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About this collection

Mi País is a collection of photographs and personal documents belonging to Maria Alfau Norton. Maria was a native of the Dominican Republic who immigrated to the United States in the 1940s. Throughout her lifetime, she traveled between “her” two countries and while she lived most of her later years in America, she remained forever faithful to her home country, what she called “my country” (or “mi país” in Spanish).

 

Maria was born as Maria Consuelo Alfau de Espinal on April 11, 1924 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic to H. Pelayo and Consuelo Alfau. She had one sister, Minerva Edila, born January 30, 1923, who is still living in Tampa, Florida. The sisters were born into a wealthy agricultural family (one of their father’s business/calling cards listed him as an “agrimensor” or surveyor) and enjoyed a childhood of luxury, traveling to different homes and various tropical destinations. Their travels and exploits, like Maria’s 15th birthday celebration (or quinceañera), were recorded regularly in local newspapers like Listín Diario(which is still in operation) – a common social practice at the time.

 

Tragedy hit the family when Maria was a young girl. Her father was shot and killed by a disgruntled agricultural worker. Within a few years, her mother died from an illness that was presumably cancer, although family legend maintains that it was a broken heart. In the 1940s, when Maria was in her 20s, she received a visa to travel to the United States for her studies. She lived in New York City, where she met her first husband, Herman Cox, and married in 1945. In 1946, her son Herman Leo Pelayo Cox was born.

 

Throughout the years, she lived in New York, Miami, and finally settled in Baltimore near Towson. She married her second husband, Richard Norton, in 1964, the year her first grandchildren were born. She worked in various positions at what is now St. Joseph Medical Center, and volunteering at popular tourist destinations in the Inner Harbor like the National Aquarium and the USS Constellation, living in Baltimore until 2009. She died in 2013, with one son, three grandchildren, and 11 great-grandchildren to carry on her heritage.

 

Why this collection? America is a country of immigrants. Despite the cliché, the experience of moving to this country from other lands is a very real one for many individuals, families, and communities. The photographs, paperwork, memorabilia, and records of life events in this collection do not necessarily represent an extraordinary life, but an American life that was shaped largely by Maria’s experiences as an immigrant to the country she called home for nearly 70 years. This collection provides concrete artifacts of one person’s life that tell the story of the lives of many – the journey between one’s countries.

 
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