MY STORY

Ermelinda Rivera

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Origin:

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I was born in NYC in 1963. My parents had both, separately, moved from Puerto Rico to NY in search of employment and a better life in these Estados Unidos. They fell in love and were married in Brooklyn the year before I was born but they were not strangers. They had grown up a stone’s throw from each other in los campos del Arecibo where they played together as children.

Before my first birthday they relocated to Paterson, NJ, where my father started the job he would work for the next 30 years. Although my parents lived in the states for most of their lives, they never mastered the English language. Working, living, and worshipping along with other Puerto Ricans, they did not feel the need to learn English. Although as their TV viewing habits, as well as their reactions to overheard conversations as I grew older proved, they understood English just fine.

Since I spoke nothing but Spanish until the day I started kindergarten and I was stunned to discover that while enjoying my first, favorite Thirteen/PBS show Sesame Street, I was also taught how to speak English!

The years have passed, Sesame Street and I both turned 50 this year. My parents have retired back to their beloved Island and still speak Spanish to each other as they watch Wheel of Fortune, and Jeopardy.

Somewhere along the line English became my first language. One thing that has not changed, despite the 500 channels now available to me, Thirteen/PBS is still my favorite station. Only instead of sitting on the edge of my seat to see what Big Bird will say next, these days it is all about the Dowager Countess Violet.

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