Many elders of color will share their stories with you if given the opportunity. Stories on how the United States changed their lives in both a positive and negative way. Stories describing their upbringing, family, traditions, culture and religious beliefs. I was lucky enough to interview Rita, an elder of color. From her stories, you are able to see how she has battled with life from all different angles.
Rita was born on June 13, 1930, in Guatica, Risaralda S.A. Colombia. She was raised by both her mother and father. Rita is the second oldest out of nine siblings. According to Rita, she had a difficult relationship with her father. Rita stated, “My father was not affectionate. He cared for us but there was not much love in the house.” Rita has had limited education. The first time she attended school was at the age of eight. She went to school and only completed six months of schooling. Rita has limited reading and writing skills. Rita grew up working in the family’s farm. She mentioned she would raise pigs and help her mother cook for the farm workers.
Rita was unhappy at home and felt she needed to “get out”. Rita stated that her father hired a 21 year old gentleman to work in the farm. Rita liked him and they fell in love. According to Rita her father did not approve of their relationship. Her father was a conservative and the young gentleman was a liberal. Rita reported that in the 1930s Colombia was undergoing political violence. There was a civil war where two political parties liberal and conservatives usually sought to limit or eliminate the rival party. Rita reported that although she did not witness much violence it was very clear that it was occurring. Rita chose to get married behind her father’s back. She was only 14 ½ and her husband 21. After four months of being married she had her first child. Rita mentioned that she experienced a lot of loss as a mother. Rita stated that four of her children passed away: the first at 11 months, the second at 24 years, the third at three years, and the fourth at 5 months. Rita has seven children that are living today. According to Rita, it was common to have miscarriages or have babies pass away due to low birth rate, access to medical care and education about health precautions. Rita stated that she has always had limited access to health care.
After 20 years of marriage she and her family moved to Cali, Colombia. Rita continued as a housewife and started to be physically abused by her husband. Rita endured all the physical abuse but shared that she was saving money to get away. In 1972 the political violence in Colombia continued. Rita decided she wanted to leave Colombia. In 1972 migration to the United States became very common in Colombia. Rita reports friends of the family were signing “visas chiviadas”, fake visas, to come to the U.S. She spoke to her husband about it and her husband laughed at her wanting to leave the country. He laughed and stated “a dumb women like you...