When Jaime Renderos’ mother Elba made the decision to leave her native country of El Salvador in 1975 to find a better life for herself and her children, it was one of the hardest decisions of her life.
By RIMSIE McCONIGA
When Jaime Renderos’ mother Elba made the decision to leave her native country of El Salvador in 1975 to find a better life for herself and her children, it was one of the hardest decisions of her life. But her family’s living conditions were that of hunger, disease and political instability. The constant struggle to feed her children turned into constant uncertainty and despair. She knew she had to try to forge a new beginning and get her kids out of El Salvador.
When she obtained a visa and left for the U.S., the children stayed with their grandmother in El Salvador until their mom found work. They were eventually reunited with her in the U.S.
“I came to the United States in 1983, a few months after my 18th birthday,” says Jaime. “I came from an extremely poor family, as is the case of most families in El Salvador.”
Despite all the struggles his family faced in El Salvador, he has a lot of fond memories of growing up there.
“Some of the happiest memories I have are the times I spent with my great-grandmother and how loved and welcomed she made me feel, her home-cooked meals, watching her sew as I lay in my bed slowly falling asleep, sometimes waking up in the middle of the night and there she was, still sewing away,” he said.
Jaime’s first impression upon arriving in the U.S. was one of awe and admiration.
“I immediately felt that I was finally home. I’ve always felt like this is where I belong and since all my family is here, I guess that’s true anyway,” says Jaime.
When he arrived, he had some basic knowledge of the English language, but he didn’t speak much and could only understand it when it was spoken slowly. But having listened his whole life to music with English lyrics, he had always wanted to learn to speak English fluently.
After about a year he began feeling comfortable speaking English and by the next year he was fluent. And now it’s difficult to detect even a trace of a Spanish accent when he speaks.
“I’m still learning but that’s just like everything else in life,” says Jaime. “Learning the language was extremely important to me since I knew this was going to be my home. But besides that I always loved English. I think it’s quite a beautiful language and one I needed in order to succeed if I was to stay and live here.”
In 2016, Jaime became a citizen and he describes the day that he stood with hundreds of other immigrants from around the world and took the Oath of Allegiance in front of “old glory” as the greatest accomplishment of his life.
“I feel very proud to be a citizen, not for myself, but because of all the good things this country has done for the world and continues to do, for the great example it sets for all others to follow, for its accomplishments throughout its short history as a country, for all the humanitarian efforts around the world and the list goes on and on,” says Jaime.
There are things Jaime misses about El Salvador. He says that first and foremost he misses the people, who he says are warm, loving, caring and hard-working, the beautiful landscapes including mountains, lakes, rivers, volcanoes, forests and beaches and “the most delicious and varied types of food and exotic tropical fruits.”
“Living in the United States is quite different than what I was used to living in El Salvador, and that’s a major understatement,” says Jaime. “Here I can enjoy so many things that I couldn’t even dream of before. There is so much more freedom here, opportunities are almost endless, despite the problems we’re faced with nowadays, there is always hope and ways to make things right and better.”
As an associate at Walmart, Jaime believes in hard work.
“Hard work and doing our best should be important to all of us,” says Jaime.
Jaime will always be grateful for the sacrifices his mother made and challenges she overcame as she set off for the U.S. to ensure that her children would never be hungry again and have the opportunity to thrive in a country made great by its welcoming stance on immigrants.
“Anyone hoping to make a better life for themselves, there is no better place on Earth than this great country of ours, the good ol’ USA,” says Jaime. “I call this country home. I have for almost 36 years now. I love it with all my heart, my whole family is here. There’s no other place I’d rather live.”