Nevada Immigrant Profiles: Jennifer, Gustavo and Marcy

by Maribel Cuervo and Brian Bahouth

A business on Wells Avenue in Reno. Wells Avenue is the heart of Ward 3 - photo: Brian Bahouth

Reno – Nevada has been one of the fastest growing states in the nation over the past 20 years. From 2010 to 2017 Reno’s population grew by 10.4 percent. Las Vegas grew by 9.8 percent over the same time, Henderson 17.7 percent, North Las Vegas 12.1 percent, Sparks 10.8 percent, Elko 11.5 percent, and though Carson City’s population decreased by 1 percent, between 2010 and 2017, this influx of diverse people brings a mix of opportunity and challenge.

Immigration from foreign countries has been a driver in Nevada’s population growth. The number of people who live in Nevada and were born in a foreign country has increased by more than 200 percent since 1990. Today, according to the Migration Policy Institute, nearly 20 percent of Nevadans were born outside the United States.

In this context Nevada Capital News correspondent Maribel Cuervo sets out to speak with those who came to Nevada from somewhere else as well as natives. When does a person become a Nevadan? Maribel will ask immigrants what brought them here, what keeps them here, what they think of their life in the Silver State and more as she explores what it means to be a Nevadan.

Jennifer

Hear an interview with Jennifer.

Jennifer was born in Guatemala City, Guatemala. She’s been living in the United States for roughly 30 years since the age of five.

“How did you come to Reno,” Maribel asked?

“When my parents migrated here, I lived in Las Vegas. So I lived in Las Vegas I want to say maybe about three or four years, and then we moved over here to Reno.”

“Why Reno,” asked Maribel.

“My parents were missionaries and they were always involved with the church. They needed a pastor, a Spanish speaking pastor here in Reno, so the opportunity arose for my parents to move from Las Vegas to Reno, so they did so because of church. Employment opportunities I guess.”

“What do you like about this area? What do you like about Reno? Do you like living here,” Maribel asked.

“I do like living here. A lot of history … I guess I’m loyal to Reno. I feel like I’ve seen the growth and the opportunity to just stay here and make this my home.”

“Do you have plans to leave Reno? What do you think?” 

“I don’t know. I don’t think so,” Jennifer said. “Growing up as a kid I always wanted, as a kid you want to get out of the city that you grew up in, but it’s kind of grown into me, and I’ve chosen to stay here, so I don’t see myself moving. I see myself travelling but not moving. I like it here.”

“I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there are these bumper stickers that say ‘stop the Californication of Nevada.’ What do you think,” Maribel asked.

Jennifer said she has not seen one of the stickers but laughed at the notion and added that  she does not want an influx of immigrants changing the character of northern Nevada.

“I don’t like that. I don’t like it that a lot of people are moving in here. They’re bringing, I guess it’s good for the culture bringing their stuff, but I don’t like it. I like it to be small. I see other people just coming in, and our town is getting just too big too fast, and we’re forgetting more about the people here who have been here before me, before us. It’s more about the people coming in, the growth is kind of focusing on them rather than the people that have already been here.”

Gustavo

Listen to an interview with Gustavo.

Gustavo is originally from Watsonville, California and has been in Reno for 24 years, since he was 5 years old. Maribel asked how he likes Reno.

“It’s home. It’s home to me. This is where my family is at. This is where I grew up, my friends. I went to college here.”

Maribel asked Gustavo’s opinion of the stop the Californication of Nevada bumper stickers.

“They’re kind of silly. Honestly, we’ve been here so long and just started seeing those bumper stickers,” Gustavo said.

“So who is putting them out,” Maribel asked.

“That’s a great question. I don’t know who is putting them out, but I have definitely seen them, and I’ve seen them more now, especially with the Tech Center east of Reno with all those big companies moving in. I feel like that’s who they’re targeting.”

Maribel asked if Gustavo feels like they’re being invaded by California.

“Or influenced,” Gustavo said instead of invaded. “At least influenced by the California way I guess, if that’s what you want to call it.”

“Is there anything you don’t like about the area,” Maribel asked.

“I like it here. For the most part I like the weather. We get multiple seasons throughout the year. What I really don’t like is how traffic has increased so much in the time that I’ve been on the road over the past ten years that I’ve been able to drive, or that I have been driving.”

Marcy

Listen to an interview with Marcy.

Marcy and her mom were born and raised in Reno but her dad is from El Salvador. Maribel asked Marcy if she’s planning to stay in northern Nevada.

“I don’t know, maybe,” Marcy said. “It’s getting awful expensive, so there may have to be an option of moving someday, but I do like it here. I like that it’s close to everything. I have everything that I need in one area, so that’s nice, but it’s expensive.”

Other than the fact that Marcy was born and raised here, Maribel asked what keeps her here.

“Other than that, not much. I have my husband. He has his family here, and he has some family in California, so it’s good for us to be close, but my family is in Indiana right now. Nothing is really keeping me here,” Marci said with a smile.