We felt like they were guardian angels.: Becoming Minnesotan

Pennamma Cherucheril and husband, c.1995.
  • Name - Pennamma Cherucheril
  • Age at interview - 50
  • Gender - Female
  • Generation - First Generation American / Immigrant
  • Date of Interview - 07.22.1993
  • SILC students attend Masters of Percussion at Ted Mann Concert Hall, Minneapolis

    The Journey

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    Essential Question

    Coming to America: What did coming to America symbolize for this person?

    The Journey: How did this person get to the U.S.?

    Words to look for


    Background Information

    Immigrating to a new place is scary - especially when you don’t know the local English dialect, the language, or the customs.  Many Indians come to the U.S. willing to take on the challenges of a new culture in order to have better educational or job opportunities.  However, their first challenge is to get out of the airport!

    To learn more about Asian Indian history and culture, visit our Asian Indian Community page.

    • Chapter 1

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    Narrator: Pennamma Cherucheril (PC)

    PC:  So, then, we finally got to the place where we were supposed to wait, and then there was some problem with the next plane. They finally had us all board, and then told everybody to come out, because they apparently had some engine problem. Then, we were just sitting there and we didn't know what to do or what would happen next.  We had no idea. Even if we asked somebody, we knew that we wouldn't understand what they were saying anyway. Then, this elderly couple from Chicago came to us and told us their names and asked us where we were going.  We showed them our tickets and passports so they knew we were going to Chicago and they said they were going to the same place.  We communicated enough to understand that they were going the same place.  They told us, "Just stay with us," and we felt like they were guardian angels.  So, we just stuck right with them and boarded with them. 

    Finally we both fell asleep.  When we woke up, we didn't eat anything there.  We really didn't like any of the food they gave us. When we woke up again we had blankets on us and these people were coming and asking if we were okay. We said yes.  After we got here, somebody sent us a paper clipping about a bad storm on the way over the Atlantic.  It spoke of how people were frightened, and of course, we didn't know any of those things.  We slept through everything!

    So, we got to Chicago.  There were some people from Kerala, we didn't know them, but our family knew them, and one was a priest.  We had written to these people ahead to meet us there.

    We came out of the airplane and we had to fill out these forms for customs and we didn't know how to fill it out.  So they detained us.  They told us to fill it out.  They came and told us and told us numerous times.  They said, "Do you understand?" and we said "No" and they repeated the same thing again, and we said "No".  Finally, we thought, "We're gonna have to get rid of these people, because if we keep saying no they'll send more people and ask us," so finally we said "Yes" and they left.

    Pretty soon, they came back and we still didn't fill it out.  We didn't know that's what they wanted us to do.  Pretty soon, they went out and found these people who were waiting for us and let one of them come in and then we filled it out.  Then we finally went out.

    Related Glossary Terms


    Verb:  To express or convey ideas, either through verbal or nonverbal methods.  (communicates, communicating, communicated)


    Noun:  1. The habitual practices of doing or living; traditions.  2. The government department or agency that is authorised to collect the taxes imposed on imported goods.


    Verb:  To be held back; to be placed into police custody.  (detains, detaining, detained)


    Adjective:  Many.


    Noun:  An official document normally used for international journeys, which proves the identity and nationality of the person for whom it was issued.


    Minnesota Historical Society. Becoming Minnesotan: Stories of Recent Immigrants and Refugees. September 2010. Institute of Museum and Library Services. [Date of access]. http://www.mnhs.org/immigration
    nid: 601