Immigrant is living the American dream |

Immigrant is living the American dream

Omar Cabrera
Glenwood Springs Correspondent
Post Independent/Kelley Cox

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” Rene Rosa likes to prepare meals for women who just gave birth. And as a cook at Valley View Hospital, he does so from time to time.

“I like to put flowers on that dish so that it looks pretty,” he says in Spanish.

Rosa thinks delicious, well-decorated food is a nice gift to someone who went through the physical pain of having a baby a few hours before. That’s why he enjoys cooking for new moms.

He says he likes what he does and takes pride in his job. “I feel happy. I feel proud that all the people who work at the hospital, who are hundreds, are tasting something I make for them every day”.

Marc Lillis, director of dining services at Valley View Hospital says Rosa “knows what the customer wants before the customer orders. He has such a rapport with the guests that come in.”

In addition to empathy, Rosa has another reason to do his best. As an emigree from El Salvador, he is thankful to the United States for all the opportunities this country has given him.

Last Sept. 19 he became a U.S. citizen in a naturalization ceremony celebrated in Denver. Now he feels as a part of this country, not only because he has spent almost half of his life here, but also because he has two kids born on U.S. soil.

For Rosa, obtaining U.S. citizenship means that “I reached the last step I wanted to get to.” Now he does not have to worry about being caught and deported, he says.

Rosa grew up in the rural area of San Vicente, in El Salvador. His parents had 11 children, one of whom died before Rene was born. Their house was made of adobe and did not have electricity, potable water or telephone service.

Rosa says he has worked since he was 12. As a youngster, he cultivated corn and beans, two crops that leave little profit in El Salvador.

The Rosa’s economic situation “as well as the country in general” worsened when a civil war sparked in 1980. Moreover, his father and five of his brothers abandoned the family to join the guerrillas of the Farabundo Marti for the National Liberation Front (in Spanish, FMLN).

“In that time, in those places nobody lived tranquil,” Rosa recalls. “When one least expected it, there were combats, and innocent people died.”

With six relatives fighting on the insurgent side, it was not convenient for his family to stay at the same house. One of his sisters found refuge at a Catholic congregation and later became a nun. His mother, on the other hand, decided to move with him and his other sister to their grandmother’s house.

He says he feared that the guerrillas could recruit him. Therefore, he decided to drop out of school and join the army.

Rosa says he was part of an anti-aircraft unit. Then, he was artilleryman for helicopters. Images of combats are still fresh in his memory. Images of shooting at guerrillas from the helicopter. “My father or my brothers could have been among them,” Rosa says. “But I almost did not think of them when I made those actions.”

Two of his brothers died in the war, which had begun after many groups armed themselves to fight against military dictatorships that ruled the country for decades.

After more than seven years in the army and seeing some of his fellow soldiers die, Rosa decided to return to civilian life.

He left the armed forces with no savings because, despite having achieved the rank of sub sergeant, when he retired he earned just $80 a month.

Rosa emigrated illegally to Los Angeles 17 years ago where he applied for political asylum. He worked in restaurants and on construction projects.

After a few years in California, he moved to the Roaring Fork Valley. One of his first jobs in the area was with a construction company owned by Michael Cox and his wife Post Independent photographer Kelley, from New Castle.

Larey Hazelton, Kelley’s father, says that Rosa “was always very, very prompt, and he didn’t miss work. He was always there, and he was proud of that fact.”

Hazelton thinks that Rosa “Is gonna be a wonderful citizen of this country,” and that “we’re very lucky to have people like him in our community.”

Now that he is a U.S. citizen, Rosa’s next goal is bringing his 12-year-old daughter, who still lives in El Salvador, to the United States.

Sitting at the dining table of his apartment in Glenwood Springs, he says that he wants his daughter to reunite with the rest of the family, and become part of the community that they now belong to.

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