APARICIO/PIMENTEL FAMILY MIGRATION STORY
Artists: Simone Zabarsky & Nevo Naftalin-Kelman
Writers: Zach and Molly Franklin
Completed in 2018
Aura Aparicio’s parents grew up in Guatemala, but Aura grew up in the Bay Area. Her mother came from a humble working-class family, and her father’s family owned a chicken farm. But during the 1950s many farmers in Guatemala were losing their land. At the time, migration from Guatemala to the United States was relatively easy. So in the late 1960’s Aura’s father decided to move to the United States to seek new opportunity and adventure.
Aura’s father ended up in New Orleans. Then he moved to the West Coast. At first he worked as a farmworker picking strawberries and working in factories. Later, Aura’s father worked for United Airlines. In the 1960s Aura’s father gained a residency permit, and his family was able to come to the US to live with him.
In the 1980s, Guatemala and other countries in Central America were gripped by civil war. Nearly 1 million Central Americans fled to the United States during that time. But US immigration policies had been changed. It was very difficult for these refugees to stay, even though the US was making the violence worse in Central America. This led to the creation of the Sanctuary movement, where some communities defied these new policies. These communities provided protection and support to refugees running away from violence and persecution.
Alejandro Pimentel was born in Guatemala. He met Aura on one of her trips back to visit her family’s homeland. They fell in love. When they decided to get married, they petitioned the US government to allow Alejandro to live in the US. It was a very difficult decision for him to leave his family. They were not able to join him even though there was violence in their country. Because Aura was a US citizen, Alejandro’s application was approved in eight months. He was lucky. Often it took up to ten years for Guatemalans to have their applications approved.
Aura and Alejandro moved to Berkeley and started a family. Because of their legal status they can travel back to Guatemala to visit their relatives. As a result their children have been able to build a deep connection with their family, homeland, and culture. But they also appreciate living in the Bay Area. Here, they can enjoy the safety of the US while being part of a community that embraces diversity.