In the past nine years, a man from Mexico named Arturo Cordova has lived in 11 different states. Today, he's sitting at a table at Mercado Central in Minneapolis, eating lunch with a friend.
This cooperative is a place where many Latinos do business, but it's also a place where new immigrants look for community.
Cordova says his first stop in a new place is always a Mexican restaurant. He's looking for more than food.
"I'll ask the manager to give me work, or if he knows of a room I could rent," says Cordova. "I'll have a bundle of savings with me at all times so that I can pay my rent in advance and travel a little bit. And so that's what I've always done"
This technique has never failed Cordova. When he moved to Minnesota more than four years ago, he found his first job and a room to rent through a manager at a Mexican restaurant.
Since Cordova has become a pro at moving from state to state, he has insight about what other immigrants do to find touchstones.
"I've noticed that new immigrants go to restaurants. It's the only thing they do, they ask for jobs," says Cordova. "During the summer, they don't care about sleeping in a park. Sometimes bars stay open late and they'll hide in corners until they can get a job. If they get hired at the bar, they'll work and just sleep outside when they're done."
They're looking for a place where they can speak Spanish and feel comfortable.Maricela Dale
Cordova has also noticed more people take advantage of social services offered by Latino-based organizations like Comunidades Latinas Unidas En Servicio (CLUES). Cordova says new Latino immigrants also find resources by networking with other Latinos, and that information through word of mouth is powerful.
Laura Sanchez, from Mexico, moved to Minnesota three years ago. She says the public bulletin boards at Mercado Central make it easy to get connected within the community. People post information about jobs and rooms for rent.
Sanchez says any Latino business in the Twin Cities is a touchstone, especially when an immigrant doesn't have family.
"To come here, you always need to have someone here. Otherwise, the world can close in on you," says Sanchez. "The majority of people come here through a network of family and friends because we're coming here without a language and that's difficult."
Sanchez' friends were already living in Minnesota when she moved here, so they set her up with a job and place to live right away. She learned through word of mouth about one of her special touchstones: church.
A group of 30 teenagers sit at a long table in the kitchen basement of Holy Rosary Parish in southeast Minneapolis. This is Sanchez' church. These kids just finished cooking as part of their weekly nutrition class.
Maricela Dale, co-director of the youth program, says about 60 percent of those in the youth group are immigrant children.
"They're looking for a place where they can speak Spanish and feel comfortable," says Dale. "The meetings that we have here at Holy Rosary are in English and Spanish, so the kids who are coming from a different country they don't feel like, 'Oh my gosh, I can't go to this youth group because I don't speak English.'"
The church offers a number of social service programs that attract many new immigrants. Jose Santiago, the priest at Holy Rosary, says new immigrants come up to him all the time to ask him questions about where they can find work, food, and a place to live.
"Many immigrants come to the church, first to identify with their faith and their culture," says Santiago. "They know in the church they are immediately accepted and they are welcomed. They can pray in their language. Many times, most churches provide social services for them to welcome them into the country."
Santiago says it's difficult for immigrants to establish themselves in the U.S. He says some new immigrants find an anchor in their lives through church because they find a supportive environment socially and culturally.
But for nearly every new immigrant who speaks Spanish, familiarity means language. As they work to make the Twin Cities feel like home, many are seeking out the variety of places that sound like home.