By: José Gabriel Lebrón Zapata
The United States has been seen as the land of opportunity and where dreams come true.
According to El Nuevo Dia. this movement or migration has gone to such lengths that the United States has an estimated 4.97 million residents of Puerto Rican origin, compared to 3.67 million in the Puerto Rico.
Marieglorie Zapata has become part of that movement; she relocated to New York City in search of work. With her plump face and smile she cruises the streets of New York in search of a better future for her.
Moving to the US was always an option but she was forced to make a decision in 2011 when her unemployment situation became critical. She moved to New York, specifically the Bronx in 2012.
Many aspects of her life have changed, she describes the Bronx as “a culture clash”. A huge melting pot of many people, places and experiences. “It is a very different place to where I grew up.”
She was born in Mayagüez in December 1967, lived in Cabo Rojo until she was 3 years old then briefly lived in Ponce until she was 4, Cabo Rojo for six months, Rio Piedras and Cabo Rojo again each one for less then a year, finally ending up in San Juan at the age of 7.
“I was the second of seven brothers and sisters,” she reminisced “first girl niece, granddaughter and great granddaughter in the family.” “My mom was the one who imparted discipline in the house, she was the one who imparted the discipline, she called it hard hand to crime” she remembers.
A product of public school she studied from 3rd grade to 12th grade in the elementary and middle school of Trujillo Alto and High School in Rio Piedras, other than education she found love in the school. This is where she met her now deceased ex-husband José Negrón.
“I was in high school one day and was wearing a stripped red and white shirt and he just started calling me his mint candy, ” says Marieglorie, “later he conquered my heart and we married in July 12, 1986”.
She formed a family with Jose when they brought their only daughter Sharon to the world in 1988. They settled into a small house in Cupey which is currently live by Sharon’s family as Marieglorie wanted it to be.
She was married until 2000 with José when they divorced because of multiple problems and she embarked on a new adventure, university studies. She finished her bachelors degree in 2000 business administration from Universidad Metropolitana, graduating the same year her daughter Sharon graduated from 6th grade, and in 2002 her masters degree in business administration from Universidad Metropolitana.
Studying opens doors, hers led to only one place: The United States. She had been contemplating the idea of moving since 2006 but her newly born granddaughter Aleishka put on hold that plan.
Whenever she speaks about her granddaughters her eyes twinkle in a very interesting way, “they are the thing that I most miss,” she says. Aleishka and Alondra are the names of the granddaughters and the main reason Marieglorie did not want to leave the island of Puerto Rico.
One of her main struggles is not being able to see them every day like she used to do. She says that being alone, with no close family near is one of the hardest experience she has had while living in the main land.
“I have survived because of the family I have over here, like my cousin and uncle” she says. “The loneliness gets to you but having faith that everything is going to better tomorrow is what keeps me going day to day.” Her face saddened, her hands started to shake, the usual suspects of despair and hurt for not being present.
“We miss her” said Sharon , her daughter, “not having my mom close to me as it was usually between us.” Her tone was hurt, her voice broke a little when she talked about her mom.
New York City has an estimate of 8 million people, according to the 2010 US Census, spread along 304.8 square miles and they are traveled by feet. Marieglorie finds that contrary to Puerto Rico where everything is accessed easily by car in NYC everything is long walking distance and owning a car is considered a luxury and unnecessary.
She lives with her cousin Rafael in a small apartment, “Being with family has been what has kept me sane.” She walks everyday 10 minutes to the nearest train station to go from the Bronx to Manhattan to the government job recruit center where she goes daily to search for jobs.
Now that winter is coming she is preparing for the cold, “there are days where the cold is bone-piercing, unlike the continuous and comfortable temperatures in the island.” She says that it is incredible living in New York but at the same time not easy.
“The job market here is difficult, specially for people with college degrees” she comments “even having a masters degree does not secure you a good job.” Day after day, week after week she keeps her hopes up for finding a job “If I don’t do it who will do it for me?, nobody, that is the answer.”
“My motivation is the hope that one day I will be an example for my granddaughters and that they believe that if you set your mind to it you can do anything”, she concluded.
She keeps walking in her quick pace every day back and forth looking, not losing hope. “My motivation is the hope that one day I will be an example for my granddaughters and that they believe that if you set your mind to it you can do anything” she concluded.