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Claudia Riumalló and Ricardo Cárdenas

   When she was five years old, Claudia Riumalló traveled with her family from Chile to Boston, Massachusetts, for her father's PhD research at MIT on maternal malnutrition. "I went to elementary and middle school in the U.S.," says Riumalló, who also spent four years in Houston, where her father did research on longevity. "He was offered U.S. citizenship, but his goal was to work with the poor in Chile." After high school in Chile, then ruled by military dictator Augusto Pinochet, Riumalló earned a degree in dance from the University of Chile in Santiago. Afterwards, she taught English and Spanish language classes for multi-national company employees at the university, and she met Ricardo Cárdenas, who taught classical guitar. They were married in 1993 and visited Eugene on a tourist visa at the invitation of a friend in 1997. "We met amazing people here," says Riumalló, who entered and won a U.S. Green Card Immigrant Visa Lottery after seeing a newspaper ad in 2001. She flew to Eugene in July of 2002, followed in September by Cárdenas and their children Daniela, Gabriel, and Sebastien. Riumalló now serves as a bilingual academic advisor at Lane Community College, while Cárdenas teaches and performs classical, Latin, and jazz guitar. Their story and those of other Lane County immigrants from around the world are dramatized in the play Now I am Your Neighbor, assembled by playwright Nancy Hopps and directed by Carol Dennis, with original music by Ricardo Cárdenas. Staged readings of the play will be produced at the Very Little Theater Stage Left, 2350 Hilyard Street in Eugene, on Friday, September 14, and Saturday, September 15, at 7:30 pm; and on Sunday, September 16, at 2 pm; and at the Wildish Theater, 630 Main Street in Springfield, on Thursday, September 20, at 7:30 pm. Proceeds will be donated to the Community Alliance of Lane County (CALC) to fund their immigrant justice work. For ticket information, visit calclane.org and click on We Are Neighbors

happening people

photograph and story by Paul Neevel

Eugene Weekly / 13 September 2018

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