By Ashley Edwards Walker
In December 2018, Gustavo was thinking about moving away from Nashville, Tennessee, his home of two years. His future there was uncertain. “In fact,” he says, “it still is in a way.” That’s because Gustavo is a Dreamer, one of the nearly 1.2 million young undocumented immigrants brought to America as children.
In 2015, President Obama signed an executive order called the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (also known as DACA) offering a two-year, renewable status protecting these young immigrants like Gustavo from deportation and granting them the legal right to live and work in the U.S. Then, the Trump administration took office and spent years trying to dismantle the program.
The future of DACA is still undecided, but one thing was certain back in 2018: Gustavo was exhausted from the stress, and fed up with not knowing if he’d be able to stay in the country. “If the courts ruled with the Trump administration, I would have had to go somewhere else,” he explains. “I was single. I didn’t really have any responsibilities. So I was ready to take my guitar and move to Europe or something.” As fate would have it, that same month, he went on Bumble and matched with Liza.
Liza was experiencing her own frustrations when she opened Bumble. Her dad was dying of stage four liver cancer, and she was going through a self-described transitional phase. “I had gotten to this point where I was really tired of meeting people who were not presenting themselves as who they really are,” she says. So when she matched with Gustavo, “I just wrote to him, ‘What are you looking for here? What do you want from this?’” Gustavo told her the truth: he was open to meeting people, but he also didn’t know how long he’d be in Nashville. Then he posed the same question to Liza. When she said she too was “just leaving a door open,” Gustavo replied with his number.
The couple met up for their first date a few days later. For three hours, they lingered over tapas and wine. Gustavo told Liza that he’d come to the U.S. from Honduras when he was 12 because his parents wanted to give him and his sister a better life. He shared what it was like learning English and growing up in California before landing in Nashville. “I wanted to tell her about my status right away because it was part of the reason why I was considering moving somewhere else,” Gustavo says.
Like many Americans, Liza didn’t know a lot about Dreamers or DACA. “It took me some time to understand what it really meant,” she says. But she wasn’t bothered by the uncertainty. Gustavo’s honesty about his experience and how he was feeling actually piqued her interest. “It was really a breath of fresh air to be talking to somebody who was really willing to be vulnerable,” Liza says. “I was in such a weird place in my own life at that point, I don’t think anything really could have scared me.”
It was an instant connection for both of them, and they spent every day of the next week together. When Liza’s mom and stepdad visited her from New Hampshire the following weekend, Gustavo even joined them for dinner. “By the second full week of us seeing each other, Gustavo said to me, ‘I want to stay in Nashville, and I want to stay in Nashville because you’re here,’” Liza says. “From the first night, we were stuck together.”
Over the course of their relationship, the pair have continued to learn more about each other and their respective cultures. They bond over food; Gustavo often takes Liza out to different Honduran restaurants, while she cooks Middle Eastern and Jewish-inspired dishes that represent her own background. They both enjoy drinking Old Fashioneds, and like going out to different bars around Nashville to try versions of the classic cocktail. Then, in March 2020, just over a year from the day they matched on Bumble, Gustavo surprised Liza by proposing in a romantic, rustic farmhouse that a friend let him borrow. He’d sprinkled rose petals on the floor and arranged for a musician friend to play a cello serenade. Gustavo even made sure Liza’s mom was on FaceTime so she could watch the whole thing. “It was so beautiful,” says Liza.
When COVID hit and the world shut down, the couple quickly decided on a small ceremony in Nashville’s Centennial Park so they didn’t have to wait to get married. On their wedding day, only their Rabbi and a few friends were present, while the rest of their loved ones were invited to watch via Zoom. “It was simple, but memorable,” says Gustavo. For their one-year wedding anniversary in June, family and friends threw them a big party to commemorate their marriage. And there’s even more to celebrate: Gustavo may soon have a pathway to citizenship with the pro-immigrant Biden administration in the Oval Office.
The couple recently bought a house together and have two dogs and a cat. Soon, they’ll be adding their first child to their growing family. “I think I was looking for a reason to stay,” says Gustavo, reflecting on the beginning of his relationship with Liza. “And she became that reason.”