Love Thy Neighbor
In 1942, Nelson Rockefeller helped inaugurate the luxurious Hotel Avila in Caracas, Venezuela. Pedro ran the hotel’s banquet hall and, according to family lore, his hard work caught Rockefeller’s eye. The North-American businessman helped Pedro immigrate to the United States, where he changed his name to Peter and spent decades running the New York Hilton’s banquet hall. Back in Caracas, Peter’s wife and only son, Carlos, lived without a husband and father, but made infrequent visits to New York City. In 1989, Peter fell ill and Carlos travelled to New York to care for his father. He brought his own family with him: wife, Linay, and their two children, Karla (4) and Carlos Jr. (2). Peter sponsored his son and his family to become US citizens. Three months into the legalization process, Peter died, leaving the family’s immigration status in limbo.
After his father’s death, Carlos Sr. moved the family to Miami, where he opened his own business. The family faced several turbulent years in Miami struggling with financial hardship, frequent moves, and the stress of their undocumented status. According to Carlos Jr., unscrupulous immigration lawyers cheated his father out of thousands of dollars. Later, they could not afford to hire qualified legal counsel. After the birth of Caroline, (their third child and, at the time, the only US citizen in the family) Linay was diagnosed with breast cancer. Carlos Jr.’s mother fought the illness for twelve years before dying in 2006.
In 2005, Carlos Jr. graduated from high school but, because of his undocumented status, did not immediately pursue a college degree. He worked odd jobs until 2007, when he became an activist for undocumented youth. In 2009, Carlos enrolled in Miami-Dade College to study architecture. In 2010, he and four other undocumented youth walked 1500 miles from Miami to Washington DC in an effort to stop deportation of undocumented students and to support the DREAM act. They called their walk the “Trail of Dreams,” which lasted from January until May 2010, and garnered national attention as well as a meeting with Obama administration officials.
In 2015, Carlos Sr. passed away in Miami. In 2016, Carlos Jr. earned his degree in architecture from the Illinois Institute of Technology. He continues as an activist for undocumented youth and is currently an undocumented individual under the protection of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). Below is Carlo’s story, in his own words, and with the heirlooms he holds dear.
What would you ask the original owners of these objects, if you could speak to them today?
What lessons or ideas do these objects communicate that you hope your children will carry through their lives?