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Interview with Ilia Lively

Lively, Ilia
Valladares, Evelyn
Date of Interview: 
Cultural identification; Overcoming obstacles
Ilia Lively talks about moving to the US from Cuba and obstacles she had to overcome.
Charlotte Narrative and Conversation Collection
Collection Description: 
Evelyn Valladares interviewed Charlotte, NC residents to collect various stories for a class project at UNC Charlotte.
EV (Evelyn Valladares): This is Evelyn Valladares, I am here with Mrs. Ilia Lively, today is the 29th of January of 2004, on Thursday afternoon, it's approximately one forty. Uh, Ilia, how are you?
IL (Ilia Lively): Fine, and you? How are you doing, Evelyn?
EV: Very well, thank you. Ilia, before starting the interview, I would like to ask you some questions that are standard-.
IL: Uh-huh.
EV: -Uh, for example, your full name?
IL: Well, how do you want it, the Latin American way or the American way?
EV: The Latin American way.
IL: OK, the Latin American way, Ilia Mesa-.
EV: Uh-huh.
IL: -De Lively.
IL: [Laughs]
EV: Don't you have a nam-, a middle name?
IL: Yes, but I don't like it.
EV: Oh. \\ OK. \\
IL: \\ [Laughs] \\
EV: We will keep that as a \\ secret. \\
IL: \\ As a secret. \\
EV: As a secret, OK, perfect. Your date of birth?
IL: The 28th of June of '45.
EV: OK., Fine, that means that \\ you are-. \\
IL: \\ A good year. \\
EV: -Are you Cancer or Gemini?
IL: Cancer.
EV: Uh, cancer.
IL: Uh-huh.
EV: Your country of origin?
IL: Cuba.
EV: Cuba.
IL: Uh-huh.
EV: Other countries where you have lived?
IL: Only here, in the United States-.
EV: OK. Where you born here?
IL: No, in Cuba.
EV: But you have been here since you were very little.
IL: Yes, a little baby, 17, 16 years old \\ [laughs]. \\
EV: \\ Oh, well. \\ Not so little, right?
IL: Not so little, no.
EV: \\ Well-. \\
IL: \\ Uh-huh. \\
EV: -So, uhm, how long have you been in the United States?
IL: Can you imagine, 42 years.
EV: OK. And, here in Charlotte?
IL: Here in Charlotte since ( ), I am thinking, ( ) '73, so, yes, 30 years.
EV: 30 years.
IL: Uh-huh.
EV: Oh, you have been here for a long time, right?
IL: Yes, a lot.
EV: Yes, uh, what is your native language?
IL: Spanish, of course.
EV: OK. Other languages that yoo speak?
IL: Well, I kind of, more-, French, just a little-.
IL: -And [laughs] Portuguese [laughs].
IL: I, I, I studied it in college, I am not-, I cannot speak it fluently but I defend myself.
EV: You understand it.
IL: Yes, I understand it.
EV: Uh.
IL: And Italian, since, well, because it is very similar to Spanish, I kind of understand it, but I cannot speak it or anything.
EV: Same thing, for example, with French and Portuguese, right? Because they all come from the same-.
IL: Of course.
EV: -The same root.
IL: Uh-huh.
EV: Uh-huh. Uh, level of education?
IL: Uh, I have a Master's degree in teaching-.
EV: Uh-huh.
IL: Uh, from Florida University, with a concentration in Spanish, in Literature-.
IL: -And then I did a pos-, post graduate, uh, in the University of Kentucky, but I did not finish the doctorate because I never wrote the thesis, I finished everything else, but, I never wrote the thesis.
EV: Uh., And, wouldn't you have time to write it now?
IL: No, no, no way. Uh, now? No way. [Laughs]
EV: Too much work, right?
IL: It is too much work, no \\ way. \\
EV: \\ Of course. \\
IL: Besides, after so many years, I would have to take courses and all that-.
EV: To level off.
IL: -I, I would like to do it if I didn't have to work, of course-.
EV: Of course.
IL: -But not while I am working.
EV: Because you work-, you are working full time now, right?
IL: Yes. Uh-huh.
EV: OK. And, what is your occupation, Ilia?
IL: Well, right now I am a Spanish teacher-.
EV: \\ OK. \\
IL: \\ -Instructor, \\ of Spanish, like-, here everybody is called instructor.
EV: OK, even if you have a Master's.
IL: Yes, this is a-, this is an egalitarian place, you know, everybody here is treated the same way-.
EV: \\ Uh-huh. \\
IL: \\ -Everyone \\ is an instructor, it doesn't matter if you have a Master's or a doctorate, everyone here is an instructor.
EV: Uh-huh. Well, that's good, right?
IL: Uh-huh.
EV: Well, Ilia, uh, the question I ask all of my interviewers, what was the main reason why you came to this country?
IL: Well, like I told you, I was 16 years old, and my parents were the ones who made the decision, I had nothing to say about it-.
EV: Uh-huh.
IL: -So that when they decided that in, that in Cuba the-, uh, uh, that they could not live there under the Castro's regime-.
EV: Uh-huh.
IL: -Because the gentleman had declared himself a communist and all those things, well, my father decided that it could not be, that it could not be-.
EV: Uh-huh.
IL: -That it coutd not be-, he could not accept that, and so he sent-, he sent us first, my mother, my brother, my sister and I-.
EV: Uh-huh.
IL: -And he came later, uh-.
EV: Where did you go first?
IL: Uh, Miami-.
EV: Uh-huh.
IL: -But we were there just for a month or two, so my mother who was, uh, a librarian, uh, she found a job as a librarian at Florida Univeristy, in Gainsville-.
EV: Uh-huh.
IL: -Uh, thru connections that she had with other librarians and those kinds of things, and we moved to Gainsville right away, s-, for me-, Gainsville is my, my hometown.
EV: Uh-huh, uh-huh.
IL: Because there is where, where we always lived-.
EV: Uh-huh. And, was it difficult for your parents to come here? To get out of Cuba?
IL: Very difficult. Uh, not the fact of getting out, we got out easily. My sister, my brother, my mother and I said that we would go on vacation, that was at the beginning of '61, when things were not that bad-.
EV: Uh-huh.
IL: -And they led us out without too much problem-.
EV: How lucky.
IL: -My father, he had to-, they did not want my father to get out of the country, he had to invent something [laughs] to-.
EV: Uh-huh.
IL: -To get out, he had some good friends in Mexico and a couple of them were senators, uh, Mexican ones, uh, with-, with that connection, they were the ones who got my father a visa to go to Mexico-.
EV: Uh-huh.
IL: -And so he was allowed to go to Mexico, and after he left for Mexico, he was then able to come to the United States and such, same thing, with connections [laughs]-.
EV: Uh-huh \\ uh-huh. \\
IL: \\ -Finally, \\ well, he was able to go to ( ), it was very difficult for him, not for us-.
EV: Uh-huh.
IL: -For us, it was easy, the only thing was that-, they only led us leave with a handbag with 60, uh, pounds, no, 40, I believe, yes-, of clothes, that was all and 40 pounds of clothes is almost nothing-.
EV: Uh-huh.
IL: -And that was all, not even jewelry, or radios, nothing, nothing, nothing, you could only take clothes to wear-.
EV: Wow.
IL: -And those things for-, your deodorant, you know? Personal items and that was all-.
EV: Uh-huh.
IL: -And no money.
EV: Uh-huh. And you were a teenager at that time, how was that change, regarding new friendships, the language, new food?
IL: The language was not a problem because I learned English ever since I was in kindergarden-.
EV: Uh-huh.
IL: -I remember that I learned colors and those things in English for all my life,and I studied English all my life, so that when I came here at that age, I spoke, I spoke it well. I went to high school, and I went to an American school, so I spent half day speaking English and half day speaking Spanish, so-, English for me was not a problem, I did not have to adapt to that. The adaptation was to leave my life as a spoiled girl, we had servants, and you know, the good life, my parents were not rich, but they were doing well-.
EV: Uh-huh.
IL: -Uh, and in Cuba of course, it was very easy to have servants, anybody-, almost anybody could have one if you had a little bit of money, right?
EV: Uh-huh.
IL: But regarding that life of not ever having to do anything, in the kitchen, me? No way.
EV: Uh-huh.
IL: No way., cleaning, washing, nothing, none of that, and so having to come here and learn, because I did not know how to do anything.
EV: Doing everything.
IL: My mother knew about it because she learned how to do all those things, uh, but then she taught me to do it, ironing, washing, and that was, that was difficult because I was not used to it [laughs]-.
EV: Uh-huh.
IL: -To so those things, you know-.
EV: Of course.
IL: -I expected everything to be ready [laughs], food was served and someone would serve you, then another one would do the dishes, I did not have to do anything-.
EV: Of course, of course.
IL: -So, that was difficult, to forget about the good life \\ [laughs]-. \\
EV: \\ Uh-huh. \\
IL: -That was difficult-.
EV: Uh-huh.
IL: -But, besides that, no, uh, and so I started to work immediately because I was 16 years old and in my family I was the only one who could-, who spoke English, so that, well, and my mother, of course, my mother was working, she worked at-, she got that job in Gainsville at the university-.
EV: Uh-huh.
IL: -But that was not enough, so that I had to start working and they got me a vis-, a-.
EV: A permit.
IL: -A permit to -, because I was underage-.
EV: Uh-huh.
IL: -And all those things-.
EV: Uh-huh.
IL: -But I already spoke English and had-, I had studied to be a secretary and I knew how to type and take shorthand and all those-, what do you call that in Spa-? Uh, shorthand-.
EV: Uh-huh.
IL: -Well, I fou-, I found a job. So I started to work when I was 16 years old-.
EV: Uh-huh.
IL: -Uh, and that was, that-, of-, acquiring new responsibilities of an adult person [laughs], when one was used to be treated like, like a little kid-.
EV: \\ Of course. \\
IL: \\ -( ) \\ You know, I was very, very spoiled and, you know, very spoiled and suddenly-.
EV: And, what about in Cuba, was there a Hispanic group already formed, or-, when you got there were, let's say, a minority, or \\ were there Cubans already? \\
IL: \\ In, in Gainsville? \\
EV: Uh-huh.
IL: No, in Gainsville there was already a big amount of Cubans and Latin American people of all kinds, because it was a town with many students-.
EV: Uh-huh.
IL: -Since there were many Latin American from everywhere, young people who came to study-.
EV: Uh-huh.
IL: -There was everything-, I met people from every country, from, from Latin America because they came here to study, specially agriculture, engineering, and those kinds of things, the majority were young men-.
EV: Uh-huh.
IL: -Because young women-, you know, they took more care of us, and they didn't let us go anywhere by ourselves, [cough], like young men, but, there were many families. Cuban families started to come because of that, because their children went to college, and so their parents also moved with them [laughs] also-.
EV: Uh-huh.
IL: -And that-, no, there was always a-, a-, a Latin American group, there was always one always, we were not-, uh, I had a cousin who ended up living in Montana, and she was the only person who spoke Spanish in that area-.
EV: Of course.
IL: -But that did not happen to us-.
EV: It was easy.
IL: Getting adapted was easy, yes, it was easy.
EV: Well, that is an advantage, right? Because there are many people who come here without knowing the language-.
IL: Uh-huh.
EV: -From another life style. For example, when we first came here, that was in the year, oh. '80, I believe it was, my youngest sister and I came here from, from Venezuela with my parents, and I remember that there were just a few Hispanics-.
IL: Uh-huh.
EV: -Very, very, very few, and it was very difficult for us to get adapted, despite the fact that we had studied English at school-.
IL: Uh-huh.
EV: -I mean, elementary, middle and high school, I even took an extra course at a school, uh, a private one, I took it when I graduated from high school, but for me, language is still-.
IL: [Laughs] It is still difficult.
EV: -It is a barrier.
IL: You know that, when-, all of my teachers, English teachers that I had in Cuba were either British-.
EV: Uh-huh.
IL: -British, or Americans from the north, I always had teachers from New York, or from Ohio, you know, and the English that I learned was with that accent, right?
EV: Of course.
IL: And so when I came here I faced the southern accent-.
EV: \\ Uh-huh. \\
IL: \\ -[Laughs] \\ With the southern accent, uh, the first person with whom we had contact here was the customs agent, in Florida, and that guy spoke with a Floridian southern accent, which is-, really, really-.
EV: Uh-huh.
IL: -And the man talked to me and I didn't understand not even a word, not even a word, it was as if he was speaking Chinese, and my mother told me, "What is he saying? What is he saying?" "I don't know, mom." "What do you mean you don't know? All that money we spent on your education and you cannot talk to that man?" "I don't understand his English."
EV: It was a different accent.
IL: Because it was another accent, it was a different thing-.
EV: Uh-huh.
IL: -It was so different that, uh, after, see, trying to get it, I finally understood what the man was trying to say-.
EV: \\ Uh-huh. \\
IL: -But, well, I thought, I-, that frustrated me a little-, I thought that I spoke English very well.
EV: It is frustrating.
IL: It was, it was, it was very frustrating.
EV: Uh-huh.
IL: And after that, I worked with a woman who was from Alabama and she, she was the one with whom I learned to understand the southern accent-.
EV: \\ Uh-huh. \\
IL: \\ -Because \\ it was so different from what I-, I had trouble with the accent and the intonation and all that-.
EV: Of course.
IL: But not anymore \\ [laughs]. \\
EV: \\ How, \\ how many years you think it would take, for example for an adult person, to learn it very well, and to get rid of the accent-.
IL: \\ Uh-huh. \\
EV: \\ -For \\ example, a person who comes here when he is 18 years old. How long would it take?
IL: Well, imagine, that is difficult to say, it depends on how much he uses it-.
EV: Uh-huh.
IL: -If that person is in a place where all he has-, he has no other choice but to, to speak English, he can learn it very fast-.
EV: Of course.
IL: -But if, if he lives in a-, in a situation where his family talks to him only in Spanish and they only speak English from time to time, then it will take him longer-.
EV: It would take him \\ longer. \\
IL: \\ -Or \\ or if they go to class-.
EV: \\ Uh-huh. \\
IL: \\ -Only \\ for that purpose and then they don't use it-.
EV: Uh-huh.
IL: -Because the thing about the language is that you have to use it.
EV: Of course. \\ You have to force yourself. \\
IL: \\ You have to use it, \\ and practice it-.
EV: Uh-huh.
IL: -That is-, there is no other choice, so, uh, uh, for example, see, my, my mother did not know-, she knew how to say "hello" and "boy and girl-."
EV: Uh-huh.
IL: -And that was-, when she came here, she only knew how to say that, but at her work, she had no other choice but to learn and she spoke it with a ver-, very bad accent, she, she always-, she could never get rid of the accent-.
EV: Uh-huh.
IL: -Never, and she tried so hard, poor thing, but she couldn't, because, of course, she was already 40 years old and something when, when she came here, it is more difficult, the older you get [laughs]-.
EV: \\ It is more difficult. \\
IL: \\ -It is more difficult to \\ learn a language-.
EV: \\ Uh-huh, uh-huh. \\
IL: \\ -No \\ doubt about it. But, but she learned and she would speak it correctly, grammatically correct, but her accent was-.
EV: Uh-huh.
IL: -You know, it wasn't, it wasn't, but she, she would defend herself and she, she learned it because she had no other choice, it was for her work, she had to, uh, to defend herself, she had to learn it-.
EV: -To learn it.
IL: -Uh, and it took her, what, five, six years to, you know, for her to feel comfortable, but she would never, never, never talk on the phone, if someone called, she would pass [laughs] the phone to someone else [laughs], because she didn't like to speak English \\ on the phone. \\
EV: \\ She \\ would get nervous.
IL: She would get nervous. "I don't understand when they talk to me over the telephone."
EV: Of course. Ilia, and when you came here, uhm, did you continue celebrating the custums that you celebrated at home in Cuba? Uh, for example, did you celebrate Christmas on the 24th or on the 25th like they do it here? Uh, another type of, of traditions that, that you had in Cuba that also celebrated here or was it just Christmas time?
IL: Well, no, Christmas, we always celebrated it, uh, on the 24th-.
EV: \\ Uh-huh. \\
IL: \\ -Because \\ that was when all the family got together and we would do that for several years, not every year, but sometimes my father would buy a pig or half a pig-.
EV: Uh-huh.
IL: -And he would dig a, a hole [laughs] in the backyard, and well, he would do a-, what do you call that in Spanish? I have forgotten-, a, a spit, you know, a barbeque, \\ you know-. \\
EV: \\ Uh-huh. \\
IL: -They would cook pork outside-.
EV: With wood.
IL: -With, with wood.
EV: Uh-huh.
IL: Yes, with wood. And they would use "mojo" (garlic and herbs sauce), you know-.
EV: \\ Uh-huh. \\
IL: \\ -They \\ would spend the whole day, my father and my uncle, one of my uncles would spend the whole day, you know, cooking the pork at low heat and they would pour mojo to it and drink beer-. \\ [Laughs] \\
EV: \\ Uh-huh. \\
IL: -Until you only got-, you know, it was delicious, because that was a divine way to prepare it, and women, uh, would prepare the rest of the food, you know, rice, beans, fried plantains, everything, salads, everything else-.
EV: Uh-huh.
IL: -They all gathered, everyone gathered to eat on the night of the 24th-.
EV: Uh-huh.
IL: -And ,well, sometimes we would go to the "misa de gallo" (midnight mass)-.
EV: Midnight mass.
IL: Midnight mass-.
EV: Uh-huh.
IL: -Uh, sometimes we didn't \\ [laughs]-. \\
EV: \\ [Laughs] \\
IL: -It depended on how full our stomachs were-.
EV: Yes.
IL: -And that, and regarding the gifts and those kinds of things, uh, we in Cuba always celebrated Christmas the American way and the Cuban way-.
EV: \\ OK. \\
IL: \\ -Both \\ ways-.
EV: Uh-huh.
IL: -Because that way [laughs], they would give us presents-.
EV: More presents, of course.
IL: -And so [laughs], well, you know, on the 25th we would receive presents from Santa Claus-.
EV: Uh-huh.
IL: -You know, on the sixth of January, the three Kings would come-.
EV: Uh-huh.
IL: -That, of course, that was the most-, the one from Santa Claus was, uh, so so, sometimes it was good, sometimes it wasn't, but the one from the three Kings, yes, that-.
EV: They were better.
IL: -They were-, they are the best gifts, of course, and so, uh, nothing, the-, children would receive presents, that-, on the sixth, but in my family, generally [laughs], we would receive them twice-.
EV: Uh-huh.
IL: -And I, I was delighted, and always, you know, the little Christmas \\ tree- \\.
EV: \\ The nativity. \\
IL: -And the nativity, we would set the nativity and all those things. My family was not very religious, let me say, so sometimes we did not-, we didn't put-, it's not like here that people here decorates and places Christmas ornaments and all that, we didn't do that in Cuba-, we didn't do those kinds of things, we just placed a little tree-.
EV: Uh-huh.
IL: -Uh, or an ornament at the center of the table, something like that, but, about the rest, I-, we didn't put any ornaments, we didn't do it, at least not my family, I don't know about other families.
EV: Of course. And do you now cook Cuban food or is it just American food or is it just half and half?
IL: At home the one who cooks is my husband-.
EV: Oh, well \\ much better. \\
IL: \\ [Laughs] \\ Because, yes, because he doesn't like to do the dishes-.
EV: Uh-huh.
IL: -And so I told him, "No, no, I don't like being the one who has to cook, do the dishes, clean the house" and \\ such-. \\
EV: \\ It isn't \\ a good deal.
IL: -No way, not like that, no way, nuh, nuh, "You have to do something." So, now he cooks and sometimes he cooks Cuban food even though he is American-.
EV: \\ Uh-huh. \\
IL: \\ -The thing is that \\ he loves Cuban food.
EV: He speaks Spanish, \\ right? \\
IL: \\ Yes, \\ he does speak Spanish.
EV: OK. Did you teach him?
IL: No, he learned on his own-.
IL: -No, he, he, he also-, he got his, his degree-.
EV: Uh-huh.
IL: -In Spanish, also, and so, we met each other in Kentucky when we used to go to graduate school-.
EV: Oh, OK.
IL: -He didn't finish his thesis either \\ [laughs]-. \\
EV: \\ Uh-huh. \\
IL: -Uh, and it was there when I met him, already-, he is from Texas-.
EV: Uh-huh.
IL: -So he learned, uh, Spanish in Texas, at, at the university, not on the street or something like that-.
EV: Uh-huh.
IL: -When I met him, he already spoke it, he was-, he spoke it to perfection-.
EV: Uh-huh.
IL: -And he still speaks it very well-.
EV: Uh-huh.
IL: -And he speaks, he speaks French much better than I do [laughs]-.
EV: Oh, that's good.
IL: -He still defends himself well in French.
EV: Uh-huh. And, is there something you miss from Cuba \\ The weather-? \\
IL: \\ Fruits. \\ Fruits, fruits, tropical fruits, those-, little plantains, those little ones-.
EV: \\ Uh-huh. \\
IL: \\ -The little plantains \\ apples, mangoes, mamey, all those fruits that are very difficult to find here in Charlotte, at least, they are very difficult-.
EV: \\ Uh-huh. \\
IL: \\ -To \\ find. Perhaps it is easier to find them in Miami, but here, is al-, almost impossible, here avocadoes-. In-, the place I used to live, we had lots of trees and we had trees, mango trees, and avocado trees around the house and sometimes you could get your hand out of the window and pull them because those trees were so close to the house that I, I had in my room, in, in my room, I had a balcony with a fence and that, and, uh, you could go to the balcony and grab the mangoes from the, the tree-.
EV: Uh-huh.
IL: -Because they were very near, and, and the same happened with the avocadoes, and that was very fresh, and, and-.
EV: \\ Natural. \\
IL: \\ -It's, it's \\ natural. Oh, my God., we would eat so many-.
EV: Don't you plant anything in your house here in Charlotte?
IL: Nothing, no way.
EV: Nothing.
IL: No, [laughs], otherwise I would have to, uh, [laughs], take care of it \\ I-. \\
EV: \\ [Laughs] \\
IL: -And I, I, I cannot resist the heat.
EV: Uh-huh.
IL: Heat is something-, the hot weather from here makes me sick. The heat from here, I don't know how I would manage in Cuba, I don't know, because I don't remember having gotten sick because of the heat down there-.
EV: Uh-huh.
IL: -It was hot, but, no, uh, the heat here is something that, that, I don't know, it-.
EV: Temperatures can be very high.
IL: No way, and, at my age-, and that type of-, I don't know what it is, but when it is hot here I get sick, and in Cuba- .
EV: Uh-huh.
IL: -I used to be-, of course, I was much younger [laughs], no?
EV: Of course, the bo-, the body would be more resistant.
IL: Of course, when you are a child, temperature doesn't affect you or anything, nothing.
EV: It doesn't affect you.
IL: No, it doesn't affect you, right? Really.
EV: Well, I already know that what you don't like from here is the heat, but, what is it that you like the most? What have you liked the most from here so far that has made you stay for so long, \\ 30 years already, right? \\
IL: \\ From Charlotte? \\ Well, Charlotte has-, it has, it has, it has, it is very well located, you know, it is close to many things, it is near the mountains, it is near the beach, if I could-, besides, we have jobs here [laughs], that's the most important thing-.
EV: Of course.
IL: -Here it was where, where we found a job-.
EV: Uh-huh.
IL: -And that's why we stayed here, because of our jobs, because if I had-, if I could choose, I would live at the coast, at the beach, no doubt about it-.
EV: Uh-huh.
IL: -And have already told my husband, when we retire-.
EV: Straight to the coast.
IL: -Ye-, to the coast, he doesn't like it because he gets burned-.
EV: \\ Uh-huh. \\
IL: \\ -The \\ sun, his skin is very delicate and it gets burned very easily-.
EV: Uh-huh.
IL: -He says, "No, I cannot get out-, why are we going to go to the beach? ( ) Somewhere else." \\ [Laughs] \\
EV: \\ Living separately and meet once-. \\
IL: \\ [Cough] \\
EV: \\ -In a while. \\
IL: In a while, yes. Uh-.
EV: Well, but you have been hare for 30 years already-.
IL: \\ Uh-huh. \\
EV: \\ -So \\ you, you have, uh, a witnessed the, the-, the growth-.
IL: \\ Uh-huh. \\
EV: \\ -So \\ so huge that the Hispanic population has had in here-.
IL: \\ Uh-huh. \\
EV: \\ -Because \\ I remember when I came here, just to study-.
IL: Uh-huh.
EV: -To college, that was in '80, as I told you, there were-.
IL: \\ Uh-huh. \\
EV: \\ -Not that many \\ Hispanics.
IL: Yes, it is true.
EV: Then we came back again on vacations, I believe, and we could already see how the Mexican immigration, particularly, had increased.
IL: Uh-huh.
EV: How did you see that change in the, in the, that is, that increase in the immigration? How, how did you see it and how did you think Americans accepted or rejected it?
IL: If you-, look, [laughs], uh, I, I don't know why, let's say-, where, where I lived-, we bought, we bought a house in the area of, of Mint Hill, which is near here-.
EV: Uh-huh.
IL: -There were no Latinos down there. Where, where I have lived all these, there have been no Latinos-.
EV: Uh-huh.
IL: -Right? Uh, but I have been near uh, Eastland Mall and all the area around Central Avenue-.
EV: Uh-huh.
IL: -And I have seen all that area transform, little by little, little by little, into a Hispanic area, and also an international one, because you see Arabics, and there are people from all \\ places-. \\
EV: \\ Japanese-. \\
IL: -Japanese, Vietnamese, from everywhere-.
EV: \\ Uh-huh. \\
IL: \\ -Uh, \\ and so that, that has become an international hall, there-, as years pass by, I can see how that area grows and grows, and grows, the, the thing is that-, specially Latino population-.
EV: Uh-huh.
IL: -Uh, it was something, uh, impressive-.
EV: Uh-huh, \\ uh-huh. \\
IL: \\ -Because, \\ [laughs], uh, I-, where I live, I don't see-, you have to go to-.
EV: Places which are more \\ centric. \\
IL: \\ -Those places \\ which are more centric, where you can really notice the growth-.
EV: Uh-huh.
IL: -Which is something, something incredible, and, I don't know-, I imagine, that here, like in any other place, there are people who would receive them with open arms, but there are other people who don't want-.
EV: Uh-huh, uh-huh.
IL: -Who don't want to see the arrival of people from other places, because, you know, there are people-, there are, there are 40-, I can see both-.
EV: \\ Sides. \\
IL: \\ -Both sides. \\ I see why people come here-.
EV: Uh-huh.
IL: -To try to make a living and I perfectly understand that, and I also unders-, understand why native people from here don't like it, uh, what do you call it? They feel they are being invaded.
EV: Uh-huh.
IL: Because these people come and, where are we supposed to place them?
EV: Of course.
IL: I have-, what bothers me is the illegal immigration- .
EV: Uh-huh.
IL: -That's for sure, because that's like breaking-, we have laws in here, and all those people who come here without worrying about being illegal or not, or-, on the other hand, I see-, why do they come here illegally? Because they are starving in their countries.
EV: Uh-huh.
IL: And, how are you going to tell someone, a mother or a father, "You cannot come here, let your child starve because there is a law that says." If I was in the same situation, I would probably [laughs] do the same-.
EV: Of course.
IL: -So, it is a-, a difficult situation, I can see both, both sides of those types of things and I know some-, just a few, not that many-, people like those who have told me, "We have not been welcome here, people have treated us very badly, people don't want us here," and some other people who have told me, "People welcomed us with open arms," it depends on where you go.
EV: Uh-huh, uh-huh, yes, it depends, uh-huh.
IL: Usually, and this can be a generalization, it is a generalization without a doubt, people who come here who have more education, uh, professionals, that kind, you know, who come-, those-, they get adapted more easily and don't have much problem, it is the low class people who come, who are ignorant, uneducated, you know, and, what do you call it? ( ) illiterate-.
EV: Uh-huh.
IL: -Uh, those are the ones who have problems-.
EV: Of course.
IL: -Because they come to a social level where people [laughs] are-, they don't get adapted that well and are seen as-.
EV: A third class citizen.
IL: -Yes, third class citizen. As if they come here to steal their properties.
EV: Uh-huh.
IL: To take jobs away, to take away-, so I-, that I understand, it is a, it is a problem-.
EV: Of course.
IL: -It is a problem, a very, very difficult one-.
EV: Of course.
IL: -Uh, I don't know how, how it is going to get solved.
EV: And, do you think that, the Hispanic, uh, immigration will continue to grow?
IL: Uh, no doubt about it. I believe so, despite what president Fox says [laughs].
EV: Uh-huh. And, why do you think it has increased so much in the state of North Carolina, for example, in the past, it used to be the states of the west, \\ California-? \\
IL: \\ Yes. \\ I don't know, I imagine it is because there are jobs-.
EV: Uh-huh.
IL: -People go where the jobs are, uh, and also because of the weather-.
EV: Uh-huh.
IL: -It is a good one, it is not that cold, well, [laughs], last weekend has been-.
EV: The exception.
IL: -The exception, but, you know-, and when these people establish here, then their relatives come and those kinds of things, so I think that's why-, the thing is that this is a good region-.
EV: Uh-huh. \\ And I also think that-. \\
IL: \\ -( ) \\ To work and such, so-.
EV: -The cost of living is a little bit lower-.
IL: Of course, \\ that too. \\
EV: \\ -Compared \\ to other states.
IL: Yes, \\ exactly. \\
EV: \\ Uh-huh. \\
IL: Yes, I believe so-, there are many factors and such, and especially because people-, the ones who are here brings others.
EV: Of course. Ilia, one last question, you came here to this country when you were 16 years old, what would you recommend a person who is about that age, a teenager who is about to come here, with his parents or who wants to, uh, who wants to come on his own? What would you advise him?
IL: The first thing-, the most important thing is to speak English, to learn English, he should learn English, either in his country or when he gets here, he should also make American friends so that he can practice it-.
EV: Uh-huh.
IL: -Because that's what happens, many people stay inside their Latino group and they never learn the language-.
EV: Uh-huh.
IL: -Sometimes they go to school and stay with the same group who talks-, they have to get out of it, uh-.
EV: Out of that circle.
IL: -Of that circle and talk with-, uh, they have to practice the language, that's the best thing-.
EV: Of course.
IL: -To learn the language, and that-, there is no other way, a person who wants to be successful here, the one who wants to progress has to speak English, uh, that's the truth-.
EV: Uh-huh.
IL: -You have to get adapted to the culture, that doesn't mean that you have to leave yours, but that you have to adapt yourself to the culture, you have to learn the language, get an education, that's the only thing here that makes people-, be successful-.
EV: \\ Of course. \\
IL: \\ -And \\ make good money, have good jobs, not having to be, uh, doing little tasks of-, uh, that's hard-.
EV: Of course.
IL: -It's very hard, no doubt about it.
EV: Uh-huh.
IL: Uh, but the one who wants, here, uh, uh, there is no other country, in the world, that, uh, uh, where one has so many opportunities like here, here, the one who really wants-.
EV: Uh-huh.
IL: -There is no doubt about it, there are obstacles, of those-, but here, the one who wants to get an education, can get it.
EV: That's for sure.
IL: There is no doubt about it, and there is not-, I don't think there is another country in the world about which you can say that.
EV: Uh-huh. That's true.
IL: Uh-huh.
EV: Well, Ilia, thank you very much for your time and your contribution with this project, uh, I hope that I can interview you again in the near future-.
IL: \\ Whenever you want. \\
EV: \\ -To continue \\ talking, as long as that's what I am assigned to do, right?
IL: Yes, well, it was a pleasure, \\ my pleasure-. \\
EV: \\ Again, \\ thank you very much and, well, I wish you the best of luck, and we will be talking some other time.
IL: OK, fine. \\ See you. \\
EV: \\ Thank you. \\ So long.
IL: So long.