The Story Of Our Arrival In 1972
By: Carmen Luisa Burgos Bautista
In 1969, my father Luis Jose Herrera Burgos traveled to the United States for the first time to seek work and make a better life for his family. He worked in Santiago, DR at a printing company that still exist; his monthly salary was 15.00 pesos per month, which was actually equal to $15 USD. At the time it was a family of five – my brother Luis, my adopted sister Maritza, and my parents – so my father left us to find the way to give us a better life.
When he arrived in NYC, he stayed in a friend’s house in Brooklyn but his goal was to move to New Jersey and live with family. He eventually moved to West New York, NJ. He found a job in an embroidery factory where he worked for the following 35 years before he retired. After his arrival, he worked and sent my mom money for us and his mother. He also traveled every year for his vacation to spend it with us. He brought us clothes and toys. I clearly remember one particular big doll that was supposed to walk if you held her hand.
After he felt established and the laws of immigration granted visa to those who can prove that they had a job, the owners of the factory helped him find a lawyer. In this way, he became a permanent resident and was able to bring his family to come live with him. All of us, including my little sister Dionis, arrived in the USA on August 12, 1972.
Today, my younger sister still lives in the apartment my parents rented in 1973; my older daughter and my nephew still live in West New York as well. The town has changed a lot since we arrived. More Latinos live there. We were like one of the few Dominicans that lived in the town. It was a big Italian and Cuban community back in those days. The main avenue, Bergenline Ave, had only expensive stores and now it’s a lot of dollar stores and Latino restaurants. The town was full of factories and the economy was excellent. In front of the apartment where we lived, there was a five story purse and pocketbook factory. They called it “La Escuelita” because everyone who arrived in the town worked there. But in the 1980s it was closed because the factory was moved to Haiti, as we were told, for cheaper labor. Almost all of these factories left and it’s now a town full of little businesses and new condo buildings that the poor can’t afford to buy or rent.