From The Peopling of New York City

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Who I Am

My name is Leonel and I am a first-year student at the City College of New York. I am currently studying Civil Engineering at the Grove School of Engineering. Last year I graduated from the Academy of American Studies, which is a small high school in Long Island City, Queens. While attending school, I also have a part time job at Whole Foods Market located on the Lower East Side.

I was born August 26,1990 in a small town in Puebla, Mexico. My father immigrated to New York City in 1984. My entire family soon followed when we moved to New York on September 1997. I was soon enrolled in my local public elementary school. My education path has lead me to the Macaulay Honors College at CCNY. I am currently participating in Seminar 2, where I am studying Jewish immigration in New York City.

Sports and athletics are a major part of my life. I enjoy playing baseball, volleyball, football, and handball. I played volleyball with my high school volleyball team. I am also an avid New York Mets fan. Even though I enjoy being outdoors and active, I also enjoy reading, watching movies and playing video games. I have moved around various neighborhoods of Queens, including Jackson Heights and Elmhurst, and I am currently living in Maspeth.

Where I'm From

The Bautista-Soriano family originated from a small town in Mexico in the state of Puebla. Both of my parents came from working class families. My mom Maria Soriano was seventeen years old when she first met my dad. My dad Silvano Bautista was twenty-two when they first met. This age gap did not seem to be much of an issue as they dated for five years until they married in 1984 at the ages of 22 and 27.

As time passed, my father decided that it would be in his family’s best financial interest if he were to immigrate to the United States in order to try and support his new family. My older sister was then born in 1986. My older brother was then born in 1988. I was born two years later in 1990. The four of us lived in our home in our hometown while my father worked hard with the hope that one day we might all join him in the United States. He alternated his life frequently moving between Mexico and New York. He worked hard but at the same time did not want to miss out on the growth of his three young children. Most of the year he was in New York working and would visit us for a couple of weeks throughout the year.

My father knew that the U.S could provide many more opportunities than our home country ever could. He believed that the first step towards this was education. Education would open many more doors for us in this country and this would eventually lead to a better future. In 1997 we were all able to finally move to New York City. The journey, especially the plane ride, for me, as a seven-year-old boy was incredible. I was excited but at the same time frightened. This move marked the beginning of new lives for all of us as we left our old ones behind. After our arrival in Queens, my mom acted quickly in order to enroll us into our appropriate schools.

The assimilation process into New York was tough experience. New York City represented a whole new world that included a new language and way of life. After some tough experiences I believe that I am now at a point in life that makes my parents. My two siblings and I are all attending college. We hope to one day possess degrees that will open doors for us and give us a better future, just as our parents worked so hard for.

New York and I

New York City represents a new life for me. As soon as I moved here at the age of 7, I knew my future would be different. My move to New York represented a rebirth and a new beginning. Of course when I first arrived, I felt scared and out of place. Everything around me was different and intimidating. The process of learning to adapt to a whole new environment was challenging. I made it through however and I feel that I can now reap the benefits of my work.

I think New York City can offer me what my native country never could. That is probably the main reason why my family left their home to move to this city. A “better life” is such a banal term, however, my family has been able to attain it thanks to New York. We have a better standard of living here and are able to enjoy more economic opportunities. New York City, however, means more to me than just prosperity. New York City also represents education for me. My parents were never able to obtain more than a middle school education. In New York, education is easily accessible to all. Thanks to the system of education in the United States I am now able to attend college. I someday hope to hold a degree that will open offer me even more opportunities for advancement.

Even though I experienced a rough beginning, I have learned to love New York. I have grown with it, surrounded by it and have embraced it as my ‘natural habitat.’ New York represents freedom, accessibility to many things around you, and leisure opportunities. Although it takes some hard work to survive in this city, the rewards are definitely worthwhile. In New York, it is not all always about ‘work’, as there are many options for ‘play’ at all times. The older I grow the more I am able to enjoy all that the city has to offer. Over time, I have learned to overlook New York’s ‘faults’ and I plan to one day be able to declare it my permanent home.