Immigrant from Peru comes to U.S., finds home at Bakersfield College

Leia Minch

In a tucked away water-heater room in the men’s bathroom of the Administration Building lays a room full of awards, achievements, inspirations, books and memories. These things are proof that America is the land of opportunity. Born in Lima, Peru, custodian Carlos Barbaran knows of the opportunity that America has to offer.

“I was in college in 1974, and my dad and I had a talk and decided I needed to go open my future in the United States,” he said. “I was excited to see my sister and look for my dreams, but it was scary because I didn’t know anyone. So, I went to Denver and lived in Colorado with my sister for six years before accepting an offer to move to Bakersfield, Calif. to help set up a bilingual church.”

According to Barbaran, during his first two years in Bakersfield, he traveled back and forth through homeless shelters, trying to succeed in America. He eventually gained a job working at the shelters giving people coffee and towels and making sure they stayed quiet for the night, but he still had no official place he could call home. “Imagine eating hot dogs and beans every night and sleeping on cement.”

After money started coming in from his church project, Barbaran realized then that he had to do something with his life.

“I got a job at Bakersfield College because I told myself that I couldn’t cut corners in life anymore. I also began taking real estate, communication and English classes,” he said.

He was able to save his money and eventually rent out a three-bedroom apartment, found three other roommates and then charged them for living expenses. “My dad had a jewelry business, so I had to learn how to sell and make money at a young age. This was when I was able to establish myself financially.”

Barbaran was able to save his money little by little, and in 1994, he got married and had a child with his wife. They bought a house and began investing in a few properties in Bakersfield.

Now, a long way from where he first started, Barbaran donates most of his time and energy to giving back to the community. He has done numerous areas of work, such as volunteering for the Red Cross, American Youth Soccer Organization, the Bakersfield Rescue Mission, Habitat for Humanity and has participated in a medical mission to Peru. “I want to give back to the community and return what it has given to me. I feel I have succeeded, and I know everyone can. I am now humbly established and happy where I am in my life,” he said.

Last summer, Barbaran explained how he and 65 doctors from around America went to Peru and gave the people free medical treatments. “Each doctor paid close to $2,000 and for three weeks we donated and helped out the people in Peru,” he said. “I know my primary doctor bought and donated $3,000 worth of medication.”

For his many contributions to the community, Barbaran has earned numerous awards, including a Congressional award from Congressman Kevin McCarthy, an award from Mayor Harvey Hall and from the Governor of Peru.

Barbaran has also watched budget cuts affect student learning, so he and three others, including ESL teacher John Hart, went to Sacramento to explain why the college needs money for students. “I knew I had to think out of the box to try and help others because everyone is asking the state for money now. The whole drive up there I kept thinking, ‘What should I say?’ When we were ready to speak, I told them briefly about my past and how BC helped to improve my life. The man began breaking up and crying. It was a great experience. Something to think about is, if we didn’t have college, or money to go to college . where would we be?”

Barbaran said that in his free time, he likes to listen to real estate and business CDs and read books such as “The Pursuit of Happyness” and Warren Buffet’s books. He said that they inspire him with success and even sometimes remind him of himself.

Barbaran said that he continues to develop another business investing money in a transportation company overseas. “I see life as a chance to be motivated,” he said. “The more you read, the more knowledge you have. The purpose to be here in life isn’t to be poor or rich but to do something! You can’t stop and give up.”

According to Barbaran, life in Peru is very different from the American way of life and Barbaran thinks it has helped him thrive in the United States.

“In Peru, to succeed, you create a job for yourself,” he said. “If you’re poor and hungry, you think of creative ways to sell things and make money. Here in America, there is welfare that people rely on. But that doesn’t exist in Peru. The government doesn’t give you any money, and you must use your imagination to create and sell things. When I left Peru, my father told me that he knew I could do anything. He told me that I must believe in myself. He’s always been my role model because he’s always believed in me.”

Barbaran is also taking an English class here to better his speech and writing because he wants to write a novel on his successes in the future.

The most important lesson Barbaran has learned is “there is always hope. Just be persistent and consistent in life and you will succeed. It’s also very important to be humble and thankful for the things you have. If you can help someone, help them. Life is a journey. It’s difficult and rough, but you must believe in yourself. Don’t complain and be happy with what you have.”

He encourages any student to come in and say “hi” to him. “I’d be happy to answer any questions or just to talk and tell them anything they’d like,” he said. “I want students to know that school may be timely, but in the end, it’s worth it.”