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Today marks the 44th Anniversary of Attorney Maria Santos' arrival to the United States.

By Maria L. Santos - Posted on 03 May 2016

May 2, 1972 was the day that I arrived in the USA. I was 9 years old coming from the Azores, Portugal (Island of Terceira) to join my Dad who had come to the USA on his own before bringing the whole family to live in this country. I did not speak English. I had never experienced the changing of the seasons. I remember my mother rather horrified saying to my father while we were on the highway—“Trees in America don’t have leaves!!!!” We had lived on a farm and this was just so unreal for us.

Summer came soon after and my sister and I spent it in a hot third-floor apartment on Summer Street in Lowell, MA while my parents went to work in factories. TV was new to us. It took my sister (who was 7 years old) and me some time to figure out that all those men sitting around tables and microphones were being questioned by Congress because they had done something wrong—Watergate Hearings were prominent on daytime TV. My parents put us in summer school to start learning English and I dreamed about being able to speak it fluently. It took a year. And the rest is history.

It was a huge change for me, but I thank my Dad and my Mom every day for choosing to come to the USA and for re-starting their lives all over again in their early 30’s. I also thank the USA for welcoming us. I never forget my roots. We still have family in Terceira, Azores and when we visit the mainland of Portugal or the Azores, it is a wonderful experience. It brings back memories of the first 9 years of my life. But, although my heritage is certainly a part of who I am, the USA is home. I am grateful that my parents brought us to this land of opportunity and that my children get to live and thrive in this incredible nation.