My name is Andrea Bazoin, and I am a translator.
In high school, I used my then-limited Spanish to translate for the Central American immigrants who came to my checkout line at the grocery store in our small Nebraska town. Interpreting their “Cuanto cuesta?” was helpful, but I knew what I was really translating was a message of welcome and dignity to newly arrived residents who had found their way to our tiny town because of employment opportunities at the local meat packing plant.
You see, even though I had lived in this small town my entire life, it was easy for me to recognize an outsider’s desire to belong and to be understood. My mother moved to Nebraska from Santiago, Chile when she was 17 after her mother was tragically killed in a bus accident. A few years before, her older sister had married a Nebraska farmer, whom she met by chance while standing in line at a customs office in the middle of the Andes mountains.
After my abuela died, my mom left Chile to live with this sister and her gringo husband. The crazy stories my tia and mom tell about those early days always makes me laugh, and yet they are underscored with the pain of leaving home and moving to a place where you are neither understood nor welcomed.