Carmela Becerra was born in Cali, Colombia in 1964. She grew up in Cali along with her three siblings. Her father worked as a foreman at a construction company, and her mother was a homemaker. She discusses the diversity of her ancestors with Afro-Colombian and indigenous roots and notes an absence of racism and colorism during her upbringing in Colombia. She remembers the rise of cartel-related violence.
After completing a two-year college degree, she was motivated to move the U.S. for job opportunities. With family members living in Elizabeth, New Jersey, she decided to settle in Elizabeth. She describes the large Colombian community in Elizabeth and her family connections in the city, notably an aunt who owned a travel agency. She planned on returning to Colombia, but she met and married her husband, who is Puerto Rican, and decided to stay in the U.S. She compares and contrasts language and cultural practices of Colombians and Puerto Ricans.
After going back to school, she became a teacher and has worked as an English as a second language teacher. She visits Colombia frequently and plans on retiring in Colombia. In the interview, she delves into raising children in America, demographics and immigration, current issues surrounding immigration, and political and economic strife in Colombia.
This oral history interview was conducted as a part of the Latino New Jersey History Project, directed by Dr. Lilia Fernandez.