She was born in South America but her parents decided to move to the UK. She now stands by the decision which she was once so bitter towards.
Valeria Cazas arrived in Liverpool aged 12; she left behind her country and most of her family and friends. At the start it wasn’t easy; it took her a year to make her first friends.
She went to school despite not understanding, nor speaking English. “Lots of people say that the younger you are, the easier it is to integrate, but it’s not like that. At the beginning, I was with some classmates who showed me around, but I didn’t become part of their group”.
“In class I tried to understand what the teacher was explaining, but I had to develop a sixth sense in order to figure what the class was about. I only had one hour of basic English a week”.
She eventually made friends and got to know her surroundings, although her classmates said that she still ‘didn’t know them’, even after seven months.
It is said that Liverpool has nothing in common with London. “In Liverpool, the Latino community was small, united and diverse, I learnt from many Latin American cultures. In London, Latino’s are more spread out amongst their home countries”.
For the last three years, she has lived in the British capital and has been able to witness the different attitudes amongst her compatriots. It’s said that Latinos are friendly, but that they are also ‘striving and competitive’.
Also, she claims that Latin Americans are very afraid. “Not being able to understand much because of language problems means that they isolate themselves. They are happy do cleaning work, or to work for small companies.”
“I heard an Ecuadorian mother say to her daughter that they had to improve their ancestry and that she had to pay attention to the English. This is wrong; we are all worth something.”
Valeria has twice returned to Bolivia; once when she was 18 and the other, a few days ago. It was a ‘strange feeling’ and she saw that her life and home was now in London.
Now enthused by work and her career as a presenter, she acknowledges that her mother was right. “I can now see that all the struggles and hardships have served for something. I have a British visa, knowledge of the world and freedom, all of which I never would have had, if I had not been living here”.
She speaks English and believes that she is a part of British society, but she insists that Latino’s, in spite of the large number of residents in England, are still not thought of in the way that they should be.
She adds, “Often most forms ask where you come from and what culture you belong to; every other country is listed but there still isn’t an option to mark that you come from South America.”
(Translated by Emma O’Toole)