Crossing the Valley: Leaving Paradise

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family object
japan poster
border justice
crossing the valley
open letter

Christiane Mouette came to Phoenix from Brazil to visit a friend in May of 1999. This friend, Paul, came to Phoenix in 1990 from Brazil to work and find a better life for himself. Christiane had known Paul in Brazil and had stayed in touch with him while he was in Arizona and she was still in Brazil. Paul finally convinced Christiane to come for a visit and she wound up staying for two months. They got married on July 9, 1999 before Christiane went back to Brazil to get her dog and sell her stuff.


I was born in the state of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. I grew up in a small tourist, mountain town called Morroazul, which means Blue Mountain. I love it in Morroazul. It is a neighborhood there. The best climate in the world is in this beautiful mountain town. There are a lot of farms, some dating back to the Brazilian colonization in 1500 by the Portugese. The Jesuits came there to make sure that everyone became Christian. There are enormous adobe houses in the town. I lived for awhile at ItacuruÁa, also.

 I love it in Brazil. When I lived there I worked teaching various forms of marshal arts, including Tae Kwon Do and Tae Chi. I also worked doing fish research for some biologists at the university.

I never thought about coming to America. I didnít like Americans before I came here. I donít really know why, but I think it is because everyone in Brazil idolizes Americans and anything American. I had no connection before Paul. I didnít want to come here. I didnít have a good image of the US. I thought they were war people and too technological. I thought there were too many rules, like the state can tell you what times you can buy drinks. I always thought I had more free time in Brazil and more freedom in Brazil.

I knew other people that migrated to the US. My friend, a tattoo artist, came to America on a tourist visa and then wound up staying and getting his green card. Paul was my friend for many years in Brazil before he came to the US in 1990. He came to look for work and a better chance in life. He is a motorcycle mechanic and there was not a lot of work in Brazil. Even the work there was did not present much hope for advancement or a very financially secure future. It took a year for Paul to get a US passport and he now has dual citizenship.

All the years Paul was here he kept asking me to come and visit him. I saved up my money to come see him in 1999. Before I left to go back to Brazil, Paul and I were married. This gave me permit to live, work, and drive in the US. Three years after I got married I got my green card (Dec. 2002). I have to renew it every year and can only loose it if I leave the US for too long, like 13 or 14 years, or if I quit paying taxes.

I went back to Brazil after marrying Paul to sell my stuff and get my dog. After I got back to Phoenix I enrolled in sign language and Tae Kwon Do classes at Glendale Community College. I found mostly young kids at school and they were not very nice to me. I knew enough English to get along, but it was British English so it was not really correct. I had a hard time understanding people. In sign language class, I learned the most English with vocabulary and such.

Now for work I tutor other students in biology, Spanish, basic English, and students with special needs. I volunteer at the herpetology department at ASU West, and I do research in Ecuador twice a year with grad students. I got a bachelors degree in Life Sciences in Brazil and in SCUBA diving I became a dive master and instructor in classes. When I first moved to Phoenix, I cleaned houses and worked at restaurants.

As far as my cultural expectations of the United States goes, the US is much better than I thought. It is very different in Brazil. The people there are very warm people. People here donít invite strangers into their homes. In Brazil if you meet someone you like or have something in common with you are almost automatically friends. You trust those people enough to welcome them into your home. It is much easier to make friends in Brazil. But, once I got used to the way things are here, it became much easier to meet nice people. Now I have many wonderful friends in the United States.

When I first came to Arizona, language was a big problem and I cried a lot because I couldnít be understood. It is very cheap to call Brazil, so I called home a lot. I still do. I guess I thought it was not going to horribly here, but I was still very nervous and leery when I registered for classes. The US turned out much better than I expected.

The Brazilian economy is really bad. It is hard to find a job and keep a job. There were no good jobs in biology in Brazil. If you donít start early and do internships, you canít get into the field. My mother died so I floated for a couple of years and didnít take my education serious at that time. Thatís why I couldnít get into my field in Brazil. I worked for awhile in a business that sold motorcycle stuff. In Brazil it is hard to find even one job. There are a few really wealthy people, but most of the people are middle class. But each year there are more and more going to the lower class. Inflation keeps going up, but wages do not.

I think that is why Brazilians love Americans, the money. They want to be just like Americans. They buy American shoes, clothes, everything. They buy hot dogs at Johnís at the beach. They like having American names. Most Brazilians would jump at the chance to immigrate. The US makes it hard for Brazilians to get a visa. They have to have ties to Brazil and be stable. But if you can do a specialized job or something that Americans canít do, like a geneticist or something, then the US makes it pretty easy for Brazilians to come here. I have a French passport, because my father is French, so I didnít need a visa to come here. I am a French citizen and a Brazilian citizen, but only a US resident. I canít vote here.

I go home to Brazil to visit every year. I stay at my Auntieís house in Sao Paulo. I still love it in Brazil, but my opinion of America has definitely softened.

This is a picture of the Brazilian Flag

Pictures of Christiane & Paul                                                                    Brazilian Stuff

Analysis of Christiane's migration


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