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


“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

Ode to Cesar Chavez


Today, the world celebrated your 86th birthday.

Today, I write to you in this form for the first time in 17 years.

From the farms to the www,

State Holiday in California, Colorado and Texas.

Many people call your name,

other people “google” your name.

cesar chavez doodle

Cesar Chavez, the man,

Cesar Chavez, the labor leader,

Cesar Chavez, the civil rights activist.

Would you fight for what is right?

Would you die for what is right?

Would you boycott and go on hunger strikes for what is right?

You gave voice to those whose rights got forgotten,

You helped those who thought they had no choice.

From good son, good husband, good father, good man;

A Mexican American that knew what to do

and inspired a movement.

Who would have thought that your birth date today created a controversy?

Is it your legacy?

Is it your name?

Is it that your dream is finally becoming a reality?

Have your voice been heard?

Have your sacrifice gotten rewarded?

Cesar Chavez, your name…

I didn’t know, now I do.

Forever remembered…

In the farms, in the www…

That’s your birthday present.

Happy birthday, Viva Don Cesar Chavez!

I’m sure that wherever you are now,

you are continuing leading the movement for what’s right.

Photo Credit: 1-Cesar Chavez Bio, 2-Google Doodle  

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?

What would you do…for a Dream?

SmuggledMany people do the unthinkable, the unexpected. Many people even die in the odyssey to conquer their dreams.

We have heard stories of what many immigrants do in order to accomplish the “American Dream”.

Several of these stories are heartbreaking and they make you wonder why do some people are so desperate to cross the border and remind here illegally. Are these stories real? Yes they are.

Immigrants, specially the ones that come from south of the border, do the unimaginable to come to the USA. That is what Ramon Hamilton, a Dominican-American actor and director, documented in his 2012 film “Smuggled”

In my opinion, “extreme circumstances call for extreme measures”. I can only imagine what the situation is for those people on the other side of the border in order for them to risk their lives to come to the USA.

My situation was different, and probably I would not be willing to do and suffer what many immigrants do just to cross the border and change their lives looking for the “American Dream”. However, I feel extremely proud and honored to belong to this group of people who are willing to do anything for a better life, I am a Hispanic immigrant in the USA. I feel that we, the immigrants, have the duty to make things happen  in memory of those that lost the battle while fighting for their dreams. We are their legacy, we are their aspiration.

My dream is that one day, instead of immigrants being seen as a plague or a bad disease that happened to this country, we will be seen as the main contributors to this country’s development and success. I believe that we are on our way to make that a reality.

Some people are willing to do whatever it takes in order to accomplish their dreams. What would you be willing to do for a dream?

Photo credit: NBC Latino

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