As part of Immigrant Connect’s goal to bring together the personal stories that emerge from the multiple immigrant communities in and around Chicago, we spent a couple of summer months talking with people as they enjoyed the city’s cornucopia of festivals and events. We’d like you to meet them now, more than 150 people at 15 different events who wanted to share their thoughts and memories of immigrant life. They are here in alphabetical order, from Aggarwal to Zavala.

Click on a name and you’ll go to a page on which you can hear a short audio snapshot. If you’d like, you can start here and listen to the audio snapshots festival by festival. Whether we were at Chicago Arabesque, Irish Fest, World Refugee Day, Haitian Picnic under the Sun, Fiestas Puertorrique’s or naturalization ceremonies downtown, we listened as people told us of their recollections of first coming to America, or being raised by immigrant parents, or having their feet planted in two cultures.

Our band of interviewers – Sylvie Doppelt, Lisa Silverman, Luke Siuty, Katie Tang, Camaree Turman, and Crystal Wong – and I would like to thank everyone who took the time to talk with us. You made our day, and we hope your audio snapshots will help make the day for others. Our thanks also to the Community Media Workshop (now Public Narrative), Chicago is the World, Chicago Community Trust and the Knight Community Information Challenge for supporting our project.

Nikhil Aggarwal, who was born and raised in Dehli, India, talks about cultures and meeting different people.

Karen Alvarez, whose grandparents are from Mexico, shares what she has learned from them.

Kathie Ang moved to Pilsen from Malaysia at the age of two and she talks about how that affected her growing up.

Izabela Annes compares life in Wroclaw, Poland, to life in America.

Angel Anselmo’s parents came from Guerrero, Mexico; initially, they picked oranges in Florida. She talks about what her parents’ journey means to her both in English and Spanish.

Nelson Arroyo Jr., whose father and mother immigrated from Puerto Rico and Mexico, respectively, describes the pride he feels for being the first person in his family to attend college.

Randa Awwad, whose family immigrated from Palestine in the 1970s, explains how her family and her faith in Islam has helped her cope when faced with discrimination.

Rachid Belmourida, who is from Casablanca, Morocco: Integrate into your community.

Kristine Brinas, whose parents immigrated from Manila, Philippines, compares the fast-paced Chicago lifestyle to laid-back Filipino culture.

Maria Camey of Salcaja, Guatemala, came to Chicago so her daughters could have better opportunities.

Ellisa Campos, whose grandparents immigrated to Chicago from Mexico, explains how her childhood differed from her father’s, who grew up in a primarily Italian neighborhood.

Preeth Chaal, a lawyer, balances upholding her Indian heritage with being American-born.

Mic Chan, 23, in her experience, does not believe that American culture clashes with Chinese culture.

Shihcheng Chang from Hsinchu, Taiwan, recalls what it was like when he first arrived in America.

Farah Chaudhavy, whose mother is from Pakistan, shares the story of her grandfather, who stayed with Muhammad Ali when he came to Chicago.

Ziggy Chicano, 26, discusses what it was like to visit the Philippines, her country of birth, after living in the United States.

Sammy Chow describes the differences between the United States and Hong Kong and what he likes the most about America.

Joel Day, 35, who was born in Vietnam,talks about how a church sponsorship brought his family from a refugee camp in Guam to the United States.

Carlos Cowzoles explains his reasons for coming to the States from Venezuela and his goals.

Annais Diaz talks about her grandparents’ and parents’ road to citizenship and how it affected her.

Dave Diaz, 48, whose parents were born in Puerto Rico, talks about the difficulties that his parents experienced learning the English language.

Perla Dis Kristinsdottir, who immigrated from Reykjavik, Iceland, explains the difficulties she encountered when applying for a U.S. visa and how it differed from applying for a European visa.

Jose Dominguez talks about his father’s journey from Michoacá, Mexico, in 1972.

Erica Del Real tells the story of her father who came over by himself from Sacatecas, Mexico, and lessons learned.

Aurora Deleon, who was born in Batangas, Philippines, talks about traditional Filipino culture.

Darshan Desai from Toronto, Canada, talks about his parents’ experience with other immigrant families.

Archawee Dhamavasi, whose parents are from Phayao, Thailand, talks in English about the importance of keeping the second generation alive, and in Thai, about the importance of embracing who you are.

Luis Diaz, from the Dominican Republic, talks about all the various jobs and experiences he had in his lifetime.

Liyuan Du, who was born and raised in Baoding, China, recalls in English what her first day in Chicago was like, and in Chinese expresses her gratitude to her Chinese landlord here who helped her with tuition.

Souvik Dutta, who immigrated from Calcutta, India, for work, explains how accomodating and helpful the Chicago Indian community was when he first came to the United States.

Sergio Escobedo, whose parents immigrated from Zacatecas, Mexico, explains how his rough and dangerous upbringing affected how he’s raising his daughter.

Earth Eurkittiroj emigrated from Thailand and continues to uphold the traditions in language and dress.

Glen Ezaki, whose grandparents are from Japan, talks about his parents’ journey to Chicago.

Claire Fak-On, 27, of Saraburi, Thailand, is afraid she might get lost in the city.

Diane Garcia, whose parents immigrated to Chicago from Mexico, describes the lifestyle adjustments Hispanic immigrants have experienced since settling in Chicago.

Maria Garcia, who was born in the States, explains how some traditions were kept and some weren’t.

Nohra Ghisays talks about the process of becoming a citizen and how she feels about it; she came over from Colombia, Bogota, in 1994.

Ken Gomez,36, talks about how he was singled out as a child when moving from the Pilsen neighborhood to the area around Marquette Park.

Manny Gonzalez, whose parents are from Mexico, recalls how his upbringing encourages him to give a better life to his children.

Olivia Gonzalez, whose grandparents are from Mexico, shares what she has learned from her grandparents’ struggles.


Alicia Gregorio talks about preserving Mexican traditions in her family.

Alka Gupta, whose parents are from India, shares her grandparents’ stories and what she learned from them.

Sagina Hanjrah, whose family immigrated to Toronto, ON, Canada, from India, explains how growing up in a diverse, urban environment opened her mind and instilled in her the value of diversity.

Witten Han, who was born in Texas and raised in Hong Kong, talks about his experiences with belonging.

Nhia Her moved from Thailand to Saint Paul, Minnesota, at the age of two; he talks about the lessons he learned from his parents’ experience and offers some advice.

Cynthia Hernandez, 17, discusses the differences between Mexico and the United States.

Rolando Hernandez, who emigrated from Bogota, Colombia, explains in both English and Spanish what he misses most from home since coming to America for work.

Kossi Houngbo, of Lome, Togo, says he faced a long journey to citizenship.

Warkaa Abdul Hussain, who was born in Baghdad, Iraq, shares her story as a refugee.

Monika Ignas describes how she balances being American with her Polish customs; what it was like when American friends came to her house.

Masato Ishieashi of Yokohama, Japan, shares his thoughts on race and religion in American culture.

Richard Isidor talks about how he feels about his parents’ lives back in Mexico and today’s barrier languages.

Maria Jimenez, who was born in The Philippines, talks about Filipino families.

Nate K talks about the differences between United States’ and Thailand’s systems of schooling.

Rita Kachru from Dehli, India, talks about Indian culture.

Anothai Kaewkaen tells the story of his mother who came from Bangkok, Thailand, as a nurse.

Joseph Kan, 31, describes in English his experience with snow when he first came to Chicago, and in Cantonese about how Chicago has changed.

Hayoung Kim from Changwon, Korea, says that confidence is the key.

Julia Kim, who was born in Seoul, South Korea, talks about what motivates her to always do her best.

Tran La, who was born in Saigon, Vietnam, says growing up in the United States has helped her to be more appreciative.

Helen Lai, whose parents immigrated from China, discusses why she became involved with the Immigrant Youth Justice League to fight against deportations.

Tunnjai Laipisitpoin, who was born and raised in Bangkok, Thailand, talks about the difficulties she faced when she first came to America a few years ago.

Eveline Lapan, who was born and raised in Versailles, France, recalls how she felt when she first came to America, and how she’s learned that “you can’t carry your heritage on your back like a snail.”

Alma Lara, 35, describes what it was like being one of only two Mexican students in her high school.

Vido Lavecchia, describes how his Italian immigrant parents affected his childhood.

Steve Le shares his parents’ experience and what it was like for him to go back to Vietnam when he was 22.

Sean Lee, who was born in Seoul, South Korea, and moved to Chicago as a young child, explains how his decision to stay in America after his father moved back to South Korea helped him develop a strong sense of perseverance.

Bania Leon, who in 2009 came from Santa Cruz, Bolivia, to Chicago, describes in both English and Spanish her biggest challenge.

Mike Li, who parents immigrated from Taiwan, explains the importance of his Taiwanese heritage to his identity as an Asian-American.

Pamela Li, who immigrated from Manila, Philippines, describes what it was like growing up in the Philippines as a Chinese resident.

Vee Li, 35, describes how his Taiwanese parents differed from his friends’ Caucasian parents while he was growing up.

Ladavan Limpan, tells what she learned from her immigrant experience in both English and Thai.

Deli Liu, who was born in Xian, China, wants to ensure her kids grow up bilingual.

Julio Lopez, from Mexico City, talks about what it was like for him to go back and visit his friends and family.

Lorena Lopez, who came over from Mexico by herself when she was 15, talks about her goals.

Becky Lugo says the immigration story of her great grandparents has not really affected her, and she explains why.

Freddy Lugo, whose family moved to Chicago from Puerto Rico, describes how the positive attitude the Chicago Puerto Rican community maintains carries through to future generations.

Cheryl Ma, who was born in Saigon, Vietnam, talks about the importance of family as her support.

Melvin Maldonado, who was born in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, discusses what is was like to come to America.

Melvin Maldonado from Honduras: be self-reliant and enjoy your life.

Bozena Malkowska talks in Polish about how different members of her family initially adjusted to arriving in the States in 2005.

Martha Malonda, who was born and raised in Indonesia, talks about how she felt when she first left home.

Glenn Manipon moved to the United States at age 12; he talks about assimilating and a family tradition.

L Manomai, 40, of Thailand, discusses why she worked on President Barack Obama’s campaign.

Francisco Manzano, 31, discusses how tough and rewarding his citizenship process proved to be.

Ben Marcelo shares the difficulties his mother faced when she first came from the Philippines.

Edwin Martinez, 43, talks about how hard it was to leave his family and his baseball aspirations behind in Puerto Rico when he moved to the United States.

Adam Marrero shares his mother’s hardships when she first came from San Luis Potosi, Mexico.

Evangelina Mayol talks about adjusting to life in America both in English and in her dialect from Cebu, a Filipino island.

Jorge Mena, 22, who was born in Jalisco, Mexico, discusses the “DREAM Act” and why he thinks it is important.

Jose Melendez, whose parents immigrated from Puerto Rico, describes the fragmented Puerto Rican community in Humboldt Park.

Carmalo Mendez, who was born in Bolivia, recalls how he overcame the challenges and adjusted to life in America.

Victor Meza, from Puerto Rico, explains the importance of understanding English as soon as possible after immigrating to the United States.

Deric Keiji Mizokimi, whose family was interned during World War II for being of Japanese descent, describes what he learned about his family’s experience while researching his undergraduate thesis.

Sahar Mohammad talks about how her mom overcame traditional Afghan stereotypes.

Lyseth Mondragon explains how her parents’ struggles as immigrants from Mexico City taught her the importance of a good education.

Mina Moon, who immigrated from South Korea when she was a baby, explains the cultural disconnect she experienced during a summer she spent teaching English in South Korea.

Ellen Moy, who was born in China, tells her family’s story.

Johanna Moya, who was born in Bogota, Colombia, talks about learning English, which was her primary motivation for moving.

Johnny Mui shares his parents’ experiences in the United States after emigrating from Hong Kong.

Bala Mukund, who was born in southern India, discusses how immigrating to a big city like Chicago or Columbus led to an easier transition.

Angel and Jessica Muñoz, whose grandparents are from Puerto Rico, talk about the importance of family.

Shen Nan, who was born and raised in Tianjin, China, shares his mother’s hardships as a nurse.

Jamie Ochoa explains why he is at the Immigration Rally and its goals.

Robert Ong recalls his struggles as a Chinese from the Philippines.

Marcus Ore, from Peru, tells about the climate difference upon arriving in the United States.

Amanda Ortiz, whose grandparents are from Puerto Rico: get a little taste of Puerto Rico in Humboldt Park.

Rita Pablo, whose parents immigrated from Mexico, describes how their struggles led to a better life for her and how she maintains a connection with her heritage.

Jane Paik, 22, discusses the advantages of growing up with American and South Korean cultures.

Bina Patel from Toronto, Canada, learned to appreciate what she has from what her father has been through.

Yolanda Perdomo, whose father is from Cuba, talks about how much she admires what her parents have achieved.

Jessica Perez, 19, who is originally from Morelia, Mexico, discusses the fear undocumented immigrants face.

Justin Phommasith,19, discusses his father’s experience coming to the United States from Laos.

Tashi Phuri, who was born in Phari, Tibet, recalls his migration story that has taken him to Nepal, India and now Chicago.

Izabela Piatek explains what motivated her to move from Poland, and what made her decide to stay in the US.

Lisa Pinto, whose father emigrated from Mexico over 75 years ago, explains how her strict upbringing based on her father’s Mexican culture affected how she raised her daughter.

Fawn Pochel, who is of Native American and Irish descent and grew up in a large Native American community in Uptown, describes the importance of diversity, an ideal instilled in her since she was a young girl.

Mehrunisa Qayyum from Chicago talks about the importance of learning different languages.

Lupe Ramirez, who immigrated from Sabina Coh, Mexico, describes her early struggles with learning English and why the importance of education is the one ideal she wishes to pass on to her grandchildren.

Maria Ramirez talks about her parents and the importance of knowing multiple languages.

Norma Ramirez talks about growing up in culturally-diverse Chicago.

Mirasol Rehor, who was born and raised in San Felipe, Philippines, talks about Filipino culture and what it was like to leave her family.

Jason Renacido, whose parents are from the Philippines, talks about how the Filipino culture is retained in his family.

Liz Reyes talks about how it is enjoyable for her family to keep their Mexican traditions.

Rosie Robinson, whose father came from Mexico, wants to make sure her six kids learn Spanish.

Patricia Rodriguez shares the hardships her parents faced by not speaking English when they came to America from Monterray, Mexico.

Rebecca Rodriguez from Corpus Christi, Texas, talks about her father’s hardships.

Melinda Roman from Puerto Rico likes the diversity and opportunities in America.

Araceli Rosales tells the story of her origin in Mexico, and the little she recalls about how she got to the United States.

Jose Rotor, 20, was surprised by the cold Chicago weather when he first moved to the city from the Philippines.

Zeena Sabri shares her parents’ journey from Iraq.

Janthapat Saichumin, who has lived in Chicago for the past three years, misses the familiarity of Thailand.

Berenice Salas whose father is from Mexico, shares what she has learned from her parents’ experience.

Erlinda Salud from Quezon City, Philippines, recalls her experience when she first came to America.

Salvador Salud from Quezon City, Philippines, explains how privileged he feels to have dual citizenship.

Jillian Seubala, whose parents immigrated from the Philippines, describes how her participation in an Asian-interest sorority in college helped her relate to her Filipino roots.

Harshil Shah, who was born in Gujarat, India, describes his first few days in the United States.

Sagar Shah moved to New Jersey at the age of three from Khambhat, India, and later on to Lincoln Park in Chicago; he describes the initial help received from other family members and the Indian community.

Samar Shehaiber who was born in Dubai, talks about her experience of living the American dream.

Stephen Shrichinda, 32, talks about how his parents, originally from Thailand and the Philippines, influenced him growing up.

Simone Shum from Hong Kong offers advice to future immigrants both in English and Cantonese.

Angel Silva, 36, owner of The Native Soul Tattoo and Art Parlor in Pilsen, gives a little background on his times in Mexico and in Chicago.

Caressa Siu shares her mother’s hardships in a refugee camp.

Maria M. Siuty, from Zakopane, Poland, explains why while Poland will always be her homeland, Chicago is now her home. Siuty also describes the difficulties she faced during her childhood due to her immigrant background (in Polish).

Ewa Skup came from Poland to Chicago in 1989 with her children; she talks about the traditions they carry on.

Chamni Sripraram, 36, said his emigration experience from Thailand was improved by his wife’s military service.

Steve Sun, who immigrated from Chongqing, China, as a child, explains how the Chinese community in his Wisconsin hometown helps him stay connected to his roots.

Shirley Sung, who immigrated from Hong Kong and Shanghai, explains some differences between Americans and Hong Kong residents.

Liang Li Sze, who immigrated from Hong Kong in 2007 to help care for her grandson, compares her Chicago and Hong Kong lifestyles (in Mandarin Chinese).

Suhad Tabahi, whose parents are from Palestine, recalls the first time she saw a need to defend her own culture. It was September 11.

Ana Tapia, who was born in Michoacan Morelia, Mexico, enjoys life in the United States.

Sandar Thein, who was born in Mudon, Myanmar (Burma), talks about her experiences in the United States over the past five years.

Margaret Thompson, who comes from Nigeria, in Africa, encourages young immigrants to be bold.

Ann Tiempetpisal explains how life in Pattani, a province in Thailand, is different than in the United States.


Hector Torres, whose family is from Puerto Rico: Never forget your roots.

Tuyen Uong appreciates America for its freedom and talks about some of her culture shocks upon arriving.

Andria Venezia, whose great grandparents are from Italy, shares what she has learned from their experience.

Dansong Wang, 43, came from Beijing to Chicago to pursue her Ph.D. at Northwestern University and had to adjust to a different education system.

Brian Wong, 22, a Chinese American, says that his experience growing up in the culturally diverse city of Chicago was fun.

Elaine Wong was born in Hong Kong, moved to Canada at the age of 6 and came to Chicago on a work visa; she describes her identity.

Jennifer Wong, whose mother is from China, recalls what her childhood was like and how it has shaped her.

Yan Wong, 16, advises other immigrants in English to utilize resources when they arrive in Chicago. She also expresses in Cantonese some of the challenges she had when she first moved to the city.

Lisa Xu, who was born and raised in Beijing, China, talks about how she sees China nowadays.

Sara Xu came over from Guangzhou, China, to the United States, where her family had already established a restaurant.

Paul Xumsai, who was born in Bangkok, shares what it was like when he went back to Thailand.

Evelyn Yang, raised in New York, tells the about growing up Taiwanese in a primarily white area.

Pearl Yeung shares the story of her grandparents’ journey to the United States and her grandfather’s involvement in World War II.

Benjamin Yu, 26, a line dance performer, talks about why line dancing makes him feel closer to his Chinese background.

Leo Yu, who is a student from Tianjin, China, recalls what motivated him to come to America.

Jacob Zajaczkowski talks about the difficulties of adapting to life in America as a young child.

Julio Zavala crossed the border from Mexico when he was 10 years old; he talks about the experience and how it makes him feel today.

Pedro Zavala, whose parents are from Morelia, Mexico, talks about the struggles his brother faced.