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The Bind That Ties: Martha Jeannette Rodriguez and Luisa Rodriguez

Luisa and Martha-Jeannette Rodriguez
courtesy of Luisa and Martha-Jeannette Rodriguez
Luisa and Martha-Jeannette Rodriguez

In this edition of The Bind That Ties, we hear a mother and daughter who came to the US from Colombia. Martha Jeannette Rodriguez is from Columbia, where she had a restaurant that was targeted for extortion after years of persecution. As a result, she sent two of her children to the U.S. to live with relatives. Eventually the whole family came and was granted political asylum. At WYSO last winter, Martha-Jeanette told her daughter Luisa parts of the family story she had not heard.


Luisa Rodriguez: There's been so many blessings, you know, all the way from our aunt bringing us over and having us over with them for so long. And to me, it's like -it's like God wanted us to be here from the beginning. He wanted us to - he had a purpose for us, he wanted us to, you know, like, he made everything work so well, you know, because you said that basically the day before we had to go back is when the asylum went through, you know?

Martha Jeannette Rodriguez: When said you say that you don't know exactly what happened? What is the reason that we came here?

Luisa Rodriguez: Well, first, I didn't really know. I think it took a while for you guys to actually tell us everything.

Martha Jeannette Rodriguez: Grandfather was kidnapped...... And we suffered persecution for years. So this is the reason we needed to move also to La Mesa. And there was one day one man was coming and he - I was by myself in the restaurant - and he said, I need you to give us twenty pesos every month - you don't want something happen with children because I know exactly where is the place where they all go to their school. We know that they go down to the school. So in that moment was when I decided to call Maritsa, your aunt and I asked for help, but I always tell her and to everybody, I don't know how, but I know that this is our place. So that was what God - I feel that he put the person who told me apply for asylum. And I and really I feel very grateful for everybody - that a person in my life and helped us after working in houses. I remember that I started working in the school. I didn't speak the language. (There was ) One angel for me was Carolina Silva she that offered me the work for one week to work in this school for the school program uh, I said I don't know the language. And she say I was somebody who helped you with interpretation, but I need you do your work that you explained to me that you was doing in Colombia as a psychologist, helping children and helping families. So that is what I did here with the interpreter and I started in the school, working with them - and after she say one week and after another week. And finally I worked for seven years with them. You was helping?

Luisa Rodriguez: Yeah, I remember I had to interpret everything. I was like the adult now. I do remember. Yes. I interviewed for Dad, you know, I set up the utilities. I had to basically do everything as an adult because you guys couldn't speak the language and I was the only one that could communicate.

I think it’s opportunities and about resilience. Like, you guys are so resilient. You guys said, no, that's not true. Like we can do something and we're gonna do it and you guys did. And I think that that's the beauty about like, the United States is like there is so much opportunity. There is so much for people to do. So, you set your mind to saying, I am going to learn English no matter what people say. And you did! I love the quote that says you liberate a man when you educate a man, right? Because when you educate someone, they're able to liberate from the chains of things that they don't know, then I appreciate and love the fact that you, like, always push forward to do more, you know, like and become more like, I think that that has helped us to want to do the same thing. I mean, if you think about it, one of Bart's friends was always saying it's like it's impressive to see the fact that you guys all move to the United States and you all have college degrees.

I'm super thankful that you guys did what you did. And even though it was extremely hard and it's kind of hard sometimes to even talk about everything that happened in the past, I think it just made us such a stronger, you know, individuals in general, like it just made us resilient, too. We can go through anything that life throws at us, because whether we were here or in Columbia, life is going to happen. You know, we're going to have to go through struggles like, life is not always going to be like sunshine and rainbows wherever you live. So I'm very thankful that you guys did everything you guys went through, you know, like, it makes me very emotional to think about, you know, all the stuff that you guys had to endure, I am proud for you guys.

Martha Jeannette Rodriguez: I am very proud for my children that are always thinking how they can to give something to the United States of America.

Luisa Rodriguez: Thank you, Mom.

This story was created at the Eichelberger Center for Community Voices at WYSO and was edited by Community Voices producer Mary Evans. The project producer is Mojgan Samardar.

Copyright 2021 WYSO. To see more, visit WYSO.

Neenah Ellis is the general manager at WYSO. She began her radio career in high school, working at her parents’ commercial radio station in Valparaiso, Indiana. She came to WYSO in 2009 after 30 years as a radio documentary producer in Washington, D.C. She’ s been a producer for “ All Things Considered” at NPR and has won three Peabody Awards, broadcasting’ s highest honor, for her work. She is also the author of “ If I Live to be 100: Lessons from the Centenarians,” which is based on her radio series about people 100 years of age.