Where are you from?

I am from Lima, Peru.

What was it like growing up?

I grew up in a nice neighborhood in Miraflores, Lima, blocks away from the beach. My parents worked and we would walk to school every day. We knew many people around our “barrio” (neighborhood) and we felt safe. During the summer we would walk to the beach and hang out with friends there. We grew up surrounded by loving relatives and friends. I remember there was always a place at the table, if I was visiting at somebody’s home; I was always asked to stay for lunch or dinner. At home we would do the same, inviting our friends to share a meal, watch TV, listen to music, play guitar, etc. My school was a Parish school with an intensive English program. We received a solid and intensive bilingual education and were fluent in English by the time we graduated from high school.

What brought you to Cleveland?

We left Perú with our 3 children looking for a safe place where our family could live in peace, afford good education and have more opportunities. Our family relatives in Cleveland had offered us a place to live until we were on our feet. The cost of living in Cleveland and school tuition for our three children was very reasonable compared to schools in Lima.

What were your first thoughts about coming to the United States? Did those change?

One of the first things I discovered was that Americans call this country “America,” instead of calling it the United States of America. It was also interesting to learn that most Americans are proud of their heritage, but they will say that they’re Italian, Russian, French, Irish, Polish, etc., even though they were born in the US! This was new to me because in Perú, regardless of your race or where your grandparents came from, you are still Peruvian.

What challenges did you face as an immigrant transitioning here?

Fortunately, I was able to find jobs in good organizations. My challenge was to wait for my work permit before I could accept any of the wonderful job offers I was receiving! On the language side, initially, I helped my children to immerse themselves in the English language so they could function and integrate faster in school. Once they became fluent, their Spanish started to fall behind, so we needed to reinforce it by exposing them to Peruvian and Latin events, trips, and Spanish-speaking relatives. I also realized my English was academic, and my challenge was to learn the everyday, informal English. On a cultural aspect we had to acknowledge that we had been raised with different values and traditions. We learned to embrace the US Holidays so that our children would relate to them, i.e., Thanksgiving, which is an American tradition. Finally, I find the weather to be challenging… I don’t think I will ever get used to it!

What is your occupation?

I currently work for the Retail Marketing Department in Sherwin-Williams. I have a degree in Marketing Communications. I am also the Owner & CEO of a translation business, IG Global Solutions. I do translations in English, Spanish and Portuguese. I am part of the Advisory Committee of Teatro Público de Cleveland, a Latin American theater group created by Cleveland Public Theatre. This group seeks to enrich and transform the Cleveland theater experience by exposing audiences to Latin American artistic talent, traditions, and the immigration experience. At work, I am part of the Board of Mix-In, Sherwin-Williams’ diversity employee-based initiative called Mix-In.

How have other Clevelanders made you feel welcomed?

I remember clearly that at our first rental apartment a black family gave us a bag full of toys for our children, and when we purchased our home a nice Jewish lady welcomed us with cookies. The pastor of our church gave us a generous discount to help us with school tuition. But my Cleveland relatives made all the difference welcoming us; giving us a place to live, furniture, advice, and the family environment that we were much in need of. I try to find opportunities to give back when I see families that are starting out.

What traditions or customs do you continue to practice?

Spanish continues to be my main language. I pretty much only speak English for work. My Peruvian culture, music, food, values, and Catholic faith are always present and continue to be a big part of our lives. Because of this, our children grew up loving Perú and its culture.

What do you love about Cleveland?

Cleveland was a great place to raise a family. I love the diversity and access to multi-cultural events. I love the Cleveland museums, Cleveland Orchestra, and theaters. Coming from Miraflores, in Lima, only blocks away from the ocean, it was great for me to find out about Lake Erie, and we would take our children to the lake every weekend during the summer. We loved the Library and the city pools. The cost of living was very reasonable here, from food to cars to Catholic schools.

Why is it so important to welcome immigrants and refugees?

I believe we become better human beings when we learn from each other; when we are able acknowledge and appreciate what is unique in our culture as well our differences. I think we can learn a lot from every immigrant group in our city. On a corporate level, organizations with diverse talent are richer, stronger and more capable to grow and sustain themselves in a global economy. Immigrants bring a huge economic power, values and work ethics, they work constructively in all occupations, building, energizing and humanizing society at every level.

What suggestions do you have to make Cleveland a more welcoming community?

Education is key. We need to educate children to appreciate their own and everybody’s cultural heritage, spiritual and artistic traditions. Schools need to do a better job of teaching foreign languages. So many people will tell you that they studied French or Spanish in high school but did not learn anything. A better learning of a foreign language will make children and adults more comfortable to work or study with people from other countries. Governments need to acknowledge the economic impact of immigrants and stop viewing immigration as a problem but as an opportunity. Governments need to realize that the growth of the immigrant economy is the growth of our nation’s economy too.

Why is traveling abroad important?

Traveling to another country expands your vision, your horizons on all levels. You get in contact with the country’s culture, history, geography and most important, its people. There is many ways to travel inexpensively and people are traveling much more than before. I have an airbnb in Lima, Peru and it’s great to see how many Americans and people from all over

the world visit Peru, basically, to learn, to be in contact with Peruvian culture, people, history, food! Trips to any continent, will change you a little, make you a better human being. You become a little more understanding, tolerant, more open, welcoming, and less afraid because you know that even with cultural differences and language, you can appreciate the human being, and connect, no matter where you go. Listening to somebody with an accent, or international news, becomes easier, you can put things in perspective, you realize you are a part of a universal community, and how much the world has to offer, one country at a time.