The Story of Monica Mollengarden

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American Dream Series, News

The Story of Monica Mollengarden

By Maria Danniella Gutiérrez- Salem

Is it our origin that defines our dreams? We assume that everyone is different and unique. However, after hearing about a person’s dream, we find a similitude in what we have lived and the importance of everything that we have done to achieve our dream. Our interviewee, Monica Mollengarden, is originally from a village called Chia, located on the outskirts of Bogota, Colombia. She describes herself as a strong, happy, hardworking and caring person.

“What makes you strong?” I asked. With some nostalgia, she replied: “Being an orphan made me strong. I don’t know my origin. I was given to Lucila Torres, whom I called godmother, since I have memory when I was just starting to walk. There was never an explanation of why or how this happened. At 51 years old, this is no longer necessary. My godmother loved me, but she died when I was a child and her eldest son, Hector Torres, whom I call godfather, took me under his protection. However, considering it is difficult to raise our own children, imagine accepting a child who is not from your family. To his wife, this imposition was not to her complete liking, which forced me to seek my own destiny without thinking whether I was ready for it or not. ”

“Did you decide to come to America?” I asked. “Yes, people warned me that it would be difficult here, that I would have to work hard. I came as a tourist. I was amazed at the safety, cleanliness and order that prevailed in this country. In Colombia, there was a time when a policeman was killed almost daily. In 1987, I tried to enter the U.S. with my tourist visa, but I was traveling alone and immigration authorities in Miami interviewed me and decided to deport me to Colombia.”

“Positive as always, I decided I had to find a way back. One of my godfather’s relatives told me that it would be dangerous but that I could apply for a Mexican visa and walk from Tijuana to San Diego-California. Today, I see my daughter and this idea terrifies me. Imagine being surrounded by 18 unknown men traveling alone at midnight, walking in the desert for almost an entire day, hiding like a fugitive by the river for hours. There are no words to describe this odyssey. Only someone who survives to tell this story can understand the meaning of uninterested solidarity. I say this because there was a young man who, without knowing me, helped me. God delivered me from being raped or even killed. That is why I’m supportive. We should all strive to be good, even if it is easier to be indolent to the needs of others.”

I continued by asking, “Are you happy now?” “How could I not [be]? My husband’s name is Barry Mollengarden. We met in New York in 1989, working together at an event. He is an extremely generous man, patient in absolutely everything he does. I have always felt protected with him. We dated for 4 years and have been married for 23 years. We have two wonderful children: Jeffrey, who already started college and my little Eliana, who has always been my friend and unconditional companion. They and this country have given me everything I did not have: a real family and a place where I feel at peace.”

Finally, Monica said: “Over the years, I have learned that people who are not happy simply do not try to be happy, because happiness can be found in a hug, a goodnight kiss, a meal, having job or health. It means not to complicate what is not complicated!”

Danniella Maria Gutierrez-Salem practiced law in Venezuela before pursuing her own American dream of becoming a writer in the United States.

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July 14, 2016

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