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Jul 3, 2019

Emily Harman, host of Onward Podcast, interviews Santiago and Sonia Valdizan, immigrants to the United States, from Peru and Cuba respectively. This passionate and family-orientated couple share their journey to the United States, what it took to create their successful businesses, current immigration issues, and the importance of honoring and protecting freedom.  


Episode Highlights: 


  • Sonia shares what her upbringing was like in Cuba.
  • What was life like for Santiago growing up in Peru? 
  • Santiago shares his experience serving in the U.S. Army. 
  • How did Sonia start her daycare business while Santiago was still in the Army? 
  • How did growing up the way they did make Santiago and Sonia appreciate the United States?  
  • Sonia shares the importance of family and freedom and explains why she will not go back to Cuba until the Cuban government starts respecting human rights and holds democratic elections.
  • Sonia and Santiago discuss the sacrifices their parents made and how they ensure their children and grandchildren remember those sacrifices.
  • Sonia discusses how her family members were treated in Cuba by being rounded up and sent to work camps for months at a time.
  • Santiago shares that he and Sonia gave their grandchildren copies of the U.S. Constitution for their baptism, signed by everyone in the family. 
  • Santiago and Sonia discuss the current immigration problems.
  • What were some obstacles Sonia and Santiago came across in establishing their businesses? 
  • When you want to do the right thing, people will open doors for you. 
  • Sonia and Santiago share a personal 4th of July message. 


3 Key Points:

  1. Appreciate freedom. We have to safeguard our freedom. 
  2. Value the 4th of July. Learn and honor history. 
  3. When you want to do the right thing, people will open doors for you.


Tweetable Quotes:

  • “One day they lined us up in the courtyard and they asked us to ask God for candy. The children went ‘God can you please give us some candy” and nothing happened. Then they said, ‘Why don’t you ask Fidel for some candy?’ And we did and got rains of candy thrown at us. That was how they indoctrinated us as children.” – Sonia Valdizan on growing up in Cuba
  • “To be in the United States from another country when there is so much personal need for freedom, you have no idea how huge and powerful the United States is.” – Sonia Valdizan 
  • “We were so proud to be in the United States that we would get our social security card gold plated because we were so happy to have a social security number.” – Sonia Valdizan
  • I remember my father owning an orange sticker on his car. And with the orange sticker, he could not drive the car on Tuesdays and Thursday.s If you had a red sticker, you were not allowed to drive on Mondays and Wednesdays.” – Santiago Valdizan on growing up in Peru.
  • “When you leave a country like Peru back in those days, you cannot take your retirement. My dad was not allowed to take any money out of the country.” – Santiago Valdizan recalling the sacrifices his parents made in leaving Peru.

Resources Mentioned:

  • Joint Technology Solution, Inc. (JTS) is a Historically Underutilized Business Zone (HUBZone) Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) founded in December 2002 and located in the Washington D.C metropolitan area. JTS is a business consultant firm that specializes in the integration of Information Technology (IT) and Human Capital Management to provide Total Quality Management Solutions.


  • Sparkles! Now a fully-accredited, trusted name in early childhood development, Sparkles! began as a home-based, family business. Sonia Valdizan began the company in 1991 as a small, county-regulated business. Her dedication to the families she served quickly led to the operation growing into a state-regulated facility by 1994. With rapid growth came the search for a new location and the 1999 opening of the first center in Fairfax, Virginia.