Estes Park Trail Gazette – Riverside Chat features “Why I Love America”

The second in a new series of storytelling presentations featured five Estes Park residents sharing their thoughts on the theme “Why I Love America.” The five talks took place in Performance Park on Tuesday, July 13. The Everyday Estes Riverside Chats are an initiative of the Estes Valley Resiliency Collaborative. The speakers for this chat were gathered with the help of the Estes Park Nonprofit Resource Center.

Carlos Perez and Elizabeth Rivera

Perez and Rivera work as house parents at Eagle Rock School in Estes Park. Carlos is from Venezuela and Rivera is from Peru.

Perez’ father brought the family to Miami to escape from the Communist regime gaining power in his home country.

“This is my second home and has been my country for 25 years,” Perez said.

In 2017, Perez went to renew his green card and got caught in a legal mess. He was detained for 185 days and threatened with deportation.

“In detention, I spent my time helping immigrants from places like Guatemala and Honduras learn English,” Perez explained. “My son would come visit me and asked if I was in a uniform, did that make me a bad guy. It was difficult.”

With legal help, Perez was able to get out of detention and is now on his way to becoming a U.S. citizen. On Tuesday night, he was sporting a shirt that said “Freedom.”

Rivera described their experience as house parents as, “a beautiful experience. As an immigrant, I have been adapting to a new culture and customs. I have helped some families experiencing some of the same challenges I am. It’s been rewarding to support students and see how they change.”

Rivera left her home country for new opportunities and has been a U.S. citizen for 27 years.