When my husband Santiago and I met at a bar in Venezuela in 1991, I had no idea my life was about to change forever. A whirlwind romance grew into hundreds of love letters exchanged between Caracas and New York, multiple visits to meet each other’s families, and eventually turned into 27 years of true love.
We never knew how much time we would have together. Santiago has been living with HIV for more than 30 years. He would not have been able to receive the care he needed in Venezuela, so in 1992 I came to New York to take care of him. When my visa expired, I had no choice but to stay. He says I saved his life.
It wasn’t easy, though. The daily anxiety of living as an undocumented person left me feeling isolated. Some days I felt like a ghost. The worst part was knowing I had something valuable to offer this country, but being denied the opportunity to contribute.
Finding Immigration Equality changed all of that. Santiago and I became plaintiffs in their lawsuit against the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, which prevented same-sex couples from marrying, and was the reason Santiago was unable to sponsor me to live legally in the United States. We fought for the freedom to marry, and thankfully, the Supreme Court sided with us in another case that was before them in 2013.
Watch our story here:
I cried the day I received my green card. I had waited so long for that moment, but it was bittersweet. I was approved just one month after my mother passed away in Venezuela. I had wanted to see her one last time but was unable to leave the country because of my immigration status.
This year, I became a U.S. citizen, and Santiago and I both cried. This time because it meant we would never again have to worry about being separated because of my immigration status.
I now work full-time as a professor and a playwright, and my plays are being produced in Argentina, Peru, as well as here in New York City. Santiago’s health is vastly improved and he jokes that he now has to take care of me because I’m so busy.
I am proud to be part of the Immigration Equality community, and want to thank you for your support. It means the world to my husband and me.