Claudia Erika Gutierrez and Luis Alberto Sanchez feel safe raising their children in Calgary. Photo supplied by: Claudia Erika Gutierrez

Luis Alberto Sanchez was only 13-years-old when he made the decision to start a new life in Canada. However, at a young age, it was hard to convince his parents who were happy with their life in Mexico. 

“I came to Ottawa to study English for a month, and as soon as I came back, I wanted to move to Canada. My parents weren’t convinced, so I had to hold on until I grew up, became an adult, and did [the move] myself,” said Sanchez. 

Sanchez’s dream came to fruition in 2008 as he made the permanent move to Calgary with his wife, Claudia Erika Gutierrez. While it was difficult for the two to say goodbye to their family, friends, and home – they needed to leave Mexico City as it was becoming a dangerous place to raise a family. 

Something different

“In Mexico, you start by distrusting everybody,” said Sanchez. And [in Calgary] it’s the opposite.” 

In Mexico, when Gutierrez would take her children to Walmart, she would attach her children to her with a cord in order to keep them close as she feared someone may try to abduct or kidnap one of them. 

Sanchez and Gutierrez made a fresh start in Canada when Mexico became too dangerous. Photo: Jaimie Harmsen/Unsplash

“I was kind of paranoid when I came to Calgary. Like, ‘why are you getting so close to me’ or ‘what are you doing,” said Gutierrez.

The lifestyle in Calgary proved to be night and day from their lives in Mexico. For Gutierrez, she could not believe the amount of kindness and respect Calgarians had for one another. 

While excited about her new life with her husband and kids in Canada, Gutierrez admitted that the first year in Calgary was incredibly difficult for her. She missed her family, hardly spoke English, and had to learn many lessons on her own. 

“I used to be very close to my mom, like seeing her every day. I was very attached to my family. So, coming here and not knowing anybody, not having anybody was very hard,” said Gutierrez. 

“I didn’t enjoy the first year here, to be honest. I didn’t like it. I needed more support, emotional support.”

Calgary’s extreme cold proved to be a challenging adjustment. Photo: Gary Ellis/Unsplash

Calgary’s notoriously cold weather

The first few days of snow were exciting, but the following months not so much. Gutierrez recalled the time her husband joked about her eyelashes snapping off because of the frigid temperatures. 

“I was pregnant and it was -40 outside waiting for the school bus for my son,” said Gutierrez.  “I was like, ‘it’s so cold, oh my god, what am I doing here? Don’t cry, don’t cry, you’re gonna lose your eyelashes.”

After 14 years, the family calls Calgary home. Photo supplied by: Claudia Erika Gutierrez

The right place for the family

When the family returned home to Mexico to attend a wedding, the children begged to go back to Canada because it wasn’t their home. After 14 years, Calgary is home.  

Gutierrez found a career as an educational assistant at a local high school and works as an interpreter for Spanish speaking families in the Calgary Catholic School District, while Sanchez works in financial services.

“After being here, the freedom, the quality of life, I was completely convinced. I love it. Best decision ever,” said Gutierrez.

YouTube video
Calgary Journal reporter Matt DeMille spoke to Claudia Erika Gutierrez and Luis Alberto Sanchez about their experience as newcomers in Calgary.

Each year, thousands of people from around the world move to Calgary to make a new life. Our partnership with CLIP explores what it means to be a newcomer in our city and how that experience is different for everyone.

You can see all the video profiles here.

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Matt DeMille is an aspiring sports journalist entering his fourth year in Mount Royal University’s communication program. He is also the sports editor at The Reflector.