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Kattia Maria Chaves Herrera – Building The American Dream

Kattia Maria Chaves Herrera – Building The American Dream

“These days, I write my full name.  I never wrote all the words in my name while growing up.  Perhaps because being Kattia Chaves seemed just fine to me and the adults during my school days.  But once in the USA, using all the words in my ID became an important issue.  As a result, I started to give more importance to the fact that my mom’s side of the family is a big part of who I am.  Herrera is her maiden name, and Chaves is my dad’s last name. 

I got Maria from the traditional catholic calendar where each day celebrates a saint.  I was born in May, Virgin Mary’s month, and Kattia, of course, was the international piece taken from a 70’s child star in Costa Rica.    That is where I was born.  Costa Rica, Central America.  This part of Earth is nowadays labeled on globes and maps.  Yet, many people were taught that there is only a South and a North on the American continent.   

My first professor in the USA was great at showing interest from different perspectives.  We could share geographical and historical reasons for Central America standing as “the bridge where the South and the North kissed”, said a poem I can’t recall.  Anyhow, Costa Rica is where my story began.  During the late 60s, elementary schools in Costa Rica received textbooks and cafeteria food with a particular stamp: The American flag with a handshake in the middle.  President John F. Kennedy’s administration graciously sent them.  This was my first encounter with the USA while in first grade.  I loved the yummy soup and those books, especially the ones with the title “Sin Fronteras”.  It was about kids traveling across South and Central America, and their adventures in each country.  It described the natural beauty, roads, and cultures they encountered.  I was able to admire and feel those places while reading this book and the collection by the Alliance for Progress.  And that is how my desire for traveling beyond borders began.

I came to the USA in 2000 as an international teacher.   My route during 18 years living in the USA was like a “sopa de letras”.  My family and I were holders of visas J1, J1B, H4, H1A, H1B, and Green Card, and finally, in March of 2022, we became American Citizens!  Walking across the USCIS stage to receive my Citizenship certificate felt like fireworks or the completion of a doctorate degree.  I became an American Citizen! It was one of the best days of my entire life.  I have shared my life in the USA with many hardworking people.  Most of them did not have the opportunity to walk the path to citizenship.  Though they are skilled workers, exemplary parents, and human beings who work hard to contribute to our economy and well being of their families; they did not qualify for a work visa that allowed them to escalate this ladder. I wish there was a way for them as there was one for me.  As a teacher, I understand multiple intelligences, and I know that not everyone’s intelligence means getting a college degree, though other jobs performed by immigrants are equally essential and required in our American society.  We need chefs, electricians, landscapers, maids, builders, carpenters, painters, farmers, etc.  I truly hope there will be a logical process that validates my dear friends’ contributions and that they get to walk across the USCIS graduation stage while feeling fireworks!”

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We are very pleased to bring you stories from our Hispanic community because they are a source of inspiration for us and also because we recognize that the United States has been forged thanks to the cultural diversity of the entire migrant community. Once again, thanks for reading, and happy 4th of July to our entire community.

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