"It’s like having two kids. You don’t love one more than the other. You love both the same.”
MANUEL MOROCOIMA is, at heart, a family man. Born in Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela, he met Maribel, the love of his life, while studying in the United States on a full scholarship. After raising their children in Venezuela for ten years, the family returned to the U.S. for Manuel’s job managing Latin American sales for Shamrock Technologies – the same company where my immigrant father has built his entire career.
My parents originally planned to raise our family in Malaysia, their home, but we grew up closer to company headquarters and educational opportunities in New Jersey. While I am grateful for my upbringing, I sometimes wonder, “What if? What if my first home had been the melting pot of Malaysia, not America? Would I feel like more or less of a bridge or outsider in either country?” In this insightful #ChrysalisConvo, Manuel illustrates how love is less of a choice between worlds, and more an embrace of both.
Where is home?
I consider myself American and Venezuelan. It’s like having two kids. You don’t love one more than the other. You love both the same. Even if they hurt you, they also give you joy. That’s why Maribel and I became American: so we could give to the country that has opened doors for our family.
How do you love without conditions?
Love is a choice. When you choose to love someone, you accept them for who they really are, not how you wish they were. After forty years of marriage, let me tell you: I am more in love with my wife now than when I first married her! Now, I love her with her virtues and her flaws. I love my kids, but now that they’re grown, being alone again is so much fun. Forty years later, I still have a crush on my wife!
What doors have opened for your family, thanks to migration?
I fully believe that God brought us back to America for our kids to have a better future. Maribel is from Panama, so our children are citizens of America, Panama, and Venezuela. Migration exposes you to different cultures, and we try to pass that on, to the point that both of our kids love to travel and pick up the best. They have the opportunity that we had to learn another language and grow professionally. I have a masters in Christian education, and Maribel is a speech and language pathologist. Our son is an aerospace engineer and works for NASA as a pilot flying the International Station from Houston. Our daughter studied political science and journalism and now works as the HR manager for a pharmaceutical company.
Immigrants often find comfort in the familiar fellowship of ethnic enclaves, e.g. the Chinese church I grew up in. How connected do you feel to the Latin American community?
You mention something very dear to my heart. My church asked me if I would like to start a Spanish ministry, and you know what? I said no. This is why: When you go to a country, you have to learn how to relate to other people. If you come to the U.S., you have to learn the language, and you have to accept the culture here. Absorb. Make friends. Be part of both communities, not one more than the other. Especially here in the U.S., the Spanish population is so big. You could easily stay in the Hispanic community, but if you don’t integrate, you will miss the opportunity to give to the larger community you're in. You can learn from this culture, just as people here can learn from your culture.
What can the United States and Venezuela learn from each other’s cultures?
Our freedom in work is different. Dictatorship is so popular in Latin America because the culture is more controlling. An authority figure tells you what to do, while in the U.S., you are more trusted to be responsible for your work. But, as Latinos, we have a very strong sense of family. We also don’t have Santa Claus. In Venezuela, you know who brings the presents? Niño Jesus!
Any advice for international migrants?
Life is about giving. If you don’t give, you lose a big blessing. The more you give, the more you’re blessed, the more content you are. Discover the joy of serving, and when you migrate, appreciate what you can give to another country. Don’t just focus on “your” rights. We have duties because we have rights. Migration is not just a chance to have greater opportunities. What are you giving back?