Ángela Salamanca

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Interview Text and Audio


Angela Salamanca is a Colombian woman who has spent over twenty years in the United States. She lives with her two daughters in the Raleigh, NC area. In the course of the interview she discusses topics regarding medicine in Colombia and the United States such as being without insurance and the problems that she faces with the healthcare system. She describes how the healthcare system is much more egalitarian in the United States than in Colombia. The classism affects whether someone has access to quality care, if any care at all. She describes her experience as “lucky”, as she found healthcare insurance through her former employer when she became pregnant. Angela has not had to experience the sometimes inconsistent prenatal care that many immigrant women have to face. However, she expressed disdain toward the United States healthcare system for being inefficient and expensive.



AB: right now I am about to record with Ángela Salamanca.

Adriann discusses with her how her recently opened bar is going and how her summer with José Cisneros, a SAF intern is going. I also explain to her my interest in the topic, of the birth/prenatal experiences of Latina immigrants. I give her the information packet. She tells me she is from Bogotá, Colombia.

[00: 3:11] AB: So, I’m interviewing Ms. Ángela Salamanca. Ms. Salamanca is a host for SAF, which is Student Action for Farmworkers, and is also a mother of two. So could you please tell us about life in Colombia versus here?

[00:3:31]: AS: So I moved from Colombia when I was 17. So I’ve really lived here the majority of my formative years. I’ve been in the United States some 21 years. So I left home when I was fairly young, I has just graduated high school. I was living with my mother and sister in Bogotá, in an apartment, which is a really big city. I spent the weekends with my grandparents who lived in the north part of the city. I sort of got to see a lot, I got to spend a lot of time with my father’s family in Bogotá. But my dad didn’t live in Colombia; he lived in a lot of other places. He lived in the states, and then he lived in Aruba, so he was always away. But I got to spend a lot of time growing up with his part of the family, my grandparents, my aunts and uncles and a lot of my cousins. But we lived with mom.

[00:4:31] AB: similar to me too. I have a single mom, but I spend most of my time with my dad’s family. Umh, so what mad you come to the United States?

[00:04:48] AS: my options for university were very limited because e had very limited resources. So my only option was to go to a public university, Colombia Ciudadana Nacional. And I had to pass a very big exam and I didn’t. And I could take it 6 months after my first try. So in those 6 months, in those 6 months mom and dad worried about what I was going to be doing. So, I had an uncle who was living here so they said, “why don’t you just go visit your uncle. You know, you have an opportunity to practice some English. You probably could work and then you could come back in 6 months and take the test and hopefully you would get on with your university studies. So that’s was the original decision of why I moved here

[00:5:45] AB: and you decided to stay?

AS: I did. When I got here, I have always worked, as a means of helping mom a little bit. Just having a little cash in hand. So when I got here, when I started working I was really making some money I was never making before. It really showed me the potential of me really helping my mom and my sister back home. So I just you know, it just made a lot of sense to be here, to stay here, plus you know, I was 17. My mom was sort of like a tiger mom. Being away from all of that, in an environment where there was a lot of freedom. I was living with my uncle’s wife at the time. They were separated. So they weren’t even living with us, and there were two other younger folks that were like cousins to me. It was just a really great time. I wasn’t going to go back. There are a lot of reasons why I wasn’t going to go back. But I think those two were it.

[00:6:53] AB: Are your mom and the rest of your extended family still in Colombia?

[00:6:54] AS: My mom is. My dad and his wife and his family are, and my grandparents yea. So the majority of the family, yes. I have aunts and cousins who live in the States and some that live in other places of the world.

[00:7:15] AB: Do you go visit them back in Colombia?

[00:07:16] AS: I do. I go once a year. My grandfather just passed away. He was 99. We got to see him last year. SO he lived a full life. And my ex-husband’s family is from Colombia, so my kids get to go to Colombia often. So yea, I try to go.

[00:7:38] AB: And, if you don’t mind me asking, when did you give birth to your daughters

[00:7:49] AS: Mmhhh. I had Sal when I had just turned 27-28. And the Ana was born in 2006; I was 30 when she was born. She was born in March

AB: And where were they born?

[00:07:55] AS: They were born in Western Wake in Cary, though we were living in Cary at the time. I had an epidural in a hospital, a regular birth. My first, labor was really long. I went into labor at 6 in the morning on the 30th and was in labor all day on the 30th, and was admitted into the hospital at around 10 o clock. Then I had an epidural at 11:00, then she wan born at 7:30 the next day. So she was born on Halloween. But you know it was intense while I was at home, but while I was at the hospital it was fine. It went great. And then Ana’s birth was really easy. I got in at 2 and she as born at 11. It was a breeze.

AB: And how old are they if you don’t mind me asking?

[00:9:28] AS: Sal is 10. Ana is 9.

AB: And how is the health care system here vs. in Colombia?

[00:9:40] AS: So, I’m not really sure. My dad is a psychiatrist and a lot of uncles and aunts are doctors. So we were always seen by one of them. Yes…(laughs) Here, I didn’t have insurance for along long time. SO it was between Planned Parenthood and the hospital that I dealt with a lot of things. And now that I have insurance… once the girls were born, now I have insurance. But they have a pediatrician that has seen them since they were little. I have experiences the health care system more through my mother. And, I don’t know, it’s not great. But she has health insurance and it covers the basics. We just had to put her in assisted living in Colombia, but that’s not covered. But she had to be in the hospital for two weeks and pretty much all of tit was covered. But I do pay a certain amount of month. And it wasn’t like the greatest facilities, but she is covered.

[00:11: 13] AB: When you didn’t have health insurance when you got sick, what would you have to do?

[00:11:18] AS: I remember that it was one tie that I only been to the emergency room was when I had really bad cramps and I had been sick for a while. They made me stay for about two days and I had about a three thousand dollar bill for that. I mean this is a long time ago. So what I learned is that I don’t need to go to the doctor and I need to just take care of myself. Umh, and that basically how I do. I try to watch what I eat, I work out regularly, so I try to stay as healthy as I can. If I get a cold I am a big believer in eastern style medicine. So I take vitamins and I do acupuncture. And I do as much home and natural remedies as possible. And id I do, have a major question, I call dad and I ask him “so what do you think is going on?” We have been having to go to the doctor a lot because my littlest one is dealing with asthma

[00:12:31] AB: Do you have any Colombian remedies that you do?

[00:12:39] AS: I do, but I think they are more like wives tales. SO whenever someone gets sick with a cold, they rub their feet with Vicks VapoRub and put in your chest. And it’s believed that you have to wear a red cloth because it keeps you warm and you have to sweat. And you drink a specific tea with brown sugar, and lemon. And the idea behind all of this is that you have to sweat it all out. SO that’s one of the things that you do when you have a cold.

[00:13:20] Adriann shares some home remedies that are similar.

[00:13:38] AB: So when a woman is pregnant in Colombia, versus here, from your experience, how is sit different?

[00:13:43] AS: I don’t know that I know, Because when I think when I was there, I don’t remember any of my aunts being pregnant. Or maybe I was just young enough that I wasn’t paying attention and a lot of my high school friends that have kids, we have sort of lost touch. I know that it does make a difference; depending on what class you are in society. Because of course you are going to have access to better care, than if you don’t have … so I know that it is very present there. Unlike here, that even if you have health insurance, they will go to the hospital and they will take care of you. I don’t think that’s the case in in Colombia. But you now, I haven’t really haven’t experienced that.

[00:14:41] AB: Can you explain more about the class system and health care in Colombia

[00:14:47] AS: I think that in Colombia it is definitely you know, a classist society. So the more money you have and the more people that you know the better access you are going to have to better care. So, you know private clinics, best doctors. More accessibility to medicine. I think that you don’t have health insurance, or to health insurance that you can afford, I think its, its not the best, then the access to clinics you have, are not the best facilities. Overcrowded, you now things like that.

[00:15:36] AB: Is it more a racial thing in Colombia?

[00:15:38] AS: No, no and I always say that I never experienced racism like I experienced here or have seen it here, but in Colombia classism is the equivalent to racism here. People will judge you by where you live, or what you drive, how you dress, or what school you go to, it doesn’t matter what color you are. But then we judge you by that, you can have all the money in the world and be any color and you will be accepted.

[00:16:19] AB: that’s good and bad.

[00:16:20] AS: I think it’s horrible!

[00:16:21] AB: if you are a person of color here and you have money… here its different. When you found out that you were pregnant did you at that time have health insurance?

[00:16:33] AS: I did. I did, I was working for the city, fortunately. And it was kind of like luck, lucky trike for me, because I did have health insurance. And I had just started working for the city fairly recent. Maybe a year and I wasn’t planning to get pregnant

[00:17:00] AB: I forgot to ask, where did you first move when you came to the United States?

[00:17:04] AS: here, here to Raleigh.

[00:17:08] AB: I don’t think that Raleigh is a place where a lot of Colombians settle, I think like Miami, New York.

[00:17:11] Ángela discusses that there aren’t as many Colombians in the Raleigh area. She says may not have picked Raleigh as a place to live when she first immigrated, and only came here because of her family. Nevertheless, she is glad that she did move here, versus a more traditional center for Colombian immigration, because there are many more opportunities here. She also tells of how she spent time in New York but moved back to Chapel Hill, North Carolina to pursue a degree in fine arts and art history.

[00:18:19] AB: And how has your experience been, navigating the health care system? Well also, when you didn’t have insurance and when you did have insurance.

[00:18:26] AS: I think its.. I never had a good experience. I think that it’s expensive. I think that even with health insurance it’s expensive, because it so complicated with copays and deductibles. And, so I just don’t think its user friendly. I think it’s a rip off. So, I wish I could opt out. Just because I think that the money that I pay… I don’t see any value in it. You know like I don’t go to the doctor often, but when I do, I still have to pay for a visit. SO I just don’t think its… I think health care should be free. I think if we were a society that invested in a health care lifestyle, I think that we would solve our issues that we have. I think that unfortunately, the culture that we, as a country, support is one of not prevention, and you can see it in the diet. The way that we live. The way that cities are designed. We are really not looking at the bigger picture. When it comes to like… If everything was cycle, if we really paid attention and if we are moving better and eating better, our health would be so much better and we wouldn’t be in the predicament that we are with high cost of health insurance. Because, we are paying for all these people that don’t have the means to have a healthier lifestyle. I just don’t … I am totally against all of tit. I try to not go to the doctor, out of principle.

[00:20:30] AB: And when you went to seek out doctors, did you encounter any language barriers or cultural differences?

[00:20:47] AS: here? I don’t know. I think that… if forgot to tell you that three years ago, I got a hernia. And I had health insurance. But for me, it was cheaper to go home, to go home and pay an airplane ticket, and get it done there then it was to get it done here. That was like the last straw for me. That was the last straw for me. I was like “why am I wasting money on an insurance that when I really did need it, it didn’t even come through.” And I don’t know… I think back to your question about have I ever encountered a culture difference when I go to the doctor? I m not sure.

[00:21:52] Ángela is talking to some repairmen

[00:21:59] AS: So yea, I don’t think that I have. I don’t think that I have experienced anything different. Back in Colombia we were always seeing our family doctors, which is our aunt or uncles. SO yea.

[00:22:17] AB: So when you came to the United States, were you speaking English?

[00:22:20] AS: I did. I had graduated from high school that taught English. I had a really good understanding of the language.

[00:22:36] AB: And, what kind of family support did you have when you were pregnant with your daughters?

[00:22:43] AS: I had incredible support. I often…and it's such a cliché that you don’t understand what your mother goes through in life until you become a mother. But man it was really true. I was here. I was married at the time. I had… and I think that the time I got pregnant was such a trial time in my life. My sister passed away, in October and I got pregnant in March. So, because of my sister’s passing, we had a lot of support from our friend and family, so when I got pregnant, all of that attention and company was poured into my pregnancy. And I felt like I had an incredible pregnancy, you know. Which is very telling from the amount of weight that I gained. I was just so comforted. I was very nurtured through that time. And then, when I gave birth, my ex husbands mother was here with us, she came and stayed for about a month. His sister was here. I just had a lot of support. I don’t know if I could’ve done this by myself. Which is what my mother did. She had me, and then she had my sister and she was by herself, with very, very little support. So it was a very different experience. And I am very grateful for all those people.

[00:24:21] AB: And, have you had any chances to, or have any friends or family who have become pregnant here who you’ve extended the same support to?

[00:24:35] AS: Umh, I think for the most part, yes. A lot of friends I know, who have grown up with me. I have cousins who have kids here. We have a lot of family that comes and helps and stays with them. I never had my mother come and stay with me, but I had my ex mother in law, who was like a mother to me and she was always very supportive. And I think that my cousins have had that, my friends to.

[00:25:18] AB: And what important lessons do you teach your daughters as a colombiana?

[00:25:27] AS: I think that for me, it’s important to know where I come from. That’s why I make sure that we go home, so that they can see mom, so they can see dad, so they can see the grandparents, and sort of like have an idea of where I grew up. My ex-husband I know is the same way. He wants the, we want them to have a very good understanding f of what Colombia is about, and to feel proud, instead of ashamed of where we come from. And I think there’s a richness and cultural wealth that comes from our backgrounds. I am proud that they are first generation Americans. Of all the opportunities that they are going that have in their life, just by living here. Not just what I can do for them, so I’m really proud of that. But I also want them to honor and recognize the importance of their cultural background. So I think we do a lot of things. I try to keep telling them stories, to share with them, music, memories that I have now that grandpa passed away. It’s a really good opportunity for my just to go back into memory lane and just tell them all these things I remember about him… and just share traditions I shared with him, that we shared with him. And they love going t Colombia. They just want to be there the whole summer by themselves.

[00:27:08] AB: laughs will you let them?

[00:27:08] Ángela tells me about how she plans to let her daughters go to Colombia next summer for little, but that she, like her mother, is a “tiger mom”.

[00:27:35] AB: do you have any observations about being a Colombian immigrant here, versus a Mexican or Mesoamerican immigrant?

[00:27:42[AS: I think that where my family is, maybe not so much my mother, my mother wasn’t a very educated woman, but she worked very hard to help us overcome a lot of things we didn’t have…but my fathers family is a very well educated family. I think that’s made a difference in the things that I chose, the paths that I take in life. I went to college here, I try to travel as much as I can. I think that [education] makes a difference as an immigrant. I’ve never felt that I’m less, that I’ve been treated differently. I know I’m different, and I’ve always tried to use that to my advantage. But I think education it’s really what made a difference for me…. And I think that a lot of the immigrants here have not hade those opportunities, because they come here to work. And I’ve worked; I’ve worked really hard. Having a business is one of the hardest things you can do. I think that for a lot of my counterpart immigrants, it’s a different story. Yu come here to hustle to make ends meet. And depending on how you do it, you can certainly make a lot of money and help out your family. It sort of depends on how you define success. 29:39. But I think if the immigrant community can really back and honor the importance of education for ourselves and our children, that’s what’s going to make them bridge the gap. Because I really feel like this is the land of opportunity. I think as an immigrant you see opportunity everywhere you turn. So I think we have an advantage there. You need to be apart of those movers and shakers in the community; you can only do that by educating yourself. It doesn’t have to be formal education; it can be just by evolving and growing as a human being. I think we are in a place we can do it.

[00:30:41] Adriann remarks that the Triangle area is especially full of opportunity.

[00:30:45] Ángela remarks that you can do it anywhere, if you really need to.

[00:31:01] Ángela, when asked how she defines success remarks that, success is obtained by having a balanced life. As a mother, she remarks that raising strong and independent women also defines success. As an entrepreneur, she says that sometimes it can be difficult to find a balance between work and family time.

[00:32:08] Adriann remarks that for single moms, raising strong, intelligent women is really important.