Salvadoran proud to be an American

Wednesday, November 6, 2002

By E. Leticia Patterson

This is a response to the guest column by Andrea Essner.

I'm from El Salvador, and I'm proud to be an American. When I say "American," I'm speaking of all the Americans such as Central Americans, South Americans and, of course, North Americans.

I also think about the fear of walking down the street and having the feeling that I'm not completely safe. Some terrible things happen right here in our area in Sikeston, Dexter and Cape Girardeau. Can you really feel safe anywhere these days?

I took Essner's column personally. I love my native country very much. Sure, there is some poverty in El Salvador. But what about the slums of New York, Chicago and Los Angeles? I'll bet if you looked hard enough you could find some poverty in Southeast Missouri.

San Salvador, the capital of El Salvador, has suffered through two major earthquakes in past years. The city, through hard work and dedication, has been built back and improved a great deal.

Of the five Central American countries, El Salvador is the smallest and the second richest. It has aggressive imports and exports of products. The work force is the best in Central America. Granted, the pay scale is far behind that of the United States, but how many countries can compete with the United States?

Look at the problem this way: What if U.S. companies were not in San Salvador taking advantage of the work force? What would all those people be doing? I guess there would be more people out of work. Which is the worst case? Having work and being paid, or having no work and doing God knows what?

I remember how pretty El Salvador was in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s before the terrorism. I remember the embassy line not being too long and the people in the embassy acting so indifferent and arrogant as if to show a sign of importance.

My husband is a U.S. citizen who worked in El Salvador for about 12 years. He got very little help from the American Embassy. Both our children were born in El Salvador. My husband worked for a construction company building roads. According to him, the workers were some of the best he had ever worked with. True, the workers were not paid on the same wage scale as the U.S. scale, but his company paid them above the national scale.

Essner talked about the 700 people applying for visas each day and only 100 being given. Of those 100, how many does she think were given a visa as a political favor? Believe it or not, I would wager 10 to 20 were political favors.

I am proud to be a U.S. citizen now, and I think I am a good citizen. But sometimes I have been treated badly by people who don't know me and think I am from a foreign country and am here illegally.

If one person laughed at Essner because she wanted to be a politician, she should get over it. It won't be the last time. Some people just don't like people from a foreign country, good or bad. That is just people for you, and you have to grow up and learn to live with it.

Welcome to the real world.

I am El Salvadoran by birth and a U.S. citizen by choice.

E. Leticia Patterson is a Cape Girardeau resident.

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