Voices of the American Dream: The Immigrant Experience with Diana Hoyos Lopez and Magda DeSantis (Encore Episode)

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This episode of Simple Civics: Greenville County was made possible by support from First5SC.org. Parents of young children in Greenville can find free resources and services for child care, health screenings, and community support at First5SC.org. By answering a few questions on the website, you can quickly determine your eligibility for over 40 programs, apply online, and potentially access immediate assistance at no cost.

In this Independence Day special, we hear from Diana Hoyos Lopez and Magda DeSantis, two immigrants whose personal stories embody the hope, struggle, and triumph of the American Dream. Diana’s journey from an undocumented Mexican immigrant to a healthcare professional highlights the formidable barriers faced by students in similar circumstances. Her success, made possible by her drive and determination along with community support, DACA, and scholarship programs, is an inspiring testament to perseverance and ambition. Magda’s escape from communist Romania to become a dental lab technician in the U.S. shows the relentless pursuit of freedom and opportunity, underscoring the essence of the immigrant spirit.

This episode offers a peek into the intricacies of the immigration process, the importance of community and education for immigrant success, and the varied interpretations of the American Dream.

Transcript

Katy Smith: I’m so glad to be here today with Diana Hoyos Lopez and Magda DeSantis to talk about their experience being part of the United States of America. This episode’s posting on Independence Day, and it seemed like a great time to talk about the immigrant experience. So let’s start first with Magda. Tell us about where you came from and how you got to the United States.

I know it’s a long journey and one with a lot of challenges, but tell us about what led you to leave Romania and how did you get here?

Magda DeSantis: Thank you for inviting me, I’m excited. I’m always excited to share the story how I escaped from Romania, and that was in 1984, and our country was ruled by a communist party. And, uh, Nicolae Ceaușescu was president for 25 years, so everybody was afraid to do any mistakes. Talking to friends, talking about politics, you are always worry about what’s going on. I was 23 when I was starting to understand life a little bit.

We had a lot of people listening to you while you talk, so you are really worried about it. My uncle try in 1981 to escape. He was caught at the border with Yugoslavia and Romania, and he went back to jail in Romana. And it’s not an easy jail.

After he got out of the jail, he share with my father the map that he follow. So we are pretty very blessed in that sense because somebody could share with you how to get out of Romania and everybody wanted to. My dad always said, “I wanna get to America.” Or, “I hope Americans are coming and save Romania from the Communist party.”

So my journey was long. We ended up in 84, we escaped from Romania and it, it was a a four hours walk and you are always worried because they were having guards on the, on the border. So, we thought early in the morning the guards are not careful, they’re still sleeping. But wasn’t that because when you step on the ground, lights were going out. You think of 4th of July going lights.

Katy Smith: Yeah.

Magda DeSantis: You don’t want that.

Katy Smith: You don’t want these fireworks.

Magda DeSantis: You don’t want that fireworks because they could tell people were trying to escape to freedom. And a lot of people did it that way. So we are in Yugoslavia and once we got there with one shoe left in Romania, I always laugh about cuz I was without the shoes at the end of the day, one shoe was in Romania, left on the ground running, and one got with me to Yugoslavia.

But at that time you didn’t care because you wanted to get to the freedom and to a better life in sense of like, you’re, you are free spiritually, you’re free to do what you really wanna do, you know, not be controlled every second. So we are in, uh, Yugoslavia for, in a refugee camp, political refugee camp for four months and waiting.

We had to go to the Ambassador of America there to give our story and why do we wanted to be here to go to America? And took about four months. So we are just waiting. And meanwhile, I don’t know what we did, but four months was slow. So, uh, over night though, in Yugoslavia, something was going on and they were trying to give all the refugees back to Romania for the exchange of money.

So American government said, “no, no, no. These people were accepted by us so we can send them back to America. Now they are allowed to go because they are really persecuted.” So once we are accepted, they said, “okay, tonight, just stay in line.” We took a passport paper, just a little paper with your dates on it.

I have it right here, actually.

Katy Smith: She’s holding up the paper. I wish you all could see it.

Magda DeSantis: And, um, that’s in 84. Can you imagine that? And they said, “no, they can go.” And next day they literally put us in the plane, took us with the bus from the immigration where we were holding for four months. You were wondering at that time, if you really go to where they said. You were like not trusting or they send you back to Romania, where do you go?

So we are really holding on that they’re telling us the truth and they take us to the airport and they did. So they took us to airport, my first flight. I never had a flight till then.

They couldn’t fly us, us directly to America, but because whatever was going Yugoslavia, Romania, they decide to take us quick to Italy to a safe place.

So we are outside Rome once we are taking the flight for one month. So, we got to Italy and there was wonderful, because we got to visit couple, well, they, we were begging people to give us a ride to a church in Italy and we got to the one that is called Saint Lateran Church.

So I always remember It’s the only place I remember being there because when you are, you are in a country that you don’t speak the language. You don’t know people, it’s impossible at that age, 23 and not really, we were not traveling that much at that time. So that was my first memory of like, okay, this is freedom.

Katy Smith: This is real.

Magda DeSantis: We can, yes.

Katy Smith: Oh my gosh.

Magda DeSantis: It’s, it’s really, uh, you know, that that first step to become, to be allowed to come to America was amazing.

Katy Smith: Oh my goodness. And then after that month, you made it to the United States.

Magda DeSantis: After this month? Yep. A week before Thanksgiving.

So Thanksgiving is my big favorite holiday.

Katy Smith: Oh, that’s so great.

Magda DeSantis: Because was smelling Turkey when we got to America to um, my brother was already here cuz he escaped two years before that. And, uh, he was preparing Turkey, the mashed potato, the corn. Everything else. So I have that memory and the smell still in my head to this day.

That’s, I’m saying Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and I had already like close to 30 people to dinner.

Katy Smith: Oh my goodness. That’s so great.

So Diana, tell us about your family’s arrival story.

Diana Hoyos Lopez: Right. Um, I think the most common experience for a lot of Mexican immigrants is they want to pursue after the American Dream. And that’s exactly what, uh, my parents wanted to do. But in the aspect of they wanted to give me a better future. I was brought here to the, to the United States, um, when I was a year old. It was a difficult process. My parents came here to Greenville first.

Yeah. Um, because what had happened was my uncle, my uncle came here and my parents essentially met up with him here in Greenville, and so…

Katy Smith: This was home.

Diana Hoyos Lopez: Yeah, this, I mean, since 2001, this has been, um, Greenville has, has been all that I’ve known.

Katy Smith: I do feel like so many folks’ stories are that someone comes before them and then the rest of the family follows. I know that my family’s story on my mom’s side is an Ellis Island story, and so you know, folks came over and then other folks followed behind and you know, someone says, “Hey, this place is good. Come join me here.”

So, Magda, you got settled then in Reading, Pennsylvania. And tell us a little bit about your, your experience growing up there.

Magda DeSantis: I was in heaven just to be in America. Was very hard with the language because we did not know it. So that part, we had to really work hard on it. So I remember I’ll learn 10 words in one day, and the next day I’ll repeat ’em again. The next day we’ll go a little bit to school in the evening. I think people, when they come here, the best it is, if they can get a job with a group that it’s American Group, like you’ll go… My first job was at a fast food Arby’s, so I begged them to take me to work. I said, “I know how to cook and I, I really like the kitchen work and I can really work hard.”

And my brother came with me one time for the interview and they said, “well, she needs a bit better English.” So I kept trying to really study as fast as you can, but it’s, it’s not easy to get the language. So I was going evenings to school with my dad. So we really, um, were getting a lot of words, but it’s hard to put ’em together when you just, uh, you hear words, but you’re not so sure what they mean.

Uh, so finally they got me to the Arby’s job. They used to say, “we appreciate Magdalina, Magda, Magdalina.” They’ll switch back and forth because in the paper, I’m Magdalina and they say, “we appreciate you.” And I was like, “okay, did I do something wrong?” No. But they, I, I really learned quick.

We didn’t have in Romania ketchup and uh, lettuce to put on a hamburger. We didn’t do it that way. So I took a menu and I studied a menu at home. Next day I went and I said, “I hope I can make a sandwich.” Slowly I did. Slowly I did, but I, I work hard and I really enjoy it. And the people at work, I found them… they were so warm. That’s, that’s my first memories of being around people in America. They’re all warm and kind and nice and patient. Cuz if you don’t know the English, it’s kind of hard to communicate, but they were patient. So, we got the first job and then I went to school. I wanted to become a registered nurse and that went well, but I was too soft inside.

So I was starting to really cry when I saw too many patients because I went to a nursing home to work. Cuz they were sending you then free to school and that was the key. So I left the job. I said, that’s not, that’s, it’s good, but not now. Maybe another time. So I went to a food business because I really like food. My mom was doing a lot of cooking and she had a little store with lots of donuts. 1000 donut… She would make a thousand donuts a day.

Katy Smith: Oh my goodness.

Diana Hoyos Lopez: Wow.

Magda DeSantis: It was a big heavy industry in the city we grew up after we have to leave the countryside, so she’ll make, people will walk, lots of walking people, people will walk up and down to go to work early in the morning. By six, you better have your donuts ready cuz they’ll, they’re nice and hot. But, uh, slowly I felt like home.

We started to ask about how many years you have to be here to apply for the citizenship.

So they said five years. you, you better have a job if you’re here and we did, and then you’d be a good citizen. And we tried to learn about a history. So when five years went by and uh, we went to the immigration to apply and they gave us a brochure. They said “this is for you to study,” so you take it home and study, and then when they send you a date, you are going to the immigration service for your exam.

So with the exam, you have to know the history. But you do have a book to study and then also you should have a little bit writing knowledge.

So to this day, I remember when I went to exam, I really study hard the book, so you know you wanna pass and I pass it for the first time.

Katy Smith: Congratulations.

Magda DeSantis: Thank you. I was, I was so happy. And then to this day, I even put today a note. I said, I remember what they asked me to write and it wasn’t a big sentence, but they wanna be sure that you are learning to write.

So they’re saying “write us ‘the sky is blue.'”

Katy Smith: Okay.

Magda DeSantis: That my pass exam on the writing.

Katy Smith: Excellent.

Magda DeSantis: That’s all. Yep. They, I thought they’ll say a big phrase. I was like, oh dear, what do I do? And it was easier than I thought.

Katy Smith: Oh, that’s great.

Magda DeSantis: So we passed that. So that was very good with the exam. So for anybody who was get ready for the citizenship, that’s what you have to do.

Katy Smith: That’s a lot, that’s a lot of, that is a lot to prepare. Okay, so it’s interesting to think of you, Magda, arriving when you’re 23 and already growing up, speaking Romanian and having to learn a whole new language, but you, on the other hand, Diana, grew up around English in the United States. So tell us about your experience at growing up here in Greenville.

Diana Hoyos Lopez: Well, this is what my mom says. She says that I picked up the language really fast, even though, you know, at home it was strictly Spanish. And this is funny because I remember one of the first books that I read um, as a little four year old was, I think it’s called, it’s the Brown Bear, Brown Bear.

Katy Smith: Yes, yes. The Eric Carl Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? Aww.

Diana Hoyos Lopez: I, I wish I still had that book, but I, I remember so well because, um, I think it was one of my teachers, um, she personally came to our apartment and, she gave the book to me and I don’t know how they were able to have a conversation with my parents, but, she was essentially explaining, you know, since she doesn’t know any English, like I wanna give this to her so that she can start, you know, little by little.

And I’m really grateful for those teachers. Um, even though I don’t remember much of my kindergarten years, I was really grateful for them because they were very patient with me. And, and I even remember my first day in kindergarten. Like I, I did not wanna be there at all.

Katy Smith: Where did you go to kindergarten?

Diana Hoyos Lopez: I went to Lake Forest.

Yeah. I went to Lake Forest. But yeah, my mom tells her, she was like, “yeah, you did not wanna go to school at all.” And that persisted for several years.

Katy Smith: Yes, some children find those first days very scary.

Diana Hoyos Lopez: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And especially, you know how I mentioned to you, I only strictly understood Spanish at home and coming to a school where everybody strictly speaks English, it was very, it was very confusing for me.

But luckily, you know, my, my teachers were very patient with me. Um, they immediately put me with the ESL teacher and like, she was the one, you know, leading me throughout the whole process of learning English. And all of my years growing up here in Greenville have been great. My elementary school years, they were a little rough, um, because my parents got divorced at, when I was at a young age.

They got divorced when I was five. So growing up, I lived with a single immigrant mother, and she always had to switch jobs because, you know, one job either didn’t pay her enough or at another job she would experience a lot of discrimination. So my every year of elementary school, I went to a different school.

Katy Smith: Oh my gosh.

Diana Hoyos Lopez: And so when I made it to my fourth year, um, I think my fourth year I was at West Cliff, we had finally settled in into an apartment. I think it was an apartment. Yeah. And ending up my fourth year, I told my mom, I was like, ” can I please stay here? Like just one more year? Just one more year. And then, you know, I, I can, I’ll, you know, start my years at middle school.” Luckily, things went smooth and I was able to at least, uh, spend my final year of elementary at West Cliff and, you know, still stay with my friends that I made in my fourth year.

Katy Smith: That’s wonderful.

Diana Hoyos Lopez: Yeah.

Katy Smith: And then you head to middle school, which everyone knows is an easy time, haha.

Diana Hoyos Lopez: Oh yeah.

Katy Smith: So Magda talked about her path to citizenship of five years, studying the book, taking the test, passing the difficult writing exam. Tell us about your path as you were here without documentation, but wanting to work, wanting to go to college, and what barriers were in your way and where you are now.

Diana Hoyos Lopez: I wanna say my whole story begins in high school. It was my last few months of my sophomore year. I was starting to think about college and what I wanted to pursue and in the future. At the same time, um, I was still trying to grasp the idea of being undocumented.

My parents had told me that I was undocumented, but I could never really understand what that meant.

Katy Smith: Because you’re just a person hanging out in Greenville. You’re going to school, you’re going to the lunchroom, you’re enjoying the parks just like everybody else.

Diana Hoyos Lopez: Yeah, exactly. So it wasn’t until I was starting to plan, you know, applying to colleges that at the same time I was going to apply for DACA. I set up an appointment with my then lawyer and she was helping me fill out my application and such.

And that’s when it hit me like a brick of what it meant to be undocumented because then I realized, you know, I don’t have a social, I don’t have legal presence here and if I don’t apply for DACA like I, I won’t be able to go to college unless if I go, but I would have to pay everything out of pocket, which in what universe would that be possible?

But luckily, um, I was able to apply for DACA and I was approved. Um, so I was a DACA student for I wanna say at least eight years, I think. But it was a pretty long time that I was a DACA student. Just reminiscing during those times of being like a DACA student is really rough because in high school, you know, I, even when I became a DACA student, there was still a lot of barriers placed in front of me. Cuz as a DACA student here in South Carolina, um, you can still go to college, but you aren’t offered in state tuition.

Only qualifying for out-of-state tuition. You don’t apply for in-state financial aid, or federal at all. And so you can only really rely on scholarships and you have to hope to God that a college will give you a good, you know, amount of scholarships. And in like, in all honesty, I grew very depressed because of this.

Um, I was depressed for a very long time because I was like, I, I don’t know how I’ll be able to achieve this dream. Because the sole reason my parents brought me here to the US was, you know, to achieve a greater education, to go to college, and get a good career. But if I can’t do this, then what was the point of them bringing me here?

But luckily, at that point in time, this, uh, nonprofit organization called Hispanic Alliance. Um, they came to visit my school, and they, offered a program for Hispanic students called Student Dreamers Alliance.

And so because I brought up these concerns of mine to my teachers at school, they essentially reached out to them and they came up with this, this program to offer for the students and for specifically for students like me, because they saw that, DACA slash undocumented students like myself were really struggling.

And they really needed some encouragement to keep pushing forward. And so I applied for the program. I was accepted into the program. And I am very, very, very grateful for that program and for Hispanic Alliance in general because all of my teachers during that time and everybody from the staff, they were so encouraging to me and they showered me with so much love, and they really gave me the push that I needed during that time and helped me realize, you know, if I really put my mind into it, if I put in the effort, I can make my dreams a reality.

And that sounds a little corny, but that’s, that’s what it means to be a dreamer. And so after I graduated from the program, I started to apply for colleges. And I was accepted to several ones. eventually then I applied for a full ride scholarship called Golden Doors.

At that time it was only for DACA and undocumented students, but now it’s opened up more, and so now it’s open for temporary protected status immigrants.

I applied for the full ride scholarship and I applied because I was like, you know, I know some colleges have offered me some scholarships, but it’s not enough to afford the rest of it. Um, so I applied and, my teachers greatly encouraged me to apply and I was, it was a long process because I had to like send a very long essay as to why I feel like I was deserving for the scholarship. Um, send out my, uh, resume and my transcript, and then I also had to make like a small video, like, like talking about myself and my experience and whatnot. And finally, I made it to the first round. At the first round I had to go to, uh, North Carolina.

And I was so shocked by the amount of students that were there applying for the same scholarship and this round, what we had to do was, we had to get interviewed by several different people in the span of like, five minutes.

And then at the end, we had to give a small presentation. So after I had, uh, left that, uh, stage of my scholarship, it was now to the stage of where I just had to wait for the phone call and see if I got to the scholarship or not.

And so I had to wait a month and I was actually at a school meeting and some, some of the staff from Greenville County Schools came. And we were essentially, well me and some other students were talking about our experience as a DACA and undocumented students, and I was one of those students.

And so at that same day I had received an email from Golden Doors, saying, “Hey, um, if you have time today, we would love to give you a call and like follow up on your scholarship process. Um, but we would love to talk to you over the phone.” So I got very nervous and so I was like, “okay, yeah. Um, I’ll be at this meeting though, but if you text me ahead of time, I can just step out of the meeting real quick and then I’ll, you know, pick up your call.” And they told me, yeah, that’s totally fine. I’m at this meeting, you know, not even really paying attention to what’s going on, because I was like, “am I gonna get the scholarship or not?

Like, I don’t know,” like, it was very nerveracking. And so I finally get the text message from them saying, “Hey, like, whenever you’re ready, I’m ready to call you.” And I was like, “okay.” And so I had to tell my teacher at that time, Mr. Campbell and I told him, “Hey, I have to step out for a second. Like, you know what it’s for?”

And he was like, “yeah, absolutely.” Um, I step out and pick up the phone call. I was shaking and I was sweating, and they, they told me, “congratulations. Um, you are now a golden endorse student and we are so happy to tell you that, um, you were one of many students that received the full ride scholarship.” At that time, like, I couldn’t, I couldn’t bring myself to cry yet because I was so…

Katy Smith: You’re shaking, I’m sure.

Diana Hoyos Lopez: I, I was so shocked. I was like, “thank you so much. Like it, it was really a pleasure, like getting to meet you all and such. And again, thank you so much for the opportunity.” And they were like, “yeah, of course. And again, congratulations.” And I was like, “thank you.” Ended the phone call, I go back to the meeting and Mr. Campbell he told me, so, did you get it or not? And I was like, I did.

And then everybody in the meeting like clapped for me. And that’s, and that’s when I burst into tears.

Katy Smith: Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh. That makes me wanna burst into tears.

Diana Hoyos Lopez: But yeah, I, I was very happy. And then afterwards my mom picked me up from the meeting and I told my mom I got the scholarship and she was so ecstatic for me and she immediately hugged me. We both, you know, like how I am now, sobbing.

Katy Smith: Yeah.

Diana Hoyos Lopez: But we were very happy and she was very happy for me because she knew that this was gonna be the beginning for my educational journey, especially being able to now go to college for free, that not many students have that privilege to do so, and especially as somebody as me who, you know, only had DACA. That was really the start of my educational journey. I was able to go to Wingate University, um, on a full ride scholarship thanks to Golden Doors. I actually started off as a nursing major.

Because I’ve always had a passion for healthcare. Um, but then I quickly realized I don’t think this is for me. Um, so I instead majored in human services, uh, with a minor in Spanish. I graduated with a 3.9 GPA And graduated with honors. And yeah, and now I am just working, still continuing to work in the, in, uh, the healthcare field.

And now my next big goal is to get my master’s in public health.

Katy Smith: And so Magda, let’s come back to you. You’re not at the Arby’s still. You worked at the Arby’s, you got your citizenship and and how, how can you fast forward through those years since to where you are now?

Magda DeSantis: I became an American citizenship and then maybe a year in between. One morning I woke up and I said “my dream was in English. I was speaking in my dream in English.” I knew I was an American citizen right then. When I dream, but I did work hard for that citizenship and I loved that I could do that and the dream and then In between. I went to a job that somebody said, “Hey, we are short on lab technician for an orthodontic job.

Somebody’s retiring. She’s from Poland, but she was working with me for this many years. Would you like to come and be trained by us for a year” and I looked, I said, “this is a dreaming. I would love to work in a lab coat and…

Diana Hoyos Lopez: yeah.

Magda DeSantis: and learn how to do retainers and to pour molds. And I said, I did not know what the job will entail.

Will, will really be. But for a whole year I was trained there and they gave me a certificate and I was a lab technician officially. And in between that, because I needed two jobs to make… kind of, I wanted to buy a car and I was so proud when I start driving and I was taking in my own home. I bought a small home in between.

I was working, uh, with two handicapped peoples. They were mentally handicapped. They were 40 and 60 at that time. They were trying to have people live in their home. They were doing better than being in a group home, and I never had anything, anybody in my life to know how to relate to that.

So, somebody was telling me if I like to, they think I’m patient and I’m pleasant all the time. I’ll do a good job at it. So I said, okay, I’ll try. Take me to a family that has that situation. I’m always have to see what’s going on. So they did, and I agree. I said, okay, I would love to have, you know, in my home, because one of the condition was you have to have a full-time job.

You have to be an American citizen, and then have this situation, so you are getting paid for. But I needed to, so I was very happy. So I was working two full-time jobs and the boys were so thrilled. In fact, I had them so much that when Nathaniel and Sara came in my life…

Katy Smith: Your children, your own children.

Magda DeSantis: The boys were a little bit jealous because they’re like, you’re paying too much attention to this boy, this, she’s mine not, not yours.

Because they were at like six year old mental, but they’re wonderful people. I learned so much to be patient and I changed ’em also cuz they were, at the beginning it was very hard to deal with them. But then slowly they were very wonderful. So in the morning I’ll go to the orthodontists office with Dr. Barron and White and I always appreciate they gave me that job forever because it was a good job and good pension from them. So that was also a, to work, I learned the steps being in America that you work and you work for your benefits when you get older. So, that’s, that was my next couple years later on.

They later on start a family with the kids.

Katy Smith: Yes. And that’s its own full-time job.

Magda DeSantis: A different, yeah, a whole different story.

Katy Smith: Well, and so Diana, you now have permanent residence status. So how, how does that work? How did that come about and what does it mean for you now?

Diana Hoyos Lopez: My permanent residency, uh, process was pretty lengthy. It lasted for about five years. And it all came about because my dad had remarried to a US citizen. And she petitioned for me. Um, my stepmother petitioned for me. That took a very long time for USCIS to process.

My immigration lawyer contacted us and he told us we need to, we need to, we need to get you to apply for this through advanced parole but the documentation I think only lasts one month. So you have a very tight timeframe.

I went to Mexico and it was my very first time being there ever since I was a baby, and I wish I could have stayed longer. So once I was able to receive my stamp on my passport, that I finally came quote unquote, the right way it made my process go by a lot faster. It was up until this past February of this year. I received an approval notice from USCIS saying basically, congratulations, you’re a permanent resident.

Katy Smith: Oh my gosh. Yay. I feel like we need fireworks for both of you. Oh my gosh.

Diana Hoyos Lopez: My dad had called me over the phone and he told me, I was like, you, you’re joking.

Like this is it. You like, stop playing with me. But he told me, yeah, I’m, I’m being serious at like, you’re a permanent resident now. And I was like, again, I was in shock. And it wasn’t until I told my mom that I am finally a permanent resident. That’s when she started bursting to tears too. And you know, I did obviously cuz it was a long time coming. But yeah, now I’m a permanent resident. Even now, it still doesn’t feel real because, being undocumented for so long, it, it still sits at the back of my mind and it still doesn’t feel real. And sometimes I feel like I’m still in that stage in my life. But then, you know, I have my friends and family that always remind me like, you don’t have those restrictions anymore.

You now more doors are opened for you. And before you had nothing holding you back, but now truly nothing, uh, can get in your way now.

Katy Smith: You and your families both worked so hard in pursuit of the American dream, so I’m curious to hear from both of you. What do you think about the American dream now after all you’ve been through? What does it mean to you and is it still alive for you?

Magda DeSantis: Still alive for me and every time the voting coming for the president or for the local to me that it means I have the freedom and I’m going to vote. I’m there at the booth first day, first morning, and I think everybody, if they think how lucky they are here, cuz I feel now I’m lucky I can do that.

And also I can talk without being afraid. I can go to jail if I talk something wrong, even, you know? And, um, because I saw my mom and dad, they a lot of times just communicate this paper we did not even know why they were talking about it like that, but later we learned that they were afraid to even talk about what’s going on in life.

So just that to be free to talk and to have friends. And you can joke about politics and you can joke about life.

Katy Smith: Joking about politics is a regular American hobby.

Magda DeSantis: So I don’t take that too lightly. But I do hope that we all keep this country free, really. It’s uh, it’s amazing. And even though when we ran across from Romania to Yugoslavia, they were shooting after us because we were stepping on the lights.

And knowing. So it’s, I, I feel like I’m a very lucky person to be in America and to have my family that the kids, uh, Sara, Nathaniel, Matthew Stepson, they’re born here, and Blaine, my husband is American and he’s very patient with me. He learned a lot of things that I go not back and forth, I go forth and back I said, doesn’t make sense the other way.

I always mix my so and they know. And so I’m very proud American.

So I appreciate every day being here. I do, I think every morning I opened the, the door, the windows.

I say thank you America, I’m here.

Katy Smith: Oh, that’s great.

Magda DeSantis: So that’s my story. I love it.

Katy Smith: Diana, how about you and the American Dream?

Diana Hoyos Lopez: I mean for me personally, the American dream is still pretty much alive. Yes. But I think the context of the American Dream is also, it can have both. Well, I view it as both something positive, but also something negative. Unfortunately the American dream can only go so far, um, especially if you are an undocumented immigrant.

Unfortunately, you don’t have the same rights as a US citizen, and that’s what makes life so difficult for, you know, other undocumented immigrants. That’s a negative as aspect of the American dream is that, you know, there’s this, sometimes there’s this false idea that, ooh, you can achieve whatever you want here in America, but when you really look at it, sometimes that’s not possible.

There are also some good things about the American dream and it’s good in the way that no matter what immigrant I have interacted with, talked with, they’re the reason why the American dream exists and why, why they’re so resilient. And why they are able to achieve that dream.

And it’s not because, the opportunities are offered to them, it’s because they make the opportunities for themselves and, so for me that’s that’s really what the American dream means for me. It, it can be something negative, but it can also be something really positive.

Katy Smith: Well, I mean, I think another way of saying what you just said is that it’s like the American dream is as much about the dreamer and, and how they respond to the opportunity that either they believe is there or wanna make happen for themselves. It’s the, it’s the going out and doing. Well, I can say that I am just so grateful to have both of you all here in our community, because I think another thing that makes America great is when we come together and we do stuff well to solve problems together.

And so I’m so grateful that you are both here in this community, in Greenville, and I’m so, so grateful for you both sharing your stories about your being in Greenville and, and just for all that you do.

Magda DeSantis: Thank you for inviting us.

Katy Smith: Yes, and happy Independence Day. Thanks so much y’all.

Catherine Puckett: Simple Civics: Greenville County is a project of Greater Good Greenville. Greater Good Greenville was catalyzed by the merger of the Nonprofit Alliance and the Greenville Partnership for Philanthropy. You can learn more on our website at greatergoodgreenville.org. This is a production of Podcast Studio X.

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