Opportunities for 2 generations keep Peruvian woman in Oklahoma

Michael D. Smith
The Daily Ardmoreite

Editor's note: this is the second story in a series highlighting U.S. citizenship in southern Oklahoma. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has designated Sept. 17 as Citizenship Day in the United States, which is also Constitution Day marking the signing of the U.S. Constitution in 1787. Check The Ardmoreite throughout the month of September for stories about local immigrants who have recently become U.S. citizens and the resources available to immigrants in the area. 

Fredesbinda Granda points to Peru on a map at the Ardmore Public Library. She moved to the United States eight years ago and has since become an American citizen thanks to free classes for English and citizenship offered at the library.

About eight years ago, Fredesbinda Granda moved to Ardmore with her daughter and then-husband. The elementary school teacher left a career and family in the big city for a new life in rural southern Oklahoma, and the culture shock was rather intense. 

For Granda, moving to Ardmore from Lima, Peru, was also wrought with the language barrier. Thankfully because of local classes for English as a Second Language and U.S. citizenship, the native Spanish-speaker from South America is now ready for a career change into medicine while seeing her new home country on two wheels. 

“I study English in my county, too, so when I come here I recall my English a little bit. So it has help me a lot when I study here,” she said. 

Granda shared her story in August at the Ardmore Public Library, where she has attended years of classes for immigrants and ESL learners. Her conversational English is still that of a fairly new U.S. citizen but she had little problem clearly talking about her native country, her new home, or of how much she wants to improve her new tongue.  

“I have new friends. I learn English and study more and more, too. I hope one day to speak very well,” Granda said. 

Just over a decade ago, Granda had a baby girl and her then-husband traveled to the U.S. for work. She had already built a career as a teacher for elementary-aged children but after some time, he convinced her and her daughter to leave the Peruvian capital city and follow him north. 

“In my country I had my career, my family, but he said maybe he could work here so it’s better for me to move here with my daughter,” she said. “In the beginning, yes it’s hard. But now I’m here so my life has to start here.” 

Lima, Peru, at the time was home to over 8.9 million people, compared to the 3.7 million people in the entire state of Oklahoma in 2010. Granda wasn’t sure about her decision at first but she eventually came around. 

“When my ex-husband brought me here, I said...’oh my God, where I am?’ Because I grow all my life in a big city,” she said. “But now I like it here. I go to my country and go ‘oh my God.’” 

Once settled in Oklahoma, Granda sought out resources to prepare for a life in the United States and found the Ardmore Public Library. Along with improving her reading, writing and speaking in English, Granda also used classes to learn what she needed to know to become a citizen. 

“For example, about presidents, about the most famous rivers, the territories,” she said. “It was good. For example, I travel two weeks ago for vacation, I passed one of those famous rivers, the Mississippi.” 

Her daughter was only 2-years-old when they moved from Peru. As her daughter grew, the language became even more important for Granda. 

“She learned English so fast, you know how are the kids,” Granda laughed. 

Now her daughter helps Granda study English and offers corrections when needed. Another big help for Granda to learn the language has been her quest to begin a new career in health care. She has since earned certification to be a phlebotomist, a health care professional who draws blood from patients, and currently has a foot in the door at the local hospital. 

“Sometimes it’s a little hard to get a job like a phlebotomist, so I start first in environmental services. That’s helped me a lot, too, to learn more English,” she said. “It is one way I did it. I feel proud for that.” 

While her previous marriage has since ended, Granda now has a boyfriend helping her explore the United States by motorcycle. From relaxing beaches and treacherous mountain passes, Granda even got to recently take part in one of the largest motorcycle rallies in the world. 

“It is where we can learn our different customs from people, the way they are, the food. Two weeks ago, I traveled to Sturgis,” she said. “It’s a big experience.” 

There are aspects of Peru she misses while others were left behind for reason, but Granda has not completely turned her back on her native country. About two years ago she took her daughter back to Lima to explore her family roots. 

“She was worried because in my country, sometimes there are dogs in the streets walking. She would say ‘Mama, I can’t believe there are a lot of dogs in the street,’” Granda said. 

But one thing that Granda misses is the selection of fresh foods. As a world capital on the Pacific coast, Lima offered selections of fresh seafood that simply cannot be found in landlocked Oklahoma. Fresh fruit juices were offered by street vendors in her former home, but fresh meats, fruits and vegetables are not as easily found in Ardmore. 

“The chicken for example, they kill it in the morning and you just eat fresh chicken. Maybe here it’s hard to do that because you go to the store and it is in the freezer. Or the fruits are really fresh,” she said. 

Granda does not seem to second-guess her decision to become an American citizen mainly because of the vast opportunities available to her now 11-year-old daughter. 

“The United States is a good country because they worry for the kids, to give a good future. It's the best country about that because the kids are the future,” Granda said. “I like both countries, but now I just stay here more for my daughter because I want to see she has a good future and a good career.”