American Dream lies within the pages

 
 
MCT
MCT
Bob Helf / MCT

lrtaseff@duanemorris.com

I arrived in the United States at the age of 7 from Bogota, Colombia, wearing a pink pant suit and holding the hands of my siblings as we deplaned at Miami International Airport. The year was 1974, and although it was December, the air was fragrant and the temperature felt strangely balmy to a little girl used to living on the edge of the cool, crisp Andes Mountains.

Although I spoke not a word of English, I was excited about the new adventure. According to our mom, who had moved heaven and Earth to bring her four children to America, we were here to get an education, to learn, to live productive, constructive lives.

Little did I know that my mom, who had moved to the United States without us two years earlier, had been busily planning for her kids’ future as she anxiously awaited our arrival.

Mama’s planning was done on the 49 bus, as she went to and from her factory job in Hialeah. And, the planning was centered around two buildings Mama saw every day of her bus commute: James H. Bright Elementary School and the John F. Kennedy Library located at 190 W. 49th St.

Within weeks of our arrival, we were enrolled in elementary school. And, shortly after that, on a beautiful, cloudless Saturday morning, mom and her four little ones boarded the No. 12 bus and then the No. 49 bus on their way to John F. Kennedy Library.

When we got to the library, the two things that immediately struck me were the huge windows that offered a view of the trees outside and the smell of all of those library books — shelves and shelves of them. Over the years, I would learn about the Dewey Decimal System and I would master those little wooden file drawers with all of the cards — making order out of chaos. But not on this day. This was my first day ever inside a public library. It was a day to be overwhelmed and awed.

That day started our Saturday library ritual, which lasted for years. The library ritual saw me get my first library card — which I safely tucked in my little red and blue wallet with the Velcro closure. It saw me learn English; write my first book report; and discover Amelia Bedelia. And it saw me master the hidden treasures in microfiche. Who can forget that microfiche reader and the way it hypnotically magnifies and shrinks those little pieces of film?

My first public-library experience is inextricably tied to my immigrant experience — I was poor and different and had a funny-sounding accent when outside the library. But, upon going inside, I felt rich enough to “afford” all of those books, and my funny accent did not matter as I sat in front of the giant windows reading and doing my homework.

That little library in Hialeah gave me a love of the written word, a passion for researching and an intellectual curiosity that has served me well over the years.

I was blessed to receive an elite education precisely because regular visits to the library became a part of my life from very early on. And, as a practicing lawyer who has been honored to work in some wonderful, prestigious places, I have come to see that people of means in this country value and appreciate libraries as a regular and natural part of living a privileged life.

Thus, my immigrant mother’s realization that her children’s lives would absolutely be bettered by regular visits to the public library was wise beyond words. Public libraries are part of the amazing public institutions that make this country singularly special — a beacon for those who aspire to rely on hard work and an education to better themselves.

I am so very sure that my public library story is familiar to the countless immigrants in this community who have been lucky enough to find a measure of success through education. So we owe it to the new generation of immigrants to be champions of public libraries because the tools for making real the American Dream, are hidden among all of those books.

Lida Rodriguez Taseff is an attorney in Miami.

Read more Other Views stories from the Miami Herald

  • In My Opinion

    When journalism is too good to be true

    When a Gallup poll this summer showed that 80 percent of Americans have little faith in the news media, there was a good deal of consternation in U.S. newsrooms. Some of it came from me. We’re used to getting called liars by the hucksters and connivers and knaves we write about. But it’s pretty frustrating to hear that readers don’t trust us, either.

  •  
MONTANER

    WORLD AFFAIRS

    Past looms large in Islamist outlook

    The radical Islamists want to kill Pope Francis, according to the Italian daily Il Tempo. I’m not surprised. The permanent enemy of these anachronistic characters is Christianity, not the Jews.

  • VOTING & RACE

    Finding justice on racial issues through the ballot

    The eyes of America remain focused on Ferguson, Missouri, gripped by the aftermath of Michael Brown’s death. The anguish of Ferguson — from the murder of an unarmed young person of color, to the lack of accountability fueled by a sheer disregard for black lives — is all too familiar for Florida.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category