First Person Immigrant Stories
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Janeivy Hilario

Janeivy Hilario, Puerto Rican, Dominican, American

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American automatically to me means hope, because I know the more we keep trying the more we hustle, the more we grind every day the ice could turn.
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Janeivy: My name is Janeivy Hilario and my short name is Neivy.

Interviewer: When did your family first come to America?

Janeivy: I would say between 1990 to 1993.

Interviewer: Where did they come from?

Janeivy: My mother was actually born in Puerto Rico and my father was born in Dominican Republic and I was born here in New York.

Interviewer: Can you tell me about the Dominican Republic?

Janeivy: Sure, my dad actually I've never met him until I was about 11 and once I met him we didn't really have a connection because I met him here in the United States and never knew where he was before that, I found out later. So my dad Dominican side of the family I was never accustomed to. It was unfamiliar to me. So, once I found out he actually lived in the United States I was kind of a surprise. And I thought that I will eventually get to know him better but I found out he got deported a couple years later that was the last time I saw him.

So San Juan side of family it's a disconnect to me but in the recent years I've actually tried to connect with them and I've used social media to actually find some of my family members.

Interviewer: Can you tell me about Puerto Rico?

 Janeivy:  Puerto Rico, yeah,  my mom actually was born Lajos which is kind of upbringing it's not your typical San Juan. So it's fairy country driven is really everybody knows each other in a small little town, she was born in there. I actually never knew I was born in the United States until I was about 15 or 16 because I was born here. And then between right after I was born they we flew over to Puerto Rico. So that was me growing up was finding all these stories I never knew about finding out had more family than I did it was actually surprised to. So, she was born there and to make our lives a little better when we had our little brother we moved here when I was about five or six and I started kindergarten.

Interviewer: What was the reason your mom decided to bring your family here?

Janeivy: I wish I really knew. I actually separated from my mom at 13. So, it was difficult because for my saying there - my family - I really don't know much about. But I do feel that my mom probably tried her best to have us here. I know my mom today - she took my little brothers, but it took us probably a good seven to eight years to reconnect. So, my mother is very prideful of her family that's why I always know that she would take care of her kids as much as you can she could. Right now probably she would be here to tell you she loves her sons very much. But trying to figure out the reason why she came, I'm not sure if she came looking for my father at the time, I'm pretty sure it was because of her current husband at the time or boyfriend, but I didn't really grow up with a father figure either, so. Knowing that she went through that like, being a Puerto Rican, I really didn't know we were citizens until I after high school. I grew up with so many immigrant friends from Brazil, from Guatemala, from Colombia and I saw their struggles and I thought I was leaving the same struggles as they were. So, moreover, finding out - I couldn't really figure out what they were going through. Like thinking now figuring out what they were going through at that time - it's kind of you know shocking thing and knowing that they had to go through so much.

Interviewer: Does that make you feel a certain way about being here now?

Janeivy: Yeah, I feel like being now here now consider it a privilege. At the same time is as a term of unresolved because one is a the state of your happiness and one is a state of celebration. I can't celebrate to be a citizen when my friends are being deported or my father is still in Dominican Republic and I can't see him. And my friends from high school or back in Brazil. So, it's a real disconnect and unresolved trying to say I'm American, but I can't celebrate it when I know my friends are hurting and my family.

Interviewer: So, how would you define American?

Janeivy: The word American automatically to me means hope, because I know the more we keep trying the more we hustle, the more we grind every day the tides could turn. I'm a prime example of that, some of [my] friends are too and a lot of people, immigrants in this country know that to be true also.

Interviewer: Is there a specific memory you have when you felt really prideful to be American or when you first realized or identified as American?

Janeivy: Believe it or not it was when I started traveling, it's kind of sad right. So, when I started traveling I took mom one of my first trips to Colombia with my friend Jonathan and seeing the struggle he had to go through to come back and forth it was difficult. And you know knowing that I didn't have to go through that even though I shouldn't be feeling that, I was just like wow this is really you know a privilege to be able to leave a country and come back without a problem. And believe it or not and we went through a scare because he lost his green card on the way back and we almost missed our second flight and didn't let him back in because of that.

Interviewer:  What's one thing your family brought with them to America or that you brought when you came with you family that you like a tradition or value that you still live out today or something that you actually reject from the past?

Janeivy:  Yeah, in terms of family um I kind of had, like 2014, I had kind of a reawakening so and that's when I started looking for my family again and I feel like that was always there I just had a separation. So, for my family and I brought from you know those you know beginnings I would say is you know the family will always be there. And as much as that is simple it is difficult because it will always teach me that you know. Reach out, understand and seek for your family as much as you feel like you don't you don't understand them or actually could connect with them.