I came to Canada from Cuba eight years ago. When I landed in Toronto, the panoramic view and the architecture of the place amazed me. I felt like I was in a movie. From that moment on I knew my life would change drastically.

Glendys Riveron Alvarez enjoys teaching her Cuban rhythms and dances to those who come out to her class at 43 Division on Sunday afternoons.

I came to this country for love. After four years of a relationship and then marriage with the person, I arrived in Canada. I spoke basic English and because I was a math teacher and a dance choreographer/performer/instructor back home, I decided that I would have a professional career despite the language barrier.

My first year in Canada was the hardest. I studied ESL (English as a Second Language) at night while working in restaurants and coffee shops during the day. Adjusting to the weather, the culture, the people and the different way of living made me realize that in order to accomplish all my goals I had to persevere.

My relationship took a bad turn after a year and a half but I got through it with the help of my roommates and friends. I started to deal with my pain through dance and began to teach a Latin dance program in the church of the Beaches community where I lived at the time. While studying and working I was able to fit in a couple of hours per week, which not only lit up my life but helped others to feel the same way.

After three years I moved out of the house I was living in to help a good friend with his mom. She had Alzheimer’s and needed someone to take care of her and be her companion, which I did gladly. It was a challenge, but my love and dedication changed her life. Lydia Borges Lopes was an amazing woman and even though I had to introduce myself every morning, I was able to make her smile and even dance from time to time. Unfortunately, she passed away a year later. At that point I had another relationship and a two-month-old baby. My life had changed and I realized that it was time to go back to school. We moved in with my in-laws and with their help and my husband’s I was able to complete an accounting course at college.

I live in the Centennial community now, which means I get to walk and bike along the waterfront trail and enjoy all the amenities. I go to the parks and meet the people there and I interact with the customers at the bank where I am currently working. I am the United Way Ambassador at the bank as well, which makes me appreciate what I have.

I decided to share once more the thing I love the most after my family – dance. I reserved the community room at 43 Division police station and conducted a Latin dance program to teach a little about my culture’s rhythms and dances. When you get to share something with your community, you get to know people from different backgrounds and realize that you are not alone on this journey. This community has a lot to offer and it has many good people who work very hard to make it better.

I love my home country. Cuba is an amazing place where the economy is not the best, but for a poor country we are the richest in health care, education and folklore.

This Centennial community has a lot in common with Cuba, not because of the economy but because people are eager for knowledge and culture. Everyone is friendly and likes to share, and for someone coming from another country this is what makes it all worthwhile. With the beach and parks close by, the art on the streets, the clean view and the good schools, it has much more potential than many other areas.

If anyone ever asks me what is the best part of living in the Centennial community, I will gladly say: “Everything is what we wanted it to be.”

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