Talk about a melting pot. Martha Harvey’s paternal grandparents were of Irish, Spanish and Indian heritage, while her maternal grandparents were part Hungarian, Jewish, Italian, French and Spanish.
Yet, that history has no bearing on people who see her black hair and her dark complexion, or hear her speak, and offer insults of “go back to your own country” or racial epithets.
Harvey was born in Acapulco, Mexico.
If people see Harvey with her husband, Todd, who is white, the insults expand along the lines of calling her a mail-order bride.
“They automatically think that she’s illegal, right off the bat,” Todd Harvey said. “They think that we’re married, that she’s only here because she’s married to me.”
What those comments and assumptions don’t take into account is that Harvey is a naturalized American citizen, a path she chose separate from her relationship with her husband.
“I’m a citizen, and I should be treated like a citizen,” Harvey said.
Growing up in Acapulco, Harvey never dreamed of coming to America. However, a sister moved to Bloomington, Ill., and convinced Harvey to come in 1983.
“My sister said you can have a better opportunity,” Harvey said.
Initially employed as a migrant farm worker, Harvey studied interior design. She met her husband in San Diego. After they got married, the couple moved to Ohio to be closer to his family. They have lived in Masury since 1993, and raised four kids.
“I don’t speak Spanish with anybody, not even with my kids, because people used to make fun of that,” Harvey said. “My kids even say to me today, ‘Mom, how come you didn’t teach us Spanish?’ I said, ‘Because you guys used to say, ‘Well, my friend is asking me why you speak Spanish’ or asking me too many questions. That’s why I quit teaching all my kids Spanish.”
Harvey said her children would complain that other kids would make fun of Hispanics whenever the subject came up in class, and would call them nicknames that, depending how they are delivered, could be terms of endearment or of insult.
The comments directed at Harvey have gotten more regular and pointed since President Trump was elected, she said. People have even gone to her Facebook page and made racist posts.
“For many years, I kept myself quiet and I never say anything,” Harvey said. “I guess I say to myself in the last three years, I have to defend myself. I have to speak up. If you don’t do it, people will eat you alive.”
Although she has neighbors who welcome her, others have not. When she tried to start a Neighborhood Watch, “I have people telling me, ‘Why you doing this? You’re not even from this country.’”
Harvey, who cleans offices and details homes, said she has been a good citizen of the United States.
“I followed the law,” she said. “I did what I’m supposed to do, I never be in trouble with the law or taxpayers. I’m a citizen of this country like everybody else, and I never take advantage of anybody else, or the government.”
“We never collected welfare,” said Todd Harvey, a corrections officer and Army veteran of Operation Desert Storm.
“Always worked,” Martha Harvey said. “We never asked anybody for anything.”
Harvey said she often feels isolated: much of her husband’s family did not accept her; she has no family outside of her husband, kids, and three grandkids close by; and there are very few Hispanic people in the area.
“It’s hard to be another race in this country,” she said.
Yet, “this country,” is now her country.
“I will do anything for my country, because I’m a citizen,” Harvey said.