VHE Families Series: Julio and Yelitza Martínez

Grecia Martínez is a Kindergarten at VHE. Julio and Yelitza, her parents, left "Michelena", Venezuela, in 2015. Still newcomers in the US, but they already know they would like to stay forever. Grecia turns 6 on March 25 and loves reading, both in Spanish and English, as well as watching movies and educational programs on TV. Her "grandma" Annette Ellstrom leaves in Madison with the family, but her maternal grandparents stayed in Venezuela. She talks to them everyday on Skype.

(1)   Do you remember your first days in Madison? Can you tell us about the emotions of that moment?
This is our first time leaving abroad. Everything was very exciting at the beginning.  We felt free and safe. As every parent moving abroad, we were concerned about how Grecia would adapt to all the changes we had to face. It was a challenge for her: a new school and a new language. But she developed a good English in less than 3 months.

Since we arrived, the people we have met have been wonderful, always a partner to help us with our new life. One of our greatest blessings, maybe the most important one, is that we have the support of my adoptive mother Annette. She is the closest thing to an angel that my father placed in my path to guide and help us in this new life.

(2)   And what about now, do you feel at home in Madison?
Since the first days, Madison has felt like paradise. We really believe this is the best place to live. There was always something new to learn. We quickly adapted to changes, but changes also bring challenges. And, of course, we miss the family. Sometimes just not being sad is the biggest challenge to overcome.

(3) Why did you come to Madison?
I knew Madison from a previous trip. I had lived here for nine months while studying. But the reason to move with the family was basically due to personal safety. Our home country is going through tough times and it was very dangerous for us to stay there. We just wanted the best for our daughter.

(4) Once settled here, did the US feel as you were expecting?
Well, it is hard to say. I had always wanted to live in the USA. But I guess things are different because our lives are easier in many ways.

(5) Has the experience already left a "footprint" in your family?
Yes, the experience of living in the U.S. has changed us, but only in a positive way. For us, it is a blessing to walk in the streets without worries. We simply get food and everything else we need to feel happy and safe. This is the footprint that our new life in Madison has created in us.

(6) How do you keep your language/culture alive?
For us Venezuela stood aside when we decided to move to USA. We want this to be our country. We speak Spanish at home only at certain times, specially when we communicate with our families in Venezuela.

(7) Do you share your traditions with other people? And what about US traditions?
We do celebrate some Venezuelan traditions, especially Christmas and other religious celebrations, and also our food. Thanks to our friends here, we have managed to do a combination of our traditions and the American ones. We celebrate all American and European traditions, especially those more popular in the United States. Our adoptive family is of European origin. That's why Europe culture is also important for us.

(9) If you had to leave the US now and go back to your country, what would you miss?
The first thing we would miss is the tranquility of feeling safe, to walk without the fear of being robbed, to be able to go to the supermarket and get food and things we need and want. Above everything else, if we had to move back, we would lose the right to live in peace, because living in Venezuela is too dangerous

(10)  Tell us now about Grecia and VHE. Do she like the school? Was it difficult to adapt? Does she have friends with different nationalities?
Our daughter loves school! At the beginning, Grecia was a bit confused to be in a school where only a few people spoke Spanish. But in three months, it was all-good! She has met kids from many nationalities, which has allowed her to learn about other cultures and, in general, improve her knowledge about the world.

The only thing we can say about VHE is that it was the best decision we could have made. All the people we have met in VHE have been friendly, helpful, caring and dedicated to our daughter. Everyone has made us feel part of the VHE family.

(11) Do you feel or you think you can feel (if stay long enough) somehow American? I guess we should say North American, since you already were American.
From the moment we decided to move to the US, we began to feel American. I believe this is the only way to accept all the changes involved in moving to another country. You have to respect the symbols, learn and adapt to the traditions, and just want to be part of this great nation.


Two short quizzes

Something that you really like from WI culture? Food, people and the way of thinking.
Something that stills surprises you from WI culture? Racism in some people
Something that Americans always/often are surprised when they learn about you? The food and how much we suffer in Venezuela
Something that Americans really like from your culture? That we are very friendly


  In the US/American In/from Your country
Your preferred food Hamburgers Arepas
Your favorite place Lakes My house
A book you love American Ways Doña Barbara
A person you would like to meet Barack Obama Lorenzo Mendoza
A song, or a singer/group, that you love Kenny Rogers Simón Díaz
A celebration you specially like Christmas Christmas
A word that you like, either for the sound or for the meaning (please tell us how do you pronounce the word in your language and what it means) Family Familia


This is Grecia one year before we moved. I cannot believe how much she has grown, both physically and emotionally.


The whole family in Panamá during the trip to USA. You can see Panamá city in the back.



And the whole family again. This time with Superior Lake in Duluth, MN, in the back. We really like being surrounded by lakes.
Superior Lake


A family image during Christmas: the three of us with my sister Hanna and Annette at home.


This is Grecia with Ms Butler. She has been progressing so fast. We are very proud of her!
Mrs. Butler

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