Settling in Canada is never easy for newcomers, but one family was determined to make it their home.
Claudio Peralta Leiva, Blanca Castillo Álvarez and their daughter, Emilia Peralta Castillo, are from Chile. The entire family loves to perform, dance and sing, and during their spare time they began to create videos and post them to YouTube. In 2021, their Christmas video depicting life in Canada was picked up by local newspapers.
Until two years ago, they had been living and working full-time in Chile, where Claudio was an industrial engineer and Blanca a teacher. During the Covid-19 pandemic they were stuck at home, like everyone else, when Blanca watched a Spanish webinar about learning English at Cambrian College. The family decided to leave their home country for a new adventure in Greater Sudbury.
In August 2021 they arrived in Canada, Blanca with a work permit and Claudio as an international student ready to start the eight-month program. With the help of their young daughter, Emi, who already spoke English, they found a home, enrolled in school and started a new life.
In just two short years, they have joined and built a supportive community around them, and they are so happy to call Greater Sudbury home.
A shared love of the arts
As their Christmas video gained in popularity, Claudio and his family started to find new opportunities to perform and began playing music with the Sudbury Performance Group.
“That video was the first step in establishing ourselves with confidence here in Canada,” says the proud father. “Before that we had a lot of worries. When you come here for the first time you have many questions, like am I okay here? Will everything work out? After the video came out, everything got better and better.”
Though Claudio didn’t speak any English yet, he auditioned for the musical Rent. He was successful right away.
Being involved in the arts has helped the family have a normal life, says Claudio. “Before that, we were only immigrants, like maybe thousands of immigrants coming to Canada every day. It’s really difficult to be an immigrant, and an immigrant family is a little more complex. In our case, we thought what is the best way to get involved here? Maybe we can show what our talent is and what we love. Art in our family has always opened doors. Now we have more contacts, more friends… we have a family here in Sudbury.”
Their decision to move here has been everyone’s gain—especially the local arts community. Because each member of the family is so talented and has different passions, they have contributed their talents, skills and enthusiasm to a number of arts organizations and made a lot of connections in the process.
While Claudio, Blanca and Emi have only been here for a short period of time, they have already made a huge impact on our community, by so generously volunteering their time and sharing their love of music and dance, as well as their Latin culture.
“For us it’s really important to be involved. We are so glad to be involved in something we love. It’s an easy way to do it. We are tired all the time,” laughs Claudio, “but we are happy.”
Living their dream
Claudio is currently enrolled in the HVAC program at Cambrian College, where he will be starting his second year this September. While pursuing his studies, he is working at Independent Energy Service; Claudio thanks them for trusting him and opening the doors to foreign workers. Blanca continues to work and study English, while Emi is preparing for her next role in the play Matilda.
Claudio and Blanca are both able to both work and do a lot of performing here, something they were not able to do back in Chile. This allows the family to have real balance in their lives here in Greater Sudbury.
“For us, in our country, to go see one musical performance or artistic production we had to fly all the way to the capital city,” says Emi. “That was our only option to see art.”
For Claudio, the biggest difference between Canada and Chile is “possibilities. That is the key. We tried to stay there, but in my country we don’t have many opportunities, that is the reality. Right now, it’s like we have a buffet. In our country we lived really well but we only had one plate.”
In the Fall of 2022, Claudio took part in the Northern Ontario Arts Symposium Rendezvous North, which connects artists and arts administrators from across the north. The event was hosted by the Sudbury Arts Council and the City of Greater Sudbury. Claudio sat on the Diverse Voices in Art panel and met individuals in the industry.
“In the art world, principally, our biggest thanks go to the Sudbury Performance Group. They gave us the opportunity to showcase our talents and have opened so many doors,” says Claudio. Emi has found the Sudbury Theatre Centre an incredibly supportive place and she wants to give special thanks to The Biggest Little Theatre Company because it was the first to offer her a part.
Over the past two years, all of the volunteering in the community each member of the family has done has helped them to meet new, like-minded people and build their own community. They have found a new extended family here and it truly feels like home.
The family talks excitedly about their neighbours, Linda and Gary. “They are so special, very nice and they have helped us a lot, getting us stuff, helping us with our English. They have been incredible and they are lovely people,” says Emi. “They are our support,” adds Blanca.
“We are alone here in Sudbury. We are a family, yes, but as a family we are alone. We don’t have our parents, our aunties and cousins. However, we have found a community of friends from Canada, Chile and worldwide. They support all of our activities and that is so special,” says Claudio.
“It is difficult to find the words to explain my feelings about being here. We had a good life in my country but we needed something better, we needed something new. We needed to live a new experience, a family experience. Now we are starting over and everything is new: a new language, new food, new people, new culture, everything is different. We’ve had more experiences in two years than all our history before.”
That’s just our normal life, too, he asserts. Just living, working and going to all of their rehearsals is more than they have ever lived before. “We are trying and achieving, and we need to stay here, improve ourselves and be happy. That is the idea: to be here, to improve our lives and live better.”
“Sudbury is more beautiful than we imagined, Canada is a really good country and every day we feel more comfortable in this city. We are learning more about Canada and your culture and we like that,” says Claudio. “We don’t have enough words to say thanks about all that Canada has permitted us to do. It is an amazing time for us.”
Mark your calendars
Claudio will be part of the Sudbury Performance Group’s upcoming musical production of Abba songs in late September. Tickets for Abba Gold: A 30th Anniversary Celebration are available here or call the box office at 705-662-8518.
Dance with Blanca at a Halloween fundraising dance for Angels in Pink on October 28th. Proceeds from this charity event will help purchase much-needed screening equipment at the Sudbury Cancer Centre.
Be sure to see Emi perform in Matilda this winter at the Sudbury Theatre Company. The show runs from November 24 to December 17, 2023. Get your tickets here or call the box office at 705-674-8381, ext. 1.
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