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American Dream Series


By Maria Danniella Gutiérrez

Being an immigrant is difficult for many reasons. The most common reason is the cultural differences between the country where one is born and the country where one chooses to live. So to find a young man who has managed to coexist between two cultures, I can say that young immigrants leave their mark on the development of this beautiful country. Our interviewee was born in Bello Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil. He came with his parents to the United States when he was a teenager in 2002. He began the interview by explaining that in this country, he changed, evolved and learned to appreciate his culture.

How did you change? “My name in Brazil would be Leandro Diogo Pestilli. Due to matriarchy, two surnames are used: first the mother´s and then the father´s. In the U.S., only the father’s last name is used. So my name here is Leandro Diogo. There are also other aspects of my life related to my personality that I changed. In Latin American countries, scheduling and planning are rare among teens. However, teenagers here plan their activities. This struck me as strange because in Brazil you can call someone and do things that same day or visit them without notice. But here, everyone is so busy that it is impossible to do these things. This made me understand the importance of time management.”

Why do you think you evolved in this country? “I was comparing what it was like when I was teenager who, after two years in the U.S., wanted to return to Brazil because he missed his friends and family, with the man that I am today, a graduate in business administration of the University of Western Connecticut who is planning to do a postgraduate course that allows me to work in an international company. I realize that I simply evolved. Today, I understand that when things get difficult, the solution is not to turn back; the solution is to find another way. At that time, my parents gave me the option to return to Brazil but at the same time, they explained that they decided together with us to come to this country because they understood that Brazil would never offer us the opportunities that the U.S. could provide. So I stayed and it was the right decision. Over the years, I learned the language, the importance of setting goals and finding a way of achieving them. My family will always be my family, no matter where they are, and friends are made over time. Americans are not too friendly at first, unlike us, but once you gain their trust, you gain their friendship. In the end, it is a coherent process if we stop to analyze it. It is a matter of learning how things work without forgetting who you are.”

You now value your culture; didn’t you value it when you lived in Brazil? “The truth is that most of the time we take things for granted. We believe that everything is the same everywhere. From Brazil, I love the importance of the family. Even when we are adults, our parents are involved in each episode of our lives, and they help us make decisions and encourage us to move forward. They are always willing to make any sacrifice if it concerns our welfare. That’s something I do not want or can forget. ”

What would your final message be? “People want to make the world a better place to live, but do nothing to change it. I think that by just changing ourselves and taking the time to help others, we can change the world. We should all be agents of change.”
Danniella Maria Gutiérrez-Salem practiced law in Venezuela before going after her own American dream and becoming a writer in the United States.


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September 16, 2016

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