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Luis Campoverde

Luis Campoverde

Navy Veteran, Security Guard and Machinist

Born: Lima, Peru
Heritage: Peruvian

Don’t waste time. If something needs to be done today do it today. Life is so short. If you don’t prepare for yourself you’ll never get a head. You always be in one place. When my kids come home they say they have to do a project in two weeks. Don’t wait until the last minute. Be prepared always. Just the teacher. He belongs to the National Guard. You have to be training for something. Same thing with students. Be prepared and be ready and don’t waste time and be yourself. There’s a lot of propaganda for being like a Barbie doll and being like this or that. Be yourself! That’s the best thing you can do.

Luis Campoverde

Navy Veteran, Security Guard and Machinist

Good morning. My name is Luis Campoverde. My full name is Luis Enrique Campoverde Avilay. I was born October 15, 1968, 39 years ago. Thank you for allowing me to talk with you. I was originally from Peru. Growing up back then my father was a mechanic by trade. My mom was a house mom. I’m the youngest of five children. My two older brothers in Peru. Sister lives in the country. Older sister in Peru.

When growing up went to Kindergarten in my hometown. A lot less resources. It was a fun time down there with classmates. We learned the basic stuff.

We didn’t have computers back then. Did a lot of field trips with teachers. Lived in community close to mountains. You walk around the mountains. See vegetation. When I went to elementary school it was like you guys here. You have libraries and things. Then we didn’t have many books. Big classroom. We study seven hours per day and five days a week with one teacher. We were pretty much compromised. Finish the year and if not you redo it.

You respect the teacher and accomplish it or have to repeat it. The year was divided in four sections. They test you for everything. If you pass good. Good. If not. You get a bad report card. If you at the end of the year accumulate three bad report cards you have to stay that year. Sometimes get to test in the summer and pass that year. Not many wanted to stay because ashamed to stay with your younger brothers class the same year. You put pressure on yourself.

Parents give authority to teacher as extension of the parent. You have to respect the teacher and obey them like listening to your mom and ad. Then you pass through high school, which is a little more compromised. Have straight five years to plan for the rest of your life. By the third and fourth year of highs school have to decide on what to do with your life. Doctor, technician, or police or whatever you want to choose.

The economy doesn’t allow much time off for the kids. They can’t support a kid not doing anything at home. When finish high school need to know what they do. I personally went into the arm forces.

There was something at that time an obligation for a person, for a boy. When you turn 17 you decide to choose between Air force, Navy, or Army. I chose the Navy for one year.

After that experience I came out and pursued the university and couldn’t make it. I pursued military career and didn’t make it. Started working for preparation in High School. Prepared me with technical high school and learned machinery. I worked at the machine shop and worked there for one year. We’re talking 1987.

I wasn’t making much money. You probably know the countries down south have bad economies. In order to have my own apartment was impossible. I still lived with my parents. In 1988 went to work for the Air Force facility as a security person.

That year someone told me about coming to the United States. It would be an opportunity for me to travel. I could leave at the end of 1989.

I couldn’t think or imagine I could do that long of a trip. I waited and continued working. I worked one, two and three jobs sometimes. Besides my regular job I would fix stoves and little houses. People here would call me a Jack-of-all-trades. I did that for a while.

Then December 1989 arrives and didn’t have enough money to buy ticket to come here. The journey begins by land and left my hometown December 4th, 1989.

I went to Ecuador. I went to Ecuador. All traveling by bus. Went to Columbia. In Columbia stay for a couple of days. I was going to Panama. Just as going to Panama the Marines were landing in Panama to overthrow Mr. Noriega. I think he is still in Miami in prison.
That was shaky days for me. In get into Panama and no one could land there and sent me back to Columbia. I got arrested because had visa to leave country and had to come back. Found out about the problem and set me free.

My target was to come to this country. What do I do can’t go to Panama. I then got visa to Costa Rica.

If you see the map. This is Peru and Ecuador and Panama here. To get up here couldn’t make it from the travel in that country. I come back to Columbia and get a visa to Costa Rica. I went in trough the San Andreas Island. It’s a free trade and neutral zone and don’t pay taxes.

I stay there two weeks because the lady who told us get us visa there was some problems because the President of my country was trying to get people not leave. Talents were leaving the country they say.

We stayed there two weeks and got a visa and went to Costa Rica. Traveled there to Nicarauquan border. Can’t go there. Went back to San Jose to Costa Rica. I was low on money. What I did is try to look for a job. This is a funny story.

I was looking for a job and I was 20 years old and impressed with things. They said if I get into sells business I could make enough money to buy ticket to Miami. I went to a hotel for a presentation.

There are hangers for wastebaskets. I went door to door to sell. Presentation was nice. I got door to door in Costa Rica trying to sell hangers for trash bags. I realized how it feels to have the door thrown on your face. They don’t want to hear you.

I make one sell in about a week. I was discouraged and give the hangers back and said this is not for me. Another opportunity in the paper to pick coffee. The coffee bush is three to four feet. You pick the beans and collect them.

I wasn’t fast enough. People can fill baskets quick. I didn’t make much money. Discouraged and working in downtown Costa Rica. I met one guy from my country.

He gave a presentation as a street clown. He finished it up and at the end and pulled a flag out of the bag and said I wanted to thank the country that brought me alive, Peru! The country I was born. In that country I am born it too makes me who I am right now. I was impressed to hear someone away like me and talk with him a little bit.

He told me about job in Construction Company. I went to work there for a couple of months and raised enough money and go to the next border in Nicaragua.

It was a dangerous place because if you read history. Nicaragua was having problems with guerillas. There were a lot of mines along the border, explosives. If you got too close to the borders you might get hit with the guns. They don’t let you go across freely. Must go with someone in.

I remember walking in at night. Next thing you know you are in the middle of thecountry. Next morning I went out this place to sleep. Not a hotel, just a place to rest. I rest that night there.

I was talking with a lady in that morning when suddenly off the wall a young guy jumped into the house and run into one of the rooms. I got scared. Thought it was a robber. She said that boy was running away from the guerrillas. He didn’t want to fight anymore.

Not a formal army but a group of people gets together for a cause for a revolutionary. Wanted to change things buy the force. All you guys get together and say we don’t like this government and rise up against the government. Strike against the police department. Strike here and there. A group of people doesn’t agree with the way government.

Seeing people in the streets and walking downtown Nicaragua and find buildings with bullet holes. The transportation system. You see people hanging on the doors on the buses. The transportation. I was chocked. Costa Rica is a really nice country like the U.S. It’s very clean and accessible and nice. Still the colonial type. Older buildings but well kept. You get across Nicaragua and total different story. You feel the affects.

They are very close. According to the history of the country. Nicaragua use to be nice. Revolution. This is what you get. When I cross Nicaragua in Honduras the border is like a river and a lot of people do trade there with rice for sugar. When I crossed there is the Army from another country from Honduras chasing all these Nicaraguans away.

I have to cross the border where people were running and escaping. I made it to Honduras. It was a very hospitable country. I was sick with a fever. One family took me without knowing me and was there for four or five days. They took care of me without asking anything for me. Mi casa es su casa. My house is your house. I was touched.

In each country one thing I can gather until I was in Honduras. No matter what nation you are in people are just like you. They speak a little bit differently. They have the same problems and the same needs. We’re all just the same.

Leaving Honduras I went to Guatemala. Guatemala is another country with a guerrilla problem. I went across.

Went on to the Mexican border. Being in Mexico they got certain regulations doesn’t allow much immigrants from the south getting into Mexico. They won’t let me in. So pretty much had to force my entrance into Mexico. Take a train running and taking the train.

I would hang on the side of the train. This may sound like trying to paint a hero type. I explain why I did all this. Got into Mexico and going across. Then I get to the border of the United States. On the other side of Texas of San Antonio. Laredo, Texas. It’s a lot of drugs and trades going on along that border. I want to find something again. I was walking down the street and I find someone. Is there a place I can stay? They told me about this car wash. I knock on the door. The lady opened the door and said you can stay in my shop. She didn’t know me again. I got to stay in the shop. She said I don’t have to work.

I can stay there. Which I did but the next day saw his nephew washing cars. I went into help them and learned to do the stuff. They close on the weekends. One day three trucks show up over the weekend. I said three big rigs wanting to get washed.

They said if you feel like you can do it - charge what it cost for the oil and keep the rest. That was my job for the weekends. I bring all the big trucks and wash them off.

I have one more trade for my files. Now I’m a technician washing cars. I was pretty much going to stay in Mexico. I liked Mexico. Working there and making money and the met this guy from Minnesota who come down there. His job was a plumber here. He had a medical condition he comes in the winter. He goes to California and Mexico. He buys Volkswagens and fixed them up and sells them. He spends summertime in Mexico for three to four months.

When I met him at the car wash. Asked can you do body work. I said yes. He liked the job and offered me. He said I have job for you in Minnesota. You need to get across to the other side. He offered to pay me more than I was making. That got me thinking. Either stay here or keep traveling up north. So I decided to keep traveling. So I come to this country and started working with him. But eventually he wasn’t going to do that anymore after a year. I found myself out of a job. Didn’t speak English and found this guy from Mexico he was kind of like make fun of me the whole way.

He knows English and the places here. Everything people would tell me in English he would say, “You got to learn it in English.” What did he say? “He said you have to learn English. He bugged me so much that’s what I did.

I went to the library. That time giving booklets. It says sell phrases. What is a bus? What is a telephone? What’s it? What is? What isn’t?

I developed my own system of learning. Not schools near by. I’d go up to anyone and ask, “Where is the bus station? If he gave me and answer that was an accomplishment for me. If he says what and what? I’m not dong it well. Have to go back to drawing board and practice again.

This is 1990. It took 8 months to get to this country. I used music to learn the language. I met a lot of great people here who helped me out without hesitation. Something to be thankful in this state and in general to this country. People were nice. Broke a lot of stereotypes that people have.

Are you familiar what stereotypes are? It’s like for example you watch a movie and see a fight in the street. The ones fighting are Latino guys fighting each other. You get in your mind all Latino guys are like that. In the same way for us when we watch movies down there we get a stereotype that everyone has a gun in America and a lot of drugs and a war zone over there. You create it in your mind, but it’s not true.

Make my way here when you learn more English. Worked for the racquet club and was there for the inauguration. Working there in the racquet club and learned a bit of English and one day were looking for someone on the day shift. I volunteer myself even though they wanted someone to speak English fluently.

The manager was nice enough. I think you are going to be able to do it because you are volunteering. There is potential for you. After learning the job for a couple of weeks. He come one day and says Luis this is the tool for your success. He gave me a walky talky. He would come in and ask questions on the radio. Forcing me to talk. Forcing me to speak and use the language.

His name was John Hogan. He was one of my mentors. I worked for the mall of America for the inauguration. Spent all night putting up chairs and organizing thing. When people come it was like a stampede. Ever watch the movie with Robin Williams called Jumanji? It was like that – a stampede. That’s what people looked like when the Mall of America opened the doors.

All the chairs the night before got pushed away. See people shopping everywhere and sitting down of the floor and eating all over the place. That was another leaning place to.

Then work for the mall and worked the restaurants there. I learn more English. Communication is a good tool. Once I left the mall I was looking for a job in Plymouth because I wasn’t making very much money. I knew about other opportunities and worked for a machine shop. At this machine shop I started as a janitor. I clean up all the trash and the windows and the carpeting. I asked for the opportunity to work in the shop itself. I gave them a trial and stopped as a custodian and worked as a machinist and was back in my trade I originally knew.

Worked for 8 years with that company and I grew and as far as communicate better and learning the culture here and learning from people. Learning politics and different things. Then the company got bought out by company out eat and fist time in all these years I got laid off.

Between all this always working two jobs. I worked at night and was offered position for supervising people and supervising the boss of the supervisor. I got laid off and get a better position with American Building Maintenance. ABM. With opportunity. When introduced me to what I was going to work on. There were four complexes with four towers. Taking care of four towers and took me about six months to get comfortable. I was dealing directly with people. Something more to develop. Skill with people now. Now my experience in my travels in Central American country to learn a little bit about each culture. There were people of all these places there and I understood them. I knew about their countries.
Now you guys might ask why I left my country so far way. It was mainly economics and to improve myself. This is what I told you about work. Now move back a little back to 1995 I was able to come back to my country first time after five year in this country.

When I went back first time to home country it was just like a different dimension. Coming from this reality to a poor country. My friends were gone and not in the city. My relatives are still there. First person wanted to see was former girlfriend I had.

She didn’t forget me. That was the person I’m married to. That right there is the consequence of it. My wife met in High School. When the pope come to the country met her in church. Left country and said wouldn’t come back. Come back five years later, she’s still single. Come back in 1996. I proposed to her and got married. In 1997 when Victoria. Wives name is Victoria. Victoria born in 1997.

I was a resident at that time. When you come to this country not citizen right away. Give you a temporary residency and then qualify as a citizen. So Victoria and her mom didn’t join me until November 1999. She grew up in Peru.

I was going down there and traveling two times a year. But it was rough to be a part of the family, being gone for so long.

Sometimes Victoria didn’t know me when I would go down there. She’d look at me and then point to the picture of me and say, “My Dad is that picture over there.” That’s not dad. Dad is that picture over there. Didn’t know what a formal dad was. It was painful but not her fault. It was the separation.

1999 arrives and become a citizen and so all the paper work spit it up and Victoria and her mom were able to come and enjoy me here in year 2000. Another member of the family joined us. My son Luis is going in 2nd grade. October 22nd 2007. Four of us in this country.

My wife came here and started learning. She’s a schoolteacher now. Now after all these years she's directing a program in Pre School and succeeding.

What I’m trying to say is no matter how little you know, think ahead, there’s always a possibility to get more in life. Push hard and you’ll get it. Push hard and you’ll get more. Put all your effort in it.

Big lesson is probably that difference among people. You learn by knowing them. Surprise me. You don’t expect being it done for you for people who don’t know you. They don’t know if they are going to pay you back or not. The kindness. Just like they help you without expecting anything in return. They were building something for me to do now.

I can give you an example. A lot of the time driving on the highway at night and someone is stuck out on the road. They say it’s dangerous to stop. I stop anyways. I have met people from different places helping out. From here and other places. But it’s my way of returning what I have gathered through this entire journey. We all have a mission in life and this is part of it. You receive and you now return it to complete a cycle.

What was the name of the school? My elementary school was 6014 School. Some would have names and but others had numbers like mine. My teacher was strict. He was very strict and very close to you. I say the whole school was strict. The teacher taught by and from a fable and how it guides you through life.
Could you tell us why you stayed in Minnesota? That’s a good question. A lot of people have moved to different places. I like the way things are here. I have fallen in love with the people here. They make me feel at home. In most of my growing. I was 21 when I arrived in the country and come straight to Minnesota. I like it here. I like the snow. It is beautiful. Schools are great for my kids. You can meet people from different parts of the world and people do get along with each other here. It’s a larger number of people want to stop and learn from you. You are from China and I am from Peru. You learned about religion and parents and growing up. Like me a trip to the library, I learn directly from the people who are from there. My world grows closer and closer.

Did anyone try to steal your money? One time they stole my car stereo. That’s all. Here in this country. In Peru had an incident when as a teenager someone put a knife in my throat. Policeman went by and the guy took off. It’s the only time.

Do you have funny and entertaining stories? I was in the process of learning English. As I was saying before. Where is the bank and telephone? I went to this lady in downtown Minneapolis. I asked her where is the subway? She said we don’t have subways in Minnesota. Didn’t know if she understood my question or what it was.

I was throwing questions to see if she could understand me. Another story is when Victoria was in her second year in this country. We have a neighbor from the Philippines and this little boy spoke English but with a different accent. Victoria was learning English. So they got a little dog. Victoria is with this little boy and they try to communicate with each other. We told her not to play with the dog. The dog comes in to play with the boy. She tries to prevent him. She doesn’t know the word bite in English. She goes don’t go down there she’s going to “murder” you, which is Spanish for bite.

How did your family get to Peru? Originally we are from Peru. Be honest I didn’t do my genealogy. My mother is from the mountains. Great grandfather was from Spain but 85% is Indian. My father is a lighter skin. We don’t know what people from Europe came here. None-the-less we’re all Peruvian 100%.

Could you tell us more about your parents? My mom comes from the center part of the country from the mountains. She came to Lima, Peru as a maid to a house where my father was working at. That’s how they met. My father is from Lima and grew up pretty close to the ocean. He worked in many different jobs like bakeries and stuff. He went into the military and worked in the house and met y mom. He was a mechanic by trade. He was working up in the mountains. He got himself a couple of trucks and started working with them. He supported all the family with that job. My mom was a stay at home mom. She came up with the idea to raise animals in the house like chickens and guinea pigs. Had small plantation of sweet potatoes and would go to the market and sell them. I did that or whatever. She would help support the family.

My dad looked after trucks and would work at the bakery for the distribution of the bread in the community. My father passed away this passed May. He’s no longer with us. My mother is still alive and just went back to Peru a couple of weeks ago. She was going to be here for the talk.

Was it worth all of that to come to America? I think so. It was worth it because my family was growing and kids growing here. I was able to help my dad when he had a heart condition. Down there we couldn’t buy him a pacemaker and didn’t have the money to buy it for him. Had a couple brothers in a rough situation and they needed help and I was able to help them. Many times I asked myself that this question, but I always come back to, there’s a reason for me to be here. I haven’t found yet the ultimate mission. Every human being has a mission. We have to find it out and why are we here in life. We are all a piece of checkers on a checkerboard.

What was your favorite time in your school day and why? To play a lot of soccer. Play a lot of marbles. Play tops that you spin with a string. I love history and enjoy history lessons. One thing with history is it builds your spirit and you get to know who you are and where you come from. No matter where you are it will make you proud of who you are and something to support you right there. I come from the Incas in my case. One of the greatest cultures. You can say I come from the Vikings. You can say I come from the Germans and feel proud of what your background is. No matter where you are, you’ll be strong if you understand who you are and where you come from.

What is the biggest difference between living in America? Biggest difference probably is America is a more organized society. Probably less crime. The more organized society is the biggest difference. Probably how much striving to get a long with each other. Movements to incorporate people and learn about each other.

Did you always want to be a mechanic when growing up? Yes and no. When I was growing up I was always under the trucks when dad was fixing them. I’m mechanically inclined but I like the theatre to. Being an actor or in a play. I’ve been in six or seven plays in my hometown. It was the most rewarding times. You get the feeling and like doing that. Probably that is what I really like to do it.

What did you use when doing projects? Go to the library. In the library use a system of reference cards and look for subjects. You look for that particular book. It’s a lot of research and involvement. If a teacher tells you to get a book. You remember the process. Now you Google it up and get the thing and change a few things and forget about. When you get involved in the process you get this and get this. It works better for you and retains more for yourself.

Which is your favorite country outside of the United States? I would say Costa Rica. It is so small and has mountains and beaches and parks and many different things you can go to. Costa Rica doesn’t have an Army. It’s a peaceful country and has access to different places. I haven’t gone back but want to.

What was your favorite job you had and why? Probably when doing machining parts for prototypes of welding equipment and welding plastic. I enjoyed doing that because they will give you this and tell you that you have to make something to weld this part or that part. They tell you to do it and you have to use your head to do it. That’s what I enjoy doing the most.

Did you almost give up on your journey? Happened twice. In Columbia when I went to Panama and they sent met back. In Columbia I guess in the park there were people like me trying to cross over. Chile was in the south of Peru. Just about to turn around and go to Chile. But again I don’t know if I have an angel or what – but there is always someplace, somewhere for you.

Coming into the U.S. there was a struggle with all the paper work. Tried to make it in but couldn’t about five times. One last chance and just like when you say, give it a try one more time, and that’s when you’re going to make it.

What was your favorite part of your adventure? Looking back I would say the whole adventure. What I told you is a very small part of what I really went through. Probably the favorite of everything is meeting people.

How old were you when went to middle school? Middle School would be 6th grade. I was about eleven years old.

What is brother and sisters names? Oldest is Gloria Rosa and is a doctor. Works in the lab. My second brother is a teacher. He’s a principal in the rainforest. 3rd sister is here in Minnesota and a nursing assistant. Other brother is a mechanic like my dad and myself.

Why didn’t family stay in Peru – why didn’t you decide to stay? For job reasons. People are poorer in my country. When you have a family of your own you have to choose what is the best place for you to work and provide for the family. You have schooling and better things. That’s why we decided to stay her. Provide better and grow up.

What was least favorite country? Can’t say least. I learned from each of them. They all were hospitable. Probably the place that was the scariest was Nicaragua with the Army trucks going in and out. Looking back it was an experience, too.

Why did you have to wait so long to come to the U.S.? Coming to America for me at that time was like if I go through the proper channels they say you require a visa. For me to get a visa they say I need to have a lot of money. I need to have a bank account. I need to have a business going. If I had all that, why do I need to come to this country to work?!! I come to this country legally. Why did I almost give up? It’s right at the border. Couldn’t make it six times but the seventh time I made it through. When there is a reason you can do the impossible.

Once I get up here I look for a way to adjust my status and be like everybody else. Live like a normal American and proud of it.

Notation: Download PDF

I Was Born in Peru

Honoring Luis Campoverde

I Was Born In Peru
(Honoring Luis Campoverde)

I was born in Peru
I fell in love in Peru
Got married in Peru
Had a daughter in Peru

With a mom and dad
Four siblings & I
The youngest one
Near the mountainside
Without any books
In a big classroom
Either graduate
Or redo
After high school
Joined the Navy
Then found work
With machinery
But hardly got paid
Enough to survive
So headed north
In ‘89

But had to go
Far away
To find work
To the USA.
Through Ecuador
To Columbia
Then traveled by bus
To Panama
After the Marines
Came to overthrow
I had to go
To Costa Rica
Where I found
A job selling
Trash hangers in town

Only sold one
In a week
Then I met a clown
From Peru in the streets

Through Nicaragua
Into a civil war
Covered with landmines
And bullet holes
To Honduras
Where I got ill
A family took me in
I’m thankful still
They cared for me
For several days
How on earth
Can I repay
Such kindness
Hard to say goodbye
Through Guatemala
To the Mexican line
Knocked on a door
A lady took me in
Washing trucks and cars
On weekends

Made money
Met a guy
From the USA
Who sells and buys

Asked me to come
To work for him
In Minnesota
From doing body work
To working at the Mall
Of America
But that’s not all
In ‘95
Went back to Peru
To see that girl
I’m now married to
Brought her up north
Now we have
A daughter and a son
Who call me Dad

Is now my home
People are good
No matter
where you go
Is now my home
Don’t give up
On your goals

Music by LARRY LONG. Words by LARRY LONG with Dan Barrett’s 5th grade class of Valley View Elementary School. Columbia Heights, Minnesota.

© Larry Long 2008 / BMI