A Rhode Island Love Story
A chance meeting in a cafeteria line led Lina Bravo to U.S. citizenship. It was February 2009, and Bravo was on vacation, visiting her sister in Providence. A native of Colombia, Bravo says she was at CCRI, “checking the place out,” and while waiting to pay for her lunch, struck up a conversation with the man standing behind her. His name was Cesar, he was originally from Ecuador, and two years later he would become Lina’s husband.
As it happens, this wasn’t just any February day; it was Valentine’s Day, and Lina casually asked Cesar if he was going to “celebrate” the holiday. He said no, he did not have any plans, so she asked him to join her group at a table for lunch. Lina says that she’d heard of Valentine’s Day, but thought that it was the same as el día de amor y amistad (love and friendship day) in her native Colombia. When she later learned of Valentine’s Day’s significance in the U.S., Lina says she was embarrassed that she’d posed such a forward question of a stranger. But Cesar didn’t seem to mind, and the two hit it off. When she returned to Colombia, they kept in touch.
Cesar, who has lived in the U.S. since the early 1990s, visited Lina in Colombia that August. He subsequently visited her twice more, and they discussed marriage. Once he had met Lina’s family and obtained their blessing, the two made plans for her to come to the U.S. permanently. Lina moved to the United States in November 2010 on a fiancée visa, a status which requires that a couple marry within 90 days. On January 8, 2011 they were wed, and once married, Dorcas International Institute of Rhode Island helped Lina apply for conditional permanent residency, and then permanent residency (“green card”).
Lina says that thanks to Dorcas International Institute of Rhode Island, she and Cesar were well prepared, not only for the interview they had to undergo, but also for the entire immigration process, starting with applying for the fiancée visa. Well before she came to live in Rhode Island permanently, Lina had talked to Kinga Correa in Dorcas International Institute of Rhode Island’s Citizenship & Immigration Services program. “When I came to this country, the first organization I visited was Dorcas,” says Lina. “Kinga explained everything to me.” Lina is a quick study, and says that when it came time to apply for citizenship, “I was able to do so because of the knowledge I gained from Dorcas International.”
Lina is a warm person with a passion for helping others, and she began volunteering at Dorcas in early 2014. Since June, she has been employed by Dorcas International in a 25-hour-per-week position heading the Clothing Collaborative. This program provides professional attire to low-income clients who are seeking employment. “They don’t have money for proper attire,” says Lina. The Clothing Collaborative, notes Lina, puts job-seekers in a position to succeed by ensuring that they have work-appropriate clothing for interviews, and for the job itself. Lina is working on expanding the Clothing Collaborative, and notes that it complements Dorcas International’s Workforce Readiness program.
Lina Maria Bravo took her oath of U.S. citizenship on November 6, 2014. It was a cold, rainy morning, but the mood inside the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Johnston Field Office was upbeat. That day, Lina joined 34 other prospective citizens from a total of 18 different nations ranging from Armenia, Burkina Faso and Cambodia, to Iraq, Peru, and Venezuela in becoming U.S. citizens.
Lina hails from Medellin, Colombia’s second largest city, and prior to coming to the United States worked as an electrical engineer for Marsh, a New York-headquartered multinational insurance company. Lina is considering pursuing engineering in the U.S., but for now she is working on improving her English, learning about her new country, and becoming more involved with Dorcas International and the local community. “The first step was getting citizenship,” she says about future educational and employment opportunities. Recently, Lina joined the RI Latina Leadership Institute, a part of the Rhode Island Latino Civic Fund (a non-profit promoting Latino civic and political participation).
Lina and Cesar live in the Elmhurst section of Providence, not far from Cesar’s job as a baker at LaSalle Bakery. While still relatively new to the U.S., Lina has already put down some roots, and she credits Dorcas International Institute of Rhode Island with helping get herself established. She has seen the organization from all sides: as a client, a volunteer, and now a staff member. She came to Rhode Island because of Cesar, but at the same time, she says, “I fell in love with Dorcas, the people, the organization.”