Maria Arenas: The real joys in life do not come from money
Fourteen years ago,when she was just one, Maria Arenas, a sophomore at WHS, left her home in Medellin, Colombia to start a new life here in America with her mother, father and sister. Arenas’ family moved 2,600 miles away from their home country for the welfare of their children.
Because violence and the Colombian drug industry were growing rapidly in the late 90′s, Arenas’ father decided leaving the country was the best choice.
“Drug dealers would kidnap public figures just to make a statement and show to others that they were invincible,” Arenas said.
According to Arenas, in more recent years, President Felipe Calderón, who was in office from 2002-2010, made reforms to make Colombia safer. These reforms helped make the roads leaving major cities safer and made the government more effective in fighting guerilla forces.
“President Felipe has made Colombia’s streets safer, which is one of the only reasons my father lets us go to visit,” Arenas said.
This past summer, Arenas and her family visited both sides of her family. Her maternal side lives in Medellin, and her paternal side lives in Bogota. She spent a total of two months with her 25 cousins and 20 uncles and aunts, traveling to both cities.
Arenas’ paternal grandfather grew up poor but supported himself by selling arepas, an ethnic bread typically made with ground corn or flour that is fried with a meat or vegetable filling. His mother made the arepas, and he sold them to his classmates for money.
Now, Arenas’ grandfather owns a medical supplier company, which his children will someday inherit.
“Even though he has grown wealthy through his success, he never forgets his roots,” Arenas said.
Arenas’ grandfather grew up in Monteria, a small city on the northern coast of Colombia. He later went to medical school in Medellin and returned back to Monteria to become the town doctor.
“When I went in the summer and was walking down the street with him, you would hear people shout, ‘hola Doctor’ even though he’s been retired for years now,” Arenas said.
Arenas also attributes her love of literature to her grandfather.
“He can recite poems that are five minutes long off the top of his head,” Arenas said.
Arenas explained that her grandfather has taught her to appreciate the simple things in life, like relaxing on the farm or reading on a hammock.
“The real joys in life do not come from money,” Arenas said.
Until the next time Arenas travels to Colombia, she will reminisce about the memories she has made each summer with her family and keep in touch with them via Facebook and Skype.
“Family is treasured in Colombia,” Arenas said.