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


When Dreams DO NOT Come True

dream shatteredWhat happens when Dreams do not come true?

Growing up, my mom used to tell me: “nothing is impossible except death” (of course she said it in Spanish and I am attempting to translate it). What she was trying to say is that “when you set your mind in a goal, there is nothing that will stop you from achieving it except if you die”. Perhaps my mom, without realizing it, was raising me to be ambitious and driven as I turn out to be. I grew up with that mindset: if you want something, just go get it.

Consequently, I have always had dreams and I have achieved them. It all came natural to me; however, my parents were very cautious not to encourage me to follow dreams that were not achievable. In fact, my parents were so risk averse that sometimes I wonder how a dreamer like me was raised by non-dreamers like them.

As the years have passed, I realized that they don’t cope well with failure, and I learned that behavior from them. My parents encouraged me to dream big and make those dreams a reality; however, they also tought me that I may not be able to accomplish them all. They didn’t teach me how to react if my dreams do not come true.

I do not deal well with failure; actually, I do not find it acceptable. I am tougher on myself than with others. I seem to accept and understand (or excuse) other people when they do not make their dreams come true; however, when it comes to me, I don’t know how to deal with it. Is it really a failure when you can’t accomplish your dreams? Or is it that same failure the fuel that ignites your internal engine to continue pursuing your dreams? Or is it the stop sign or detour sign that makes you change and adapt and most importantly “accept” your limitations?

I don’t know the right answer. My life experiences has taught me to “adapt and accept”, but “never give up”. I believe in dreams and giving the 100% to accomplish them; however, we need to be aware that after climbing the mountain, the “top view” may not be exactly what we had in mind. Sometimes, that view is better and actually surpasses our expectations, but other times, what we dreamt does not look like what we have accomplished.

How do you deal with that disparity? Do you get disappointed and give up? Do you look for another mountain to climb? Or do you stay there and appreciate the view although does not match what you had imagined or expected?

Photo credit: we ❤

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.

Hello! My name is…


On a plane ride, people always have the opportunity to meet other people and engage in conversations. Usually, I am more focus to get to my destination or I am too tired and I simply take my seat and sleep all the way from departure to arrival.

On Friday November 11, 2011 (11/11/11) I was on a plane ride back home to Reno from Las Vegas, I was a little tired, but I was feeling somehow energetic and in a chatty mood. I took my seat and waited patiently for the person that would sit next to me. To my surprise, that person was the Nevada Attorney General, Madam Catherine Cortez-Masto.

My first thought was: “how could a simple person like me would have something to talk about with such an accomplished woman like her?”. Despite my internal doubts and insecurities, and within seconds of her getting situated and comfortable in her sit, I said: “Hello! My name is Maria. I am glad you sat next to me. You are one of the women leaders I look up to.”

She was very polite and thankful for my words. After that little ice-breaker, we had a very interesting conversation. We both discovered that we had few things in common such as being Hispanic, UNR Alumni and even took classes with the same professor, the late Dr. Bill Eadington.

Moreover; we share the same values to protect children, women and  against violence and abuse. We are both very driven, strong and determined. We talked the whole plane ride, it was great. She made me feel important, and we even discussed some gaming industry issues that she might had to deal in the upcoming months.

I got to meet the Hispanic woman behind the role of the Attorney General. It was one of the most memorable plane rides I had ever experienced so far.

Regardless of political party preference, or any controversy she may have faced, she is one of the few Hispanic Women Leaders in the State of Nevada. I am proud of her, and I consider myself lucky to have had the opportunity to have a conversation with her. I get to see her every month or so at the NDOT Board of Directors Meeting. She still remembers me and says hi to me.

The moral of the story…is to take opportunities and make choices. I chose to talk to her, and I discover that not only she is a leader, but she is a Hispanic woman living her dream and fulfilling her ancestor’s dreams. Who have you met recently that made a big impact in your life?

Photo credit: Total Mortgage Services Website

“Life is a Dream”

dreamI still remember when I started reading the book “Life is a Dream” written by the Spanish author Pedro Calderon de la Barca. I was only 15 years old, and like a typical teenager, I thought life was a dream. Three years later I had to wake up from that dream into reality and I decided to take life by the horns. At 18 years old, I made the decision to come to the United States looking for the “American Dream”.

My journey started as my eighteenth year birthday present from fate and destiny, since somehow, all along, I always knew that my life was going to change as soon as I become an adult. As a self-fulfilling prophecy and against all odds, I came to the USA and Reno, Nevada became my new hometown.

I didn’t choose Reno, Reno chose me. I had never even heard of Reno, until few months before confirming that I was going to be able to come to the US. My mom had a childhood friend that lived in Reno, and she convinced her that it was better for me to come live with her instead of going either to Miami, Florida or with my cousins in Saint Louis, Missouri.

Until that moment, I had no total control of my life. My parents made decisions and I followed. I was glad that my parents gave me permission to come to the US, with the promise to come back in 6 months. That promise has extended to years now, as I will eventually go back to Peru, only after I finish what I have set to do in the US.

In Peru, I was in college pursuing a Civil Engineering degree. I wasn’t going to stop following that dream, so I got admitted to the University of Nevada, Reno to continue my education. In 2007, I accomplished that dream; however, little I knew then that other dream was about to start.

In 2009, my passion for Traffic Engineering pushed me to continue to Graduate School, and last year 2012, I graduated with a Master of Science in Civil Engineering. Once again, I had already started another dream. I am now pursuing a Master in Business Administration which I hope to accomplish by the end of this year (Fall 2013).

The clock is ticking and I have not set another dream for me yet; although, I have a passion for learning different languages and cultures. Perhaps, the next chapters of my life will include traveling the world and/or taking classes to learn other languages. I don’t know, but the sky is the limit, right? Who would have thought that a girl from Chiclayo, Peru that had never even heard of Reno, Nevada would have become the 14-year-old Nevadan that made some of her dreams a reality.  What dreams have you accomplished? What of your dreams are now your reality?

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.

From Prison To Reason

Have you seen this man?

Pride and Glory

Jason Rodriguez

His name is Jason Rodriguez and he is an actor. Without formal acting experience, Director Gavin O’Conner cast him for a principal role in “Pride and Glory,” along with Colin Farrel. Edward Norton, John Voight and John Ortiz.

Pride and Glory

pride and glory movie

However, Jason’s story is not the typical glamorous story; he spent the majority of his life in jail. His story is featured in the article Jason Rodriguez: The Road to Holliwood…via prison and he is also sharing a documentary about his life on Ebru TV called “Soul Survivors.”. I believe he is a great example of strength and hope that people can turn their lives around. He is very impressive; I am sure it takes a lot of will power to change from bad to good.

I am glad and proud of him, not only for changing his life around, but for being another successful Hispanic man making progress in the USA. He is another succesful story that despite all the odds and difficulties he is making his way to achieve his goals and leave his mark in this world.

Stories like his make me wonder about the interaction of the environment and the person. I have always thought that the person is the ultimate responsible for his/her destiny, regardless the environment. It is true that it is easier for some people to succeed because the environment is appropriate and facilitates it. In Jason’s case, he had the environment against him, but he had an additional ingredient in his life, something that we all have and sometimes fail to recognize and take advantage of….LUCK.

Do you believe in luck? Do you believe in destiny? Do you think immigrants are lucky to be in the USA, or was it their destiny to be here?

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