I Am An Immigrant

I have learned since living abroad that holidays just look different here. And instead of trying really hard to re-create what I am used to do, sometimes it’s just better to make new traditions here. I can get sad and nostalgic that no one says “Happy Thanksgiving” when I leave the store or I can chose to be thankful that I work for an organization that cares about the work we do and that we have a place to celebrate Thanksgiving dinner.

Gerber and I are still trying to figure out our traditions as a married couple, but also as a bi-cultural, bilingual family that wants to celebrate and recognize where we both come from. Needless to say we are still figuring it out. But this afternoon while sitting in our car we decided to pray a simple thanksgiving prayer together. And I think it’s a tradition we can keep.

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As we acknowledged the abundance of things we have to be grateful for, I felt particularly thankful for one thing.

The way Guatemala treats it’s foreigners, immigrants and visitors.

You see, I am an immigrant. I live in Guatemala, but I am not from here. I immigrated here. Now, immigrant has so many connotations in our country. But really…

So, I live in Guatemala as a foreigner and I feel constantly thankful that this country treats me better than my own country treats our immigrants and foreigners.
I have so little to complain about. I am allowed to drive, open a bank account, own land, and fly in and out of the country without fear of ever being questioned or deported. I know I can walk into any restaurant or store and be served and treated fairly. I have access to any doctor or dentist I desire because I can pay for it. I don’t know what it feels like to be denied service. I have never had any one accuse me of stealing. I can rent an apartment and landlords tend to trust me because of the color of my skin or the money in my pocketbook. Maybe both. Sure, I have felt frustrated when I saw a Guatemalan get charged Q80 leaving the doctor and I had to pay Q180. It wasn’t fair. You could call it reverse discrimination. But then I stop and I remember how many privileges I have here as a foreigner. And I choose to be thankful.

Now, I know there are lots of  economical, political and social reasons as to perhaps why Guatemala treats and accepts foreigners so well. A lot has to do with money and access and wealth. I know that. It’s not fair, but it just is.

This Thanksgiving I feel grateful that Guatemala has welcomed me and allowed me to make a home here. And I pray that immigrants and foreigners in our country would feel something similar one day.

May you be thankful for wherever you have made your home. Happy Thanksgiving!

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P.S. Have you traveled or lived abroad? Do other countries treat immigrants/foreigners better than the US does? Why do you think that is?
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6 thoughts on “I Am An Immigrant

  1. I think the color of our skin and our wealth determine our status wherever we are. I’ve lived in Englad, Germany and Austria so have witnessed the treatment of immigrants in all three places. In Germany and Austria, Turks were treated badly. They were the equivalent of Mexican-Americans in the US (lower level jobs, blamed for social problems, etc). In the UK it’s the Pakistanis. As a white foreigner I didn’t have problems. Yes, I had guilt about it, but couldn’t see how to change it except that I am careful not to be part of the problem if I can help it.

  2. I think sometimes it’s easy to critique what we are most closest too (same reason many Christians so often and easily use the phrase, “The church has really dropped the ball with…”. It’s easy to critique as an American how the US treats immigrants, and there is always room for improvement, but I don’t know if it is drastically worse than other countries. You’re right, there are many other economic/social factors at play as well, and in many ways, it might not always be comprable. We also might have to table this discussion until Christmas 🙂

  3. Helen, that’s a good point. And maybe appropriate question, if I can’t change it how can I at least make sure to not be part of the problem.

    Andrew, I like your idea….family Christmas discussion 🙂 I guess I feel like I can only really speak about my perspective and opinion in Guatemala and the US because those are the only places I’ve lived for any extended period of time. My point is not that the US treats immigrants worse than any other country per se, but it seems to me that we are a nation of immigrants that may forgotten what it feels like. Let’s continue the discussion….in 3 weeks!

  4. I have an upcoming post as well on what it means to be an immigrant!

    I would say that Sweden is very generous to its immigrants, they may be renowned for it. They have somewhat open borders and house many refugees. Quite a few things cannot be done until you have their version of a social security number, but that seems logical to me, as it does in the States for certain services or privileges.

    But there is a great deal of segregation here between the majority of immigrant groups (most of which are middle eastern) and native Swedes. It seems like two different worlds sometimes. But not in my experience… as a caucasian American, I experience almost every advantage that an immigrant in Sweden possibly can. My last name does not arouse suspicion for job prospects nor apartment rental opportunities. That can be a big issue here. And what many immigrants lack is the chance to integrate as well as they would like, because Sweden is not truly multicultural as the US is. Even as many Swedes would wish it to be otherwise, there is often an “us and them” dialogue and perspective that can be quite alienating to many immigrants. In this way, I find the US to be way ahead of certain European countries like Sweden that have seen a great deal of immigration in the last couple decades. As much as we have some heated immigration issues in the States, I still see that it’s not as hard to “become American” if one wants to, to find dynamic personal opportunity, and not always be seen as an outsider.

  5. Hello! Wherever Wednesday is up and I’d like to invite you to join again. Of course you can make a new post if you would like, but I’d like to make it easy for you and invite you to just post this (no linkback required). I know this was posted back in Thanksgiving, but this is about so much more than Thankgiving and I think everyone would enjoy reading it. 🙂

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