Daniela Madriz

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Daniela Madriz is a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill from Guatemala City, Guatemala. She attended a French school in Guatemala, where she learned French and English. Madriz begins the interview with describing her education in Guatemala and why she decided to come to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She also discusses her experiences living in Guatemala, where she acknowledges she in part of the "privileged minority," and some of her experiences at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill ..



Molly Acuff: My name is Molly and I'm here in Chapel Hill, North Carolina with
Daniela. Where are you from?
Daniela: I'm from Guatemala.
MA: And how old are you?
D: I'm eighteen.
MA: When did you come to the United States?
D: I came last year, August 2010.
MA: What made you decide to come?
D: College. I was accepted to UNC.
MA: So are you on a student visa?
MA: What made you interested in coming to the United States for college?
D: Well it has a great, it has great college programs in general, and I studied in a
French school in Guatemala, so I wanted to try like a different culture this time, not
MA: Was that common among your friends back in Guatemala to go out of the
country for school?
D: Well among my school friends, yeah. But not in general. Outside of my school
most people just stay in Guatemala for college.
MA: What part of Guatemala are you from?
D: I'm from the city. Guatemala City.
MA: So a French school...what made you want to go to a French school?
D: Well my parents chose for me. In Guatemala you don't change institutions.
You stay in the same building if you will, kindergarten until high school. So they liked
the idea of a multicultural school so I learned about two cultures and learned three
languages. So basically because it was a good school.
MA: So were most of the kids at your school, were they also from Guatemala or
were there international students at your school?
D: There were some international students, in general Swiss or French, but most,
most students were from Guatemala.
MA: How do you feel that your French school differed from the typical
Guatemalan experience?
D: It's definitely more...internationalistic? Like it had a big focus on what's going
on in the rest of the world, especially Europe of course, but also globalization, different
changes that they're seeing in the world. I didn't go to any of the other schools but that's
the impression I get. Also, in general the French pessimism was very present in my
education, while Guatemalan schools have a different mindset for the world in general.
MA: When you decided that you were probably going to come to the United
States for school, what made you think about North Carolina?
D: I applied to eight schools and I chose them based on usnews.com top ten
marketing programs and I found out that UNC has one of the best journalism programs in
the nation, so yeah...that's why I applied here.
MA: How have you liked North Carolina so far?
D: I love it. I love it! It was my first time here, like I didn't visit the school
before coming — it wasn't my first time in the states at all, I've been to a lot of places,
never to the west coast but in general big cities and small towns and everything. People
here are great. It's my favorite place in the states so far.
MA: So when you came to college did your parents come with you to bring you?
D: My Mom came with me to my CTOPS session but then she went back home.
MA: So how is it being away from them?
D: Well since I love it so much here, I'm never sad, I don't want to go back in
general. But I mean I guess you always miss home, and I miss speaking Spanish. Having
an accent and thinking in Spanish and translating it to English is tiring sometimes, so
there's always small things.
MA: Do you have siblings back home?
D: I do. I have two younger brothers. One's seventeen and the other one's
MA: Is the seventeen year old, is he planning on coming to college in the United
D: Well, I guess he's considered it, but he has a girlfriend right now so he
probably doesn't want to leave and he's more attached to home, so I don't think he'll end
up coming.
MA: How often do you get to see your family?
D: I, well this is my first year, so I've been home twice since I left, and I'm
coming back for summer after the first summer session. But in general, spring break was
an exception. It's very expensive, so I don't think I'll do that anymore.
MA: So your friends from Guatemala who also go to school in other countries,
where are some of your closest friends studying?
D: Well, we're spread across the globe. My two best friends, one's in Arkansas
and the other one's in UVA. I have three in France, one in Spain, and one in Argentina,
so yeah.
MA: So what are you studying here?
D: What? I'm double majoring in studio art and advertising and I recently decided
to minor in Christianity and culture.
MA: What got you interested in all of those?
D: Well, I've always like art. I'm a really artistic person, so that's the one thing
that I'm really good at. So, but I like beautiful art, not like contemporary art...I don't
really get it. So I felt like advertising was a way to make commercial, beautiful art and I
like communicating with people. And then art well, I figured I should know about it.
Then Christianity, I recently was inspired because I want to learn more about it. That's
for personal reasons. I want to learn more about my own religion.
MA: Are you Catholic?
D: I'm Catholic, yeah.
MA: So you mentioned earlier that you go to the Newman Center, but have you
noticed any differences between Catholicism or going to Catholic mass at home, and
differences between it in the United States?
D: Well, the religion itself is definitely the same, but the people who practice the
religion ~ I guess it's different because Guatemala is a mostly Catholic country — so
there's a lot of people who are Catholic because their parents taught them, they've never
really questioned themselves, so it's not a very vivid faith. Do you say that?
MA: Yeah, they're not living it?
D: They're not living it. Yeah, and here since it's not the majority in general, the
few people that do go to the Catholic center are in general convinced of their faith.
MA: So far you said you've liked North Carolina, but what differences do you
between your life here and your life back in Guatemala?
D: Tons of them! In what sense?
MA: Either in how you spend your free time, or safety, like stuff like that.
D: Well I don't know if it's because it's Chapel Hill, one of the safest towns in the
US, or because it's college, or just because it's the US, but in general it's very safe here,
while Guatemala has a very bad violence situation. For instance, the big difference is that
I can actually walk wherever and take the bus wherever and be safe and I don't need a car
to get to a lot of places. In Guatemala, I usually stay home, then drive wherever I need to
go and stay there. There's no way to walk around and enjoy— not in the city, you can do
it in other areas, but that's where I live.
MA: What about how you spend your free time, what do you like to do with your
time here when you're not studying?
D: Well there are so many resources here like clubs and events, so I usually do
that. And I have a boyfriend so I spend time with him, I read, but I guess, I mean I don't
think there's a difference in that sense with Guatemala, other than I can get there easier
because I can walk and like I don't need anybody to drive me everywhere.
MA: So your boyfriend, did you meet him here?
D: Yeah, I recently met him, yeah.
MA: Does your family in Guatemala know about him?
D: Yes, they do.
MA: And how do they feel?
D: See, it's a long story.
MA: Well we have time!
D: I kind of got out of a long distance relationship with someone in Guatemala
recently and they're like, now I'm with him, so it's kind of quick. So that's the only
objection they have, like ?Is this wise?? But they have no problem at all. They want to
meet him and they trust me and my criteria.
MA: And where's he from?
D: He's from Raleigh.
MA: So they don't expect you to be with someone from Guatemala?
D: I guess they'd prefer that in the sense that that would make me stay in
Guatemala after college, and of course they want me close to them, but no. Other than
that, they really don't care.
MA: It sounds like you come from a really good background in Guatemala, do
you feel like your experience in Guatemala is the typical Guatemalan experience?
D: Definitely not. I mean Guatemala is a poor country. I'm definitely among the
privileged minority, so no, definitely I'm not the average Guatemalan in any sense.
MA: Have you encountered any other people from Guatemala at UNC?
D: One. There's this other girl. I actually knew her cousin before coming so he
introduced us kind of. Yeah, I think she's the only one.
MA: What about other Latinos? Have you gotten involved in any organizations
like CHisPA or anything like that?
D: Well, yeah I definitely met a lot of Latinos. There was way more than I
expected, or even people that don't necessarily speak Spanish but have some Latino
decent. Now I didn't join any organizations — I went to CHisPA meetings but that was it.
And, I still hang out with a lot of those persons.
MA: Did you like CHisPA or what were your feelings about it?
D: I just, I just wasn't interested. I guess it was cool but I didn't, I couldn't
identify myself with them for some reason. There are organizations that I might consider
actually. No, it's not an organization but I don't know if you've heard of the Clan of
Spanish speakers? It's technically not an organization but they have this Facebook and
always things about their events, Hispanic related events, and articles or whatever. So I
like that, and I know the people there so.
MA: About Spanish, do you feel like you get to speak it a lot at school?
D: There's definitely a lot of students that are in Spanish classes. It's impressive,
I wasn't expecting it. There are a lot of people who want me to speak Spanish to them so
they learn. So in that sense I speak Spanish, but not like fluently. It's like I need to be
slow, and clear, and help them, so more like a tutor than a conversation. But I speak
Spanish with some other friends too. It's not so common, but it happens.
MA: How many years of English did you take when you were in Guatemala?
D: Since I was ten. But yeah, English in my school wasn't so good, but we have
so much American influence, like we have songs, tv shows, movies that are in English
and I traveled a lot. I went to summer camps and things like that, so all that contributed.
MA: So you feel like you've been doing fine English wise in your classes and
stuff isn't too hard?
D: Yeah, yeah. I was worried about it but I've definitely gotten better at English.
I'm still trying to improve, but yeah I don't think it's caused any major problems.
MA: In your family back at home, does anyone speak English?
D: Yes, my family, my parents, my brothers, and my grandparents on this side of
Mom, and my father's parents ~ I mean they could survive but they don't speak a lot.
MA: Did they also learn English at school?
D: I don't know, I don't think so. Maybe they took a class or something.
MA: You mentioned that you want to do marketing or advertising, what kind of
job are you hoping to get?
D: I have no idea. Seriously, I'm studying what I like right now. God will tell me
where he wants me later.
MA: Do you think you'd like to stay in the United States, or where would you
like to live after college?
Daniela: Well my mindset when I came here was that I was definitely going to
come back to Guatemala to help, but that was also ~ I mean I love my country, I love it, I
love it— but that was also because of the fact that I was in a long distance relationship and
missed my boyfriend. But now that I'm not with him anymore, I still want to go back but
I'm not so sure.
MA: You mentioned going back to help?
D: Yeah, I don't know how.
MA: Who?
D: Oh well there's plenty of help needed everywhere. Poverty wise, but also
politically, in every sense.
MA: And do you have any idea if you were to stay in the United States what area
of the country you'd want to be in?
D: I love North Carolina, but I have no idea. I'm not even sure if I'd stay in the
US or go somewhere else.
MA: Where else would you maybe consider going?
D: Well since I know the French culture so well, I feel like I could live there.
Also, some other Latin American country, or yeah.
MA: So you said that you've traveled a bunch before coming to the United States
for college, but where have you gone?
D: In the US?
MA: And outside.
D: Well, I went to France twice with my class and also with my Mom I visited
Greece and Italy, so that's Europe. In Latin America I've been to El Salvador, Mexico,
Honduras. I'd love to meet South America, I wish I had gone but not yet. In the states
I've been to a lot of places, Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, Washington D.C., Miami,
yeah Colorado.
MA: Do you know where you were in Mexico?
D: The capital.
MA: Have you found in your time traveling around in big cities that Guatemala
City is like other cities in Central America?
D: Well I went to the wealthy part of the capital in Mexico, and Mexico is a
richer country that Guatemala, so in general the city didn't look like that of a poor
country. Although, it was maybe a little bit more dirty and disorganized than an
American city. I did some differences, but I don't think it was so many.
MA: When you started coming to school here, did you feel like living in the
United States— I know you'd visited— but living you had to adjust to some cultural
differences? Or what cultural differences do you see between living in Guatemala and the
United States?
D: Well, my high school's culture I'd say rather than Guatemalan, which is very
open and interested in the rest of the world, I'd say it's different because how we know
what's going on in the world and we're interested in other countries and the world in
general. While here, people tend to be more like US centric, like their center is the US.
They're kind of interested but they just don't know a lot. Especially being from
Guatemala, we're right under Mexico, we're not far. Guatemala is closer to North
Carolina than say California, but a lot of people don't know where it is. So that was weird
I guess.
MA: So say you were to meet someone while you were in the United States who
you wanted to marry, and you end up living in the United States, how important would
passing on your Guatemalan heritage to your children be?
D: Very important.
MA: Would they speak Spanish?
D: Yeah. I think that's a very unique opportunity to grow up bilingual without
even studying it. So I wouldn't miss that definitely. Also, I really want my children to
know about my culture and where they come from. Where I come from.
MA: How do you think your parents would feel if you decided to settle in the
United States after college?
D: Sad. Definitely sad. Especially since my parents settled there, and they
could've lived abroad if they wanted to. They really defend Guatemala and think that
people should stay there to fight for the country and make it better, rather than just
fleeing if you will. Although it would be more complicated with me because it would not
be like I was fleeing. Okay so, that's probably not what they want. I mean, for them it's
more important for me to find somebody who loves me and treats me well than to find
somebody from Guatemala.
MA: So your parents, they grew up in Guatemala?
D: Yes.
MA: You mentioned they could've lived abroad. Do you know where they
would've considered settling if not Guatemala?
D: Probably the states or another Latin American country.
MA: Are you glad they chose Guatemala to raise you in?
D: Oh yeah. I mean I loved it. I still love it. I mean that was my entire life, so I
can't imagine what it would be like if Guatemala wasn't a part of my life.
MA: When you go back there this summer, what are your plans?
D: Well hang out a lot with all of my friends, all the people I haven't seen. Also, a
lot of my friends who are studying abroad are coming back for the summer, so we'll
finally reunite after a year. And spend time with my family. I'll do summer session one
so that will take some time away from me. My brother's graduating and then there's a lot
of birthdays, my own.
MA: You mentioned that your brother may be staying in Guatemala because
he's in a relationship and he loves it there, but what are his plans after graduation?
D: He wants to be an engineer. There's a very good school in engineering in
Guatemala. For me, advertising... I don't think they even offer a degree, so I didn't even
have a choice, but he has an option.
MA: Do you feel like there are job opportunities in Guatemala? Like if you were
to go back do you think you'd be able to find a job?
D: Oh yeah, definitely. Especially with my background. I mean I studied in a
French school and then went to UNC. For me, it would be very easy, though I know a lot
of people have it rough.
MA: This is sort of off topic, but I was reading for a different class I'm in about
femicide. I don't know if you've heard that term?
D: Murder of women?
MA: Yeah and how it's a growing issue in Guatemala. Actually I read that 3,800
women have been murdered in Guatemala since 2000.1 think a lot of it is more in rural
areas than in cities, but how do you feel safety wise? Do you feel less safe being female?
D: Yes. Definitely in general, I can't be alone. A guy , it's still dangerous for a
guy to be alone depending on where you are too, but a girl alone is definitely more
MA: What are the biggest dangers do you think? We talked about how it's not
very safe but is it that you're going to get robbed, or murdered, or kidnapped? Or what's
the biggest threat?
D: I've been robbed twice in one year. I had never been robbed but I think it's
getting worse or maybe it's just I grew up so now I do more stuff and am more exposed
to the danger. But I've been robbed twice so I can definitely see danger for guys as much
as for girls. Also, kidnapping is a problem especially for wealthy people, or even not so
wealthy people, middle class people.
MA: In what situations were you robbed?
D: Once I was in the car with my ex-boyfriend and we stopped at a light? a traffic
MA: Like a red light?
D: A red light. Yeah. Our car doors were not locked and I was talking on the
phone. So two motorcycles stopped on both sides of the car and knocked on the windows
and asked for the cell phone. At first I was very confused and thought, "No! Why would
you want my cell phone?" And that was really stupid because people can kill you for a
cell phone. But I don't know...it was the moment. But after a while I gave my cell phone
away, they left, the light turned green and we left the place. I was scared, but they didn't
have a gun.
Now the second time I was walking — yeah the one time I decided to walk— I was
with a friend, a boy, walking to this office in the wealthy area of Guatemala, and both
times I didn't even have like a fancy cell phone. It was a, it was really not a good cell
phone. But I was talking with him and this car pulls over with two guys driving. One of
them pulled a gun, he pointed it —no he didn't really point it, he just like showed it like ?I
have a gun?. He asked for our cell phones so we gave them to him, then he asked for my
earrings, then they left. The police was later inquiring about what I had seen and
everything. Apparently I wasn't the only victim because someone called them.
MA: So other people that you've heard who have also been robbed — it sounds
like you were sort of lucky in that they didn't actually harm you when they took your
stuff. Do you find that that's usually the kind of robbings that happen?
D: Yeah, I've never heard of anyone being murdered for something like that. It's
like an urban legend if you will, but I don't know anybody. But I know a lot of people
who have been robbed like that. For instance, the friend I was with, I was recently talking
with him on Facebook and he told me that he'd been robbed again! For walking too, so
yeah it's pretty common.
MA: What's your top favorite thing about being in the United States or going to
school at Carolina?
D: I don't know. All the opportunities I get, I guess? I can do whatever I want,
even create my major if I want to. I can start anything. I can choose my life basically.
MA: Alright, well thank you so much!
D: You're welcome!