Where am I from?

I was born in Barrio Semil, Villalba Puerto Rico, Isla del Encanto(Isle of Enchantment). Growing up among the flora and fauna was a true gem, luscious waters, and wonderful weather. I was 6 years old when I came to America.

What brought me to Cleveland?

My father Felipe came in 1953 to work with the Ford Motor Company. When he got settled he sent for his wife Rosa Maria and his three daughters, Carmen Maria, Rosa Alicia & Lourdes Ana in 1956. It was a very cold November day and I was very stressed out for I walk up and down the aisle and I did not like the cold air.

At first I did not care for the cold and the environment. When I got out from the plane onto the tarmac and I could see my own breath. I got worried about what was coming out of my mouth, not understanding it was my own breath, so my dad had to explain it to me. And what I said to my dad, I will forever remember: Papi(daddy) “I hope the people are not as cold as the air I feel!” Some people were as the air I felt day but over time it all changed.

What changes did I face as an immigrant transitioning here?

Learning English language. I had to learn it fast for my mom who did not speak English. I became her interpreter while dad worked. I was put in a public school when I arrived where children called me names & was bullied. One day my mom went to the school and brought me home. You see my sister Carmen was 8 years old and special needs and Lourdes was 3 and not yet in school. Mom said “Alicia I am going to put you in a school where they can understand you. She put in a Catholic School where the sisters(nuns) would be more understanding. The Ursuline sisters help me to learn English so well. By third grade I received a religious medal for being the best speller. By middle school our family moved to a different neighborhood. We were renters and moved a lot. I cannot count the different places we rented. I attended St. Patrick parish school, an Irish parish and I thrived there. I loved the people and neighborhood. My parents were able to buy a home at W. 31st Place & Franklin. They bought a big house for by then the family had grown to be 7 children. 4 born in the USA. Phillip Martin, Jorge Luis(George), Alberto Luis and Lucia Maria.

My occupation today is being a woman of deep faith instill in me by my mom. Now I belong to the Dominican Sisters of Peace. My education in Catholic Grade & Middle School and HS was very instrumental. I was Rosa Alicia but in HS I became simply Rose. I did not like it at all. It was all for convenience & to fit in. I went to TRI-C . My parents really made some sacrifices and sent me and Lourdes to Catholic Schools. They said that would be their gift to us. They would not be able to send us to college. My sister Lourdes did not go to college but she is very smart and has worked herself to retirement from being at a parish office. So I really had to do it on my own. From TRI-C for 2 years I went to Cleveland State for another 2 years and got a degree in Spanish Secondary Education. I got my Masters in Social Work & Community Development from Case Western Reserve University. From all my siblings I have the most education. There were challenges doing it but I pulled through it

How have other Clevelanders made me feel welcomed?

I love my hometown I got involved with other Young Latino professionals going through the same experiences. So we all got together and formed organizations that would eventually help other give them the opportunities that we lacked when we were beginning to go through college. Today we have the Spanish American Committee, Esperanza, Hispanic Roundtable, Young Latino Network and more. One only has to plant the seed.

What traditions or customs I continue to practice?

Keeping my Spanish sharp. Staying in touch with Latino Restaurants especially the Puerto Ricans ones. My mom told all her children English in school, Spanish at home so we are all bilinguals because of it.

What do you love about Cleveland?

Everything. Its diversity of people, its acceptance of others different from the rest. It’s educational possibilities , its offering of the different sports, churches, it’s music & songs.

Why is so important to welcome immigrants and refugees?

because it is in my blood. I learned from my parents that were so welcoming to others. We would take in families that needed help and once they got to be on their one we would send them with God’s blessings. It is super important to welcome immigrants & refugees because Cleveland is made up of all the different s countries, all over the world to for what is now called “Cleveland home to many”

Suggestions to make it better: continue to accept the different cultures, languages, religions. I would say the more the merrier for Cleveland is the best location in the nation.

Why is it important to travel abroad?

I have traveled to other countries in my lifetime. I believe that traveling abroad widens one’s perspective and views of the world. Young people should take every opportunity to travel to other parts of the world with financial support from other sources while they can. I will not be traveling abroad except my dream is to go to Africa, but I think that will have to be in my dreams.