Nannies, housecleaners, caregivers—they are sometimes called the world’s most invisible workforce. In the US alone, it’s estimated that more than 2 million people do this type of work. Most are women and many are immigrants.
As part of our Global Nation coverage, The World’s Monica Campbell has our first piece in a series about domestic workers: http://ow.ly/l4owh
Omar Curi was born in Cochabamba, Bolivia. He came to the United States at the age of two with his parents. Omar’s father was diagnosed with leukemia before migrating to the US, and spent time in Italy where he received a bone marrow transplant and chemotherapy. Soon after, in order to gain access to Boston’s innovative medical treatment, Omar’s family moved to Providence, RI with some Bolivian relatives who were already settled in the state.
Before getting sick and traveling to receive treatment, Omar’s father had several successful developments in Bolivia.
“My father, in fact, had one of the biggest markets and restaurants and a big farm. My father was always in the restaurant, so my whole entire family was pretty much raised in this industry.”
Omar got his first job in Providence when he was only twelve years old, making salads and washing dishes in a local restaurant.
Omar went to public school K-12 in North Providence, where his experiences were good ones. Arriving in the state at such a young age and being an immigrant did not affect him fitting in socially at all. When asked how he got his restaurant, Los Andes, started – Omar describes it as “A big accident”. While delivering newspapers for the Providence Journal, Omar got the idea that he could make some extra money by doing some landscaping for some of the customers that he delivered papers for. Soon after, he realized he was severely allergic to poison ivy.
Without intending to run a business at all and less than 21 years old, the opportunity fell into Omar’s lap to help manage another local Bolivian establishment. One day while Omar was at the restaurant, the owner (who he knew very well) asked him to give her a hand. At the end of the day, the owner offered him a job. Two months later, he was asked to help run the restaurant. Not wanting to get wrapped up in a complicated situation where the restaurant would be under his management but not officially his, Omar backed out of the deal.
Frustrated and wanting a place to call his own instead of just managing, Omar saw a “For Rent” sign on the building that is now the home of Los Andes.
“I called and called the number, and finally a couple days later they picked up the phone. I met up with the owner, came to look at the place, and the guy gave me an offer that was really generous. I took it.”
He asked his older brother, Cesin, if he would join the restaurant and he agreed and joined Omar that year. Cesin was already the manager of a five-star Italian restaurant at the time, and knew the business well. The location of Los Andes was already set up as a restaurant, so Omar just had to make it his own. “I was like, yeah, I’ll get this done in like three or four days…it took us about a month to get the whole entire place done.”
Today, Los Andes is a thriving Bolivian restaurant on Chalkstone Avenue in Providence, RI. “I never thought we would be where we are right now. Seven days a week, it’s crazy – weekends we even have a reservation list.” Most of the recipes are family traditions from Omar’s father, but others, such as the restaurant’s specials – are creations by his brother, Cesin.The restaurant has wonderful ratings and reviews. There have been multiple reviews on TripAdvisor and Yelp, as well as several stories within Providence Monthly. 2012 was Los Andes’ biggest year yet – receiving awards from Providence Monthly and Rhode Island Monthly of “Best Dining Experience”, “South American Cuisine of the Year”, “Best Exotic Menu”, just to name a few. Omar has been a part of shows on FOX Providence and The Rhode Show, and will be featured on Chef Rebar on FOX next month. He has even received recognition from the State of Rhode Island for being the most successful Hispanic entrepreneur of Rhode Island.
Omar has not forgotten about the community throughout his growing success either, and is constantly giving back. “Whatever we can do; what goes around comes around, you know?”
Omar hasn’t stopped creating new goals for himself with the success of Los Andes. This is just the beginning! The restaurant is expanding to the second floor where a ceviche bar and a Peruvian style sushi bar will be opening within the next four months. Omar and his brothers also have plans to open a Bolivian rotisserie chicken restaurant in the building across the street. He has a vision for the future of Chalkstone Avenue in Providence:
“I’m not sure if you’re familiar [with] Federal Hill? It started with one Italian restaurant. So in the future we want to establish Chalkstone – with Los Andes as the start – as a South American community. Los Andes [is] the mountains of South America, and you have [countries such as] Bolivia, Peru, Argentina, Chile, and Colombia. Down the line there will be a Peruvian restaurant, an Argentinean restaurant, etc….”
Rhode Island has been Omar’s home for the vast majority of his life. Now he is giving back to the community and transforming the city of Providence. He is sharing his culture and putting his mark on a place that has helped to make him into the man he is today.
Compiled and Written by Jenna Delgado and Brianna Smith
Antonio Simas was born in St. Michael, Portugal on October 18, 1941. At eight years old, his father was injured, which led his family to move to Brazil. In Brazil, Antonio went to seminary school for six years, learned the ways of life, and met his future wife, Lourdes. Antonio remembers having a good life in Brazil. He was challenged, however, when a business effort with his father did not provide him any income. Antonio told his father he needed to get his life on track. He was intrigued by his grandma’s suggestion to move to the United States, specifically to Rhode Island, where he had uncles and aunts who were already residing there. He remembers her saying,
“Antonio, why don’t you write your uncle over there, and go over there?”
After Antonio got all of his paperwork and documents squared away he was ready to make the big move. However, Lourdes, who was his fiancé at the time, would not let him go without her. In order to have the final marriage documents ready by the deadline, they got married at a courthouse and had to postpone the actual ceremony. Antonio and Lourdes married on November 15, 1965 and left Brazil on January 7, 1966, arriving in Rhode Island.
Overall Antonio felt welcomed when he arrived in Rhode Island, but he struggled with the language barrier since he did not know any English when he came. Antonio was eventually able to get past this difficulty and within a month of his arrival found a job at American Textiles; unfortunately the company ended up closing down. He was able to find various jobs as an insurance salesman, a truck driver for North American Redlines, a machinist and a cost estimator at Brown and Sharp to sustain himself and his family.
In 1977, Antonio and his family left the U.S. and went back to Brazil, but returned in 1983 as it was extremely difficult for Antonio to obtain a job in Brazil due to the suffering economy.
Antonio and Lourdes have three children, seven grandchildren, and one great grandchild. His hope for the future of his family, Rhode Island, and the United States in general, is an improved education system:
“What I would like to see in Rhode Island is a better system for education where everybody could afford [it]… What I would like to see for Rhode Island is exactly that because when you have an education it makes everything easier: to get a job, to make a living, and things like that… I want a high education with a low price; that’s what I want.”
Antonio has had many dreams, but due to the fact that he is a working man he has had to put some of his dreams aside. Instead of seeing this as a negative, he focuses on how much he has accomplished thus far in his life. He considers himself a blessed man and is happy with the life he has lived:
“I cannot complain about nothing. I many times have told my wife if I had to live my life over again, I would do exactly the same thing.”
Overall, he loves Rhode Island and describes it as a paradise. The only thing he dislikes about Rhode Island is the winter and the snow, which is something he was not used to coming from Brazil.
Antonio currently resides in East Providence and loves spending time with his close-knit family.
Written and compiled by Julia Guerette and Jack Kieckhafer
Dr. Onesimo Almeida was born in 1946, in the Azores Islands of Portugal. Although he has fond memories of relaxing on the beautiful beaches during the summers, he also remembers being a hard working student who was dedicated to his studies. At the age of 22, Onesimo moved to Lisbon to study at the Portuguese Catholic University. While attending university, Onesimo taught at a local night school as a means of income. Little did Onesimo know that this first teaching job would spark an interest in what would be his future career.
As an adolescent, Onesimo was unsure about his stance on the United States. He has memories of his grandfather sharing his negative experiences of the three years that he lived there during the Great Depression. Onesimo’s grandfather described America as being a place where people valued money and capitalism. Despite the fact that Onesimo’s grandfather was not fond of America, Onesimo still had many family members living in the United States, ultimately convincing him to migrate across the Atlantic Ocean.
Before migrating to the United States, Onesimo had traveled to and from America and Portugal three times to visit his family members. He says, “It grew in me…the more I came the more I came to like America.” He remembers there being great differences between the two countries. Portugal was under a dictatorship, so he did not have the same civil liberties in Portugal that he experienced in America. People could not speak freely and openly like they could in the United States. There were many more resources available for Americans than there were for the Portuguese. What he admired most about America, though, was their prestigious universities. As a visitor, Onesimo took courses at the University of Massachusetts in Dartmouth.
In 1972, Onesimo joined his family in the United States, and worked as a Curriculum Coordinator of the Bilingual Program in Fall River Public Schools. While working as a Curriculum Coordinator, he began his MA in the Philosophy Department at Brown University. It was not until 1974 that he became a full time graduate student at Brown, where he eventually finished his PhD in 1980.
Onesimo was offered a job at Brown University for developing a program for bilingual education, and is now a professor at Brown teaching Portuguese Intellectual and Cultural history. He says that he always loved teaching and that was what he always wanted to do. Onesimo also has a passion for writing.
He has authored 20 books of essays and creative writing, more than 100 chapters in collective books, and at least 200 journal articles. He is also the editor of a dozen other books, the founder and director of Gávea-Brown publications, and co-director of three academic journals.
Onesimo’s talent and passion shines through, and he has been awarded many prizes and is a member of many honors societies. He loves his job and the city of Providence and hopes to continue teaching at Brown for as long as possible.
Onesimo will always remember his Portuguese roots, and continues to travel there, as well as other European countries, at least eight times a year. He jokingly calls the Atlantic Ocean the “Atlantic River” because he travels across it so often. He says that he cannot escape the Portuguese community in Rhode Island because he has many family members living nearby and there is a large Portuguese community living in New England.
Because he has always been surrounded by a strong Portuguese community, and has been able to travel back to his home country frequently, Onesimo says “I was able to get the best of both worlds.”
Onesimo believes that immigrating to Rhode Island was “easier then, than it is now,” andhopes that a future Rhode Island will grant his children the same opportunities that he had. He wants Rhode Islanders to break free from their “small state mentality” because this small state has great potential.
He says, “People are always surprised when they come to visit me in Rhode Island because there is so much more to Rhode Island than they think.”
He is confident and hopeful that Rhode Island will have a bright future.
Written and compiled by Will Bagnall and Nicole Brennan
Petrona Rubio was born in El Salvador in 1952. She lived a happy life there, working on a farm, relaxing, and surrounding herself with friends and family. She described life in El Salvador as being community oriented, where family lived close by and neighbors felt like extended family members. She pointed out that in the United States, “everybody works, comes home, closes the doors and goes to sleep.” The isolated, individualistic lifestyle in the United States was a drastic change, according to Petrona, who was accustomed to a community oriented, family-based way of life in El Salvador.
While both Petrona and her daughter Aleida, now 39, have fond memories of their home country, the Civil War in El Salvador changed everything. When she was 26 years old, Petrona moved to the capital for a year to work to provide a life for her family, but tensions and violence in El Salvador quickly rose until a full-fledged war broke out in 1979.
“I was renting a room in the capital…and a bomb exploded in the next house and the windows came in. Because I wasn’t sleeping, it was one in the morning, I saw them throw a dead body through the window…I went to the street just to see what happened, because there was nobody, and the doors were on the floor and it was only the base of the house; everything was on the floor. It gets so scary.”
Fearing for her safety, she felt that she needed to find a better life somewhere else for herself and her children. Petrona migrated to the United States in 1979, leaving her children to live with her mother. “It was very hard, yes, because I had to leave my kids. They started crying and I said I’ll be back, I’ll be back in two years for you. Please don’t cry.”
Petrona arrived in Texas; she remembers feeling very intimidated about living in the United States because she couldn’t speak English. “I went to apply for jobs, but it was so hard for me because I could say a few words but due to my accent people couldn’t understand what I was saying.” She was unsure if she would be able to last in America, but she now says that it was the best decision she ever made.
Two years later, when Aleida was almost seven years old, her mother came back just like she promised. Petrona brought her children to the United States, even though they were undocumented. In the span of twenty years, the family moved from Texas to Wisconsin so Petrona could find a better job, and then to Minnesota to be closer to Petrona’s sister who was living there at the time.
Aleida was thrown into English classes with no knowledge of how to speak the language. She was lucky enough, however, to have teachers and friends who helped her, and she and her two sisters adjusted well to life in the United States. Aleida said, “If we stayed in El Salvador, we would not be where we are.”
Aleida ended up meeting her husband, Nick, in Minnesota, and the two moved to Rhode Island eight years ago. They now have two children, Maya and Noah, and Petrona has been living with them since November of 2012. Petrona always emphasized, during Aleida’s childhood, the importance of working for success and not waiting for good things to happen to you.
“There’s a lot of opportunities here and you see the opportunities and you take them. You work for what you want and you can get what you want. But if you don’t work for what you want, and you expect the government to help you, you will stay in the same place; you won’t move.”
Petrona believes “education is a way to better yourself.” As Aleida explained, becoming educated is “how your dreams come true in reality; they’re not just fairytales.” Due to her hard work and dedication, Aleida earned her Master’s degree in Community Based Art Education, and she now teaches at The Gordon School in Providence, RI where her children are currently attending. Her older sister is a nurse and her younger sister is graduating from law school this May. Petrona told her daughters to go to college so they could create better lives for themselves and their future children, and as she said with a smile, “I’m very happy. I have to thank them because they listened.”
Many of the values Aleida teaches in her house are ones her mother stressed while she was growing up. She wants to teach her children to respect everyone and understand that life is complicated, but most importantly she wants them to understand that everyone has a story, and it is important to preserve their family’s story and heritage.
“I think Rhode Island has a promising future…it seems like Rhode Island is embracing the differences in diversity and all kinds of backgrounds and hopefully we’ll allow students who’ve come to the United States very young with their parents to be able to go to college and think about their future…For me I feel like you’re being disconnected from your dreams if you are unable to go to a school that can support you and can show you how to do well in school. That’s cutting off an entire generation if they are not able to go to college.”
The family currently lives in Providence, Rhode Island and they are very happy with their life here.
Written and compiled by Olivia Lieberthal and Muhammad Malik
Jessica Monteiro was born in Cape Verde in 1973. While raising a family of four kids, Jessica’s parents decided to come to America because of the lack of universities in Cape Verde. Her grandparents already resided in the United States, making the adjustment easier compared to many Cape Verdean immigrants. Jessica’s grandparents helped her parents through the immigration process by petitioning on their behalf. Soon after her parent’s arrival, Jessica and her siblings moved as well.
In order to join her parents, Jessica had to leave Cape Verde and move across the Atlantic:
“The moment I left, August 6, 1991, never forget, it was a little bit sad because none of us wanted to come, I was seventeen years old and we didn’t want to leave but my mom and dad were already here.”
Upon arriving to Providence, Rhode Island, Jessica started high school, which presented many challenges:
“My first memory was going to the school, it was tough. I went to Hope High School where there weren’t a lot of Cape Verdeans. There was a language barrier.”
She was immediately placed in English as a Second Language (ESL) classes because of her status as an immigrant. Jessica was frustrated by her placement in these classes, as she took ESL in Cape Verde that was more difficult than what she had experience at Hope.
After graduating from Hope High School, Jessica was interested in the possibility of becoming a flight attendant. Eventually she changed her mind, and decided to enroll in the University of Rhode Island. She pursued a double major in Spanish and Psychology, and later decided to go into social work after graduating. She first began working in a school system, but is currently working as an Outpatient Clinician at the Providence Center.
Jessica has considered returning to Cape Verde many times. “I would love to go back to Cape Verde and practice either social work or work for a shelter, homeless shelter, that’s what my goal was, if I go back to Cape Verde that’s what I would like to do.” Along with her interest in returning to Cape Verde, she also has Rhode Island aspirations. She would like to go back to school in order to get her PhD or become a psychiatrist. Some of this inspiration comes from her recognition of the areas in her field where Rhode Island falls short – such as a lack of sufficient bilingual psychiatrists.
Jessica continues to celebrate her Cape Verdean roots by speaking Creole with her son. She also celebrates Cape Verdean holidays, such as Cape Verde’s Independence Day on July 5th. She is not shy to show her pride for Cape Verde. “I still see my country as my first home. Even though I’ve been here for twenty-one years, I still say I’m going back home.” Although Jessica has achieved some personal success in the United States, she still possesses the ideal of working hard and striving for future goals. When asked about the future, she states,
“I don’t have fears, no I take everything day by day and I look at it, you know, how am I going to accomplish this.”
She maintains a positive attitude and wants to make a difference in her community in Rhode Island, as well as in her first home of Cape Verde.
Written and compiled by Cathlin O’Neill and Mollie Stackhouse
Simony Ing was born in Cambodia in 1967 and lived there with her family until the age of seven. Her parents sensed the danger of political turmoil when Pol Pot came to power and arranged for her family to leave the country. “I wasn’t aware of the Khmer Rouge because I was so young… My mom was the one who took care of us.”
Her father, an educated man and CEO of a Cambodian bank, and her mother, had to pretend to be ignorant, uneducated citizens in order to avoid persecution by the government. Simony’s mother and father would tell officials that they were “uneducated, simple people,” or farmers. If the officials were to find out the truth, everyone in the family would be killed. Simony’s mother paid a man from Vietnam to pretend that the Ings were his family; this helped them escape Cambodia safely into Vietnam where they sought refuge for about one year before moving to France where her parents eventually opened a Chinese restaurant.
At the beginning of her time in Vietnam, her family was separated from her father. When her family finally joined him in their new home, everyone felt a sense of relief and comfort. Simony learned French and settled into her new home and Cambodian community. Simony and her family were extremely grateful to have fled Cambodia before the genocide. Thousands of other people were not as lucky.
Simony met her husband, also from Cambodia, in France where they married soon after, and quickly made the decision to move to the United States; sponsored by his family who had already settled there. They settled into Providence, Rhode Island, where they have been living ever since. After a few years in Providence, with a child on the way, Simony applied to become a U.S. citizen. Upon arrival Simony, having no English skills, worked in a factory for two years. Discontent with this occupation, she began taking English as a Second Language (ESL) and GED classes at the Genesis Center. After receiving her GED, Simony worked at a non-profit organization for five years as a loan specialist, followed by four years at the bank. She was suddenly diagnosed with breast cancer, where she then spent two years attending chemotherapy and radiation treatments. When asked about her cancer, she proudly exclaimed,
“I’m a survivor now… that’s what they said!”
During the two years that she was being treated for her cancer, Simony worked for the census bureau. Since then, due to the current recession, she has had trouble finding a stable job, and now works as a self-employed interpreter in Cambodian and French. She is happy with her life in Rhode Island where she can provide for her two sons financially, and give them everything they need in order to be successful. Her two sons are doing extremely well in high school and her oldest plans to attend college out of state. When reflecting on the life Simony and her husband have provided for their sons, she claims,
“My children, they have everything. So we provide them with everything. They don’t have anything missing like us. From generation to generation, they have more choice than us.”
Although she misses her family in France, she enjoys the cheaper cost of living in Rhode Island. Simony loves to travel and often embarks on road trips with her family throughout the whole country. Due to Simony’s desire to travel, she will be going to Cambodia this summer for the first time since she left her home country. She will be traveling with other family members but her husband will not be taking part in the trip due to his personal memories of living through the genocide under the Khmer Rouge; he has no interest in ever returning to the country. For many, the genocide was a traumatizing period; Simony stated.
“A lot of sad things happened during the Khmer Rouge… I heard a lot of sad stories… We left before the war; we were lucky.”
In order to stay connected to their Cambodian roots, Simony and her family participate in Cambodian events in Providence’s three Cambodian temples, her favorite being the Cambodian New Year. She attends large events every couple of months, enjoying the fun social events and good food. Simony and people in her community have experienced some discrimination in Rhode Island, but nothing that severely damaged their sense of self. Simony is content with her life in Rhode Island and is excited about what the future will hold for her and her family. When asked if she could change anything about her past she responded, “No, I’m happy with my journey.”
Written and Compiled By Maddie Mylod and Natalie Wingate
Dovre Lodge, Sons of Norway, andThe Norwegian Subcommittee
R.I. Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission Present:
Our 16th Annual Musical Program
“Potpourri for Syttende Mai”
[17th of May]
In Honor of Norway’s National Day
Friday, May 17, 2013
William Hall Library
1825 Broad Street, Cranston, RI
Lower level – entrance at north side of building
This free program will include music of Grieg and Chopin (among others) as well as Norwegian Folk Songs, featuring 6 musicians, 4 different instruments, and audience participation!
Refreshments will be offered, and, of course, COFFEE!
Do please join us!!