Over the last 100 years no group has grown as rapidly or consistently as the Latin American community. The reasons are as varied as the nation’s that make up the tableau of incredible cultures that fall under that umbrella. Even more numerous, however, are there contributions to the cities, towns, and neighborhoods we know and love. Sinclair is no exception.
A stroll through campus, especially the International Office in Building 10 shows just how diverse the college’s Latin community is becoming. Many are with the CCI Program, some are native Daytonians born and raised. All, however, add something to the cultural mélange of the Gem City even if they miss their roots or lives they left behind. Nursing student Micaela Zagal is a perfect example of that.
The Peruvian hails from the megacity Lima. Dayton’s population pales in comparison to the 11 million people that share the Andean city’s streets and boulevards.
“When I started looking for places to study abroad, I was focusing on Spanish-speaking countries, but my parents wanted me to have at least some family around. Since my uncle and aunt were both Sinclair students and were still around Dayton, it just worked out,” Zagal said.
While for her first year she lived with her relatives in the suburbs, she has since started to live close to campus. Being from one of the biggest cities in the world, the busier aspect of Dayton appealed to her.
Zagal said, “Moving downtown definitely feels more like home. Back in the suburbs was too quiet and there are not a lot of people walking around.”
She navigates Dayton and the larger Ohio area like a natural now, but Zagal admits that on first arriving there was an element of culture shock she had to get over. Admittedly, she missed everything about her homeland.
Zagal said, “We have 500 types of potatoes back in Peru, but here I can only find 3. It makes a difference when cooking. I started to learn how to cook my home dishes, like arroz con pollo, but it just does not taste the same. Either way, you must do these things to make things feel a bit more like home.”
Being new to the States and fresh from the Dominican Republic, Osayas Correa echoed Zagal’s sentiment.
Correa said, “People in the Dominican Republic seem much warmer and chattier. Over here, people are much more direct when responding to you. I have been trying to get to know my classmates, but this directness makes it harder to have conversations with them.”
The 18-year-old hails from Santo Domingo, the oldest capital in the Americas and a place renowned for its warmth and friendliness. Dayton, with its colder weather and communal feel, is markedly different. In La Capital as it is known, it is not uncommon for people to take walks on the legendary Malecon, listening to the latest salsa and merengue on the way to work before tucking in for a delicious plate of pollo guisado.
“It seems impossible to make food that tastes the same,” Correa said with regards to food. “You can find similar ingredients that work, but the actual thing is never quite right. Rice, beans, meat, and banana – all on one plate. Seems easy, but it still has a different outcome!”
That every Dominican store she’s heard of is at least an hour away has not made things any easier. What has, however, are the many people on campus she has befriended.
Given the growth of Sinclair in recent years, Correa has plenty of people that can empathize with her experience and offer advice. Raiane Almeida Dacosta, a 27-year-old Brazilian is one of them.
Looking at her hometown on a map necessitates hovering over the wondrous Brazilian state of Minas Gerais and scrolling past the historic mines of Ouro Preto and urbane Belo Horizonte. Curvelo, the famed gateway to Brazil’s hinterland, could hardly be further from the Midwestern USA.
Many might wonder how she ended up at Sinclair?
“My siblings and I went to the same college in Curvelo. Eventually, I decided to try something else and after learning to speak English on my own, was able to become an ESL teacher,” said Dacosta of her journey.
“During the pandemic, I decided to go back to college to complete my Civil Engineering degree and there heard about the CCI program,” Dacosta said.
Raiane applied despite not thinking she would get accepted. Competition, after all, was fierce.
“We went up against students from across the state and then advanced to the national level. After that, our applications were sent to Washington, DC and we were accepted!”
Applicants aren’t given a choice of where to study, so Dacosta has friends all over the United States. She’s glad she landed at Sinclair, given how much she likes the city of Dayton.
“I love the Riverscape, I go for walks there all the time. It’s very beautiful and relaxing,” she said.
Like Correa, however, Dacosta misses the food back home most of all. Some things, she says, just aren’t the same. As talk moves to her return to Minas Gerais next May, the future engineer gushes about all she will have to share.
“I’ve learned so much here, I can’t wait to share my experiences with friends and family back home.”
Interviews conducted by Jay Mazega, Reporter,
Words by Ismael David Mujahid, Managing Editor