Valente Hidalgo, an eighth grader, interviewed his dad, César Hidalgo, who immigrated to the United States from Ecuador as a child. César describes what it was like growing up in Ecuador versus what it was like in the U.S., how he learned English, and how he shares Ecuadorian culture with his children.
What was it like to grow up in Ecuador? How would you compare it to the United States? Was it different?
As a kid in Ecuador, it felt like I had a lot of freedom to explore, especially on my own. As young as six and seven years of age, I was able to go visit family and friends on my own unsupervised. I would take public transportation alone. I would also spend time with my cousins outdoors exploring, causing mischief, and just being a kid. My parents were usually pretty busy at work, and after school was out, instead of waiting to get picked up I would choose to walk home with friends or on my own. I don't remember having that kind of freedom to roam around outside once I moved to the U.S.
How old were you when you immigrated to the United States?
I was eight years old.
Was the adjustment of moving to the United States difficult?
No, but it wasn’t without any difficulties. Looking back, I realized that my parents sheltered me and my sister from a number of challenges we faced. I remember my dad losing his job on more than one occasion, yet I never went without a full, satisfying meal. Now I wondered if my parents went without, to ensure that my sister and I were never in want of our basic necessities. I remembered people being prejudiced towards us on a few occasions, when we were looking for places to rent, purchasing a vehicle, etc. Yet, my sister and I were always very happy. The attention and love that my sister and I received from our parents, family, and friends was enough to crowd out any negative elements. At school, I also had the support from some teachers who took a keen interest in me, going the extra mile to draw me out and feel comfortable in my new school environment.
How did you learn English?
I didn't speak English when I first came to the U.S. but I had a lot of support from family and teachers. The ESL teachers were there to help me learn English. I also had to attend school like a regular kid and so the non-ESL teachers were there to teach me academic subjects. They would also tailor the assignments in such a way to make it easier for me to feel a part of the class.
Do you maintain any connection to Ecuador? Do you have a cultural connection?
Much of my family still lives in Ecuador, but my parents and other family live in the U.S. I have visited many times over the years. I don’t do much to maintain my cultural connection, though we do enjoy Ecuadorian food together when my parents bring it over. I guess the only thing I do is when I’m speaking to my parents I always speak in Spanish, and when I speak to my children I try to speak mostly Spanish. I’m hoping that all of my children will eventually learn the language enough so that we can comfortably share that part of the culture together. I also look forward to a time when we can take a trip back to Ecuador and explore that country together.