How did Maria and Jose’s relationship change throughout their marriage? Was he supportive of Maria in their exile in Egypt? Did returning to Nazareth and the addition of in-laws put more pressure on the young family? Was Maria a safe haven that Jose and her family could turn to?
Of today’s Modern Day Maria, Kim, it can be said that “the heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil. She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.” (Proverbs 31:11, 12)
I grew up just outside of Washington DC, on the Maryland side, in one of the coolest melting pots in the country.My husband and I met while I was working a second job as the Front-end night manager at a local grocery store; he cleaned the floors in the store and, after asking him to teach me Spanish, it’s all history. Carlos was deported in June 2013. I followed him to Guatemala after his deportation. Two weeks after he was deported, I went for a month-long visit; I visited again several months later for 10 days and it was then that I decided to move here. I currently reside in Guatemala, outside of Antigua with my husband.
Of course, my relationship with my daughters changed tremendously since I am not longer there to see them often. The oldest just turned 24 and is studying to be a Nurse Practitioner specializing in Pediatric Oncology and the youngest is 22, ready to graduate with a degree in Electrical Engineering. At the time when I moved, I had few real friends, only acquaintances through work, and since I don’t work with them anymore, I keep in touch with only a few of them. Moving to another country certainly helps you determine who is a real friend and who is not. I will say, though, that through social media, I’ve found a whole network of people I consider to be my friends – better friends than I had in real life.
My husband changed drastically since returning to Guatemala. It was one of the biggest reasons why I decided to move here. He turned into someone I didn’t recognize and didn’t really want to know. He became someone I didn’t like because he was doing everything I was against. However, I could tell that his deportation had a lot to do with it because he would often tell me he was going back to his country, meaning he was going to go back to the US the same way he went the first time which probably would not have ended well. For the first year and a half after he was deported, I believe he was depressed and emotionally traumatized because he was drinking himself into oblivion almost every night. However, through the use of boundaries and prayer, I was able to help him through the rough times and now he’s a changed man, almost back to being the way he was in the States. Also, in the States, he worked 7 days a week and brought in really good money but here jobs are scarce. It depresses him. I can say now though we are closer now that before. He is secure in the fact that I will not leave him and go back to the US and I’m secure in the fact that he values me more than anything.
However, I am now the “breadwinner” because I have jobs and he is still struggling with finding a permanent job. Jobs here are scarce and often employers make the employees work and pay them very little – or just stop paying them at all (which happened to Carlos). At times it makes things difficult because Guatemala is a very macho society, believing that the man should “wear the pants” and make the decisions in the family including financial decisions. Yet Carlos feels if he isn’t earning the money, he has no right to say what to do with it. I have very little free time here because I teach 4th grade at an international school full-time and then I teach English part-time to corporate clients in Russia and Japan. But when I do have free time, I go shopping in the city or just hang out with friends.
My relationship with my in-laws was rough in the beginning. His sister was used to being the one in control of the family and when my husband was deported, he lived with his mother. Since she lived next to his sister and allowed his sister to control every aspect of his mother’s life, his sister thought that meant she would be controlling every aspect of his life. His sister and I got into a very heated argument one night about a month after I moved there and I made it very clear that she would not be controlling my life nor Carlos’. She and I didn’t speak for a few months, but we’ve since patched it up and have come to an understanding.
Also, like so many others, his family saw me as a bank. I had to create boundaries for that also. I don’t give out money randomly for every little thing they want. They know better than to ask me for money for most things, as the answer will be given after I’ve asked many questions, usually starting with, “What have you tried to do to make money for yourself?” Carlos’ father, whom he’s never really had a relationship with and whom I’ve met for about 45 seconds exactly one time since I’ve been living here, once asked his mother to ask me for money. She simply told him that she already knew what my answer was but that she’d ask me anyway; turns out she was right in what she thought my answer was.
In many ways, the family members who go to the States to send money back to their family actually hurt them in the long run because the family members become dependent on the money and stop trying to work for it, like some people in the US who are on government assistance. Carlos sent home at least $400 a month to his mother – for 16 years – yet she has nothing to show for it except an enlarged liver. I believe it is another reason for Carlos’ depression when he returned.
Also, his family lives in a dangerous city so I won’t go there anymore due to not feeling safe there. Sometimes it causes problems but most of the time it’s okay because they just come to our house to visit. Both Carlos and I would love to move to Mexico, but even Mexico won’t accept him due to his deportation from the US.
Everything in my life has changed and mostly for the better. I am a better person because of it. Although I don’t have as much as I had in the States, I am happier. My belief in God has gotten stronger, as has my belief in myself. I know that no matter what happens or where I end up, I will be okay. My belief in my country has diminished to the point where I am both angry and scared at what my country has done in the past, what it is currently doing, and what it will do in the future. Immigration is a huge part of my life now and I am sickened by the knowledge of what the US does every day in its human rights’ violations.
I am more cynical than I was before although in many ways I am more relaxed. I don’t feel the materialistic pressure I did in the US (and when I was there I didn’t even know there was such a thing). I value family and relationships more than I value stuff. I have learned to live with less. I have also learned to let go of many expectations. I can now deal with the banks here without raising my blood pressure. That’s quite an accomplishment.
There are still challenges to face. I have C-PTSD from terrible childhood abuse and here there are not many mental health facilities nor counselors available; the ones that are here charge too much for me to afford. I struggle almost daily with its effects and, although I feel like I’ve explained it to Carlos, I don’t think he really understands. I still have fear. All. The. Time. It is mainly rooted in my C-PTSD and I’m not sure it’ll ever go away. I have other health issues also and, while good health care is available here, my health issues are not easily understood in the US, so finding someone here to understand them and treat them is almost impossible. I also struggle with learning Spanish due, in part to what I believe are effects from the C-PTSD. Poco a poco, I am learning. I have learned how to listen more intently so I can understand the gist of a conversation, even though I don’t completely understand the language.
I have always been a fighter and it’s no different now. I’ve been through a lot in my life – so much so that I’ve been told I should write a book (but I hesitate because it’s so much that I don’t think anyone would believe all that I’ve been through) – and this is just one more chapter. I see life as an adventure and honestly, I’m not ready to stop that adventure. I have learned to go with the flow.
I see life differently now. I see life through a different culture. I understand how immigrants in the US must feel because, to a degree, there is racism here towards people like me because we are outsiders. I am more patient and am learning to deal with surprises as they come. I know I can’t control things here, so I just deal with it. I find it difficult at times to let go of my independence, my freedom. Here, In Guatemala, I am dependent on Carlos for so many things.
My goal is to learn Spanish and encourage my husband to take a chance on starting his own business. Not sure how I’m going to do it – through perseverance, I suppose. It’ll all fall into place the way it’s supposed to. If anyone knows anyone in Guatemala who might have a job for my husband, please let me know. It’ll save my sanity and his.
I’d also like to start some sort of group that helps those who have been deported back to Guatemala. Right now the government doesn’t do much for them except take them to the bus station an hour or so after they are returned. There is no job training for most of them, as the few job training programs limit attendance to people 28 years old or younger. This is one of the reasons why most of the deportees try to go back to the US; some make it and are caught (usually resulting in a federal charge of Felony Re-entry and time in Federal prison before being deported again), some make it and aren’t caught, and sadly, some never make it. Having a program to help them make a living, however meager it may be, could go a long way in helping them feel valued and worth something. However, neither my husband nor I know how to start something like this.
If I could do it all again, I would not do anything differently. I believe everything I’ve gone through in life has been for a reason. God put me in these situations for a reason, although I’m not sure of it yet.