Mosaic Stories

    Sherley Moran Herrera

    A passionate and creative immigrant from Mexico City, Sherley Moran Herrera moved to St. Louis in May of 2018, when she married her St. Louis-native husband. Now, just over a full year later, Herrera is starting to hit her full stride. Current Associate Account Director at 2e Creative, Herrera is stepping into her own niche in a new city and new country. Although she remarks that it took time, Herrera now feels more at home and more herself, forming more fully her professional career and closer friendships.

    Herrera met her husband in Mexico City in September 2016, and they dated for a year and a half before getting married in the United States. Herrera holds true that good communication is one of the best things a long distance relationship can have - perhaps also the most necessary. In fact, she thinks that having to be completely open and direct from early on has helped her more so in her transition as she feels comfortable being completely honest about the difficulties she faced. Herrera received her K-1 Fiance visa just days before flying to the United States for her wedding, adding increased anxiety to an already stressful process. Alternatively, the added uncertainty provided a type of distraction for Herrera; “I think the stress helped with the anxiousness of moving and leaving everything. I had my mind on so many things I didn’t really have time to start thinking about missing things or getting nostalgic for leaving home.” 

    Even with the K-1 visa, Herrera talks about the excess of restrictions that were placed upon her as a non-US citizen when she arrived. “It’s the feeling of not being able to do anything by yourself, you feel like you are in limbo,” Herrera describes her personal struggles as an immigrant to the US and comments that at many times she felt useless, sitting at home during the day and waiting for her husband to come home and take her out. All these restrictions on top of other limitations and nerves of speaking a new language and learning a new culture.

    In fact, the item that Herrera is most grateful to have brought with her from Mexico City is her bike. Having her bike, she says, granted her a small portion of self-agency; it allowed her to get out of her house and get involved in her community. Herrera started volunteering at an after-school tutoring location in the Delmar Loop called Lolly’s Place. The organization’s main areas of service include one-on-one tutoring and mentoring as well as arts enrichment for children. Doing service also gave Herrera, a successful business woman who was prohibited from working while waiting for her green card, a chance to remain mentally and socially active by using the unique talents she brings to her passionate work. Still today, Herrera operates as a Spanish and marketing liaison for the organization’s staff after receiving her work authorization. 

    Herrera remarks just how much of a transition it was for her to fully adjust to the language and culture in the United States. With one brother living in Memphis, Herrera had visited the US before with her family on several occasions and already spoke English well enough to hold her own. Yet, she found that her brain was experiencing an information overload from the constant bombardment of English day in and day out. She also found it difficult at first to socialize and form friendships, something that had come naturally to her as an extrovert living in Latin American culture. Herrera comments on the difficulty of wanting to be able to fully express herself and form her own unique and personal friendships outside of those she shared with her husband Dean. 

    With degrees in marketing and business management, as well as 10 years of previous experience working with Fortune 500 clients in Mexico, Herrera imagined her most troublesome time would be waiting for work authorization. Instead, in addition to her personal struggles, Herrera found her job search frustrating and near-impossible, even after receiving her green card. Despite her credibility, impressive resume, and great energy, Herrera applied to many jobs without receiving any offers for interviews. “I was a business woman in Mexico and then I moved here and I was doing nothing. You don’t feel smart anymore, you don’t feel capable, you have so many doubts.”

    During this time, Herrera found out about one meeting of the International Spouse Meet-Up Group which is sponsored by the St. Louis Mosaic Project to help ease the acculturation process for spouses and provide support. “I started meeting a lot of people, people that now I worship as my best friends in St. Louis. So this was even just the first time I met someone I could speak Spanish to in St. Louis, it was just crazy!” For Herrera, this meeting marks a turning-point in her transition to being a citizen of St. Louis. In this group, she met people who had experienced exactly what she was facing, both professionally and personally. Whether it meant handing her an email or phone number of a possible contact to reach out to for advice about the marketing businesses based in St. Louis, giving a link to other international and cultural events happening around the city, or sending a personal invitation to try out a local restaurant with other friends, Herrera felt the full benefit of being connected with other individuals from international backgrounds in St. Louis. 

    It was these connections which eventually guided Herrera to 2e Creative, a marketing and communication agency where she currently works as an associate account director. “I must have applied to about 150 jobs, just applying by myself and I got nothing. And this opportunity came out of someone who introduced me to the right person. And that right person helped me get into the door.” One thing Herrera loves about 2e is the uniqueness of its atmosphere. She notes that there are a lot of young people on the staff, and especially appreciates how older and high up peers provide support and guidance for newer and younger employees. Although there have been blessings and difficulties in adjusting to the different work culture in a smaller city, Herrera has grown to appreciate the pace of work and communication in which everyone is able to work together and think creatively and productively. 

    While Herrera witnesses that most of her new closest friends in the city have come from the greater international community of Latinos and Spanish-speakers, she also found that she was able to have great relationships and conversations with other international individuals who do not share a common first language with her. Herrera felt a connection with others simply being from a foreign country, connecting over common cultural points and their feelings as outsiders upon arriving in the United States. She even says the international community has become like St. Louisans in themselves, at least in the way that they have created their group: “the international community is now just like the locals, everybody knows everybody.” However, she says that this group dynamic has also taken on another characteristic from the St. Louis-native community. It takes effort to become integrated in the group, and even then, crossover between internationals and natives is highly limited. “It is two worlds that never cross over.” So, while the international community is very close-knit, just like its mirror of St. Louis natives, they similarly tend to avoid branching out into native community and vice versa. This is why Herrera admires the goal of the St. Louis Mosaic Projects to bring together individuals from both groups and create interconnectedness in the greater St. Louis community. Herrera has explored other events and groups through Mosaic, including the International Women Mentoring Program which connects international women with local women in order to help them integrate into the St. Louis community. 

    As Herrera has adjusted, she has loved getting to know all the nice perks of living in a smaller city. Most especially, she loves the many green spaces and surrounding state parks for many outdoor activities. Herrera also claims to be a big fan of the St. Louis Art Museum, and was thrilled to be able to visit Monet’s water lilies whenever she can.  

    “I’m still going through that process of getting comfortable and adjusting. I cannot say it is over because I still don’t feel completely myself yet.” Herrera says that the progress she has made in her personal and professional life in the US did not come about without its challenges and frustrations, and she feels she can still continue growing in her own life in St. Louis. She also hopes to see St. Louis grow with her into an increasingly less segregated city where people of all backgrounds, nationalities, and skin tones are valued and respected. 

    Interviewed and Written by Julia Cogan