Meet Johanna C Castillo-Rodrigez, a lover of nature, culture, and languages, backyard gardener, raising multicultural and multilingual children. Supporting families in South Florida to have families that are conscious, multicultural and green!! Proud Latina Mom!
1. Tell us a little about yourself and your family.
My name is Johana. I am Mama Tortuga. I was born and raised in Colombia. My mother had to immigrate after my father died. After that, I stayed with my grandparents for 6 years until when she was able to bring me to the United States. Here I met my partner for life, Francisco from Honduras. We decided after having a relationship for 5 years, we got married!!
Now, we are raising two children in a completely different culture and style of life from the one both of us were raised in. We love nature and simple living. We believe in living a life where we can be respectful with everyone and protect nature. We also believe in the power of community and the power of being ourselves!
Which cities have your lived in/ visited in your lifetime? Which is your favorite?
I really like where we live right now, which is South Florida, US. When I was a child I lived in a place called Aguazul which is in the East part of Colombia, a zone called “Los Llanos”. But I love mountains. I grew up surrounded by mountains in a city called Bogota.
What do brought you to what you do?
Definitely, being a mother. When I became a mother, that made me think about the kind of world I wanted to have for them and the community I wanted to have. Also, raising them to be multilingual citizens of the world!
What is one aspect in raising multicultural children do we need to be MOST aware of .
At this time, we need to grasp the historical baggage of our cultures, countries of origin and the dangerous trend of being oblivious to it. I believe that in not acknowledging our problems we are bind to repeat toxic patterns. Raising multicultural children in an increasing global society makes many people that haven’t heal and grasp those historical fears and pains, very afraid of others. Sadly, the white supremacists agenda masked by nationalistic points of view is really putting all of us in danger. It is a worldwide spread disease that we need to address.
What is one personal challenge you have overcome growing up?
Fear. I grew up in a very violent time and my family was constantly full of fear. I am choosing to live a life free of fear to make my own decisions and also allow my children to do the same regardless the circumstances.
Share with us two parenting hacks that have made life easy.
A relationship with your child is the most important ever. We can’t have a healthy relationship with our children if we don’t heal ourselves. That is one thing we need to work on every day. Think about it as a garden. You need to water it every day.
What projects are you working on next?
I am continually working on many local projects of activism and support to parents and families in my community. Right now, I am supporting different initiatives to support immigrants and refugees in Palm Beach County and also, supporting multilingualism in my community. Also, raising the consciousness around human and nature rights.
Also, right now, I am having a series of IG Lives, presenting community friends from around the world that are making a positive change in the world! #mamatortugacommunityfriends
What is one thing piece of advice you would give to children?
Be yourself and nature is your best friend. Learn from nature and play!
Tell us three things that are on your bucket list?
Visit Japan and get into an onsen. Watch the Aurora Borealis. See a world of World Peace.
What 3 books/movies would you say changed your life?
This is a hard one!! But 3 of my favorite all time books:
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, Pax by Sara Pennypacker and The Book of Forgiving by Desmond Tutu and his daughter, Mpho Tutu.
Movies: On the Way to School, The Embrace of the Snake, Ready Player One, 50 First Dates.
Did you know Ellis Island officially opened as an immigration station on January 1, 1892? Seventeen-year-old Annie Moore, from County Cork, Ireland was the first immigrant to be processed at the new federal immigration depot.
The Statue of Enlightening the World
Most of us have heard of New York’s Ellis Island and it’s immigration depot. When mentioning Island, it often brings to mind the Statue of Liberty, which many believe both to be located on the same island. But in fact, they are not. The statue welcomed millions of immigrants entering New York Harbor on their way to Ellis Island.
Ellis Island was previously called Gull Island. This was before Samuel Ellis purchased the island in the 1770’s. Samuel had a good sized tavern built on the island, which was used by many Manhattan residents in its day. But “Ellis Island” is also the name given to the immigration depot located on the island, which first opened on January 1, 1892.
STORY OF ELLIS ISLAND
Questions Answered Here.
After I discovered the above information, I was curious to know more. Like what the island was used for between the time Mr. Ellis ran his tavern, when America became a nation in 1776 and when Ellis Island, the immigration depot began in 1892… I had questions like:
1. Where did all if the immigrants to America enter as they came through the New York Harbor between during that century? 2. Why was the immigration depot built on an island in the first place? 3. Were there records of the people who entered America before the immigration depot opened. 4. If so, what happened to them?
So, I set out to do more research and was able to answer those questions, as well as several others that I didn’t even know I had. Although the research was vague between 1776 and 1811, it picked back up just prior to the War of 1812.
Preparing for War
With tensions rising between America and Great Britain due to America’s departure from Great Britain’s rule in 1776, an armament known as the Southwest Battery was built on Ellis Island in 1808 in lower southwest Manhattan. This became known as Fort Clinton. The fort was one of four built within close proximity to each other used to protect New York Harbor.
What happened to Fort Clinton?
Getting back to Ellis Island and Fort Clinton. In 1823, following the war, the fort was deeded to New York City. It was turned into an opera house and theater called Castle Garden for the next 31 years. Castle Garden was a hot spot for cultural entertainment, showcasing not only entertainment venues but also the newest inventions, such as Samuel Morse and his telegraph and steam powered fire engines.
Within a year after Castle Garden Opera House closed its doors, Castle Garden started being used as an immigration station. Here, clerks were hired to process and log every person entering American shores through the New York Harbor from various countries. This was America’s first immigration depot. Prior to this, passengers exited the ships directly onto the shores of Manhattan, often bringing with them many different diseases.
Many of the ill passengers had already been struck by disease before they even boarded ships in their native country, although many also contracted diseases during their nearly twelve day voyage across the ocean.
Somewhere between 8 and 12 million people came through Castle Garden until it closed 1890 when the federal government took over the task of immigration, which happened in part because of the corruption among clerks who were designated to process voyagers at this time.
Corruption such as blatant use of a federal act of 1882 forbidding entry of “lunatics, idiots, criminals and public charges” (prostitutes and other unwelcome professions) by making their own personal judgement calls. Typically, they did this in hopes of be offered bribes to look the other way.
Building Ellis Island Depot
While the first federal immigration depot began being built on Ellis Island, designed by Edward Tilton and William Boring, a temporary depot was located on a barge just off shore of Castle Garden. In 1891, the barge welcomed just over 400,000 passengers.
Ellis Island was no where near large enough to accommodate the new depot, so it was necessary to increase the size of the island. This was done by unloading the ballasts of ships (stones in the lowest level of ships used for balance) and using the dirt and debris from the building of elevated railways in the in New York City.
On January 1, 1892, when the island finally opened, it is said that a young girl, Annie Moore 17 years old, was the first to be processed through the new wooden immigration depot built upon the island. She came on a ship from Cork County, Ireland with her two younger brothers to join their parents who were already in America.
Eventually, Annie married Joseph Schayer, of German decent, a salesman at Manhattan’s Fulton Fish Market. Together they had at least ten children. Annie died in 1924, although my research wasn’t clear as to the cause. Many accounts relay it being a horrible streetcar accident, while others report she died of a heart attack.
Rebuilding the Immigration Depot
It was on June 15, 1897, that a fire on Ellis Island broke out. It destroyed the wooden structure taking the majority of the 1.5 million immigration records of not only those of the island itself, but also the records which were being stored from the Castle Garden days. As a new fireproof structure began being built, the barge depot once again welcomed new passengers. By December of that same year, the new fireproof building reopened and Vice President Theodore Roosevelt appointed the first immigration commissioner, William Williams to manage the depot.
Commissioner Williams fired the vast majority of the depot’s employees in 1902, eliminating widespread corruption and abuse. He began offering awards based on merit and announced any suspected dishonesty were grounds for dismissal. Signs featuring Williams new rules of kindness and consideration were posted as reminders all around the depot.
This new generation of immigrants saw many of Jewish faith, who left their home country due to political and economic unrest, as well as people of Italian decent escaping poverty. Ellis Island welcomed many Polish, Hungarians, and Greeks to name a few, also many non-Europeans from locations such as Serbia, Turkey and Armenia.
Why People Came
After learning all of this, I was interested in finding out about specific stories of some people who took a chance to voyage across the Atlantic Ocean. I discovered families like Barnet Chadekel, who chose to travel under his wife, Chann’s maiden name of Mirelowitz because in their native land they were perceived to be wealthy because he owned a glass working shop. In the country they left behind, they were considered to be wealthy and were persecuted for this. Often put to death.
As another aside: For a little over ten years in the early 2000s, I taught a life journaling class to hundreds of senior citizens all over the metro Detroit area. Every person in every class had an interesting story to tell, but many had traced their family histories all the way back to Ellis Island and beyond. What they discovered during their research was that there were many family members who, when they told immigration clerks their name, the clerk wrongly spelled their name the way they heard it so their name turned out to be something different from what it really was. Some clerks shortened their name. And some immigrants, like Iparhos Perdikis (who you’ll read about here) chose to give the clerk at their departure from their home country, a completely different name. I learned so much while working with everyone during these years, about immigration and their personal lives I was also able life lessons, which I still use today.
The Many Reasons Why People Came
The reasons people made the long expensive journey to America vary widely. Some escaped war in their home country, as well as drought, hunger, and persecution for their religious beliefs. People came hoping for jobs, some were only in the States long enough to earn enough money to support their family when they returned to their homeland and some came hoping to get land to farm. But everyone came in hopes for a better opportunity.
Passengers waited in long lines on the island following their nearly two week voyage, some of them waited only to be detained for weeks… or worse, deported because they didn’t pass the interviews with immigration inspectors, who claimed they were too sick or deemed as illiterate. During various different periods, immigrants from certain countries were banned entirely. But this didn’t stop people from coming in search of their dreams.
Nearly 12 million people were welcomed by the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor during Ellis Island depot’s 62 year history. Though due to a multitude of immigration acts in the U.S., immigration to the island dramatically decreased by 1924. Ellis Island immigration depot finally closed its doors in November of 1954.
Meet Giuseppe D’Amico
Giuseppe D’Amico was an electrician by trade. His family was already in America, but upon arriving, he found that in Manhattan, his profession had already seen unionization, which left him unable to find work. Fortunately, a family member, skilled as a seamstress, taught him her trade. Guiseppi went from learning the basic skills of dressmaking and through the years, worked his way to becoming a highly skilled dressmaker, managing a shop, then creating his own business designing beautiful gowns for the women of his day.
Tong Ly Jue Journeyed from China
Tong Ly Jue, a herbalist by trade, immigrated from China. He and his wife, Jeang Quai, settled in San Francisco’s Chinatown. With him, he brought many Chinese herbs and medicines and was able to come to the aid of people afflicted with many different diseases. Tong Ly is said to be among one of the first herbalists welcomed to America.
The Perdikis Family
Lastly, let’s meet Iparhos Perdikis. In 1921, the 16 year old traveled with his parents who settled in New York City. Iparhos chose to completely change his name to Harold Perrin, as many others often did, when he came to America. He studied hard in school before finding his calling and consuming himself in music and dance. Later, he performed on vaudeville stages and in nightclubs all across America.
When reflecting back to his arrival through New York Harbor and looking up at the lights of the New York city, Harold recalls, “From that beautiful city, I got my dreams.”
Over all, from the time Ellis Island opened until 1954 when it closed, more than 12 million people were welcomed into the United States. Today, the island is a National Park and hosts a museum in the main building. Restoration is being done, with the help of donations, to the Ellis Island hospital building. While visiting, you can go on guided tours of both the Ellis Island immigration depot island and our Lady Liberty. You also have the opportunity to take a guided cruise through New York Harbor and much more.
Janie Saylor is a professional certified life coach with a degree in psychology, her focus is in the emerging field of positive psychology. Janie is the mom of two grown children, her son, age 21, and her daughter, age 25. In 2006, Janie published the book, “The Road You’ve Traveled, How to Journal Your Life,” which came from her experiences teaching life journaling to people over the age of 60 for 10+ years in various communities in the Metro Detroit area. Janie’s used her experiences and education as she developed an 8-week online coaching program and has had tremendous success in improving the communication, lives and relationships of her clients. Janie enjoys uplifting others with positive posts and memes on her Facebook page, Become University. Janie calls it “Your Happy Place.”
On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we have an opportunity to celebrate and honor the many ways that this great American leader stood for peace and justice for all. His work was focused on community, on togetherness, and on brotherhood and sisterhood.
About Martin Luther King Jr.
The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was an essential leader in the American Civil Rights Movement from the mid-1950s until his assassination in 1968. As a social activist and prominent Baptist minister, King played a vital role in countless civil rights events including the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the 1963 March on Washington.
In 1983, the legislation was signed by the United States government to designate a federal holiday on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday– January 15– meaning that non-essential federal government offices are closed, every federal employee is paid for the holiday, and public schools are out of session. Later, in 1994, Congress named this holiday a national day of service. MLK Jr. Day is observed on the third Monday of January each year, near King’s birthday.
Because the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a leader and advocate for freedom and righteousness for all, we can live out his vision by engaging in acts of service. For it is in believing in the potential of our American family and actively building community, that we can grow together in love.
As a former co-leader of two community service clubs in Austin-area high schools, I am deeply invested in the power of service learning. I have witnessed, first-hand, the ways that young people are inspired by even simple and small acts of service– from cleaning up local parks to running game booths at a neighborhood elementary school to canvassing neighborhoods for canned foods.
In my work as a coach for teens and parents, I often share the idea of finding union and connection through community-based volunteering. As each individual becomes empowered and takes actions, such as volunteering, an openness to working together develops. Additionally, because humans are hard-wired to seek rewards, especially during the teenage years, “doing good” can fill teenagers’ desire to connect, contribute, and be accepted.
I invite you and your family to serve in your community this MLK Jr. Day (January 15, 2018) and beyond. Here are 7 Life Lessons We Learn Through Acts of Service:
We have agency in our lives and in our communities. We can (and are responsible for) taking actions to contribute to our families, our communities, and our world. When we actively work towards connected, loving, and healthy communities feels good and helps us understand our role in each of these spheres. As we serve, we can recognize and solidify our identity, our values, and our interests and passions.
Working together can warm the heart. As cliche as this sounds, it’s the truth. When we serve collectively, work together, and find synergy we elevate our own energies and the energies of those around us. Connecting with new friends, neighbors, or community members to accomplish a similar goal or through the act of service itself can be uplifting. Community-service presents us with opportunities to grow in empathy; we can begin to more clearly see ourselves in others, relate to others, and sense our connectedness.
We can create deep joy by being present. Being in the moment, with those people and spaces in front of us can bring great happiness and even healing. Service means setting an intention to be with others or in action that requires attention, compassion, and love. It is nearly impossible to love without presence, so through service, we can practice mindfulness.
Building kinship gives us a sense of purpose and helps us understand our gifts. Moreover, it helps us love and appreciate the gifts of others. When we intentionally participate in community and spend time with others, we are invited to exchange gifts with one another. This reciprocal exchange allows us to relate to one another, to give and receive support, and to deepen our sense of WHY we show up each day.
5. We need to be in community regularly. Humans are not meant to live a completely solitary life; we thrive in tribes or communities and have socially-wired brains. We can realize, through acts of service, the ways we feel supported and nourished by others. We can learn from one another, laugh together, create together, and build community together. This brings us right back to all of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s visions of justice, equality, and solidarity.
We are more similar than different. When we sit parallel or work side by side, we learn rather quickly that we have more in common with one another than not. Our connecting helps us internalize the message that we are all one, that we are all equal. Through acts of service we acknowledge our own humanity and the humanity of others; nothing is as humbling and inspiring as seeing yourself in another.
We are happier and mentally healthier when we contribute to our community- near and far. Neuroscience shows that altruistic, heartfelt community service activities elicit feelings of satisfaction and reward. In other words, when we “do good,” we feel satisfied, and when we feel satisfied, we experience a rush of pleasure hormones similar to those released by eating sugar or earning money.
What other life lessons have you learned through service and volunteerism?
Join me in making the pledge to spend this MLK Jr. Day doing service in your local community! You can also search for and register your MLK Jr. Day event. Finally, I reccomend spending time researching events and ways to serve with your children and family. If you’d like support in this process and in developing service learning conversations in your home, e-mail me.
As a Child-Centered Coach for Teens and Parents, Courtney supports children ages 11-19 in finding their voice, growing confidence, and thriving. Through 1:1 and small group coaching sessions, teens and tweens are able to overcome anxiety, disconnect, and isolation as they discover their truest sense of self and develop a deep sense of empowerment. Courtney supports parents in self-care, growing alongside their children, and in developing balanced sensitivity towards the process their child is creating. Sessions with both teens and parents guide families in developing the trust, communication, and connection that’s crucial for a life of ease. You can find out more about Courtney Harris Coaching here: https://www.facebook.com/courtneyharrisedconnect/ and https://courtneylynnharris.wixsite.com/mysite
Welcome to our fourth annual blog hop on Martin Luther King Day for Kids! Find great ideas for commemorating MLK Day with kids and don’t miss our series from last year as well as 2016 and 2015!
Four-eyes. The ultimate insult to a fourth grader forty years ago. I squinted my way through third grade, but couldn’t see what the teacher wrote on the board, even from the first row. I’d meet up with friends during homeroom, note what they were wearing and identify them by the color of their clothing. Jeepers, creepers, I didn’t want any peepers.
Like it or not, my very first pair of glasses sported thin, golden octagon-shaped frames. On the ride home from the optometrist, I stared out the window, amazed at the individual blades of grass I could see. The world was no longer awash in soft focus. I could see clearly for the first time in years.
The Way We Were
Even though I was in the distinct minority in school, there were a few of us around. We wore gold or silver frames a la John Lennon or heavy plastic frames in earth tones. I even got first generation lenses that darkened in the sun. Sadly, they never really turned completely clear again so I resided in a sepia-toned world during my middle-school years.
Where’d You Get Those Glasses?
Flash forward a few decades and eye wear is both functional and fashion-forward. Some even choose to wear clear lenses with no correction just to get the look. You can be studious, or edgy or retro or anything you’d like. There are glasses that suit virtually any statement you’d like to make. Polycarbonate lenses, anti-reflective coatings, frames that twist like a pretzel without breaking. Not only beautiful, but strong too.
Although I wear contact lenses most of the time, I will confess to reveling in my tortoise-shell and baby blue RayBans, or the ones I’m wearing right now: green textured rectangles that look like fresh-cut wood. Gone are the days of one pair only. Glasses accessorize, sometimes glamorize and always make a statement.
Contact lenses got in on the fashion game as well. Back in the day, we were thrilled to get a single pair of lenses we wore for an entire year. We handled them cautiously as a torn lens meant glasses, even if you had PhysEd at school. Today, not only do lenses come in a rainbow of colors, some are meant to be worn just once and then tossed away. Forget wishing you’d be born with blue eyes, the reality is as easy as popping in a pair of soft lenses. Wish granted.
Leaving the Past Behind, For Good
Sometimes as adults, we have a tendency to wax nostalgic about the way things were. In the case of vision correction, I don’t yearn for the old days at all. The choices available now mean that my children see so much better (thanks to lightweight polycarbonate lenses) and they’ve never heard a derisive label regarding their imperfect vision. Further proof that different is simply different and that’s perfectly okay.
This month is National Eye Exam Month. If you’re having trouble seeing this beautiful world around us, schedule an exam. If glasses are in your future, rest assured you’re in good company. Jeepers, creepers, I love my peepers.
If you already have glasses, go ahead and share in the comments how your first days of wearing glasses was like.
Deborah Fingerlow is a writer, traveler and explorer seeking adventures both large and small. Parent to one daughter in college and one teenage son in cyber-school. Food allergies play a significant role in day to day life decisions, as does the support network of a small town in south central Pennsylvania. Neighbors are known by their first names and a walking district encourages community engagement. Business to business communications and the development of authentic connections are Deborah Fingerlow’s superpowers. You can find her at the local farmer’s market, therapy dogs in tow, camera in hand.