A Long Journey From Mexico

It has been a long, hard climb for Rosa Gonzalez, but her future now appears bright.

Six years after entering the US from Nogales, Mexico, Ms. Gonzalez has passed her test for American citizenship and eagerly awaits taking the oath as a new citizen sometime this summer.

A spark of excitement flashes across her face as she looks ahead to the presidential election this fall in which she will cast her first ballot as an American.

"I'll be ready," she says.

Times were not always so upbeat, however, for the woman who was trained professionally as a bank supervisor and human relations officer in Nogales.

Her husband passed on about 10 years ago, leaving her without family. Most of her relatives, including her mother and father, had already moved to the United States.

Eventually Gonzales was persuaded to move to Phoenix to be closer to family. Never before, she says, had she wanted to live in the United States. She had even passed up high school English courses "because I never wanted to live there.''

She learned the difficulty of landing a job immediately upon entering the US. Her career experience in Mexico, which included accounting, counted for nothing.

After taking several minimum-wage jobs, including as a food preparer for an airline and as a housekeeper, her life began to change. Her English teacher shepherded her to a job-retraining center, where a course was offered on banking.

Gonzalez completed the course ahead of schedule and eventually landed a position with a bank that allows her to use the skills she acquired in Mexico.

Even so, she says, life in the US has been a difficult adjustment. For example, there is little sense of community as there was in Mexico, she says.

But Gonzalez is grateful for her new start, saying "there are a lot of people who helped me."

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