The Immigrant's Odyssey


Trauma, Loss, and the Promise of Healing

May/June 2008


It was toward the end of 1988—summer in Argentina—when a friend suggested over supper that my husband and I take our preschool children and emigrate to the United States. The economic situation in our country seemed truly hopeless: radically unstable currency and terrible inflation, disappearing consumer goods, and increasing poverty. Our friend, a medical doctor in Argentina, had recently married a U.S.-born woman and immigrated to New York. In the U.S., he couldn't work as a physician. But within a few months, he was employed making deliveries for a catering service, and—in spite of the presumed drop in status—had discovered the benefits of getting paid on time in a stable currency that allowed him to afford his rent every month without sacrificing on other essentials, like food, clothes, and transportation.

My husband was in law school, and I was approaching graduation in a university psychology program, but we had few prospects in Argentina. Higher education was and is free there, so anyone without a job or much income can pursue professional studies. This produces a surfeit of professionals in a sinking economy. In Cordoba, for example, where we attended the university, there was a lawyer for every 5 people, a medical doctor for every 10. The middle class in Argentina was disappearing. Simply getting shoes for our children, books for our graduate studies, and rent money every month had turned into a nightmare that didn't seem likely to end anytime…

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