Firsthand: Waiting Online

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My daughter’s godmother lives in Queens. When I told her I wanted to come here from Peru, she said, “Don’t! It’s not what you think!” I used to read Fortune. I thought I’d get rich from dot-coms and bring my family in a year.

I was wrong.

In Lima I had a small computer company. Then Fujimori became president. The computer industry got more competitive and the economy was in crisis. My clients couldn’t afford me anymore and my income was a tenth what it had been. My wife and I were fighting over money.

I came to New York on a tourist visa in 2000, and quickly saw that the godmother was right.

The only job I could get was in a bakery, feeding bagels into an oven. It was 120 degrees in the room, 60 hours a week, $350. Some workers started organizing a union. The owner learned I’d signed and sped up my work so I’d quit. The union lost. Now I’m at another factory. I send $500 a month to Peru.

I was 33 when I left. My son was 1 1/2 and my daughter was five. I call them every other day, but my son doesn’t know me. My daughter gives me advice: “Daddy, don’t go looking for problems. Stay healthy.”

I was having chest pains. The doctor says it’s from stress. He says, “Try to bring your family here. Have fun.” At movies I cry for no reason. I grew up thinking men don’t cry, but I’ve changed here. Now I think crying is OK. And there are people in worse situations than mine.

I’ve got ideas for websites. I wanted to post my life story and people would contribute money for me to either bring my family here or to go back to Peru. But how do I get paid without being identified? I’m undocumented: I can’t even open a bank account without a social security card. But I’ll find a way to start a business selling computer training videos.

I got my latest website idea from seeing how men here have no idea what to say to attract a woman. In Spanish, you say things like, “St. Peter must have fallen asleep, because the angels are fleeing heaven!” Here people say, “Hey baby!” I’m going to have a site to post good things. At first it will be free. Later, I’ll charge.”

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