I want to learn from women who traveled before my millenial generation took the social media world by storm. Women traveled before people announced their engagements on facebook statuses and used selfie sticks to prove where they’ve been. What were their fears? How did they discover the world and themselves?
Here is a “Travelers Before Facebook” interview with Dominican-born Miguelina “Mickie” Cuevas-Post, who served in the Peace Corps in Jamaica from 1976-1978, and in Belize from 2011-2013. Taking the leap of faith and living/traveling to a new country can be scary, but Mickie shows us that Latinxs have been doing this for decades, and that there’s so much to gain from traveling. Enjoy her story!
1. Where are you and your family from originally? Where have they traveled?
I was born in Santo Domingo, The Dominican Republic (D.R.). My mother first visited the U.S. in the 1950’s. From our maternal side, we seem to have inherited wanderlust. My great-grandmother was a Spaniard. My mother referred to her as “Isleña”, which was interpreted to mean she was born in the Canary Islands. We know nothing else about her. My grandmother moved from La Vega, D.R., to Santo Domingo. My mother decided that the family should move to the U.S. and my father reluctantly agreed.
I moved to Central NY; Our family have set roots across the U.S. and various countries: D.R., Chile, Puerto Rico, Bahrain, and Spain.
My mother loved to travel, and visited places like Spain, Czechoslovakia, Israel, and Mexico, but most of her travels occurred in the late 70’s and 80’s. My travels, besides those countries in which I served as a Peace Corps (PC) Volunteer, include western Europe, P.R., Mexico, Canada, U.S. Virgin Islands, and various U.S. states, including Alaska and Hawaii. I taught in NYC before I joined the PC.
I took a leave of absence to serve in Jamaica. However, the course of my life changed in the first 3 months after arriving in country – meeting and marrying another PCV from Scipio, NY.
I went from being city born and bred, to living on a farm. PC service prepared me for that change.
2. Why did you choose to serve in the Peace Corps?
A friend picked up the PC application at my request. The thought of serving was first planted while sitting in a high school English class. Our teacher, Mrs. Bush, invited some young volunteers. What they had to say must have made an impression.
Fast forward about 10 years, and I found myself as a PCV in Jamaica, where I met my husband. We married and had our first child, Christina. After raising our children, we decided to apply to the PC once again and served in Belize. I remained after Close of Service to work as a PCV Leader. I returned to the U.S. after swearing in of the new group. They just completed service this month!
3. What did your loved ones think of your travels?
Everyone was very supportive. Only silent reluctance was later expressed by the person I was dating at the time. My family was proud when I joined the PC. There was much more concern and disapproval (primarily from my mother ) when I decided to get my own apartment after college, at 24.
In Hispanic families, females did not typically leave the home to live on their own, or go away to attend college.
4. How do you think your daughter Rachel (Current PC Response Georgia Volunteer) perceives traveling because of you?
Rachel visited us in Belize. Our children have always been aware of service, met other RPCVs, and heard our stories.
Our children know that service is not always what one expects. There could be many frustrating moments-that patience is a must, and that it can be a most rewarding experience!
Jamaica was not easy, but our service experience was such that we were ready to serve again. PC is indeed the toughest job you’d ever love, and it changes our lives (literally and figuratively).
5. People say we make a bigger deal about travel now than we did back then. How has social media framed how we view travel today?
If by, “back then”, you mean the 70’s and 80’s, the answer is yes! I had travelled to Europe, the Caribbean, and Hawaii before joining PC. We did not have social media to publicize our travels. Traveling “back then” was more related to where people lived.
Economic status and education were also more significant factors in predicting who traveled. During my freshman year at NYU, classmates would talk talk about their trips to Europe and places considered more exotic at the time, such as Russia.
In Jamaica, we could only communicate via telegraph in an emergency- even with the PC office in Kingston. We had no phone (cell phones did not exist, and the public phone, when available, didn’t work). There were no computers, so social media did not exist. Internet was a long way from its creation.
We travelled by mini-van, and either arranged to stay with a volunteer overnight, or had to return before the mini busses stopped running.
Our second tour as PC volunteers was completely different. We all communicated via email and Facebook, so information was shared instantaneously.
Pictures could be shared right away; one’s excitement, disappointments and requests could be disseminated quickly.
We were never too far from home. Our volunteer friends from Belize and Jamaica travelled a great deal, during and following completion of service. By their very nature, PCVs are travelers.
6. Do you remember your first flight?
I was 12 when I flew from Santo Domingo to Puerto Rico, on my way to NYC. I must have been very nervous, and afraid to get sick. I was full of excitement and trepidation. I spoke no English. My sister and I sat next to friends from the neighborhood, but I was not aware (due to nerves) until much later, when I realized they were our traveling companions.
7. Where in the world are you now? Where will you go next?
I’m back in Scipio, hoping to travel to Italy, Spain, and Greece next spring. I still consider applying for a PC response position somewhere in Latin America.
8. Any last thoughts?
Travel light. Keep a journal. Take photos. Be cautious, patient, and open-minded.
Featured image of Mickie in Italy, 1973.