Single Mom Taking Charge
Julia Moran was 18 when she arrived in New York in 1986 from the Dominican Republic. She had grown up on a farm, one of 16 children, in a tiny village, Pastor, in the northwest of the country, an area with no electricity.
“Growing up was difficult because we had a lot of needs,” she told her son, Elijah, who interviewed her. “I had to gather the fruit of the land—collecting peanuts and corn to sell them—in order for my parents to make a living.”
To go to school, she and her brothers and sisters had to walk 10 miles each way—“walking under the Caribbean sun,” as she put it. But at the same time, “you didn’t know any better—that was the life that you were exposed to.”
When the opportunity came to go to the U.S., she took it. She had almost finished high school, but didn’t take her exams so she came without a diploma. But the draw of America was strong.
When she arrived at the Miami airport on her way to JFK, she said she was lost because she didn’t speak English. “I remember so clearly, a lady behind the counter at the airport, said ‘you have to speak English.’ I wanted to say something but was unable to. Yes, this is the U.S., you have to speak English, but this was Miami and the person had immigrant status, just like I did. The same people—you think these are my people—they make you feel like you don’t belong.”
Over almost three decades, Moran slowly continued her schooling and now works as a hospital administrator. She is married for the second time and now has three children, a granddaughter and is an American citizen.
Her route to her life now had many roadblocks that she had to navigate her way around or over. When she first got here, she worked in a supermarket in the Bronx and took English classes at night in Manhattan. After she had begun to be comfortable in English, she worked her way up from her first office job on the word processing staff through a variety of other jobs. She got her GED and began taking English classes in the morning and working from 4 to midnight.
Eventually, she attended Fordham University, part-time after work, thanks to some tuition reimbursement from the company where she worked. After that company moved to Connecticut, she found another job and attended Lehman College, where luckily they had a childcare center that Elijah attended. After many years with an abusive first husband, she got a divorce and “decided to take charge as a single mom with my three children, a full time job and full time school (a perfect combination to go insane),” she said. Ultimately she received her bachelor’s degree in health care administration. None of that was easy. It took a long time.
She looks back and recognizes how far she has come from that 18-year-old young woman at the Miami airport. Her children do as well. But when Elijah asked her was there anything she doesn’t have here in the U.S., she said, “back home I didn’t have this thing—‘everything is for just for you’. Everything was about everybody to share. If you have something—it was for everybody. If we only have 50 cents to have the meal, then we would have just rice, or we would just have plantain. Here we have abundance . . .but I feel incomplete, because you leave your soul.”
Julia Moran grew up in a small village, Pastor in Estancia Vieja in the northwestern part of the Dominican Republic. When she was growing up, the area she lived in had no electricity and she and all her 15 brothers and sisters worked long hours on the farm with their parents. She, like 47 percent of the Dominicans in the U.S., moved to New York City for a better life.