Our interviewee is from Recife, the capital of Pernambuco State in Brazil. Her name is Dayane DeLima. She came to the United States in 2001.
Tell me the beginning of your story in the United States. “The beginning was a bit complicated, but with a happy ending. My sister had a very successful business in Brazil that after a few years, unfortunately, went bankrupt. She is a woman with a heart of gold, hardworking and an avid entrepreneur. Determined to start over, she came to the United States and acquired a well-recognized pizza franchise. My sister has been like a mother to me; that’s why when she settled here she made the decision to bring me. At that time, I was still a teenager, so I adapted quickly to the lifestyle in this country. I finished high school, but I could not go on to college because it was very expensive – although now I have restarted my university studies. Things must be finished, I repeat to myself and others.”
Tell me about your work life. “The truth is that I had several types of employment. The first was in my sister’s pizzeria. Then, I was a waitress and I also worked for several years in a prestigious bank. In this last job, I worked in different positions, because I was promoted into different opportunities. This was perhaps my most satisfactory work because of the work environment, the learning and the opportunity to improve myself professionally. I remember as if it was today when, as a waitress at the restaurant, the bank manager gave me her card, and I did not dare call her. But a co-worker encouraged me. Good thing he did it. During that time of transition between working at the pizzeria and the bank, I met [the person] who today is my friend, husband and partner.”
Explain why you describe your husband that way. “Well, what happened is that my husband and I were initially friends. Today, I find it nice to remember how we differed in most opinions, as we may still, because our personalities are very different. He is shy and does not always express things, but he is kind and, above all, very honest. There are meeting points in our lives. We both come from somewhat complicated family relationships. He is from Brazil and, like me, he wanted to improve himself in life. All this united us and today, we are married and have the blessing of a son, which is the best thing that life has given us. Our son is our motor, the reason for not looking back and sometimes even to heal the wounds of the past. Our son brings out the best in both of us. Since he came into the world, everything has changed. I never thought that one could love so much. Now, it is very difficult for me to imagine myself without my son. The truth is that the feeling is indescribable. I just thank God for giving me the opportunity to have my own family. As a couple, we have disagreements, like everyone, because not every day is sunny, and rain is also needed to help strengthen us. I feel there is nothing that can stop us if we work as a team. As for being partners, I never dreamed of a restaurant, but sometimes dreams find you and that’s what happened to us. While on vacation, we were offered a partnership. It was not easy to start the adventure, but my husband had always saved, we both had good credit and we also had this person who gave us the opportunity to be his partners. We have worked hard in our restaurant, trying to offer an innovative concept, healthy food and good service, generating employment and also serving our community. Everything is possible when you work hard and honestly. Without knowing it, all my jobs prepared me to be an entrepreneur.”
What would be your final message be? “People do not understand that first you must learn and then build. They want to get everything at once and this does not work. I never thought that I would dedicate so much time to a place, but I am proud to have done it because what we have built we have built together. I am very proud of it and it is as I said before: it was not my dream, but it became my dream, the great American dream. It is possible to achieve it.”
María Danniella Gutiérrez-Salem practiced law in Venezuela before going after her own American Dream and becoming a writer in the United States. mdgutier@gmail.