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Stories from refugees in living in Abilene: Astrid

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Unexpected Destiny

We are a couple, and we are immigrants. Like many others we have decided to begin a new life in a new place, and started from zero. We are from different countries. I am from Colombia, and my husband is from Cuba. Destiny would have it that we would meet one another in Colombia, a country located in South America. My husband was on a promotional tour in my country in 2006 with the “Orquestra Melodias del 40” he was a violinist in the orchestra. 

I am a professional in journalism and communication. I am also an expert in a computer program called Edumatica. My husband is an instrumentalist, and was a professor of Violin and Practice at the Amadeo Roldan School in Havana, Cuba.

We met in my country, and began a friendship that slowly but surely turned into true love. I left Colombia briefly for our wedding in July of 2008. I had to return to Colombia after just one month of being married because my husband could not leave, and I needed to get back home. I had a young daughter at the time and a job that was missing me. Together, we found a way to reunite and a path to legally get him out of Cuba. My husband arrived in Colombia in March of 2009. Together, we began to live as a couple.  We knew we wanted to leave Colombia due to a lack of job opportunities, and we wanted to give my daughter a better future. With the passing of time, in 2015, we made the decision to travel to the United States.

The Journey

The decision to leave was made quickly, and in a month we prepared everything to be able to travel, researching how to come to the United States in a legal way. We decided to travel first to Mexico and from there to travel to the United States. We chose to go through Mexico because Colombians do not need a visa to travel to Mexico, and in the case of my husband, he was a Cuban and needed a visa. We began the process of correspondence between Colombia and the Mexican embassy, and secured a tourist visa for him. With this, we were able to travel to Mexico. There, we crossed the border legally. When we began our trip to the United States, the real journey began. 

On September 27, 2015 we arrived in Mexico City, we stayed there for just one day in a little hotel room in the middle of the city. On September 29, we left the city for Monterry. Once we arrived in Monterrey we decided to take a taxi to Nuevo Laredo, many people there were saying that this part of Mexico was very dangerous, and we needed to be very careful. However, we decided to risk it and we went on in our taxi. 

When we got into the vehicle, the driver began asking us a series of questions about our trip to Nuevo Laredo. Without us realizing, he radioed another car in code, and soon, a man in the street made us stop for what he called a “security measure.” There was a very large man who asked us where we were going and why we were in Nuevo Laredo. He looked at me, and then at my husband, and he made us get out of the car. They took our passports. We were on a small road in an isolated area. 

We were taken inside a small house, and they asked us how much money we were carrying. They said that we should give it to them, and the man was very rude, he treated us very badly. They asked us for our papers and we told him that we had them to them. He showed us some passports that were completely different, and they weren’t ours. They had switched them. We told them that they weren’t ours, and that was the truth, that they needed to return our passports to us. The very rude, very large man asked us which countries we were coming from, and when we responded, he insulted us. 

He asked me to leave the room and keep quiet because my country, Colombia, was worse than

Mexico, and he started insulting me. I didn’t leave. I was afraid to leave my husband but later, I left because the man was furious. 

The man told my husband that he needed to know how much money we had, because he needed money for his family. My husband give him some, and the man called him a liar, saying he knew we had brought more money than that.

Eventually, we gave him all of the money that we had, which at this point was about $600.00. This was the all we had to travel to the US and take a bus from Laredo to Abilene.

We gave him the money, he told us that we could keep going on our trip. Like magic, our real passports reappeared. From there, we went in the same taxi that we had already gotten, that we paid before, and we continued our trip until we arrived to Nuevo Laredo.

There, we stayed until the next day, September 30. We crossed the border, and we asked for parole. There, they approved us because my husband is Cuban, at this time, the Law for the Cubans, “Wet

Foot, Dry Foot” was still in existence. There, in the immigration office, at the border of Laredo, they gave us both parole. My husband, because he was Cuban, and me, because I am his legal life. There we were asked questions about our life together, our marriage, our birth certificates, and one for my daughter, although she was not traveling with us. For her safety, we decided before traveling that my daughter would stay in Colombia while we saw what it was like in the US, and crossing the border. We had no idea

what was going to happen on the trip. She flew into Dallas to reunite with us that December.

My husband’s sister had been living in Abilene for 5 months with her family. She was able to wire us some money to purchase bus tickets to Abilene.

On October 1st, we arrived to Abilene, at my husband’s sister’s apartment. That week, we went to the IRC in Abilene to open a case with them and ask for help.  My husband and I do not speak English, although we can understand a little bit. We never imagined we would ever live in the United States. 

The IRC was so kind to us. They helped us, supported us, and helped us begin to thrive in the city. They helped us apply for work authorization, food stamps, Medicaid, and helped us find housing. We lived with my sister-in-law until December when the IRC helped us to find a little house that we could afford. We were able to grow there, become more independent, and start our new life of hustle, dedication, and work. 

The IRC also helped my daughter find a school. She started 7th grade at Craig Middle School. We began to take free English classes at Alta Vista, and once our work authorization arrived, the IRC helped us find our first jobs. We are still working, moving

forward, and we have also gotten much better at English. Actually, the three of us have moved to a larger house and we have stable jobs. My husband works as a Professional Truck Driver with Werner Enterprise in both Texas and Oklahoma. I work at the North Side Walmart. 

My daughter is in 10th grade at Abilene High School. She sings in the choir. We are so happy. We love Abilene because it is a small town, the people are hard-working and kind, and there are so many job opportunities. This is a great city to start over again in this country. 

 

 

 

Astrid and her husband inside their Abilene home. Photo: Personal collection
Astrid's daughter celebrating her quinceañera. Photo: Personal collection