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 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.
photograph and story by Paul Neevel
Eugene Weekly / 13 September 2018