Maximina’s Journey

Maximina & Esteban's wedding, 1925
Maximina & Esteban's wedding, 1925

My maternal grandmother, Maximina, traveled to the United States from Riotuerto, Spain in 1920 to join her brother in Montpelier, Vermont. Her trip to the United States was lonely and traumatic.

22-year-old Mina had never been far from her village in the Cantabrian countryside. But to get to her brother's home in the US, she had to make her way to Le Havre, France, and then onto a boat to Ellis Island. My grandmother spoke neither French nor English. She only had a 3rd grade education.

My grandmother was a brave woman, but she was also scared, depending on the goodness of strangers to get her from one point of her journey to the next. She spoke to me about her voyage only once, when she was in her 80s. She shook and cried harder than I had ever seen her do before. I could feel the fear and confusion of the young woman who arrived in New York by herself so long ago.

She was the only grandparent I ever knew. She was courageous and a force of life. She was mi abuelita.

Place(s): Spain, New York
Year: 1920

– AC

Relationship:  Grandchild of im/migrant Grandchild of im/migrant