Dora María Aguilar-Loaiza (Dori Gross)
Immigrated from San José, Costa Rica
“I was put in ESL classes because that’s where they put us immigrants. But I already spoke English.”
Dora María Auilar-Loaiza
My grandmother, Dori, began to recount her stories of coming to America as a high schooler, frustratedly discussing the lack of understanding of immigrants at school. Growing up in Costa Rica, most students are required to learn English during the years before university, and my grandmother was one of them. By the time she arrived in the United States, she was fluent in English, but she was still placed in ESL classes, as schools automatically assumed that immigrants needed to be placed in those classes.
“Being in the ESL classes was what bored me. I went from a high-level education to just learning basic English skills.” Life was very different in America, and at first it didn’t seem like a change for the better. The ESL classes left her with a very basic education, unlike the one she had been used to, which left her bored and wishing she could learn more. Dori and her family also had to leave their beautiful house in Costa Rica and ended up in a tiny apartment in a not-so-nice area of Los Angeles. She went from having the opportunity to go to college for free and get a higher education, to not even being able to afford it. Left uninterested in school and unable to afford a college education, Dori decided to pursue something very different than her cousins who stayed in Costa Rica and eventually became doctors and lawyers.
While immigrating to America didn’t initially seem to be the best move, all of the promises of the “American Dream” did materialize in the next generation. Sometimes it takes one step backwards to take two steps forward.