Victor Rodriguez : The accidental adventure


Victor and Veronica Rodriguez, at a local Café in Chile visiting family. Used with Permission.

The young Victor Rodriguez would have never believed it if you told him that he would live most of his life in Canada.

Rodriguez was born and raised in a small farming town south of Santiago, Chile. Early on, education was very important to him, so going to university was the first thing he accomplished once out of high school. Once he graduated, he meet his wife, Veronica, and in 1970 he thought he knew what life would look like: grow a family and live out his life. But at the same time, a socialist government was elected.

“It was a minority government but they tried to transform the country in a socialist country,” he remembers. “They nationalized many industries and took land away from their owners and handed it to the workers. Following this, a series of strikes against all these measures almost paralyzed the government. Things started to disappear from the stores. There was a crisis so huge that you had to line up for food and fuel to warm up the houses. By 1973, inflation had reached 508 per cent.”

Of the population, the 70 per cent that didn’t vote for this government put tremendous pressure on the military to take over and it did in September 1973.

“Veronica and I were married in 1974 and then we had our daughter Cecilia. We were living from paycheque to paycheque and couldn’t save any money,” he says. “We decided to move to an English-speaking country for five years to learn the language, save a few dollars and come back.”

Rodriguez applied to Canada and Australia and the Canadian government gave them their first interview. They received a landed immigrant visa and arrived in Ottawa in 1976.

“I came in February in the dead of winter. The day I left Santiago it was 30 C and landed in Ottawa with -20 C. My first impression? Everything it is so white and cold!” he says.

The difficulties of living in a country where you don’t speak the language hit Rodriguez hard. Not knowing how to communicate, he continually had to ask for help or ask people to slow their speech down. It was a painful process.

At that time, the Canadian government had a program to help in those situations and gave Rodriguez a five-month English as a second language training class. The course was given to only one member of the family, so he took it in the mornings before work. After the class, he would go to work and put into practice what he was taught.  After about two years, the couple began to feel more comfortable.

Because his education was not recognized in Canada, making ends meet was about finding a job. He was able to get a good-paying job as a busboy at a prestigious restaurant. Veronica eventually found a hospital, where she worked as an intern while she studied to pass Canadian physiotherapy exams, which she accomplished in 1978. Finally a break came: Rodriguez was given a position in a hospital because of his education in Chile, working in the business office as a payroll supervisor, while upgrading his education to Canadian standards. This process took about two, and after he received a Canadian diploma in computer programming, he was offered a job with the Alberta government as a systems analyst in 1982.

The couple worked hard to be able to make a good life for themselves.

“You are too busy working to miss anything. Maybe that has something to do with the fact that I don’t have much of a family,” he says. “Veronica, on the other hand, comes from a large family and she was more affected by the situation.”

Rodriguez noted that Canada and Chile have similar weather, only the seasons are at opposite times. Even the food was similar, but he said, “The biggest thing is the people and how hard it’s to make friends. In Chile, you are closer with your friends, visit more, people are not so formal. Chileans are a lot warmer than Canadians.

“Apart from the social interactions, everything else is better here. There are jobs, you can earn a decent living, educate your family, save for the future, build a career. The social benefits are great. The order, the respect, the opportunities are all things that you don’t get in Chile.”

We didn’t do exactly what we planned to do, but that’s the adventure, that’s the excitement of life

After so many years in Canada, Rodriguez said, “We didn’t really decide to stay. It just happened. We never really talked about going back.” His plans initially were to come here for five years but at the end of those five years, they were both working in good jobs and were making a great life here.

“It would have been very hard to leave all that and start all over again in Chile.”

Rodriguez said he wouldn’t change a thing.

“We didn’t do exactly what we planned to do, but that’s the adventure, that’s the excitement of life,” he said.

Andrea Ross

Often when I see people I wonder what there story is; what adventures they've been on and what heartaches have made them who they are. I find people fascinating because everyone is so unique and complex, making their stories individually special. I am also passionate about leadership and business. One day I hope to be able to help owners grow their business though effective and strategic business practices. Whether it be business, people or history, I want to learn about it.

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