Where are you from?

I am from Guatemala, Central America.

What was it like growing up?

Growing up in Guatemala was a lot of fun. We did not have a lot of money but we were wealthy as it relates to family, friends and a rich culture.

What brought you to Cleveland?

I was brought to Cleveland by my uncle and his wife because my mother became ill and my father was not around much. I was 12 years old when that happened. I went back to Guatemala after a year in Cleveland and came back for good when I was 18 years old.

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

I thought that coming to the USA would be fun and had some misconceptions of this country. After over 35 years in this country, I have learned to love and respect this country but I am puzzled with all the anti-immigrant rhetoric we hear today.

What challenges did you face as an immigrant transitioning here?

The biggest challenge I had to overcome when I was young was learning the English language and the culture of this country. With time I have acculturated and now I practice much of these cultural norms. My English has improved as well but my accent is still there.The sheer individualism of this country is always a concern for me because Latinos/a are more group oriented and have a high propensity toward being gregarious and experience collective reality.

What is your occupation?

I am a Clergyman and the Executive Director of a local non- profit — Nueva Luz Urban Resource Center.

How have other Clevelanders made you feel welcomed?

Clevelanders have always being welcoming and accepting to me and my family.

What traditions or customs do you continue to practice?

I am still big as it relates to family, faith and friends — a description of the values I received from my cultural experience. I understand that these values also describe other cultures as well. I still love black beans, white rice, tortillas and hot peppers.

What do you love about Cleveland?

I love everything about Cleveland especially the blue collar mentality of the folks that have live here for many years. I like all the cultural influences that I encounter and experience in CLE. Cleveland to me is the center of the universe — the best place to live and raise families. It’s a city of Champions and my home!

Why is it so important to welcome immigrants and refugees?

It is of paramount importance to welcome immigrants and refugees because of many reasons. From a social justice perspective is the right thing to do and from an economic growth angle, you cannot afford not to be welcoming to these folks. Just look at the progress of the cities that have been openly and concretely welcoming and those that have not. Given the growth that is expected in the Great Lakes Super Region in the next 20 years we should make this welcoming strategy front and center. I can say so much here but suffice it to say that ” to be welcoming should be part of the DNA of this city, region and nation.”

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

There should be more conversation about this with community stakeholders. Also, there should be a target conversation with African Americans and Latinos/as so that there would be no misunderstanding or a sense of competition but rather a commitment to inclusion which will benefit all of us — even the dominant culture.