It was beautiful – it was hard.: Becoming Minnesotan

Susana de León, 2011.  Minnesota Historical Society, Oral History Office files.
  • Name - Susana de León
  • Age at interview - 44
  • Gender - Female
  • Generation - First Generation American / Immigrant
  • Date of Interview - 04.08.2010
  • Susana de León's mother at her work station at their home.
    Susana de León at 6 months old. Minnesota Historical Society.

    Class & Work

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    Essential Question

    Life in the Old Country: What makes a country a person’s homeland?

    Class & Work: How important is work in defining a person’s identity?

    Words to look for


    Background Information

    Family is very important in Latino culture. Latino families, including extended family, are often very close. Extended families may live together or visit each other frequently, even if they live quite far apart. Each family member is expected to support and help the others, by giving them money, caring for them when they are old or sick, or in other ways. Sometimes an entire community, including friends and neighbors, is considered to be ‘family’.

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

    • Chapter 1

    Download Susana de León 2
    2:8 Minutes | 2.05Mb


    Narrator: Susana de León (SdL)

    Interviewer: Lorena Duarte (LD)

    SdL: I also was basically raised part time by my mom and part time by my older sister. My mom worked. She was a seamstress by then. She had very long hours. She would start at the crack of dawn. It sounds cliché but it is that way. She would get up and start sewing. All the responsibility then would fall on my sister to make sure that we got up, we got dressed, we got fed, we went to school. When we came back from school, we all pitched in on the chores. It was, I think, one of the things that made my sister, my brothers, and I be very close. Because we knew that we depending on each other, and that my mother needed support, and that she would put food on the table, but it was our job to cook the food, or to clean the house, and to just make the family function.

    LD: Right, right.

    SdL: It was beautiful. It was hard. It had a lot of fun events, but I would say that I was very aware that we were poor and we were struggling. When the neighbor lady came home and she had a lot of bread left over, she would bring it over to our house. Shoes, a lot of hand-me-downs, she would bring over to us. So I knew that there was some thing that we didn’t have, and, yet, there were all of these other fun things, friends, family. But I knew that we sometimes didn’t have food, and I knew that we didn’t have shoes. Those are the things that stick with you when you are little.

    Related Glossary Terms


    Noun: A very predictable or unoriginal thing, person, or idea.


    Noun: A woman who sews clothes professionally.


    Minnesota Historical Society. Becoming Minnesotan: Stories of Recent Immigrants and Refugees. September 2010. Institute of Museum and Library Services. [Date of access].
    nid: 2166