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StoryCorps In Kansas City — Coming To America 'The Right Way' Still Isn't Easy

Mariana Hildreth and Tony Santiago talked about their experiences coming to the U.S. at the StoryCorps Mobile Tour in Kansas City.

Mariana Hildreth felt like she had done everything right when she decided to come to the United States from Mexico: She had a degree, years of professional experience and worked through legal channels to get a work permit.

She felt privileged.

"'I'm just going to conquer the world, I'm going to move there and I'm going to make it work,'" Hildreth thought before she moved. "But when I came here, nothing that I thought I was mattered."

Before coming to Kansas City, she lived in California, where the culture was familiar.

"It's like little Mexico there, you'll see a lot of Latinos there, lot of Mexicans there," Hildreth said. "You see us here (in Kansas City), but we're not that visible ... when I was in Mexico, I never had to explain my identity."

The longer she spent in the U.S., the more unexpected difficulties she faced. She married a white man, but kept her maiden name, Gutierrez. Neither she nor her partner felt strongly that she should change it.

But that was before she tried to interview for jobs.

"I swear, I applied for like 20 jobs and I didn't get a phone call," Hildreth said. "We decided to change my last name ... and I applied for four or six jobs and got four interviews."

That was one of the big moments where Hildreth knew her life in the U.S. would be different.

"That opened my eyes so much," Hildreth said. "All our experiences are valid, because I hate when people are like, 'Well if you do it right, you're going to be successful.' It's not that easy."

Matthew Long-Middleton is a community producer for KCUR 89.3. Follow him on Twitter @MLMIndustries.

Cody Newill is an audience development specialist for KCUR 89.3. Follow him on Twitter @CodyNewill.

Cody Newill is part of KCUR's audience development team. Follow him on Twitter @CodyNewill or email him at cody@kcur.org.
Matthew Long-Middleton has been a talk-show producer, community producer, Media Training Manager and now the Community Engagement Manager at KCUR. You can reach him at Matthew@kcur.org, or on Twitter @MLMIndustries.
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