Where are you from?

I was born in Lima, Peru.

What was it like growing up?

I lived with my parents, my brothers and my maternal grandmother. My parents are teachers, and both of them are now retired. I grew up seeing them teach and tutor students after school. Now they tutor the children of the students they had years ago. Even though their income was really low and we didn’t have the latest things others had I never felt like I was missing something. My parents always told us to never stop or give up. At home birthday parties, special occasions and Christmas turned into great celebrations with food and lots of dancing. My family was really close, and still is. This is one of the things I miss the most.

What brought you to Cleveland?

When I was studying Psychology a professor told me about an international program that brought professionals to the United States to work/practice for a period of time in their field. CIP, Cleveland International Program accepted me in this program for 1 year. I was placed to work in the former Cuyahoga County Nursing Home.

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

At first I didn’t think I would be accepted into the program, and I didn’t have it in my mind to ever moving from Peru. I liked the idea of one day coming and touring the country, but I became more interested in the idea of learning about my profession here and working with the elderly population. My idea was to learn as much as possible and be able to bring all that experience back to Peru. Yes, my plans changed. I met my now husband a month after I arrived here and we became instantly great friends, our friendship grew stronger and we got married a week before I was to go back to Peru.

What challenges did you face as an immigrant transitioning here?

One of the biggest challenges is still being away from my family. My parents and brothers are in Peru. Most of my family is there and whenever there is a reunion, a celebration, a life event, a birth, a death, it is really painful to not be there physically. I feel like I am missing so much by not being around them all the time. It’s been almost 20 years and the feeling has not changed. Don’t get me wrong, there are amazing things in Cleveland that can make up for some of it, it’s just not the same.

What is your occupation?

I am a Psychologist and completed all my studies in Peru. I have always worked with the elderly population. Right now I am the Hispanic Services Specialist and Care Consultant for the Alzheimer’s Association. It will be 5 years with them this September. I am also part of the ensemble for Teatro Público de Cleveland, under the wings of Cleveland Public Theater. I am a ZUMBA instructor and the dance instructor for Mi Pueblo Culture Camp.

How have other Clevelanders made you feel welcomed?

I have felt welcomed since the beginning. From the family I spent my first months with here in Cleveland to new friends and community. I will never forget getting a big hug and kiss on the cheek from my host family the very first day I arrived at their house. It felt good. There were also rules. I was to let them know at all times where I would be and I was supposed to give them a call If I ever needed them for anything. At first I thought it was a bit too much, but at the same time I felt protected. Even though they had just met me, they already cared for me. They are one of the most beautiful people I have met here. Now my Detroit Shoreway neighbors and community are amazing.

What traditions or customs do you continue to practice?

My children speak Spanish, I regularly prepare Peruvian food and we listen to Peruvian music at home and in the car. My husband and I have been honored to dance the Marinera Norteña at the Señor de los Milagros (Lord of the Miracles) procession every October for over 10 years. The Marinera Norteña is consider that national dance of Peru. We attend Sagrada Familia Church on Sundays. Even though we have slowed down with the Peruvian parties at home, whenever there is a get together, there is food, music and lots of dancing. My Peruvian flag is also displayed proudly on my front porch.

What do you love about Cleveland?

Its diversity, culture and pride. I feel that the arts and culture program bring so much diversity to the city. The residents can be impacted by amazing experiences through music concerts, theater, festivals, visits to museums like the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Cleveland Zoo, and the libraries that offer so many programs for children and adults all year long. There are also educational opportunities for young adults. You can find so many ethnicities in Cleveland, foods and festivals. You experience so many traditions and cultures in just one city. This is a wonderful city to have your family grow up in.

Why is it so important to welcome immigrants and refugees?

I believe in universal equality and the importance of respect for each other, no matter where you come from. We are all different and unique, and we are learning from each other all the time. Acceptance of diversity and respect for each other can only can make you a better person, a stronger community, a greater city. You can always help someone in need, someone that wants to overcome obstacles, someone that is looking for a brighter future. What could be wrong with that? Immigrants want the opportunity to come out of a difficult situation, they want respect, they want to work, they want to provide to their families, they want to contribute to the community and be part of it.

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

Block parties where minorities and people that have just moved to Cleveland can feel comfortable and can get to know their neighbors.

For immigrants, to encourage them and help them share their cultural traditions.

Coordinate more events where the community works together to assist a neighbor in need.