When Jorge Sánchez was only 19 years old, he was just another young man, working hard on a small farm back in Colombia. He had big dreams but always felt unsettled about his living situation at the time. Not long after that, Jorge had no idea, but his life was about to change.
In 1991, things didn’t look good in Colombia as the cartel used to control most of the country. Violent attacks against the population were common at that time so when the opportunity presented itself, Jorge made one of the biggest decisions of his life – move to the United States to pursue the American Dream. This week we had the opportunity to interview this hardworking man, and this is how it went:
Tell me a little bit about yourself and the reasons why you decided to move to the USA in the first place.
Well, Hi my name is Jorge Sánchez. I was born and raised in Armenia, Colombia. I grew up as the oldest son among my five siblings in a very small farmhouse with my parents. Things weren’t easy back there you know. We used to struggle for the basics like eating, having decent clothes to wear, and having a roof over our heads. I started working on a farm when I was only 11 years old to help my parents support my family and feed my younger siblings. Like I didn’t really have time to enjoy my life or anything. It was just work, work , work, and yet we were always extremely poor. Then one day I met a friend that had some family members that lived in the USA, and he told me how good they lived in America. Up to that point I never really heard anything about the US but once I found out about it, I became really hopeful that there could be a light at the end of the tunnel, you know, like a chance to live a better life.
How did you feel when you first got to the United States? Were you scared or excited? And what did you do first?
When I first got here in the USA, I went to work on a small farm in Allen County, Indiana. I was really grateful for the opportunity, and I worked hard just like I was used to work back home. The first year or two were very difficult as I struggle a lot to learn English. There were times when I thought I would never learn the new language to be honest. I just didn’t seem to understand but I kept going. I even used to go to a library to read books, or at least try to, so I could learn English. I used to ride my bicycle for like 10 miles or more, just so I could have access to these English books. Oh, and I’d say I was definitely scared when I first moved here. I was excited when thinking about it back in Colombia, but once you get here the reality hits you, and you know there’s absolutely no one to rely on, things can be a little scary at first.
How long did you work on the farm? And was there a turning point where you decided you wanted more in life?
I worked on the farm for about 10 years but in the last two or three years, I was already checked out you know, I started to read more and more books in that library I mentioned, and I was getting good at it already. Like at that point I already spoke English, drove my own beat-up truck, and was way more independent. And absolutely, once I started to really understand the books I was reading, my mind started to expand, and I started to have the desired to educate myself and go after something bigger in life. Don’t get me wrong though, there is nothing wrong with farm work but it’s really hard, and after working on that for like 18 years, I was done with it so I decided to move to New York.
Wow! Moving from a small farm in Indiana to New York City was a big leap of faith, right? How was it?
Oh yes absolutely! It was early 2001 when I moved to Brooklyn NY. I was so impressed by everything, like so many people in the same place. It was crazy at first, but at that point, I knew I was in the right place if I wanted something better in my life. I knew the opportunities I could get in a big city like New York were just so much bigger and better compared to being kind of isolated working and living on a small farm.
That’s awesome! I’m sure it takes courage for such a bold move! But how did things work out in New York for you ever since?
Well, I’ve been in New York for the past 20 years and I think it was the second-best decision I ever made in my life. The first was to move to America but the second was to come to NY for sure. When I got here, I didn’t waste any time. I decided to finally go back to school and get a degree in Industrial Engineering. I worked in construction, manufacturing, restaurants, and pretty much anything legal and ethical to support myself while in college. After I graduated, I worked in a few jobs in different companies to get experience and was able to work my way up into a senior management position for an Energy Company which I have had for the past 10 years. Now I have my own house, my family, and I’m able to help the people I love the most back in Colombia and here in the USA as well so I can say I’m blessed.
Congratulations Jorge I’m so glad for you. Your story is so inspiring! Now, if you were to give some advice for any immigrant out there, not necessarily in the USA, but around the world, what would that be?
Well, I could say so many things, but if it’s only one, I’d say don’t try to cut corners or take any shortcuts. It takes hard work and time to build something solid whether you are an immigrant or not, so have a plan, stay focused, work hard and believe you can do it and you will! Oh, and always do the right thing! Always!
Disclaimer: The ImmiPower Hall of Fame was created for motivational purposes only. We do not encourage any form of immigration. It is a personal decision and we advise anyone considering migrating, to seek legal information from an immigration attorney or consulate.