CSCM’s Marketing and Events Manager Luisa Alarcón shares her experiences as a first generation immigrant,
and how sport helped to shape her Canadian identity.
As we all prepare for the Canada Day long weekend and see the celebrations that mark Canada’s 150th birthday, I am reminded that this July also marks 25 years since my sister and I arrived in Canada.
It was a hot summer in July 1992 when two teenagers (then 13 and 14) arrived in Winnipeg to our stepfather and mother’s apartment on Corydon Avenue. Our first meal was perogies with sour cream. I’ll never forget that evening, or the journey that reunited us with our mother and five-year-old brother, separating us (geographically) from our father, grandmother, two other small siblings, friends and extended family.
Our arrival was both an exciting new adventure and a blurry sight of the unknown. A new language, new food, foreign TV shows, friends to meet and relationships to build. A whole new world to conquer. The world that 25 years later has become our “home away from home”. Our Canada, a land that feels as native and as close to our hearts as the Guatemala we left behind.
Those of us, first generation immigrants, share the joy, the privilege and the curse of becoming the sum of two cultures that shape our adult identities. The richness that comes from knowing the best (and the worst) of both worlds. The blessing that comes with the realization that opportunities and resources are limited in all parts of the world, and what it’s like to discover that we all have the potential to become our best selves when more resources are available. The gift that comes from using our ever-evolving technology, that breaches the gap that geography created. The curse sometimes comes from having someone look at you for the first time, 25 years after residing here, and remind you ‘how things are done in Canada’. The resetting of expectations about work and life in Canada, and the reward of overcoming adversity. The courage to continue speaking with an accent and no longer apologizing, rather accepting my dual identity, Guatemalan and Canadian.
Now, 25 years later, I feel both grateful and proud to call Canada home. To have the blessing of seeing my kids grow in a land with more opportunities and acceptance. A place that has taught me that the key is in respecting my neighbour, their perspective, their beliefs, and their choices. A country that one day opened its doors to my husband’s family and my own and one that continues to offer us protection and safety amidst all the turbulence that goes on in the world.
At the age of 15, I had the opportunity to witness first-hand the coming of the XIII Pan American Games to Winnipeg. What seemed – and ultimately was – an opportunity to reunite with my expatriates became my passion for working in sporting events for more than 20 years.
Today, I continue to be backstage, getting to share my experience and passion with local Manitoba athletes who aspire to represent Canada on a global stage. It is truly a gift to be Canadian and to celebrate together a country so kind, that continues to open its doors, creating a splendid mosaic of culture and human warmth. Happy 150th, Canada.
From all of us at CSCM, Happy Canada Day!
Read last year’s Canada Day blog entry by CSCM General Manager & Olympic rower Jeff Powell:
The Canadian Sport Centre Manitoba acknowledges that our offices are situated on Treaty 1 Land, the original lands of the Anishinaabe, Cree, Ojibway-Cree, Dakota, and Dene Peoples, and on the homeland of the Métis Nation.
The Treaties made on these territories are respected by all those who work at CSCM. We acknowledge the harms and mistakes of the past that were made. In a spirit of collaboration and reconciliation, we dedicate ourselves to continually move forward in partnership with Indigenous communities for ongoing education and learning.
We understand that acknowledging this truth, though important, is only a small part in cultivating the strong relationships we strive to build and maintain with Indigenous communities. We continue to work towards this, with particular attention being paid to the sport specific calls to action #87-91 from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
We recognize we are not the first to live on this land, and thank these Nations for allowing us access to their land and water.