Where are you from?

I am proudly from Juana Díaz, Puerto Rico.

What was it like growing up?

I have great memories about my childhood! I grew up in a place called La Plena and Sabana Llana. I spent most of my life in the southern coast of the island. I enjoyed my life surrounded by my family, friends, pets, and beautiful natural views and environments. I used to go to bed to the “coqui” (puertorican frog) song and woke up with the “gallos” (roosters) crowing. For me Puerto Rico is full of my most beautiful memories. I went to school, college, got married and a lot of other good things happen there for me. Remembering my life in Puerto Rico makes me very happy and proud!

What brought you to Cleveland?

My husband and I made the decision to move to Cleveland 5 years ago when we were looking for better work opportunities. My husband holds a BA in Civil Engineering and I hold a Masters in Special Education. I don’t regret my decision because a lot of good things happened and still happen for us here in this amazing city. We love Ohio and it is our second home!

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

It was very hard. I was leaving behind my loves ones and my country. I left behind part of my heart and learned how to be strong and more positive. When we moved here we were very clear that we want to succeed and make this hard move worth it. I still miss my family, friends and the island I left dearly. I am blessed knowing that I can travel and spend time with friends and family.

What challenges did you face as an immigrant transitioning here?

My biggest challenge was the language and how to find a job based on my qualifications. My other challenge was the process of acculturation and get used to the seasons.

What is your occupation?

I work as the Assistant Director of Programs at Esperanza, Inc. I support the Director of Programs in overseeing Esperanza’s educational programming to ensure top quality execution and best practices in program design.

How have other Clevelanders made you feel welcomed?

I am blessed because of the time I have been in Cleveland I have known great people that have supported me and helped me to get to where I am now. I like to focus on the good experiences.

What traditions or customs do you continue to practice?

We keep our traditions no matter where we move. In my family we cook the same things that we used to eat in Puerto Rico. We celebrate Three Kings Day, or Epiphany, which is one of the most important holidays in Puerto Rico. On that day we exchange presents and cut grass for the camels.

What do you love about Cleveland?

Cleveland has a lot to offer. There are a lot of things that I love about Cleveland. In this city you can find beautiful places to enjoy a quiet time with your family. I enjoy going downtown, parks and lakes and to enjoying a beautiful day or night with my family. Cleveland is a city full of great people where you can achieve your dreams.

Why is it so important to welcome immigrants and refugees?

It is important to welcome immigrants and refugees because that’s what makes the United States rich in diversity. We have people coming from all over the world to contribute in the medical, financial, education, other fields.

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

My suggestion for Cleveland to be more welcoming is that we need a Welcoming Center where people can go and learn about the services available. We also need a place that provides orientation regarding degree validations because sometimes people have the perception that immigrants are not educated and I have news we have people that are very well educated in their countries and come here to contribute to the city.