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Michelle Kiang




Michelle Kiang was born in Venezuela. In 1999, after the election of Hugo Chávez, her family relocated to Houston, Texas. Michelle graduated from Macalester College in 2015.




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Michelle Kiang Transcription

My name is Michelle Kiang and I was born in Venezuela and grew up in both Venezuela and Houston, Texas.
I see my immigration story as a series of chapters, each one focusing on one migration, but all connected and continuous. So really, my immigration story starts in several places.
I was born in Venezuela in 1993, and my father was born in Hong Kong in 1960. In 2001, my father, my mother, my siblings, and I all moved to the United States. My father has always been really worried of communist and socialist ideology. So, in 1999 when Chavez, who is militaristic and has socialist ideology, rose to power, my father decided that it was time to leave Venezuela.
When my great-grandfather was a professor at the University of Beijing in the 1940s, 1950s, he was imprisoned by the communists for going against certain ideologies, and certain tactics that the communists were taking. And then, at some point, he was thrown out a window and murdered. So that’s why, immediately when someone with any similar sort of tone or ideology rose to power in Venezuela, my father immediately moved to Houston and he started getting settled there. And he had studied in the U.S. before to get his master’s. But he had gone back to Venezuela because my grandfather passed away. The reason I was born in Venezuela was because he had to move back. Yeah, so in 1999 he moved to Houston and he tried to get everything settled to bring my siblings and me and my mother later one.
My immigration story also begins generations before I was even in this world. My father’s grandfather had an international business selling Chinese antiques around the world, and mainly in Latin America. We bought a house in Caracas- or, not we- my great-grandfather was already settled in Caracas prior to the Cultural Revolution while his son, my grandfather, was still in Beijing because he was studying at the University of Beijing, with my grandmother. So, he lived in Caracas way before and, that’s just where he was in the world.
So my immigration story starts when my father was born in Hong Kong in 1960. And the reason he was born in Hong Kong was because that was, I think, the closest place that my grandfather and grandmother could flee to in 1960, because apparently you couldn’t get out of China at the time, or that’s what people have told me. I don’t know anything about that, I just know family stories. My grandfather’s family was already living in Venezuela, but they had to stop in Hong Kong before being able to go to Venezuela. So, they were there for three years and- I don’t know what the timing was. At some point, they moved back to Venezuela, and then my aunt was born there. That’s part of my immigration story, Hong Kong.
So, I think that my family’s story exists in the context of the bigger historical moments that everyone learns about abstractly. I think that it’s important to learn the different ways that histories impact families, and how migration is directly related to these histories that are older than people who immigrated. The Sino-Japanese War, the Cultural Revolution, American imperialism in Latin America, the Cuban Revolution, the colonization of Latin America, etc., are all related to my family’s history and the reasons that we immigrated And all of these histories have led me here, and I see all of these as beginnings.