Where are you from?

Santa Rosa de Copan, Honduras

What was it like growing up?

I was abandoned in a small town in Honduras called Santa Rosa de Copan, and very ill. I was hospitalized for 6 weeks and once I was stabilized they could begin the adoption process. I later learned that in an infant ward that had a capacity of 30 babies, that 30 babies would die each month and most babies needed to be hospitalized for at least one month. During the adoption process, I lived with a foster family in Tegucigalpa. Thankfully everything went smooth with the adoption process, and I came home to Cleveland during the worst snowstorm ever, but it was nice to have my forever family as my Christmas gift.

I grew up in the suburbs of Cleveland and attended private schooling. My father passed away when I was young, so I was raised by a single mom who had to work very hard to provide for us. She believed education unlocks doors of opportunity and encouraged me to go to college. I would eventually wind up at Ashland University and also gain a master’s.

What brought you to Cleveland?

I was adopted by a family from Cleveland. My mother is Polish, and my father was 1st generation Finnish. He stayed connected with his Finnish roots near Ashtabula, and my mother stayed connected with hers in the Slavic Village area. We were truly a blended cultural family, also appreciating the US/pop culture of the 1980s and 1990s!

What were your first thoughts about coming to America? Did those change?

I escaped a country that would undergo a lot of strife. My hometown did not have access to clean drinking water. There were wars and severe political unrest. Not having a birth certificate I would not have access to a public school education. It was customary to see military carrying assault rifles through the streets in Honduras, which can be unsettling. So, I was very fortunate to come to the USA. While I was basically the only Latina in grade school, my mother always taught me to be proud of myself and see value in myself.

What challenges did you face as an immigrant transitioning here?

Sometimes especially in my early years it was challenging to be the only “brown” skinned child from Central America. Other than my adoption groups, I did not know any other Latinos in the Southwest suburbs of Cleveland. Also, even at a young child people inquired why I looked so different than my parents, but we explained to them that I was a special chosen baby and love knows no skin tones.

What is your occupation?


How have other Clevelanders made you feel welcomed?

The city is incredibly welcoming to me, particularly the civic and volunteer groups that are abundant in this town. As a Latina Vegan, I really felt at home with the Cleveland Vegan Society and got involved with animal rescue activities. Also, Esperanza made me feel so proud of my heritage, my country, and the person whom I am today.

What traditions or customs do you continue to practice?

We celebrate Honduran Independence Day which is September 15th, the start of Hispanic Heritage Month and my mother would give me a special meal and cupcake. A Scandanavian Custom from my father is Saint Nick’s Day, where I would leave a pair of shoes out and cinnamon powdered cookies for Santa Claus. And even though I am vegan, my mother makes me stuffed cabbages AKA Galumpkis and we enjoy monthly family dinners with those.

What do you love about Cleveland?

I love the urban flair, the food, the ease in getting around the city. The commute time is great, and I like how all the different neighborhoods have their own flair, from Ohio City to Collinwood. And you cannot beat the affordability of the real estate!

Why is it so important to welcome immigrants and refugees?

People with different backgrounds can bring so much to the table in terms of diverse points of view. When you have access to immigrants and refugees, you see the world from another viewpoint. You recognize that while our nation may have its issues, there are more intense issues going around globally- from families witnessing horrific genocides to only having access to “drinking” water filled with high levels of bacteria and parasites. Welcoming immigrants and refugees helps with problem-solving because of the different perspectives, values and viewpoints. From a humanitarian viewpoint, I think we have to demonstrate a universal love and compassion to our fellow brothers and sisters- who may have different skin tones than us, may practice different religions than us (or none at all), and may speak of different tongues- but we have a human obligation to extend a helping hand during times of crisis. Namaste- the divine in me recognizes the divine in you; treat others as you would like to be treated.

Why is it important to travel abroad?

To see the world from another viewpoint. There are different landscapes- from the deserts of the Sahara, the mountains of Pakistan, to the fjords of Norway- and we can appreciate the beauty of other nations. You can make new friendships, and see how life is different and how life can work in other nations. You may even pick up some new vocabulary!