Happy here

Danette Dooley
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Typical Newfoundlanders with a story thats anything but

Carlos and Maria Enriquez have lived their lives as pretty typical Newfoundlanders since they moved here from Ontario in 1988.
They love fishing, dancing, socializing, and spending time at their cabin at Ocean Pond.
"I love Irish music and Newfoundland music and my favourite meal is Jiggs' dinner," Maria says with a laugh.
He loves to ski, she likes to golf.
They are firmly rooted in this place.
They have three grandchildren, and another one on the way.
"Our kids grew up here, they made their life here, they married Newfoundlanders - but they're all living in the States now," Maria says,
You would be hard pressed to guess that their journey here was anything but smooth, and that they endured civil war, exile and earthquakes before coming to Canada.
Carlos and Maria are originally from Chinandega, Nicaragua.
After earning his degree as a thoracic surgeon in Mexico City in 1983, Carlos returned to Nicaragua with Maria and their three young children, where he was "claimed to work" in a military hospital.
Nicaragua was being torn apart by civil war.
"The country was run by the Sandinista leftist movement," Carlos explains.
"Basically, it was running as a Communist country. We were there with our children and the situation was getting completely out of control."
Finding food was difficult, and Maria would have to travel to different areas for essentials like meat, toothpaste and sanitary napkins.
She says it wasn't unusual to be stopped by the Sandinistas, who would put a gun to your head and ask where you were going.
When they realized their children were being "brainwashed" by the education system, they started plotting to leave the country.
"When I grew up, we learned to add - like three apples plus two apples is five apples," Maria explains. "Though my kids were in private school, they still had to teach everybody from the same books.
"So they were teaching them if there are five Sandinistas and the gringos come and kill two of them, how many are left?"
By 1985, Carlos and Maria knew it was time to go, but they also knew it would be difficult.
Because Carlos had valuable training as a surgeon, the authorities were wary about letting him leave Nicaragua for any reason.
"They didn't want to let him get out of the country, not even for holidays," Maria says.
Carlos recalls: "Maria was in Guatemala because her sister was having a baby. I requested my two weeks' holiday to go to Guatemala, which I'd already done before. But I was told I was not allowed out of the country."
Carlos was defiant.
"I told them if I wasn't allowed out of the country, I wasn't working here. So, at the end, they let me get out of the country and I went."
Carlos joined his wife in Guatemala, leaving the children behind with his mother.
When they returned to Nicaragua, they laid the plans for their final escape.
Ten months' later, they made their move.
"I requested a visa to get out. When asked where I was going, I said to Guatemala for two weeks for Christmas, that we have family there," Carlos says.
Because he'd previously made the trip and returned without incident, he was granted a visa.
They fled with their children - ages 5, 7 and 9 - leaving behind parents and siblings, their home, car and all other material possessions.
"We lived for a month in my sister's home in Guatemala," Maria says.
"It was very tough but we applied to come to Canada right away and we were accepted."
"I explained about my situation and the Canadian Embassy gave us political asylum," Carlos adds.
They settled in Sarnia, Ont., and with help from the Canadian government, Carlos began retraining to work as a doctor in this country. The children attended school and Maria studied English at a local college.
But then Carlos suffered a tremendous setback.
"I was working in a pizza place and Carlos was (at home) with the little one," Maria recalls.
"She wanted to have some french fries. The pot caught on fire in the kitchen and he tried to take it out of the house."
He received second and third degree burns to almost half of his body.
Carlos spent two months in a hospital burn unit and had to wear a tight body suit to protect his burns for the next two years.
But he eventually received his provisional medical licence and was offered a job at the Janeway Children's Hospital in St. John's.
He still works in the Janeway ER today and is medical director of the emergency department.
Carlos also spent years assisting Dr. Gary Cornell with pediatric cardiac surgeries.
After Cornell left the province, Carlos began assisting with cardiac surgeries at the Health Sciences Centre and has been doing that for over a decade.
"I started working at the Janeway because that was the hospital that gave me the opportunity to move here. And that's the reason why I'm still working there," he says.
Janet Murphy-Goodridge, who lives in Happy Valley-Goose Bay now, is a nurse who remembers when the Enriquez family first arrived in the province.
She said Carlos was well respected by staff at the Janeway right from the beginning.
"The nurses used to say they loved it when he was on call because he could handle anything, he was so confident and so skilled," she says.
At the time, Murphy-Goodridge was working on her master's degree and needed a babysitter.
It was Maria who answered the advertisement.
"She stayed with us for a short time in that capacity but we've stayed close family friends ever since," Murphy-Goodridge says.
"Their love of family, their love of life and their optimism is so amazing. They've totally embraced Newfoundland life."
"We really do love it here," Maria adds.

danette@nl.rogers.com

Organizations: Canadian Embassy, Janeway Children's Hospital, Health Sciences Centre

Geographic location: Nicaragua, Newfoundland, Guatemala Canada Ontario Chinandega Mexico City Sarnia St. John's Happy Valley Goose Bay

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  • Maureen
    July 02, 2010 - 13:11

    What a wonderful account of a couple's strong fight for their right to a good and safe life, for themselves and for their children. We have met the Enriquez family through our friends, but this is my first time reading their special story. Newfoundland, and we, the native Newfoundlanders, are so fortunate to have inherited such a brilliant couple.

  • Maureen
    July 01, 2010 - 19:47

    What a wonderful account of a couple's strong fight for their right to a good and safe life, for themselves and for their children. We have met the Enriquez family through our friends, but this is my first time reading their special story. Newfoundland, and we, the native Newfoundlanders, are so fortunate to have inherited such a brilliant couple.