Lives Without Borders: Ronny

Milena Spremberg
09.17.19
4 minute read

In our lives without borders series, we share the stories of people whose lives have transcended cultural or geographic borders. To celebrate with Latin Heritage month, we're sharing the stories of people who've moved to the US from Latin America.


“I’m never going to forget the time when I was talking to my mom on the phone, and I asked to talk to my brother. I couldn’t recognize his voice. That was tough. Really tough.”


I woke up one day, packed a bag and moved here. That day was 7 years ago. That’s the short story.

Brazil exposes you to a lot of cultural things: music, dance, art, theatre. I’m very proud about how rich the Brazilian culture is. Its warmth. Carnaval, the people, the beaches. Big smiles and samba. Everyone is so warm and inviting. You find that in every Brazilian.

I felt a lot of pressure to become a doctor or a lawyer. As it turns out, I became a biologist and started working for the government in international relations. At 22 I had a 9-5 job and was making a lot of money. But that didn’t stop me from crying in my car while driving to work everyday.

The first time I visited New York on vacation I stepped out of the subway stairs in Times Square and started crying. I don’t know why. I just did. I had never felt such energy. I had never felt something so powerful. It was almost like I was born to be here, as cliché as that sounds. For 15 days I lived a New York life, and after that, going back to Brazil was very difficult. There was something in New York for me. It was like knowing there was a gift for me, across the ocean. And I had to go get it.

Without a warning to anybody, I bought a one way ticket, packed a bag, left my work and told my mom: “I’m leaving to New York.” She wasn’t in favor of this decision. We’re Brazilian, we have a close family community and everyone is very protective. But I moved and found the gift I had here. It’s been 7 years.

The things that make me different as a brazilian are what helped me establish my career as a professional dancer. There’s no ballroom dancing in Brazil – we just want to dance and have fun. But there’s a whole industry around it here, like a sport. I didn’t have proper training, I had Brazil training and that was just what the company needed. But after a couple of years I realized I didn’t have room to grow. So I just shifted. My ability to connect with people beyond a shallow surface was what made me different. And that was also what made me succeed here.

Most of the people I dealt with were clients, and since my English was fairly good I never felt singled out. But after one year in New York I noticed I didn’t have any friends. I tried to make friends and realized I’d never had to think about that before. In your home country, where you grow up, you just know people since you were born.

But in this big new world, I was alone. More lonely than alone - being constantly surrounded by people isn’t enough.

The hardest part about moving had nothing to do with the people here, but with the people I left behind. My family is very close because I lost my dad and then my grandparents at 14. My mom was pregnant and I had to take care of her. Then I became like a dad to a newborn baby brother. I raised him for 8 years, and even sold chocolates at school to pay for his diapers. It was hard to do anything for myself. I never thought of just leaving the country to be successful on my own.

But then I did. It was so hard. It still is. In the beginning, I was blindsided by my own drive. There was nothing in the world that was going to change my mind about coming to New York. Ignorance was my best friend. If I would have known what it meant to be so far away, I would have never moved.

I’m never going to forget the time when I was talking to my mom on the phone, and I asked to talk to my brother. I couldn’t recognize his voice. That was tough. Really tough. I hung up and sobbed for an hour. I have to fight with the guilt of leaving them behind. Having them over here this past Christmas was amazing because we could celebrate together all that we’ve done.

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