April 21, 2006

A mixture of cultures

Michelle Venator featured in Su Conexión


OTTUMWA — When people ask about her nationality, she does not know how to answer.

“The difficulty in answering this question comes from my parents,” says Michelle Venator, a junior at Ottumwa High School.

Her mother, Ana Venator, is Ecuadorian. Her dad, Charles “Bob” Venator, is an American with a mixed heritage of European nations. “My family has been here for over 150 years, I’m American,” he says.

The last name Venator means — hunter of deer. “I think it’s Italian or German” says Bob who also has Dutch, Irish and English in his blood.

Bob Venator is an agroforestry specialist — he replants trees in regions where they have vanished.

Bob used to work for USAID Forestry, as an advisor for the U.S. Embassy, a job that provided a diplomatic passport and other good privileges.

“They would give me a project. I would start it the first weeks ... I would leave, and then come back after a couple of weeks to check on the project,” he says.

Bob was working between Ecuador and México when he met Ana, a social worker in Ecuador. They moved to México where they lived their first years together and still visit sometimes. That is where Michelle was born and that is how she became part of the Mexican culture.

Michelle was born in Xalapa, Veracruz, Mexico and the family moved to Ottumwa when Michelle was barely 2 years old. “Ottumwa is the hometown of the Venator family,” she says.

“Some people think I’m Mexican,” says Michelle. “Other people think I’m American because my dad is American or because I live in the United States. And other people think I’m American and Ecuadorian because of my parents’ nationalities.”

When Michelle was a young girl, her mother would speak to her only in Spanish and her dad would speak to her only in English.

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