Although you wouldn’t know it to look at it, this photograph was taken shortly after Maria Lucia Silva Jaimes had gone through a difficult and scary health episode. She was living in the U.S. at the time, and she went through it without telling her family back in Colombia because she didn’t want to make them worry. So, for her, this image means strength, resilience, and independence.
Maria Lucia comes from Bucaramanga, Colombia, which she describes as “a lovely mid-city on top of the Andes Mountains.” She left Bucaramanga to learn and experience more life than she knew there was in the town, to be able to live in a more inclusive society. And, she made her way to America because of that age-old driving force: “Love.”
Love has a way of taking on a life of its own, and Maria Lucia has reveled in meeting “all the wonderful beautiful people I now call friends and family.” Still, love also needs some down-to-earth practicality to help it along at times. And so, Maria Lucia, who is a scientist, secured a position as a Quality Manager at one of America’s largest and most successful companies specializing in advanced plastics compounding systems. The company sponsored her H-1B Visa, which allows U.S. employers to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations, and she worked first in their headquarters in Baltimore and then moved to their facility in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Her status as an immigrant has made Maria Lucia feel very fortunate, she says, because she has been able to broaden her knowledge and her way of seeing life. For her, the strangest part of it all has been realizing that, even though she wasn’t born here, she feels she belongs here. “I feel more normal and comfortable with myself than at my hometown,” she says. “I have grown to love this country and feel a part of it.”
And yet, being an immigrant has given her anxiety at times. “Being away from my nona (grandmother), and missing her last years of awareness, has broken my heart. I’ve never been the same since then.” Perhaps that is why, when you ask Maria Lucia where home is, her simple answer is, “I don’t know.”