Blog Archives

The Mexican Dog Whisperer

cesarCesar Millan, aka: “The Dog Whisperer” is another immigrant that came to the USA following his dreams. Born in Culiacán, Sinaloa in México, “The Dog Whisperer” crossed the USA border when he was 21 years old. He didn’t know anyone in the USA or even knew how to speak English, but there was no obstacle for him to pursue his dreams.

He grew up in a farm surrounded by wild dogs, and that is how he became intrigued by their behavior and eventually training dogs became his passion. How did he end up in a TV show?

First, he knew that training dogs was what he wanted to do.

Second, he started from the bottom. As an “illegal immigrant”, he started working in a dog grooming store with the most aggressive dogs (yes, “illegal immigrants” get highly paid and competitive jobs!)

Third, he saw the opportunity and took advantage of it. While working as a limousine driver, he came across Jada Pinkett Smith who became one of Millan’s first clients and supporters (she also helped him learn English)

Fourth, he opened the “Dog Psychology Center” in South Los Angeles where he worked with large breed dogs.

Fifth, he became a permanent resident in 2000 and US citizen in 2009.

Sixth, he continued with his passion which ultimately opened the doors to his TV show.

Seventh, despite all the ups and downs of having a “celebrity” status, criticisms, professional/business issues and personal matters; he hasn’t given up doing what he loves which is rehabilitating dogs.

If you have a dream, you have to follow it, and accomplish it. Now, on the other hand, do you still think that “illegal immigrants” take jobs away from “Americans”? Do you still think that “illegal immigrants” do more damage than good to the American society? Cesar Millan, is just another immigrant showing that dreams do come true in the USA.

Photo credit: Cesar Millan wordpress


2013 Boston Marathon Explosion and Immigration


Many questions remain unanswered in the latest disaster that our country had to suffer. Innocent lives were lost, many people were injured, and the whole world watched the events occurred last week in Boston, MA.

Social media played a very important role in sharing the latest news, pictures and capturing the alleged people who were responsible for this horrific act.

I first heard of the Boston Marathon explosions via Twitter; five minutes later, all the TV stations were interrupting their normal programming to inform the viewers of the happenings. I was horrified, sad and paralyzed. I couldn’t believe what the TV stations were showing.

The feelings I had were similar to when I woke up to the news that morning of 9-11 and I couldn’t help to remember the car bomb explosions that happened in Peru many years ago.

However, what made me more upset, were the news after the explosion. The two brothers responsible for this abomination. Two immigrant brothers! I couldn’t believe it. Two very young minds wasted and perhaps lost future. How could these two young men were able to do something so horrible? I don’t know. I don’t understand.

The USA opened its doors to these two young men and their family. The immigrated to this beautiful country, just like many of us, following that DREAM. The dream of freedom and a better future. What a waste! How devastating for their parents! How much pain and destruction these two young men have left as a result of their actions!

How would this disaster affect immigration? Why do people want to come to this country? In previous posts, I have always advocated that immigrants come to the USA in search of the DREAM. What happened? What happens when the DREAM becomes a nightmare?

Moreover, how is this going to affect the immigration reform? Will it truncate the DREAMS of the many illegal immigrants that are in hope of a decision from our politicians? I hope that politicians take a closer look at the whole picture, and legalize the status of the many illegal immigrants that live in the USA. It is actually sarcastic that legal immigrants are the ones responsible for many of the massacres occurred in our country.

I think it is unacceptable that legal immigrants destroy this beautiful country. It is so contradictory, it doesn’t make sense to me.

I am not taking sides, but the majority of illegal immigrants are Hispanics, and we do not want to destroy this country or hurt its citizens. We just want to work and contribute to our society. We are just trying to make our DREAMS a reality.

Photo credit:

UN-Happy 178th Anniversary Dear Chiclayo City

catedral_chiclayoToday, in 1835 (178 years ago), Chiclayo was declared a city by Peruvian President Felipe Santiago Salaverry. Initially, known as the “Heroic City” to recognize the courage of its citizens in the fight for independence; Chiclayo later became the “Capital of Friendship”.

Growing up in Chiclayo is one of my most treasured memories. The traffic and the car noise was crazy, but I miss it. The people were super friendly and genuine, and I miss that too. My parents’ friends were my “aunts and uncles” and their kids were my “cousins”. Family wasn’t limited to blood; friends were your family. The sense of community was so natural, everybody knew everybody.

Families stayed in Chiclayo for generations. My family was one fo the most influential families of the city (back in the day of farms and plantations). My great-grandfather Julio Fernandez Chonate was an entrepreneur that made his fortune with hard work and by acquiring several properties around town and its surroundings. He married my great-grandmother Maria Augusta De La Oliva Vilchez, and together they lived in a big property that they named: “La Quinta Chonate”.

They had 4 children together: my uncle “Julio” (RIP), my uncle “Cholo Carlos”,my aunt “Mery”(RIP) and my grandpa “William”. They all grew up in Chiclayo; although they all left to other countries to pursue higher/better education, they all came back to their beloved Chiclayo. They all had children who grew up in Chiclayo (one of them is my mom), and the story repeated itself. The children of the children left Chiclayo, but they all came back. Life in Chiclayo was good.

Now, that the children of the children’s children (me and my generation) have become adults; the story has changed. My family does not own “La Quinta Chonate” anymore. It was sold to the city for housing. My uncle “Julio” served as the Mayor of Chiclayo and one of his children “Julio Armando” now owns a resort that he named “Quinta Chonate” in remembrance of our long gone family home. Many of my cousins still live in Chiclayo. I don’t.

I want to go back, but not right now. However, I feel that my city needs me right now. There has been manifestations, and the people of Chiclayo are not happy with their Mayor. There has been accusations of corruption, but what makes me really upset is that my city is destroyed. I am a Civil Engineer with a Master’s in Traffic and Transportation Engineering, it is paradoxical that my beloved Chiclayo is suffering of damaged road drainage, traffic deficiencies and deteriorated roads.

Today, on its anniversary day, the national newspaper “La República”, posted an article in Spanish titled: “Chiclayo is bombarded in his 178th Anniversary”. I read it, just to find out that it is a sarcastic metaphor that expresses the discontent of the “chiclayanos” (residents of Chiclayo) towards their Mayor.

Today, I join my “chiclayanos” in their celebrations; however, there will be no celebrations. Chiclayo is destroyed. Chiclayo needs to be rebuilt. I will go back, one day after I accomplish what I came here for. However, the issues that are happening right now, need to b e taken care of now.

Chiclayanos, please wake up.

Chiclayanos, please don’t wait until I get back.

Chiclayanos, take action now.

Photo credit:

America for America

americaI have always wonder why some parents choose to name their children after countries, continents, days of the week, months, and even fruits?

Although, I may never understand their reasons, America Ferrera (“Ugly Betty”) is using her name to promote the “latino vote” and the passing of the “Immigration Reform”. Last year, she started a campaign to encourage Latinos to vote and to not be scared of their immigrant status.

America is a second generation latina born from Hondurans parents that came to the US in the mid 70’s. Perhaps she didn’t have to deal first hand with immigration status issues, but her parents and relatives may had. She definitely has an easier life than her ancestors and probably she may have not become who she is now if her family was deported.

The United States of America, aka as “America” is the “land of the free, where dreams come true”. America is the country that attracts millions of tourist from all over the world; many of them stay in this beautiful country because they see the opportunities this beautiful country offers, opportunities that perhaps their native countries do not have.

I wouldn’t like to have “people break into my home illegally”, but I do believe in dreams and opportunities. Would you tend a hand to a person that wants to better himself or herself? I would.

Many people in “America” do not like immigrants, especially those that entered this country illegally. Many people want the illegal immigrants to go back to where they came from; however, many other people support an immigration reform. America Ferrera, among other celebrities, politicians and people of influence that have hispanic heritage are among those supporters of a reform to legalized the status of many people who call US their home.

Do you support the Immigration Reform? Yes/No Why? and What are you doing to support your cause?

Photo credit:

“Boulevard of Dreams”: Wells Avenue in Reno, NV


Welcome to Wells Avenue, the “Boulevard of Dreams” in Reno, Nevada.

Wells Avenue is the “preferred” area where there is a cluster of businesses, especially Hispanic businesses. Wells Avenue is located in Midtown District in the “biggest little city in the world”.

Wells Avenue is a picturesque street in Reno. It is where two cultures fuse into one. It is where Spanish may be the main language, and English is spoken as the second language.

This area has been revamped and upgraded in the last few years by the City of Reno. Before, Wells Avenue wasn’t as walkable or appealing to any business or person. The addition of bike lanes and street lights has made Wells Avenue a new hub for small businesses in this area.

In my opinion, Wells Avenue is where many entrepreneurial dreams become reality, especially for Hispanic businesses. Perhaps, what makes Wells Avenue so attractive to small business owners, it is its central location, affordable rent and space availability.

Many Wells Avenue business owners have gotten together and form the Wells Avenue Merchants which is the “Reno’s Biggest Little Businesses” Association.

From retail to travel agencies, car wash, appliances repair, real estate and even medical offices; Wells Avenue offers a diverse array of services. Although, most of these businesses are from Hispanic owners, we do not discriminate and we welcome any entrepreneur that needs a place to start doing business.

Every year (since 2008), Wells Avenue celebrates  the International Fiesta on wells-avenueWells Avenue, which is an annual spring event celebrating the neighborhood’s cultural diversity.

The all-day fiesta is a family event complete with a parade, live entertainment, vendors, craftsmen, and food booths.

Spring has sprung already in the Northern Nevada are, yet I have not heard when this “fiesta” event is going to happen. I hope it is soon because I am eager to enjoy some great food and to promote local businesses in this area. Also, I would like to mingle with some small business owners/entrepreneurs with big dreams.

Photo credit: International Fiesta on Wells Ave, Reno Travel Blog

Born in East L.A.

Malfabon, Rudy headshot(1)

With the vision :”To develop and deliver beneficial projects, to have a customer focus, to work cooperatively with other state, local and federal agencies and to be open and transparent with the public and those charged with oversight of the Department”, Rodolfo “Rudy” Malfabon leads the Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT) as its “First Hispanic Director”.

Born in East Los Angeles, Rudy grew up in Northern Nevada and attended the University of Nevada, Reno where he graduated with a bachelor in Civil Engineering.

Rudy is a second generation Latino with Mexican heritage. He confesses that he is not fluent in Spanish; however, he understands some conversations. He told me that his parents spoke Spanish to each other but not to him and his siblings.

He grew up with several hispanic traditions; he states: “Family is very important in our culture, so I remember family events such as vacations and celebrations for birthdays (piñatas!). I remember traveling to Texas to visit my grandparents and cousins. We were raised in the Catholic Church and I recall all the important religious holidays and the importance of caring for others less well off than me”.

He also transmitted those family values and unity to his own children who now are very close to each other and continue to maintain strong ties regardless the geographic distance among them.

Rudy’s dream of becoming NDOT‘s Director didn’t start when he first begun working for the Department in 1984. He had to leave due to another professional opportunity and when he came back to work for NDOT again in 2003, the dream of one day becoming NDOT Director was born.

After his appointment as NDOT Director in 2012, Rudy’s dream became a reality. Although he feels very proud of being a successful hispanic and the first hispanic director of NDOT, Rudy has other dreams: “to accomplish my goal of transforming the Department in order to gain more support from our Transportation Board, the Legislature, and the public.”

Certainly, the state of Nevada is facing some challenges, specially financially. Nevada is grown and NDOT had to adapt to the changes and the challenges in order to continue providing its services with a reduced budget.

I think Rudy is doing a good job as NDOT Director. I didn’t know he was Hispanic until few months ago. I am honored to work for him, humbled that he took time in his busy schedule to talk to me, and I am confident he will accomplish his vision for NDOT.

For those who live/drive in Nevada:

  • Do you notice the difference on the smoothness of the roads when you drive to other states?
  • Do you benefit from the services that NDOT provides? (FSP – the van that drives around and assist vehicles that pulled on the side of the road, DMS – the interactive signs that advice drivers of the conditions of the road ahead, 511/website – provides information of the roads)

Interstate and State routes are built and maintained by NDOT. For the latest information on Nevada roads, follow NDOT @NevadaDOT or NevadaDOT Facebook, you may also contact them via NDOT Website

Photo credit: @Julie Duewel Nevada Department of Transportation

A Rainbow of Poems and Numbers in the White House


Few months ago, Richard Blanco became the first Latino, openly gay and youngest fifth poet to receive the honor to read at the inauguration of a United States president. He wrote “One Today,” for the occasion.

As I started researching more about this another successful Hispanic man, I find out that him and I share more than the Latino heritage.

Richard Blanco is a Civil Engineer and a poet. I am a Civil Engineer, and until yesterday’s post “Ode to Cesar Chavez”, I was a dormant poet. I used to write poems in Spanish when I was still living in Peru. I decided to concentrate more in the numbers (as they are universal) so when I came to the USA, I continue my education as an engineer.

I would have never imagine to find another Latino engineer that writes beautiful poetry. Although, I am not as well known poet nor as successful as Richard Blanco; I am aware of the similarities between us.

He has inspired me to start writing poetry again, despite I am an engineer. He has inspire the US to follow our dreams and accept each one of us just the way we are. He is giving us an example to be comfortable with who we are regardless of what other people say or think and regardless were we come from.

On an interview, Blanco expresses that after being the inaugural poet, he felt like he was “finally being home”. His statement reminded me of one of my first posts “Please don’t ask me where I’m from”, and made me realized that I have still not experienced that moment when it is all clear where you belong. What was that moment in your life when you finally realized that you were home?

Photo Credit: Dodge Poetry

Who is the Nevada Governor?

Brian SandovalWho is Brian Sandoval?

The son of Mexican immigrants, a lawyer with Hispanic roots, a University of Nevada, Reno graduate and a long time Reno resident.

Moreover; he is the first Hispanic candidate elected to statewide office in Nevada and current Nevada Governor that will be remember in history for passing the “online gambling bill” few weeks ago.

He represents the dream come true from many of us immigrants that crossed the US border to get a better life for ourselves and our future generations. He is also the inspiration for many of us that are in our way to making our dreams come true.

I remember when I had the privilege to meet him in person, and I didn’t. It was just another morning and I was walking into the building to start my workday when I saw three men dressed up in suits trying to open the doors to get into the building. The doors were locked (of course, for security purposes) and they can only be opened from the inside or from the outside with an employee ID badge.

From the distance, I couldn’t see who these three men were; however, I assumed that they were people who were invited for a meeting and they needed to get in. As I got  closer, I didn’t bother to look at them because I was more focused on getting my ID from  my purse and open the door for them. After making a funny remark about how secure our building was and how lucky they were that I was just there at the right time, I opened the doors and I finally looked at their faces…surprised! It was the Nevada Governor…It was the first Hispanic Governor…It was Brian Sandoval!

I was in shock because I didn’t expect it to be him, so I went on quiet mode. He held the door for me to get in the building first (like a good gentleman) and he thanked me  for letting him in. I couldn’t say a word! I hope I was able to say “you are welcome”, but the truth is that I don’t remember. I wish I could have said how well he is doing for himself and for the Hispanic community in the USA; I wish I could have told him that he is becoming the dream of many immigrants and that he is an inspiration for many of us too. I wish I could have told him not to forget his Latino heritage….I wish I could have talked!

I am positive he is aware of everything I wanted to tell him and I couldn’t. What did I learn from this experience? Many things; first, that I gotta be ready for the unexpected. Second, that I have to be more confident and be able to take advantage of the opportunities that life presents to me; and third, that Brian Sandoval is a gentleman and a very approachable person.

Do you have any stories (like my story with the Governor) that you would like to share? What did you learn from them?


Photo credit: Brian

Breaking my first name…”Maria”

UntitledYou all know me by “Maria”.

That’s my first name and it’s been the name I’ve been called for almost 15 years since I came to the USA.  However; for the first 18 years of my life that I lived in Peru, my name was “Rocio” (Rosie-o).

It was a difficult transition for me to get used to being called “Maria”, and at times, I didn’t respond to it. I felt like it wasn’t my name. I didn’t feel like myself. That name wasn’t me.

When I came to the USA, learning the language and the culture weren’t the only challenges. Becoming myself, was the biggest challenge. For a long time, I used to feel like there was a gap between “Maria” and “Rocio”. They were two different people. I was “Rocio” and not “Maria”.

It took over a decade for “Rocio” to become “Maria”, and now I can proudly say that I am both. Unless you are an immigrant with two names, you probably don’t understand what I am talking about. Having two names, two countries, two languages, two cultures; that is the reality for many immigrants that come to the USA. It is difficult to fully integrate, and it takes time. Once this integration occurs internally, it will be externalized by the immigrants becoming who they really are and achieving what they came for to America.

What’s in a name? What’s in your name? I shared my story from an immigrant perspective. I would love to hear yours.

Dreams Are Real

 DREAL : Dreams Are Real from Maribel Serrano on Vimeo.

[vimeo 56403953 w=500 h=281]DREAL : Dreams Are Real from Maribel Serrano on Vimeo

Are dreams real? I believe so. Afterall; many of us are following our dreams either by pursuing higher education or a business venture. How much effort would you invest in order to achieve a dream?

I came across a story in the @latinocal which is a news article from Los Angeles, California (sorry the articles are in Spanish). The article’s name is “DREAL: Dreams are Real”. After reading it and watching the movie, I was inspired and reaffirmed that no matter how hard it may seem, or how unreachable a goal may be…when there is will, there is a way.

Chatting with one of my friends this weekend, I expressed my convictions about dreams and how people overcome adversity and achieve their dreams. My friend attempted to shattered my passionate beliefs about achievement of dreams. He sais that dreams are not real, and that people have to give up dreams in order to survive and meet everyday’s responsibilities. He is a very successful business man from Los Angeles area. He is hispanic.

I got very disappointed with his statements. I could not believe what I was hearing. His parents migrated from Latin America to the US in the 70’s and he was born here (second generation Hispanics). He attended college and by first impression; he is living the “American Dream”. However, his deep reality, is different.

I asked him what his dream was, and he told me that “he wanted to be an artist”. Then I asked him why he is not following his dream, and he sadly told me that “he has a family to support and being an artist do not pay the bills”.

I felt really sad for him. He doesn’t even look like the artist type to me, and if I wouldn’t have had this conversation with him, I would have never guessed his situation.

This conversation made me realized that many times success is measured by what other people can see/perceive; however, success is deeper than that. There is more to making dreams come true. First, you got to believe that dreams are real, just like Maribel Serrano’s DREAL. Second, you got to count your blessings and do the best with what you have. Maribel and many other Hispanic immigrants do not have the privileges of being legally admitted in this country. My friend has those privileges, but he has given up on his dreams (of being an artist). Third, you got to fight for those dreams until they become your reality. Maribel is fighting for her dream. She wants to become succesful and being able to work in the US. She is not alone in this dream. There are about 1.5 million of DREAMERS in the US, young people like Maribel that would benefit if the “Dream Act” passes and allows these young people to better themselves in our country.

Dreams are real. Follow Maribel and the DREAMER’s example and fight for your dreams, whatever they are. Don’t become a succesful business man with the broken wings of an artist. Nothing is impossible…sometimes it takes a little effort.

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