Now Reading
Holidays are especially hard for immigrants far away from home
Community members from all over the Bay Area, California and neighboring states gather on Dec. 8, to pray, sing and walk on pilgrimage through the cities of South San Francisco, Colma, Daly City and San Francisco, to honor Our Lady of Guadalupe. The 12-mile hike took almost six hours to reach the cathedral where they celebrated with a mass with Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone. Courtesy: Cruzada Guadalupana

Immigrating to a new country is a way to seek changes for a better way of life, economic opportunity, a new beginning. But while on that path of transformation, we experience moments that make us remember who we are and where we come from. In a season as beautiful and important as Christmas, we miss our loved ones most.

We remember decorating the tree with the help of the children, our grandmothers cooking, the gifts, the songs, the lights throughout the house and most importantly, the well wishes. It is details such as these that make this season the most memorable of the year. Such is the case of Raúl Nieto, an immigrant who has resided in the United States for more than 20 years, arriving here from Mexico City with his wife and daughter.

Raul tells me of his first Christmas, which was difficult being an immigrant, because he couldn’t visit his homeland. One of the first videochat tools he used to communicate with his family was Skype, a medium that helps many stay in touch with their loved ones. Raul and his relatives tried to carry out their daily activities at the same time through Skype, to help them feel like they were in the same place, but it wasn’t the same. They made dinner at the same time and conducted all of their rituals, which they had practiced for several years as a family. It was almost the same, the big difference being that they looked at one another through the screens of their phones.

Raúl is a member of the Mission community, where many of the inhabitants are Latino. There, Mexican migrants carry out various activities for the season, one of them is to eat “Rosca de Reyes” bread. Another is to attend mass. These are just of the customs that are practiced during December. Our neighbors are the ones who make sure that our Christmases here have a taste of home. It may be difficult at first, not being with the members of your family. But little by little we realize that we can not cling to the past and the important thing is to move forward. The family also begin to grow and the children and grandchildren can continue with our customs.

We know that trying to relocate and adapt to a new country is a difficult decision, we can observe an environment in many very different aspects. But, in this Latino community, it’s easy to feel like you belong. You can identify with the music, the food, the people and their warmth makes you can feel at home. Remembering your roots makes it easier to leave your homeland not only to work, but also to create new pleasant moments.

It’s important to remind our families every day of how much we love them, to embrace them not only at Christmas, but at every opportunity that is possible. We don’t know when we will no longer be able to  embrace our family, from a distance, or worse yet never.

Finally, what remains is to be in the company of those who are close to us, to exchange our customs with others and to learn from them. This is a way to enrich ourselves culturally. Every family is different, maybe some are similar, but we do not have to close ourselves off to the changes of the new and the good.

Lisbeth Arias, originally from Venezuela, worked briefly at Radio Formula Mexico. She currently resides in San Francisco.

Story by: Lisbeth Arias