One woman became 10 people Tuesday night as performer Lidia Ramirez took an audience of about 150 people on the tumultuous journey from the Dominican Republic to the United States.
As an immigrant, Ramirez feels she knows the obstacles people face when risking everything they have in search of a better future. In her one-woman show I love America, Ramirez uses the lives of 10 different people to portray this struggle.
Chris Chell, a graduate assistant in the Office of Multicultural Activities, helped organize the event in conjunction with Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority and the Dominican American Student association.
“As the USF community becomes more diverse, it is becoming essential for students to gain cultural competence at the University,” Chell said.
With the sound of the ocean in the background, Ramirez entered the stage playing the part of an old Dominican woman holding a water bucket.
“We don’t have much money, but at least we have our children,” the old woman said.
Ramirez’s first character explored the perception Dominican people often hold regarding tourists who enter the Dominican Republic for recreation.
“I don’t want your money. It’s a free tree, everybody can get coconuts,” the older woman quipped about the capitalistic lifestyle of tourists.
Ramirez’s second impersonation explored the life of an exuberant young girl who struggles to save money in order to leave her homeland, while the third character talked about the harsh street life of the children while “he” sat on a bucket peeling potatoes.
“I didn’t have money to go to school,” the male character said.
A Dominican lady attached to her country served to contrast those so willing to leave in Ramirez’s fourth act. She also expressed the dangers that face those that immigrate, telling stories of people who drowned in their attempts to reach the United States.
“Why would anybody leave this land?” she said. “We have good people and good food.”
The most emotional character – a young woman – contacted her family to say goodbye before undergoing the long journey. When speaking to her mother and son, the young woman was the only one aware of the truth, as she lied to them about her true intentions to flee to the United States.
“What did I get myself into?” she asked herself as she was close to drowning. Ramirez’s narrative explained how the young women ended up in a detention center in Puerto Rico after being rescued by the Coast Guard.
“We are not criminals; all we did was to get into this country illegally,” she said. “We came here to work.”
The character, who is held in the detention center, then went on to relate the struggle of feeding a large family back in the Dominican Republic, as the jobs in their homeland do not provide enough to support their families.
Ramirez’s last character was a second-generation young man born in the United States who still identified himself with the culture of his parents’ homeland.”Of course I know how to be Spanish,” he said.
All the characters performed during the show were based on people interviewed by Ramirez and represented a reality that touches many people.
“This is a very universal story,” she said.