Spending the early years moving between Latin American countries
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Polar: My dad is from Mollendo, a little town in the south of Peru. It was a tough life. He had a very loving family, but they didn’t have a lot of resources. They had to be very careful with what little money they had. He learned that he had to be dedicated and fight hard in order to succeed.
My mom was born in New York of Puerto Rican parents. When my dad graduated from high school he went into military school. He dreamed of being an officer in the Peruvian army. But, after a couple years of military school, he changed his mind. He decided to try his luck in the United States of America.
So in the early ’60s, he came to New York looking for opportunities like so many other immigrants do. That is where he met my mother, this beautiful young woman named Irma Perdido. He met her in the theater where he had gone to audition for a play. It was there that he saw this amazing woman on stage practicing for her part. His first thought was, “How do I convince this beautiful woman to have some dinner with me?” Somehow, he succeeded. My mom was swept off her feet by this handsome Peruvian gentleman.
But her parents wanted a doctor or a lawyer for their daughter, someone who could provide for her. My dad didn’t have the best job at the time. He was an immigrant and a little darker than my grandfather was comfortable with. So my grandparents decided that the way to end my parents’ relationship was to take their daughter and move back to Puerto Rico.
My dad, being a red blooded Latin American, followed my mother. My dad was very eloquent. He knew how to speak and behave as a gentleman. He was taught to respect the woman and take care of her. It was something my mom really appreciated. It took a number of years but, over time, my grandfather realized that my dad was going to take care of his daughter. And that’s what he’s been doing for the last 43 years.
My dad is the most patient and loving person you will ever see. My mother doesn’t cook much, so my dad has been cooking ever since they met each other. Normally, in Latin American families it is the woman who learns to cook and take care of the husband. But my mother was different. She was the princess in her family, so she never learned to cook anything but scrambled eggs and rice. To this day, my dad cooks my mom breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The way my dad took care of my mom and his four sons has shown me that he has the most amazing heart in the whole wide world.
Gallacher: Where were you born?
Polar: I was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico. When I was about 2 years old, we moved to Quito, Ecuador. That’s where I went to school until I was in second grade. I still remember the white-capped mountains and the eucalyptus trees of Quito. Quito was pretty high, around 10,000 feet. I think that is why I felt such a connection with the Roaring Fork Valley when I came here. It reminded me of the snow, the mountains and the pine trees of Quito. I think it is one of the reasons I am still here.
Quito is a beautiful place. There are the native indigenous people who are descendants of the Incas and the people of the Amazon. There are the descendants of the Spaniards who came and conquered. And there are the Africans who were brought in as slaves. So there is a very interesting mix of races and cultures. After a few years in Ecuador my dad moved us to Panama. The company he worked for wanted him in Panama City.
Gallacher: What was that like for you?
Polar: My brother and I were very young so, for us, it was just another adventure. But we went from Quito at 10,000 feet to Panama City, which is almost at sea level. It was quite a change in temperature and culture. In Panama there was more of an African influence. People spoke Spanish but it was different and they spoke it 10 times faster than they did in Quito. There was much more hustle and bustle, people were on the streets selling and yelling. It was an amazing and chaotic sight to see. But we were young and we adapted quickly. That stay only lasted for two years. That’s when we went back to Quito.
We spent two more years in Quito and then we moved back to Panama City when I was in sixth grade. By that time I was starting to wonder if this was normal for a family to move between countries, from Latin America to Central America.
A year later, when I was about to enter seventh grade, we moved to San Jose, Costa Rica. Costa Rica was one of the most balanced and cleanest countries that I have ever lived in. It was where we stayed the longest. I found my roots there. I went all through high school and two years of college in San Jose.
In 1986, my parents decided to move the family back to San Juan, Puerto Rico, where we still had a house. The return for me was a big shock. I had grown up hearing stories of the United States and watching the movies and the stars of Hollywood. My friends and I always talked about going there some day.
When I got to Puerto Rico I felt like I was experiencing the United States for the first time. Puerto Rico is a Latin country but it has been influenced by the United States for many, many years. I was able to imagine what it would be like to be in the United States. There were fast food restaurants and fancy cars. Everything felt very advanced. It had the feel of Miami in a way.
I enrolled at the university in San Juan and switched majors to communications. That’s where I took a couple of classes in photography and realized it was something I was really interested in. That’s also where I met my good friend, Isaac Rivera. He was studying photography, and one day he showed me a brochure that he had received from a little college in the mountains of Colorado.
The brochure described the college’s photography program. We made a few phone calls and talked it over, and the next thing we knew we were packing our bags with a years’ worth of toothpaste and shaving cream and heading for Glenwood Springs.
Gallacher: Do you remember the day you left?
Polar: Yes. It was the first time I was going to leave my family. My parents were sad to see me go and I was nervous. But I had grown up hearing my dad’s stories of traveling all the way from Peru to “Nueva York” so I knew that it was in our blood to immigrate. I was the oldest son and it was time for me to step forward and set an example.
Immigrant Stories run Mondays in the Post Independent. To read other Immigrant Stories go to http://www.immigrantcolorado. blogspot.com.
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