Moving to a new community can spark a host of challenges. Marisol Gonzalez of Madison shares a story about trying to win over her new neighbors with food and kindness.
Six years ago, I moved to a very white neighborhood. When we moved to that neighborhood, my husband told me that one of the neighbors told him that she would be watching us. If she noticed anything wrong with us, she would call the police right away.
I have to say, I want people to like me. I’m very friendly. So when my husband told me that, it triggered my obsession to get this neighbor to like me. So, I decided to do what Mexicans do, which is throw a party.
I baked a lot of cookies and I made fancy invitations. I went down the whole block to invite all of the neighbors. Some of them…they didn’t even open the door. But, I left the cookies in the mailbox.
By the time of the party, I cleaned the house. I asked my children to dress nicely. I had everything ready 20 minutes before the party started and — for a Mexican— this is a big deal because we’re never on time.
By the time the party started, I was starting to get very, very nervous because I made a lot of food. I made tostadas and guacamole. I had tamales. I had empanadas. Hot chocolate, beer, horchata — all of the food that people like.
But, nobody was there. And by that time — I knew white people a little bit — so I knew that they usually come five minutes before the party starts.
I was having a lot of thoughts, like, “What if they really, really don’t like us? What if they don’t give us a chance? What else are you going to do?”
All of a sudden, five minutes after the party started, somebody knocked at the door. It was two old ladies who brought us plants and welcoming cards. They only stayed for about fifteen minutes. They grabbed an empanada and a cup of hot chocolate.
And you would think I was disappointed when — as I say— I’m a very friendly person. But, that was the best day in the new neighborhood for me.
I decided to continue having more parties because it worked with two neighbors. So, I kept persisting and doing that…every single chance I had to have a party, to meet more neighbors. I did it.
All of the sudden, all of these neighbors started to come to my parties. Then, they started making their own parties.
Last October, we had to move out of the neighborhood. Then, the neighbors put a party together for us. Some of them even cried and asked us, “Why are you guys leaving? Don’t leave us!”
The bond that we made in that white neighborhood as the only family of color was very amazing. And the most important thing that happened is that everybody liked me!
This transcript has been edited for brevity and clarity. Marisol Gonzalez’s story came to us from the UW Odyssey Project, where low-income adults find their voices and earn college credit in an English literature course. Gonzalez was a guest on the podcast ‘Inside Stories,’ which features Madison storytellers and digs deeper into their lives. Hear the full version of Marisol Gonzalez’s story to learn more about her experience.