Veronica Segovia works as a Consumer Loan Officer at Marine Credit Union (MCU). Originally from Puerto Rico, Veronica came to the United States in 2017 after Hurricane Maria hit her home in the Caribbean. “I thought I would be here for three to four months,” she explained. “But then life started happening.”
She was working at a car dealership in Puerto Rico when the hurricane hit. “It was a disaster,” she said. “There was no power and no water. There were eight-hour lines for gas.” She explained that her mother called her sister, who already lived in the U.S. and said, “Get your sis out of here.” But getting out wasn’t easy either. Veronica explained that they could go to the airport and only “hope to get in.” There were many who were sent away and told to come back in a week.
“I moved with only my carry-on bag,” she explained. “I knew it was cold, but I only knew what I saw in the movies and thought that it couldn’t be that bad,” she said with a laugh. “Life is very different,” she continued and explained that she had only lived on an island her entire life up until that point. “I had to learn to drive when snowing and how to buy groceries. I was lucky I went to a good school in Puerto Rico,” she added. “I was taught English.”
Veronica was 28 when she came to the U.S. “I had no plans or desire to live outside of Puerto Rico,” she shared. She said that living on the island was “like living in paradise.” The weekends were spent at the beach, and she enjoyed nice restaurants. But not everything was perfect.
“The government,” she confided, “is very corrupt.” She explained that having gas and electricity at ones’ home and having water connected was a complicated process. There were no online services for the DMV and people had to wait for many hours to register their cars even when arriving at 4 a.m. “We would lose power a lot,” she explained. “You always want to know someone on the inside. Unfortunately, the government is corrupt. There is a lot of complaining about the corruption. Everything is under a lot of bureaucracy … so many technicalities. It’s been going on there for decades.”
Her mom and dad learned to survive those and other hardships in Puerto Rico. For example, using generators for times when power surges would leave them without electricity. Her family, she said, was “good financially” so they were able to get back on their feet each time.
Veronica explained that it wasn’t that way for everyone in Puerto Rico. “The middle island, the poorest area, the houses were wood, and the hurricane completely ruined them. A lot lived in camps,” she added quietly.
Veronica explained that she feels she is able to help other Puerto Ricans and Hispanic speaking people now because she can relate to hardships they have faced. “Even though we (Puerto Ricans) are a U.S. territory, and others are not, I can still understand and relate to each group.” They understand each other, she explained.
“I was already struggling with the culture shock,” Veronica said of when she came to the U.S. and people were calling her the “Mexican girl.” “They were making me from somewhere that I’m not.”
Veronica said she felt she had always been aware of what’s happening around the world and has tried to understand the needs of others from different cultures. “Since I have been here,” she added, “it has been highlighted. There are people who will attack you if your skin color doesn’t look Puerto Rican. People won’t believe me that I am Puerto Rican. If you don’t fit the stereotype, there is racism.”
“Ever since I’ve moved here, I’ve been looking for a place to work to serve people who have gone through something similar,” Veronica shared. “I can do that now. The inclusiveness is amazing,” Veronica said at MCU. “They have allowed me to do what I do for the people I love.”
“Your finances dictate a lot of what you can do day to day,” she continued. Some people she now serves at MCU, Veronica said, “don’t know how to save, build credit or even understand what a paystub is. I can explain that. I was able to start from zero and get where I’m at.”
Veronica shared that she is a Christian. “I am an imperfect person trying to be like Jesus. All glory goes to Him,” she said and added that it’s rewarding how she is able to live her life now helping others.
Veronica lives in the Moline, Illinois area with her husband Carlos, their one-year-old son Adrian and Carlos’ daughter Anna (11) and son Andres (13). “It’s a full-house every day,” she said with a smile. Veronica said her time is spent playing with the children, being a part-time soccer mom and getting Anna to music lessons. “The baby takes most of my time,” she added with a laugh. “I’m just trying to keep him alive.”