Yolande Mangones

Yolande Mangones
in Port au Prince 1964

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Yolande Mangones, Part Deux

I called my sister the other day to wish her a happy 30-something birthday. "What are you talking about?" she said, "Everyone in Cali thinks I'm 29, and I like it that way." She's just like Mom.

We left her story on New's Year's Day 1968 when 25-year-old Yolande Mangones took up residence on Chicago's South Side. It had to have been one of the coldest days on record to date, whipping winds made it feel like it was 20 degrees below zero. On January 2nd she trudged through feet of snow to her first day as a staff nurse at Provident Hospital. Fortunately, her upbringing afforded her education in Haiti that included French, English, Spanish and Latin. Adapting to English wasn't insurmountable. While growing up, Mom insisted that we speak only English at home. She felt that it was the best way to integrate into American society and that it would help us with our studies. Yolande was a social and vocal person, so embracing the nuances of American humor, tone and timing in casual conversation was frustrating. Haitians have an animated, emotional and voluminous way of speaking that Americans perceive as shouting so she had to tone it down quite a bit when speaking with Americans.

She insisted that we only speak English at home.

Yolande lived with a family friend for months and endured a seemingly never-ending cycle of working and waiting, working and waiting. She had submitted her son and husband's Visa applications at the same time that she had submitted hers, but her husband was a tradesman -- a machinist -- so he had to wait for approval. Mom's frustration grew with frequent visits to the Embassy to get her family's Visas approved.

I recently found the letter Mom wrote to the Illinois State Lieutenant Governor, Paul Simon. She wanted to understand why it was taking so long to approve the Visas? She expressed her disappointment with the system. After all, she pleaded, one signature could alleviate her loneliness and heartache. She went on to say that it shouldn't take this long, and could the Senator use his authority to push their Visas through. Six months later her husband and toddler son were headed to the U.S on a 747.


  1. I wonder if that letter helped? I had a friend marry a Frenchman, who was already here working, and it seemed to take forever to process his green card. I can't imagine enduring that wait without your family. My ancestor, back in the 1850s, worked for a cigar maker in NYC for years while earning the money for his wife and children to make the journey from Germany. As soon as they were reunited, they went to Illinois and became farmers.
    Our (grand)parents often endured things we can't quite imagine now. We are so fortunate that they persisted!

  2. I think that the relative speediness of their green card approvals was a sign of the times...the US did a lot to retain medical professionals in the 60s and 70s, especially Haitian ones. I do feel fortunate that she persisted! I lived in Haiti for a year as a child and can't imagine growing up in that repressive environment.

    Can you really trace your family roots in the US back to 1850? Via Ellis Island, I presume. That's great. I just saw an expose on the History channel that stated that Ellis Island provided FREE health care (Immunizations, antibiotics, surgeries, exams) to all Ellis Island immigrants upon arrival. How much things have changed...