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Mi Familia – Immigrant Heritage Month

By Julia Guzmán
In honor of Immigrant Heritage Month, I’d like to share a little about my family heritage.
The Guzmán side of my family goes back eight generations in Nicaragua, where my parents were both born. The first known Guzmán in Nicaragua was a woman named Rosa from Guatemala who became pregnant by a priest named Camilo Solórzano Miranda. Seeing as priests aren’t so much supposed to have babies, her child, Fernando, took her name upon his birth in 1811. Don Fernando Guzmán eventually went on to become president of Nicaragua. This was my great-, great-, great-, great-grandfather. My godfather – one of my dad’s five siblings – is also named Fernando Guzmán. My father’s family is well-respected in Nicaragua, though sometimes teased for being a bit arrogant. Some have nicknamed them the “Onassis” family. My grandfather’s mother was of French heritage. And my paternal grandmother’s family goes back a long way in Nicaragua, as well.
My mother’s parents were also Nicaraguan. Her mother – my grandmother, Julia Pasos de Gonzalez – survived so much loss throughout her life, including losing several children (some at or before birth, one to political assassination, one to cancer), and losing her husband when several of her seven children were still young. She became a powerful career woman, beginning with buying houses to rent out – all of which she lost in an earthquake in Managua in 1972 – and helping people find jobs, and eventually becoming a real estate and employment magnate. Her signs were everywhere throughout Nicaragua. I’m grateful to have known her.
When I was born, my parents had come to the United States, so my father could do his medical residency in Maryland. When the 1972 earthquake destroyed Managua, they decided to stay in the U.S. and moved to Texas where I was raised and my sisters were born. My parents eventually became U.S. Citizens, which is a major reason why I chose to be involved with immigration law. I find it fascinating that, were it not for nature throwing a curve ball at us, I would have grown up in Nicaragua myself, with all my cousins. While I love my American life, I treasure my Nicaraguan heritage.

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Christine Swenson