Woman was dedicated to learning English
Guadalupe "Lupita" Pina
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
In 1979, Lupita came to the U.S. from Mexico on a fiancee visa. She was 16 and in love with a “blue-eyed American.” She describes how she dedicated herself to learning English and becoming a U.S. citizen.
Pina: I came from Mazatlan to Bloomington, Ill. I had my hard moments. It was often confusing for me trying to adjust to the fast pace and how things are here. Here you must drive to go places. In Mexico, we didn’t have a car so I never learned how to drive. My father always dreamed of having a car, but we never really had the need because there was a very good system of transportation in Mazatlan.
So if I wanted to go somewhere in Bloomington it was hard, because I didn’t know how to drive. There were no buses, and taxis were too expensive, so I did a lot of walking. And I got to know the town that way, and that was a very nice experience for me.
Then we moved to Iowa. My husband worked for the railroad and he got transferred there. It was in Iowa where my opportunities expanded. I wanted to get my GED (General Equivalency Degree), and I had aspirations to go to college. I wanted to be more independent, and it was in Iowa where I really blossomed. I formed friendships with other students from Japan, Korea and France. It was wonderful to get together with different people from different countries and share food and stories. It was a wonderful experience for me.
I remember the teachers telling me that I had all the credits I needed for my degree. But when I received my GED I didn’t feel like that was the right one to have, because I saw high-schoolers receive a beautiful diploma that came in a little case. I said, “What do I need to do to get one of those?” and they told me “Well you can get one if you want to, but what you have is valid. You can go into college now.” But I said, “I would kinda like to have one of those, too.”
So I took more courses until the teachers finally said, “That’s enough. Focus on college.” I was always one of those students who wanted to retake the test or do some more work to improve my grade. It was a very positive experience for me to go through that graduation and receive that other diploma.
I have a passion for languages and it has always been my dream to speak English. I love all languages, but I felt that learning English would open the doors to a lot of opportunities to meet people from other countries, because English is an international language. If you truly, truly want to learn a language you have to put your heart into it.
Gallacher: How did you learn English?
Pina: I videotaped myself. I spoke to myself in the mirror. I pretended that I was addressing a crowd. Of course, I can never get rid of my accent, because that is part of me. But I got as close as I could, because my goal was to sound like an American.
Also, believe it or not, I used to watch “Sesame Street,” “The Electric Company” and “I Love Lucy.” I wasn’t watching any show in Spanish. Now I have a satellite dish so that I can watch programs from Mexico, just out of nostalgia. But I never wanted to watch Spanish-speaking shows until I felt like I had mastered English.
Gallacher: So when you came here you were determined.
Pina: Yes, I wanted to contribute to this country and give thanks and give back for the opportunity to let me enter. I wanted to better myself so that someday I would be able to help others who are worse off than me and let them know that “you can do it if you set your mind to it.”
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