Like any city neighbourhood, my section of Nashua transforms itself when the weather gets hot. Things get loud. Teenagers are everywhere, skateboarding and flirting. People pull out cheap chairs and sit outside chatting for hours.My neighbourhood is mostly home to white people with roots in New Hampshire that go back a generation or more, but a large portion the people who sit out on porches and stoops come from Latin America.
They’re the ones that give the place that sense of a community living out in the open that you find in the residential corners of much bigger cities. I grew up in a tiny town where grown-ups mostly stayed in their own houses and yards, and when I see people living like this I always find myself thinking of Sesame Street.
Angel Morales was one of those sitting outside Sunday evening. Talking with him made me wonder about the future of this kind of street life. I wondered what will happen to this neighbourhood if immigrants don’t want to come here anymore.
Angel didn’t need to be spending his time on one of the most run-down streets in Nashua. He told me he and his wife have a nice house in a nice town nearby. But he’s tied to the neighbourhood. He has children and grandchildren here, and others, like the people I saw him sitting with, who are like family to him.
One couple he was hanging out with came to the country just a few months ago from the Dominican Republic, but Angel knew them before he and his family immigrated decades ago. He said he’s been helping them find resources they need—places to live, support in searching for jobs, staples from the food pantry when steady work doesn’t come through. He’s kind of an expert in this stuff after helping many other Dominican immigrants with the same issues.
“I’ve been doing that for years because it’s what they did when I came here, with no English,” he said.
These days, Angel speaks very good English, and he’s assimilated in other ways too.
“I got divorced and went for the white girl,” he said with a laugh.
His second wife works in human resources, and her income has kept the family going for the past 18 months while Angel’s been unemployed. Before that, he worked at a cable manufacturer until he was injured. He showed me a long scar running down his arm.
“One of the machines loved me too much,” he said.
The company gave him $18,000 for pain and suffering, he said, but it didn’t want to keep him on the job after that. He’s been applying for other jobs ever since, at other plants or wherever he thinks he might have a shot. He hasn’t had any luck so far.
“I figured it out the other day,” he said. “When you get to a certain age in this country you get rejected… They’re looking for the young first.”
Of course, even the young can find it hard to get work, especially if they’re new to the country and don’t speak much English. Angel said there are a lot of people like that coming over from the Dominican Republic. Many of them applied for visas years ago, and when their number comes up, they want to move, despite the reports they hear about the U.S. economy.
“The thing is, they’re coming at a bad time,” he said. “The American dollar used to be the power. Not anymore.”
I asked him if he’d suggest that anyone in his homeland who’s just starting to think about the move might want to reconsider, and he said he wouldn’t need to.
“Right now, because they see what’s going on, I don’t think you have to tell them anything,” he said.
For himself, though, the U.S. has been a good home. His children, both those he moved with and three younger kids he had with his second wife, are doing fine. Thanks to his wife’s income they were just able to buy their 16-year-old daughter a car.
“I’m living the American Dream,” he said. “So far.”
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