. Siendo muy joven se casó y fue a vivir Orlando con su marido. En los años ochenta regresó a Carolina del Sur con su segundo marido y su primer hijo y desde entonces ha residido en el Lowcountry. En la entrevista, Salazar cuenta sobre su amplia experiencia laboral y su activismo. En el año 2006, cuando miles de personas marcharon en distintas ciudades del país para crear conciencia sobre las luchas de los indocumentados y para exigir una reforma legislativa, alrededor de tres mil personas se congregaron en Marion Square en Charleston. Salazar explica que fue ella quien organizó la marcha, que recibió el apoyo de su prima Emma Lozano, una activista de Chicago, pero que en cambio, no encontró repuesta positiva en los políticos locales. Salazar se siente orgullosa de sus logros entre los cuales figura de haber sido elegida para recibir un premio por su trabajo en la comunidad llamado Martin Luther King Picture Award.
The oldest of three sisters, Lourdes was born in Mendoza, Argentina in 1972. Her family experienced many economic setbacks, and she learned at a young age to work hard to overcome obstacles. She completed her training as a Physical Education teacher while helping the family business, and right after graduating, she taught swimming lessons, hockey, and operated a small gym. During the Argentina economic crisis at the end of the 1990s, Lourdes reluctantly left her country. This decision had a great impact on her relationship with her loved ones and in her own identity. Lourdes tells about the barriers she faced to adjust to the life in South Carolina and how she coped. She worked in housekeeping but she had a longing for her teaching days and started looking for ways to use her knowledge and passion for fitness and a healthy lifestyle. She presented a proposal to teach a free of charge fitness class for pregnant women at Our Lady of Mercy Outreach in Johns Island, South Carolina. At first, her students were mostly Latinas, but soon her classes were full of women with very different backgrounds. Later, she moved her free classes to the public library on Johns Island. In the interview, Lourdes explains faith has been central in her journey, giving her a new community and the strength to face every day as an undocumented worker without becoming overwhelmed by fears and anxiety. Raised Catholic, she is now a member of an evangelical church. Lourdes and her husband have volunteered at a Hispanic church food bank, which served mostly poor black families in Ravenel, South Carolina. Descripción: La mayor de tres hermanas, Lourdes, nació en 1972 en Mendoza capital en Argentina. Su familia sufrió varios reveses económicos y debido a ello aprendió desde pequeña a esforzarse y trabajar con empeño para superar los obstáculos. Estudio y se recibió de profesora de educación física mientras ayudaba en el negocio familiar y a poco de graduarse ya impartía clases de natación, hockey y tenía un pequeño gimnasio en su casa. Durante la crisis económica de Argentina de fines de los años noventa renuentemente decidió emigrar. Esta decisión produjo cambios profundos tanto en su identidad como en su relación con sus seres queridos. Lourdes habla de los obstáculos que enfrentó para adaptarse a la vida en Carolina del Sur y cómo poco a poco los fue superando. Después de asistir a las clases de inglés comenzó a sentir que podía comunicarse mejor y empezó a participar más activamente en la comunidad. Sin embargo extrañaba trabajar en su profesión y entonces empezó a buscar oportunidades para compartir su conocimiento y pasión por la actividad física y la vida saludable. Fue así que decidió presentar una propuesta para enseñar de forma gratuita, una clase de gimnasia para mujeres embarazadas en Our Lady of Mercy Outreach en Johns Island. Al principio, sus estudiantes eran en su mayoría latinas, pero pronto sus clases se llenaron de mujeres de distintas procedencias. Más tarde, trasladó sus clases gratuitas a la biblioteca pública en Johns Island. En la entrevista, Lourdes dice que su fe y su relación con Dios han sido centrales en su camino. Gracias a su vida de fe tiene fuerza cada mañana para enfrentar su día como trabajadora indocumentada sin quedar abrumada por el temor y la ansiedad. Criada en la iglesia católica es ahora miembro de una iglesia evangélica. Junto con su marido ha sido voluntaria en Ravenel en un banco de alimentos en una iglesia hispana que ayudaba mayormente familias pobres afroamericanas.
Elsa Mendez was born in Chile in 1976 but grew up in Mendoza, Argentina. In the late 1990s, she fell in love, got pregnant, and married her sweetheart. The young couple suffered the economic crisis affecting Argentina in those years. Frustrated, and on an impulse, she wrote a letter to her sister who was living in South Carolina, asking her for help to move to the United States. In return, her sister facilitated the money to buy airplane tickets and then assisted the young family to get settled in North Charleston. In the interview, Mendez remembers her first impressions in the United States, and the struggles and challenges they faced during the first months as immigrants. She talks with affection and gratitude about the American neighbors who welcomed them with open arms and helped them to find work. Over time, other friends and relatives from Argentina moved to the area, and while she was happy to have loved ones close by, soon the dynamics of these old relationships changed in the new setting. Mendez also tells about her experiences as an undocumented immigrant and the negative impact of the passage of the South Carolina immigration law SB 20, which she protested. She explains that in an attempt to protect her children they, as a family, rarely discuss their legal status. However, the conversation is no longer avoidable, because there are several teenagers in her network of family and friends who will face uncertainty when they finish high school. Finally, she states that her personal relationship with God helps her to accept her life as it gives hope for a better future. Descripción: Elsa Méndez nació en Chile en 1974 pero creció en Mendoza, Argentina. A fines de los noventa se enamoró, quedó embarazada siendo muy joven y se casó. La joven pareja pronto sintió los efectos de la crisis económica que afectaba a la Argentina. Frustrada, casi sin pensarlo, le escribió una carta a su hermana mayor que vivía en Estados Unidos pidiéndole ayuda para llegar hasta allí. Su hermana le facilitó el dinero para comprar los pasajes de avión y luego la ayudó a establecerse junto a su marido y su bebe en North Charleston. En la entrevista, Méndez habla de sus primeras impresiones en Estados Unidos y sobre los problemas y desafíos que enfrentaron durante los primeros meses como inmigrantes. Recuerda con afecto y gratitud a los vecinos estadounidenses que sin conocerlos los recibieron y les ayudaron a encontrar trabajo. Con el tiempo, otros amigos y parientes de Argentina se trasladaron a vivir al Lowcountry. Mendez explica que si bien ella se sintió feliz de tener seres queridos cerca, pronto se dio cuenta de que la calidad de esas relaciones cambiaría en el nuevo entorno. Por último, Méndez relata sus experiencias como inmigrante indocumentada y el impacto negativo de la aprobación de la ley de inmigración SB 20 de Carolina del Sur a la que ella se opuso. Aunque la falta de documentos tiñe toda su vida, en un intento de proteger a sus hijos, rara vez conversan en familia acerca de estos temas. Sin embargo sabe que se acercan a un momento en que ya no van a poder evadir la conversación porque varios adolescentes de su red social están por terminar la escuela secundaria. Por último, afirma que su relación personal con Dios le ayuda a afrontar el día y a tener esperanza en un futuro mejor.
Lydia Cotton was born in Puerto Rico in 1962. She moved to the Lowcountry in the 1980s. A hard-working woman, her life changed dramatically in 2003 after surviving brain cancer. She was unable to maintain regular employment, but she was determined to make the best of her life. She concentrated her talents and energies on helping the growing Hispanic community in the City of North Charleston. Soon, she became the liaison between the Hispanic Community and the Department of Police of the City of North Charleston. Thanks to this partnership and strong community work, the level of crime in the city reduced significantly. Cotton explains how she has built trust with the residents and authorities over the years and remembers how she and other community workers organized the first community meetings in Spanish in the City of North Charleston. Cotton reflects about the need for community involvement and participation in civic issues, how she understands leadership, and talks proudly about the volunteer work done by a group of Hispanic residents called “Dame la Mano.” Finally, she tells about her last project, a weekly radio program in Spanish that she sees as a new channel to inform, educate, and help people to access the resources they need. Descripción: Lydia Cotton nació en Puerto Rico en 1962 y en los años ochenta se estableció en el Lowcountry. Independiente y trabajadora, su vida cambió drásticamente en el año 2003 cuando le diagnosticaron un tumor cerebral. Afortunadamente se recuperó, pero quedó incapacitada para trabajar en forma regular. Desde entonces concentró sus talentos y energía en ayudar a la creciente comunidad hispana de la Ciudad de North Charleston. Pronto se convirtió en intermediaria y mediadora entre la comunidad hispana y el Departamento de Policía de la Ciudad de North Charleston. Gracias a este trabajo colaborativo el nivel de crimen en la ciudad se redujo notablemente. Cotton explica la naturaleza de su trabajo y cómo fue el proceso de ganarse la confianza de los vecinos y las autoridades. También recuerda como ella y otros trabajadores de la ciudad organizaron las primeras reuniones comunitarias en español en la Ciudad de North Charleston. Explica cuál es su concepción de liderazgo y discurre acerca de la importancia de la participación en temas cívicos. Habla con orgullo de un grupo de vecinos que han formado una organización sin fines de lucro llamada "Dame la mano". Finalmente, cuenta acerca de su nuevo proyecto “Hola Familia” un programa radial semanal y en español que busca informar y educar a la comunidad.
Luz Alvarado was born in Mexico in 1984. She is a single mother of two, a college student, a full-time worker, and a volunteer. In the interview, Alvarado tells about growing up in poverty and how America resonated in her young mind as the remedy for her family problems. When she was fourteen, she was sent to spend a few weeks with her grandmother who lived in a small town. There she met a man much older than her and was flattered by his attentions. He told her he was on his way to the United States and invited her to go. She decided to go without letting anybody know, excited about the prospect of achieving the American dream, and seeing her brother who was living in Florida. Soon, she realized this man had not been honest about his intentions, but by then she was crossing the border. In the interview, Alvarado tells about the complex relationship she had with this man who became her husband and the father of her two daughters. It took her several years but finally, she was able to leave the relationship, and since then she has been the sole provider for her kids. Because she was a victim of criminal abuse, she was able to apply and obtain a visa that allows her to stay and legally work in the United States. Alvarado says that changing her legal status enormously improved her quality of life; she is no longer living in fear of being deported and separated from her children. Finally, she talks about being a Meals on Wheels’ volunteer, helping her church, and the dreams she has for her future and her daughters’. Descripción: Luz Alvarado nació en México en 1984. Cada día, Alvarado cumple muchos papeles diferentes: es madre soltera de dos hijas, estudiante universitaria, trabajadora de tiempo completo y voluntaria en su comunidad. En la entrevista, Alvarado recuerda que creció en la pobreza y que los Estados Unidos resonaban en su mente joven como el remedio para los problemas de su familia. Cuando tenía catorce años, fue enviada a pasar unas semanas con su abuela que vivía en un rancho. Allí se encontró con un hombre mayor que ella que pronto la hizo sentirse halagada con sus atenciones. Le dijo que estaba en camino a Estados Unidos y la invitó a ir, insistiendo en que debía decidirse pronto. Alvarado pensó que era su oportunidad para trabajar y ganar dólares para ayudar a su familia y también de volver a ver a su hermano que vivía en la Florida. Sin dejarle saber a nadie, emprendió el viaje. No había pasado mucho tiempo cuando se dió cuenta de las verdaderas intenciones de su acompañante y se arrepintió de su decisión, pero para entonces, ya estaba cruzando la frontera. En la entrevista, Alvarado habla de la compleja relación que mantuvo con este hombre que se convirtió en su marido y el padre de sus dos hijas. Cuando finalmente fue capaz de dejar esa relación abusiva se convirtió en el único sostén de sus hijas. Debido a que fue víctima de abuso criminal pudo aplicar y obtener una visa que le permitió quedarse y trabajar legalmente en Estados Unidos. Alvarado explica que adquirir documentos para residir y trabajar legalmente ha mejorado enormemente su calidad de vida, que gracias a ello ya no vive con el temor a ser deportada y separada de sus hijas. Por último, cuenta de su trabajo voluntario en Meals on Wheels of Charleston y en su iglesia y acerca de los sueños que tiene para su futuro y el de sus hijas.
JoDee Robinson (b.1969), a child of Cuban immigrants, was born in New York and grew up in New Jersey. Her father owned a restaurant that was at the center of family life. There, Robinson learned to work, made friends, and met her future husband, Richard Robinson. In the interview, Robinson tells about her childhood and teen years as a first-generation American child, and reflects on how their parent’s background, language, and culture colored her experiences. She married an Irish man and soon they realized had very different expectations about roles and responsibilities in the family. Soon after marrying, the Robinsons decided to move south. They lived for a while in Miami, Florida, but finally got established in Summerville, South Carolina. Robinson worked as an interpreter at Midland Park Elementary and did volunteer work with a Hispanic Methodist Pastor. She experienced firsthand the needs of the children and families and was moved to give a creative and positive answer. With that goal, the Robinsons created the nonprofit organization, Nuevos Caminos. In 2011, they were deeply involved in challenging the South Carolina Immigration Law SB 20. Robinson says she was outraged because she realized her own father, a Cuban-American with a strong accent, was at risk to be singled out, stopped and detained if the law passed with full force. In the interview, she also talks about the racism she has encountered while living in South Carolina. Descripción: Hija de inmigrantes cubanos, JoDee Robinson (1969) nació en Nueva York y se crio en Nueva Jersey. Su padre era dueño de un restaurante que fue el centro de la vida familiar. Allí, Robinson aprendió a trabajar, hizo amigos y conoció a su futuro marido, Richard Robinson. Robinson reflexiona acerca de sus años de infancia y adolescencia como hija de inmigrantes y explica como la historia de sus padres, su cultura y lenguaje matizaron todas estas vivencias tempranas. Al poco tiempo de casados, los Robinson decidieron mudarse al sur. Residieron por un tiempo en Miami, Florida pero finalmente se radicaron en Summerville, Carolina del Sur. Robinson trabajó como intérprete en la escuela Midland Park e hizo trabajo voluntario con un pastor de la Iglesia Metodista. Caminando los barrios fue testigo de las necesidades de los niños y las familias. Así nació su determinación de dar una repuesta apropiada y para hacerlo fundó junto a su esposo la organización sin fines de lucro, Nuevos Caminos. En 2011, los Robinson participaron activamente en la recusación de la ley de inmigración de Carolina del Sur SB 20. Robinson cuenta que el proyecto de ley la afectó de manera personal porque se dio cuenta de que su propio padre, un cubano-americano que habla inglés con acento extranjero, corría el riesgo de ser detenido y maltratado si la ley se aprobaba en toda su extensión. Finalmente, cuenta sobre el racismo que ella ve en Carolina del Sur y cuales son sus planes para el futuro.
Margarita Perez was born in Veracruz, Mexico in 1992. She was eleven years old when her mother announced she was moving to the United States, and that Margarita and her two sisters would stay in Mexico with their grandmother. The three sisters implored their mother to not leave them, and the very next morning the family began their journey to the north. In the interview, Margarita remembers the harrowing experience of crossing the border and getting lost and separated from her mother for several days. She tells about her first impressions in the United States, how much she liked Hanahan Elementary School, but also how difficult it was to attend an institution that was ill prepared to assist Spanish-speaking children. Her school experience improved when her family moved to Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. In her new school, Moultrie Middle, the teachers were much more supportive and capable of helping her. Margarita states, little by little she realized "she was not dumb" and could be a very good student. She graduated from Wando High School with good grades and dreamed of attending college and becoming a doctor. Unfortunately, she realized her dream was hard to materialize because she was undocumented. Margarita explains she had limited information about her options; she did not receive guidance from her teachers and school counselors nor did she have contact with advocacy groups or other students in similar conditions. Margarita contemplates the pros and cons of moving back to Mexico to study. Mexico is no longer the place she knew. Her grandmother passed away, and if she decides to go back she does not know when she will be able to see her mother again. Margarita discusses her work in housekeeping with her mother in downtown Charleston and in Isle of Palms, South Carolina. Descripción: Margarita Pérez nació en Veracruz, México en 1992. Tenía once años cuando su madre anunció que se trasladaba a Estados Unidos y que Margarita y sus dos hermanas se quedarían en México con su abuela. Las tres hermanas imploraron a su madre que no las dejara y a la mañana siguiente la familia comenzó su viaje al norte. Margarita recuerda la terrible experiencia de cruzar la frontera, perderse y quedar separada de su madre durante varios días. También cuenta acerca de sus primeras impresiones en Estados Unidos como por ejemplo lo mucho que le gustó el edificio de la escuela primaria de Hanahan, pero lo difícil que fue adaptarse a una institución que no estaba preparada para ayudar a los niños de habla hispana. Su experiencia educativa mejoró cuando su familia se trasladó a Mount Pleasant, Carolina del Sur porque en su nueva escuela, Moultrie Middle, los maestros le brindaron más apoyo y atención. Poco a poco Margarita se dio cuenta de que “no era tonta” y que al contrario podía ser una buena estudiante. Se graduó en Wando High School y soñaba con ser médica. Lamentablemente, se dio cuenta de que su sueño era difícil de materializar porque siendo indocumentada no podía aspirar a estudiar en la universidad. Margarita explica que no tuvo información acerca de sus opciones para estudiar, que sus profesores y consejeros no sabían como orientarla y que en ese momento no conocía grupos que estuvieran trabajando por los derechos de los jóvenes inmigrantes como ella. Margarita contempla los pros y contras de regresar a México a estudiar y afirma que no encuentra respuestas fáciles. México ya no es el lugar que ella conoció, su abuela falleció y si ella decide volver a su tierra natal no sabe cuándo podrá ver a su madre que está establecida en Estados Unidos. Mientras tanto, Margarita sigue trabajando limpiando casas de familia con su madre en downtown Charleston y en Isle of Palms, Carolina del Sur.
Mario Puga was born in Mexico in 1974. When he was sixteen years old he moved to the United States and resided in Rhode Island with his older siblings. He graduated from high school and dreamed of attending college but could not because he was undocumented. Thus, he went back to his country and met a beautiful young woman, Alma Lopez. However, he soon realized he would have better chances to succeed in the United States and decided to return. He was in Texas living with his brother when he learned that Alma also had made the trip, and was living in Johns Island, South Carolina. He followed her and found himself living in a rural area for the first time in his life. He started working in agriculture mainly because there were no other available jobs, but also because it provided housing. Soon, he married his girlfriend and they had their first child. In the interview, Puga explains he always had a drive for learning and improving himself. He has participated in many community organizations but states it was Sister Mary Joseph Ritter from Our Lady of Mercy Community Outreach who taught him about leadership and community service. Puga and his wife participated in the march opposing the South Carolina immigration law SB 20 and are working with a retired police officer, Key Wang, to promote legislation that would allow undocumented immigrants to apply and obtain driver licenses in South Carolina. Descripción: Mario Puga nació en México en 1974. Cuando tenía dieciséis años se radicó en Rhode Island donde estaban sus hermanos mayores. Se graduó de la escuela secundaria y soñaba con ir a la universidad, pero no pudo porque era indocumentado. Volvió a su país para visitar a sus padres y estando en su tierra natal conoció a su futura esposa, Alma López. Cuando se dió cuenta de que sus posibilidades de progresar eran muy limitadas decidió regresar a Estados Unidos. Se estableció en Texas donde vivía uno de sus hermanos. Estando allí supo que Alma había cruzado la frontera y que estaba residiendo en Johns Island en Carolina del Sur. Entonces resolvió buscarla. El cambio de paisaje no fue fácil, había vivido la mayor parte de su vida en ciudades grandes y tuvo que aprender a vivir en un área rural. Se empleó como trabajador agrícola, en primer lugar porque no había muchas otras opciones laborales pero también porque este trabajo le proporcionaba vivienda. Al poco tiempo contrajo matrimonio y tuvo su primer hijo. En la entrevista, Puga explica que siempre ha tenido el deseo de aprender y superarse y por eso mismo siempre ha estado interesado en participar en proyectos colectivos. Ha sido miembro activo de muchas organizaciones desde su juventud, pero afirma que la hermana Mary Joseph Ritter de Our Lady of Mercy Outreach ha sido la persona que realmente le enseñó el significado de liderazgo y servicio comunitario. En el año 2011, Puga y su esposa participaron en las protestas comunitarias en contra de la promulgación y puesta en vigencia de ley de la inmigración de Carolina del Sur SB 20. También han trabajado con un oficial de policía retirado, el señor Key Wang, para elaborar y promover un proyecto de ley que permitiría a los inmigrantes indocumentados solicitar y obtener licencias de conducir en Carolina del Sur.
Cibele Bustos was born in Mendoza, Argentina in 1993. Her parents were part of a significant group of Argentinians that left the country looking for better opportunities after the economic crisis in the late 1990s. Bustos explains, at the time, she was only eight years old and was not aware of her parents' motivations. In consequence, the whole trip to the United States was a joyful experience filled with adventure and good expectations. Her first impressions of United States were positive, and she explains that attending school without speaking English was not easy but she learned and adjusted. In the interview, Bustos tells about becoming aware she was an immigrant without papers, and what that realization meant for her. Raised in the United States, she had the same aspirations as her peers but realized her opportunities to study, work, and progress were much more limited. A window of hope opened for her, her siblings and friends when President Obama’s administration announced the implementation of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) in 2012, an immigration policy that allows certain undocumented youth to receive a work permit and exception for deportation. Bustos remembers the optimism and enthusiasm in her community, how the information was shared among families and friends and how her mother took the lead helping her and her siblings to obtain all the documents they needed to apply. Finally, she explains the advantages and limitations of DACA and the frustration she felt when realized that studying in college was still a dream very hard to achieve. Descripción: Cibele Bustos nació en Mendoza Argentina en 1993. Sus padres fueron parte de un considerable grupo de argentinos que tras la crisis económica de fines de los noventa abandonó el país en busca de mejores horizontes. Bustos explica que en ese momento ella tenía solo ocho años y que no era consciente de las motivaciones de sus padres por lo que todo el viaje a los Estados Unidos fue una experiencia feliz, llena de aventuras y buenas expectativas. Sus primeras impresiones de Estados Unidos fueron positivas y se acuerda de que el ajuste a la escuela sin hablar inglés no fue fácil, pero que encontró la manera de salir adelante. En la entrevista, Bustos cuenta como fue tomar conciencia siendo adolescente de que era una inmigrante sin papeles. Una ventana de esperanza se abrió para ella, sus hermanos y otros jóvenes en su misma situación cuando la administración del presidente Obama creó DACA (Acción Diferida para los Llegados en la Infancia) una resolución en política de inmigración que permitió que ciertos jóvenes indocumentados pudieran recibir su permiso de trabajo y ser exceptuados de deportación. Bustos recuerda la alegría y el entusiasmo que se vivieron en su comunidad, cómo se compartieron las noticias y el papel fundamental que cumplió su madre para que ella y sus hermanos pudieran conseguir la documentación que necesitaban. Finalmente explica las ventajas y limitaciones de DACA y la frustración que sintió cuando se dio cuenta de que seguir estudiando era un sueño muy difícil de alcanzar.
Before settling in the Lowcountry in the late 1990s, Pilar resided with her husband and her young son in the city of Mendoza, Argentina. Pilar worked as a teacher and her husband worked for a company called Villavicencio. The young couple was able to meet their obligations and attend to the needs of their child until a reduction of staff left her husband out of work. Like so many other Argentines hit by the economic crisis, after unsuccessfully looking for work for months, disillusioned and desperate, her husband decided to try his luck abroad. A few months later Pilar joined him. In the interview, Pilar tells about the process of preparing to emigrate and the adaptation to the new life in the Lowcountry. She recalls the people and programs that helped her in her journey and reflects on how the experience of migrating affected the family’s roles and dynamics as well as the construction of her own identity.Antes de establecerse en el Lowcountry a fines de los años noventa, Pilar residía junto a su esposo y su hijo pequeño en la ciudad de Mendoza, Argentina. Pilar trabajaba como maestra y su esposo lo hacía en la empresa Villavicencio. La joven pareja era capaz de afrontar sus obligaciones y atender a las necesidades de su niño hasta que una reducción de personal deja a su marido sin trabajo. Como tantos otros argentinos golpeados por la crisis económica, después de buscar trabajo infructuosamente por meses, desilusionado y desesperado, su esposo decidió probar suerte en el exterior. Unos meses después Pilar, se le unió. En la entrevista Pilar cuenta como fue el proceso de prepararse para partir y la adaptación a la vida en el Lowcountry. Recuerda las personas y programas que la ayudaron en este proceso y reflexiona acerca de cómo la experiencia de migrar afectó la dinámica de los roles familiares como así también la construcción de su propia identidad.