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
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
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!!
“Nika” Vagner came to New York in 1989 from Warsaw, Poland. In her Welcoming Story, Nika remembers the moment she first learned she was leaving home forever, how she felt in an American classroom before she spoke English and how a sit-com and a teacher had a lasting influence on her life to this day.
According to a new report, immigrants were twice as likely to start businesses as native-born Americans in 2012. The number of new Latino entrepreneurs has also nearly doubled, from 10.5 percent to 19.5 percent since 1996. As part of our Immigration Nation series, here is just a sampling of some immigrant pioneers.