October marks Hispanic Heritage Month in Canada. To honour the incredible accomplishments and contributions of the Hispanic community, we highlight Liliana’s story.
She is a Colombian immigrant who embodies the spirit of what is referred to, in many Spanish-speaking countries, as “berraco.” A “berraco” is someone who rises above adversity, refuses to yield, and makes moving forward their motto. With only four bags, her three children, and hope for a safer future, Liliana embarked on one of the most profound challenges of her life. She left the known for the unknown.
Liliana’s story begins in Colombia, where she was born and grew up in a culture that values warmth, traditions, and strong family ties. However, her life took a sudden turn when she had to leave her home, her mother, and brother within only 24 hours due to threats connected to her government work with demobilized armed groups.
In 2019, she and her children arrived in Canada, seeking refuge in a country that presented unfamiliar landscapes, a new language, and a different culture. The experience has been quite challenging, as she admits, “It hasn’t been easy, but we’ve had support from the government, like everyone who has been here. We’ve had a lot, a lot, a lot of support from Wendy on your [IWC’s] part.”
"I came to this country to do things I had never done before, to work in areas I had never worked in my country, to put in 20-hour workdays in construction, clean at night [...] during the Covid pandemic, I started making lunches and selling them."-Liliana
Among the many challenges Liliana highlights, adapting to the Canadian weather has been difficult, especially coming from sun-soaked Colombia. She also points out the contrast in cultural expressions, noting that Canadians tend to be less effusive in their greetings compared to the warmth ingrained in her home country. However, she proudly shares that her children, on the other hand, have adapted remarkably well, embracing what she refers to as the Canadian way of life, including the weather.
Her journey in Canada has been a test of her strength and determination. Liliana, formerly a government employee working with the Ministry of Sport and focusing on social work with disarmed members of guerrilla groups in Colombia, found herself in a completely different profession. She said, “I came to this country to do things I had never done before, to work in areas I had never worked in my country, to put in 20-hour workdays in construction, clean at night […] during the Covid pandemic, I started making lunches and selling them.” All of this was done to support her family and pursue her dreams in her new life in Canada.
“Besides working with the Ministry of Sports, I had a foundation, an NGO, where I carried out various social projects, helping the community, working with the elderly,” Liliana shared. Her 16 years of experience working with people in the social sector instilled in her a deep desire to continue making a difference.
One of her dreams is to continue her work with the community, and specifically the Latino community in Canada, helping children and focusing on sports, as she had done in Colombia.
Last year, Liliana established her own company, where she plays a vital role in helping people connect with organizations like IWC that can support their settlement process. “Thanks to God, I’ve been able to make various contacts, and when someone needs something, I can redirect them,” Liliana stated.
Today, Liliana has become a mother for the fourth time, and she acknowledges the new challenge that she is embarking on, one that, with the support of her family and faith, she has been able to take on. Her most precious and important dream is to see her children have the opportunity to study, and she aspires to one day reunite with her mother and brother who are still in Colombia.
Something that characterizes Liliana is her unwavering belief in her goals. She is still writing her story in Canada, and even though life is still unfolding with more surprises and new experiences, her personality doesn’t allow her to stay idle and wait to see what will happen.
Liliana’s story mirrors the essence of a “berraca.” She left behind her homeland, language, and culture, venturing into the unknown, embracing a different way of life. As we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, her journey resonates with the experiences of many Hispanic immigrants in Canada. During this month, we not only pay tribute to Liliana as a Colombian “berraca” but celebrate the collective resilience, determination, and cultural contributions of the Hispanic community in Canada.
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