What are your names?
Rosa Zuniga and Augusto Nonez [originally from Costa Rica].
How many children do you have?
Four – one born in the Yukon: three girls, one boy, all living in Whitehorse.
And how long have you lived in the Yukon?
Four and a half years. We came to Canada in 2004.
What made you decide to come to Canada?
We read books and we learned that Canada is a good place to raise your children.
In our country, there are difficult situations and we wanted to come to a place where we can give better opportunities to our children.
Buy why did you specifically choose to come to the Yukon?
When we came to Canada, we came to Toronto; and it wasn’t what we were looking for … it was too busy for our children.
We had a friend who came to the Yukon and he called us in Toronto and told us about the nice size of the city – a safe place, a nice place to raise a family, very beautiful …
And was it too busy in Costa Rica where you lived?
No, we came from a province called Puerto Limon. It’s a fair size, but not like Toronto.
What was it like settling into the community as far as getting work, meeting people?
Augusto: For me, Whitehorse is a great opportunity for work; if you really want to work, you can find whatever you want.
When we first came, we took what work we could get, like cleaning, but then as we got to know people, we found more opportunities for work.
Our first priority was to find work to support the family. Then we found a school for our children.
It was important for us to learn to speak English. We did some classes at the French centre, but most we learned by just integrating into the community.
Was it difficult for the children – going to school and not knowing the language?
It was, but they learned very quickly and it was okay.
But this is what we love about this community. Everyone was very interested in the kids and their culture and they really made an effort to help them … They were great.
How was it for starting jobs? Did you find that difficult?
No. The people here are just amazing and so helpful and interested in us and our culture …
We really love this place.
Did you feel totally disconnected from your Latino roots, coming here?
No. We found out that there were a few families that speak Spanish. And we are also Mormons and the people of the Mormon church were a huge support for us in getting set up, initially.
We are also very much into sports, especially soccer, and we found out that is a big sport here … My wife plays soccer, I play soccer, my kids play soccer.
How was the process in being able to legally work here? Was it a good experience for you?
Yes. After five months, we were able to get a work visa. One of the things I love about Canada is that they are very good for showing us the resources of how to go about getting a work visa, etc.
Do you find the cold weather to be a challenge?
The only thing is that the cold weather lasts a long time, but it’s OK as long as you dress for it. That does not stop us from totally loving this place and being grateful to be here.
Our children love it here; we love it; people are friendly; there’s lots to do.
Rosa, are there similarities between your country and ours? Or is it completely different?
In our country, the people don’t have anything sometimes, but they are friendly and happy because everyone needs that. That is what was so great for us when we came here – to find that.
Was it difficult, as far as cooking, to find the things you are used to in your country?
Augusto: It’s totally different; it’s not the same as our country, but we handle it. We’ve learned to adapt and use Western food incorporated with our traditional food.
So, coming to this country has been a huge change for you.
Our kids say that our country [Costa Rica] is beautiful. But this place is beautiful; it’s our home.
And we have travelled to many places in Canada like Montréal, Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton, on holidays; and after three for four days, we want to come back home here.
How did you find out about the Heritage Festival?
From you! You were working in the Superstore and you saw me speaking Spanish and you talked about the Heritage Festival. And we were so happy that you were giving us the opportunity to share our culture … and we had other friends who expressed how happy they were that the Heritage Festival gave them that opportunity.
We really like it that people are so interested in our culture; it’s like we are one big family. We were all speaking different languages, but we really enjoyed that.
So I get the impression that you feel it is important that, as a community, we share each other’s culture and support each other?
Rosa, what is your job in Whitehorse?
We opened our business in Whitehorse: Bubbles Day Care. We are very happy. The people really like it.
Was it easy to get the business started?
Yes, the people from Child Care Services were very, very helpful.
And you, Augusto, where do you work?
I work at the hospital, but also I work at the Whitehorse Correctional Facility.
You’re very busy; you have four children, you’re working two jobs … wow.
Augusto: Yes, this was important to show the government and immigration that we have roots in this place, that this is our place and we show them that we are good citizens and work hard; we pay taxes; our kids are involved in cadets and soccer.
We are now permanent residents.
Because Canada has been supportive to us, we want to give back to Canada by volunteering in the community, having a business that provides a good service to the community and supporting people in our community that need the support.
This column is courtesy of the Whitehorse Heritage Festival, an event that celebrates the many cultures of the Yukon. This year it will be June 26 to 28 at Shipyards Park as part of the Sunstroke/Solstice Festival.