My English was absolutely zero.: Becoming Minnesotan

Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin introducing the Agripreneur farming system.


Javascript is required to view this map.

Essential Question

Becoming Americans: What does it mean to be an American?

Assimilation: Does a person have to give up part of his/her culture to become more American?

Words to look for


Background Information

Some immigrants to the United States are well-educated individuals who have already built up successful careers in their own countries. It can be quite a shock for them to arrive in a new land and have to start over, learning a new language, becoming accustomed to a new culture, and starting a new job.

To learn more about Latino history and culture, visit our Latino Community page.

  • Chapter 1

Download Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin 3
2:37 Minutes | 2.51Mb


Narrator: Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin (RH)

Interviewer: Lorena Duarte (LD)

LD: Tell me, what were your first memories of coming to Minneapolis or Minnesota?

RH: Oh, boy. Well, first of all, it was rainy. The smells were so different. We lived in a little space on Thirty-Fifth Street down in South Minneapolis. I couldn’t drive, of course, because I didn’t have a driver’s license. Even though within a week I was able to get a driver’s license - and I had some days to drive with my Guatemala driver’s license - I really couldn’t get in the car, because I didn’t know a thing about getting on the road and so on. So I biked all over the place, to the University, and frequently it would be raining. So the other memory was just getting chilled to the bone in eighty-degree weather in Minneapolis. I couldn’t handle it because it was way too cold.

My English was absolutely zero. I mean, not absolutely zero, but it was so close to it that it was really hard to communicate. I didn’t have a work permit for a little bit. So, by the time I got a work permit I had been here for about a month. And I started looking for jobs as soon as I got my work permit. But what jobs? You don’t speak English. And I was coming from a very prominent position in the country in Guatemala. We were given multiple visas, you know, to come to the U.S. anytime we wanted. We were appreciated there. But here was nothing, absolutely nothing. It took about two months, and then it really hit me. I didn’t really want to stay.

I calculated how many words I was learning every day of English and the speed at which I was going. I had already started taking English classes at the U of M. And I actually enrolled at the U of M and started going to school almost right away. But I calculated if I needed to learn about three thousand words to fluently perform any of the stuff I already knew how to do, in this country, it would take me about five years at the speed I was learning. So about two months later I did my analysis again - I’ve got books and books of words that I learned every day so that I could keep repeating and improve my English - about two months later, I came to the mathematical conclusion that this was not going to work.

Related Glossary Terms


Noun: A detailed examination of something to gain understanding.


Verb: To determine the value of something or the solution to something by a mathematical process (calculates, calcualting, calculated).


Verb:  To express or convey ideas, either through verbal or nonverbal methods.  (communicates, communicating, communicated)


Noun: A decision reached after careful thought.


Noun:  A document giving someone permission for something.


Adjective: Standing out; distinct among others.


Noun:  A permit to enter and leave a country, normally issued by the authorities of the country to be visited.


Minnesota Historical Society. Becoming Minnesotan: Stories of Recent Immigrants and Refugees. September 2010. Institute of Museum and Library Services. [Date of access].
nid: 2182