1199er’s Memoir—“My Journey, My Life”—Now In Print
“My Journey, My Life”
By Aniceto Enriquez
IUniverse, 2009., 164 pages, $15.95
Reviewed by Mirtha Colon
After reading 1199SEIU member Aniceto Enriquez’s book, “My Journey, My Life,” my first thought was that not many Garifuna people write books and even fewer write about themselves. As Mr. Enriquez explains, the Garifuna are Central American and Caribbean people of African and Arawak descent. Many others have written about us, so it’s about time for our history to be told from our point of view, from our own experiences, needs and feelings.
Mr. Enriquez, an 1199SEIU member as I am, has worked at New York Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan for almost 20 years. He is a social worker assistant.
I admire Mr. Enriquez’s courage in talking about his experience because it is not always easy to reveal your life and yourself so openly to the world. This alone is enough for me to encourage healthcare workers to read the firsthand the experiences of one of our colleagues. But the book is also important for anyone interested in the history of the people of the Americas, especially those of African descent.
It is through learning about each other that we become more comfortable, accepting and tolerant towards one another. We in the healthcare system who are immigrants may be familiar with Mr. Enriquez’ experience of coming to the US to escape unbearable circumstances. For many of us, migrating is our only choice, our only means of maintaining hope and the will to keep striving for life.
One of the book’s strengths is how it calls our attention to the way the political system in which we are born and live absorbs us, separating us from our self/ being. I say this because we Garifuna people have our own history, culture, creed and customs, which we must fight to preserve. That has a profound effect on our behavior and on our history of poverty and survival.
Mr. Enriquez’s book also informs the current immigration debate. His struggles remind us that immigration reform is urgently needed in the U.S. The experience of Mr. Enriquez is one of the many success stories of immigrants. He was able to achieve a lot of positive things, including an advanced degree, but a lot of our people continue to struggle here to better their life and those of their families back home. They, too, need a road to citizenship.
Finally, I believe Mr. Enriquez’s book would have made an even greater contribution by describing the forces in history over which he has prevailed. The Garifuna history is mentioned, but it I would have preferred for it to be explored more deeply. More analysis of the role of discrimination and racism against the Afro-Central American, in this case in Guatemala, also would have been appreciated.
That said, Mr. Enriquez’s inspiring account of his difficult journey from Livingston, Guatemala, to his triumphs in New York is a journey worth sharing. I urge 1199ers to read his book and share the lessons of his journey and his life.
Mirtha Colon is an 1199SEIU social worker at the South Bronx Mental Health Clinic, a board member of La Organización Negra Centroamericana, director of Hondurans Against AIDS and secretary of the National Alliance of Latin American and Caribbean Communities.