Anita Gomez – Peru

Anita was born in Peru and grew up in Arequipa, the second largest city in Peru. She came to America in 1996, settling in the Youngstown area. Her parents and siblings live in Peru. Although Anita learned to speak English in the school she attended in Peru, when she came to Youngstown, she continued to learn English at the English Center.

When Anita talks about her childhood in Peru, she shares memories of her grandmother, describing her as a very strong woman who took care of family and worked at a market.  Anita remembers her grandmother cooking food for family, friends, and neighbors and listening to music as she cooked. Her grandmother would wake up at 4:00 a.m. and walk to work. For Anita, it is very important that her grandmother’s traits and values are passed on to her two daughters who are now college students.

Anita’s grandmother has influenced her life today.  When Anita came to America, she worked full time while attending classes at the English Center. Now she is a diligent student at Youngstown State University majoring in social work.  She hopes that with her degree, she will be able to find a position that could give her opportunities to work with children.

There are many things about Peruvian culture that are important to Anita.  She didn’t participate in Peruvian dancing in Peru, but in the United States she learned Peruvian dances and now performs in Peruvian festivals in various cities.  Anita describes those moments of dancing and says “I close my eyes while I dance, and I feel like I am in my country.”

Anita returns to Peru every year to visit family and friends. The visit includes parties and gatherings at festivals to celebrate her return.  After two weeks in Peru, however, Anita wants to return to Youngstown, a place she now calls “home.” She is especially fond of Mill Creek Park where she takes advantage of opportunities to visit the flower gardens, walk around the lakes, and watch the colors change with the change of seasons.

She misses Peru, but now feels that “this community is my home…I love teaching new immigrants how to get around here and helping them find

things in the area.”  In her front yard stands a big Mexican flag, a message to Latinos in the area that she is there to help.

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