Portrait of Luis Castro

“I couldn’t transfer my architecture degree to the US, so I worked as a delivery driver for a fish company.”

34. IMG_0423I came here in 2007 from Huancayo, Peru.

I got a degree in architecture in 2002, and worked for several years in my hometown. I met my wife there; she went to Peru for vacations, and to learn Spanish before going to medical school in Boston. After dating her for couple of months, we got married. She is from Ithaca, New York, so when we got married, her mother and two of her best friends came to Peru for the wedding and then she returned to start school. I came six months later in December after finalizing all the legal paperwork to obtain the American visa and the green card. After spending three years in the United States, I became an American citizen.

When I arrived in the US, I didn’t speak any English. I learned most of my English from talking to my wife and friends, and asking questions of them; also, I went to the Boston Public Library for English classes and conversation group meetings. When I was confident enough, I went to the University of Massachusetts to take ESL classes for six months. I couldn’t transfer my architecture degree to the US, so I worked as a delivery driver for a fish company, delivering to restaurants for almost two years.

In 2010 we moved to the Philadelphia area because my wife got a residency at Christiana Hospital in Delaware. I enrolled at Delaware Country Community College for two years to study engineering while also working at Genuardis as a delivery driver. Then I transferred to Drexel University to continue my work, and ultimately become a mechanical engineer. Once I’m done with school at Drexel, I will move to Boulder, Colorado—I’m interested in the aerospace and energy engineering.

If I was here with my family I may have more of my own culture. But since I married an American girl I got used to American culture. I’m Catholic because my parents were but it’s not a big part of my life. I lived in Huancayo—a big city in the mountains. When I was leaving we had a big dinner with my family. My mom cooked several special meals. For lunch she made ceviche, for dinner, roasted cuy (guinea pig) with spices, yellow rice and potatoes. I drank beer with my father, brother, and friends before I had to go to Lima’s airport. I drove for five hours with my parents to the airport where we hug, kiss, and say goodbye before my departure.

In architecture school, I studied American cities so when I arrived here it wasn’t very different. Even though I lived in a high altitude place in Peru, I had never seen snow falling down, so when I was in Boston, it was very exciting for me to see snow. The food here was very different. I’m not a good fan of fast food, instead I cook myself Peruvian food: meat, potatoes and different spices. My mother taught me how to cook when I was a child. My mother went to Argentina for two years when I was young so she taught me to cook for my brother while she was away and my dad was working.

I’m used to the American culture, and have several friends here, so I would rather be here now. However, during my first half year here, I wanted to go back because I missed my family and my culture. I worked for four years in Peru as an architect and here I couldn’t get a job. It was pretty frustrating. Looking back I had to put in a huge effort to fit in here, with lots of support from my wife, my family, and her family. I have accomplished many of the goals that I had when I arrived here.

Portraits of People on the Move tells the stories of Philadelphia-area immigrants through their own words on the Supperdance.com blog and was first shown as an exhibition June 25–28, 2015, at the Gray Area of Crane Arts in Philadelphia. The exhibition was created as a companion work to Supper, People on the Move by Cardell Dance Theater, a dance inspired by themes of migration.

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