Marisol Perez met her future husband, Arturo, literally by accident. She could not have known at the time how greatly that incident would soon impact her life. During a mountain biking event near her home in Venezuela, a strong wind knocked Arturo’s bike into Marisol’s, landing her in the hospital. As her recovery began, so too did their relationship and her journey to America.
Shortly after they met in 2000, Arturo was given a new work assignment in the Philadelphia region by his employer. The couple married in 2001 and Marisol moved to the United States to join her husband. She returned to Venezuela soon after to complete some projects for work. When the terrorist attacks happened in September of 2001, many of her loved ones voiced concern over her coming to America but she persevered, arriving in October.
Marisol owned a successful architectural firm in Venezuela for a number of years, specializing in large corporate office buildings, and hoped to keep it going while she lived in America. Her initial Visa did not allow her to work in the U.S. which was a new challenge for someone accustomed to working for herself and being very busy.
After becoming pregnant with her first child, Marisol felt it was time to relinquish the Venezuelan firm, not an easy decision after working for many years to build the business into a strong, successful company. She was not a licensed architect in the U.S. so looked into real estate, with the idea of using her architectural experience to flip houses and also to work with buyers and sellers. She soon attained a realtor’s license.
Adjusting to life in the United States has had its challenges for Marisol. She says that language and cultural barriers often bring forward the realization of what you don’t know about your new home, which can make you feel alone, almost like a person without a country. She now describes herself as a “citizen of the world”. Employment opportunities have been limited in her profession with her initial Visa restrictions and also licensing requirements. She has had to let go of the idea of returning to Venezuela as home and instead making her place in America. Marisol has leaned on her own parent’s experience of immigrating from Spain to Venezuela before she was born. She remembers what it was like to grow up with parents with a strong foreign accent and without extended family nearby.
While coming to America was not her dream, Marisol has learned life lessons from the experience, to be open to some of the changes that suddenly come into your life.
She has made her place in America, working as a successful realtor for the past 10 years. She and Arturo have two children, both born in the United States. They continue their love of mountain biking and cycling with the family here, enjoying the natural beauty Pennsylvania has to offer. Marisol is actively involved in the surrounding community. She is a member of the Ensamble Casa de Venezuela, a cultural group that plays at concerts and events, to raise money for non-profits and to share Venezuelan and Latin American music. She serves as a board member for the ACLAMO Family Center, helping Latino and other low income residents with educational programs, social services and health care. Through these activities, Marisol is sharing her Venezuelan culture and helping others make their home in America, just like she did 16 years ago.