America owes its economic strength and cultural richness to the diversity of its origins. On Saturday, June 21, 2014, at the Boston Public Library, that diversity was celebrated at an event recognizing the first Immigrant Heritage Month. The Immigrant Learning Center, Inc. (ILC) was pleased to partner with Welcome.us, the city councils of Boston and Cambridge, the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition and the Mayor’s Office of New Bostonians to plan and host this event. Featuring immigrant entrepreneurs Bettina Hein and Saul Perlera, it highlighted the significant contributions immigrants have made to Massachusetts.
Introduced by Cambridge City Councilor Leland Cheung, Hein made clear her reasons for coming to the U.S. from Germany; she wanted to spread her wings as an entrepreneur.
“I came here because where I come from girls don’t do that,” she said. “At my first university admissions interview they asked me why I wanted to study business and I said, ‘Well, I want to change the world. I want to do social good.’ The interviewer told me, ‘Missy, if you want to do that you should become a nurse,’ which shows you the picture of females that is still prevalent in that country.”
Hein would eventually found two companies, one of which is Pixability, Inc. in Boston’s North End.
Echoing Hein’s sentiments of America as a land of opportunity, Perlera spoke of his journey from El Salvador to Boston. “When I moved here I worked three jobs, I spoke no English and all I had were the clothes on my body,” he said. Over time, however, Perlera was able to learn not only English but also Italian and Portuguese. This skill eventually helped him to start his own firm, Perlera Real Estate, in the diverse East Boston area. “The United States is the only country where my story could be possible,” he said.
Also speaking at the event were Chief of Health and Human Services for the City of Boston Felix G. Arroyo and Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu. Performers included six-year-old ranchera singer Josue Giron and flutist Tito Lugo.