BEHIND THE SCENES with Erika Romero

You made this story for a Documentary Film and TV course at the College of Saint Rose. Why did you choose to make an audio story?

My professor encouraged us to approach our final project in our own creative way, and I have always been fascinated with radio and sound design. For me, listening to an audio story is like having a book come to life. The listener has the ability to envision the main character in his or her own way, based on what they focus on while listening to the piece. I like that it gives the listener the chance to know the characters on a much deeper level therefore.

While working on the piece I must have created dozens of versions of the story with different details and specific occurrences. It was interesting to see that there were various ways to tell the story. It wasn't until some late night brain storming that I realized that there was no need for so many details, that silence can truly be a part of the story.

Why tell this particular story - and were you worried about your classmate's reactions?

I haven't heard of any other stories about turning 21 and sponsoring immigrant parents. It can be a very sensitive topic, so, in general, these conversations aren't prevalent unless you're talking to a close friend.

Introducing 21 and Legal to my classmates took a lot of guts because I was letting my peers step into my personal life. Although to me, it was much more important to share a very small glimpse of what immigrant families go through. The majority of the class was moved because of what turning 21 actually meant for me. It was much more than becoming a legal adult it was about giving my parents legal rights to stay in this country. There were a small number of classmates who identified with the struggle and what it is like to change an immigration status.

Did you always know that you would narrate along with your twin sister?

Oh Yeah. As my dad would say, "Of course!" I felt that other than my parents, we were the ones that knew the story well. I couldn't have done it without her. We basically told the story to each other from the beginning from the day my parents got here. I recorded the hour and forty minute long conversation and edited it down to five minutes.

Who would you like to hear this piece?

Creating the piece gave me the opportunity to reflect on the sacrifices my parents made and everything they have done to come to this country. I made the piece to honor them, to let them know that it has been worth getting closer and closer to our American Dream. I would like anyone and everyone to listen to this piece. I would like it to inspire folks who come from immigrant families to share their own story and preserve their family's legacy. I think that it honors the sacrifices that they have done to be in this country and the perseverance they continue to have to be recognized.

Since receiving their green cards, have your parents been able to travel back to Colombia?

Both my parents had the opportunity to travel to Colombia since receiving their green cards. They had an unbelievable and wonderful experience reuniting with their family members. Of course, a lot has changed since they were last there which was fifteen years ago. It took some time to reaquaint themselves with the town that they once knew, but nonetheless it was all very exciting. They also celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary last year in Mexico so having them experience different parts of the world has been very rewarding for me and my sister to witness. They deserve that and much much more.

You've just started working as a facilitator with StoryCorps, traveling around the U.S. recording interviews with "everyday people." What has the experience been like so far?

Being able to listen to wonderful conversations between close friends and loved ones has given me the opportunity to feel immersed in their lives for forty minutes. At the moment, I'm just trying to take everything in.

I'm currently on the road with the StoryCorps mobile tour in Jackson, MS, and I just spent a month in Austin. I'll also have the chance to visit New Orleans, Omaha, Colorado Springs, Vernal, Seattle, Sacramento, Los Angeles, and Tucson throughout the year. This year has been such a blessing. It seems unreal to me that I get to listen to wonderful stories around the country. The beauty of storytelling is being in the moment with the storyteller. All of the interviews are different. For me, just by asking the participants to "paint a picture with words" or, "how did that make you feel?" gives them an opportunity to dive deeper into their memory and tell a better story. Sometimes it just takes a simple question to evoke an admiring memory. An example, during facilitator training we had to interview each other. I was the story teller and I was asked what my favorite memory of my boyfriend was. I don't think any one had ever asked me that question about that specific person. Obviously it cued some tears but it was amazing how simple the question was to bring out why he meant so much to me.