An immigrant’s success story

Sixty-six years ago, Victor Pesantes boarded an airplane and flew from Ecuador to New York City.

He was 14 years old.

Even today at 80 years old, just talking about that day leaving his mother and younger sister behind brings tears to the Puyallup resident’s eyes.

When Pesantes was 6, his dad was murdered and his mother was struggling to raise Pesantes and his younger sister by taking in sewing. After an accident with the sewing machine when the needle went right through his mother’s finger, she and Pesantes walked 20 miles to the hospital to get help.

Life was tough for the family, and Pesantes’ mother thought he would be better off living in the U.S. So when his aunt said she wanted him to come to New York and live with her, Pesantes’ mother made the difficult decision to send him.

He said the airplane ride from Ecuador was amazing.

“I spent the whole time looking out of the plane. I had never even seen a large plane,” he said.

Pesantes is a survivor and hard worker, and moving to New York and living with his aunt was just the ticket he needed to a better life.

“My father had two sisters, one in Mexico and one in New York who worked for a wealthy family in Ecuador, and they brought her to New York. She wanted me to live with her,” he said.

Pesantes attended a school in the Bronx and was in a class that taught students from all over the world.

“Most of us didn’t know any English, but Miss DeCapo, the teacher, helped us,” he said.

In 1959, he took a trip back to Ecuador to visit his mother and sister, but was happy to return to his life in New York.

“I didn’t want to stay. I was happy to get back to my job,” he said.

His mother died in 1976, and his younger sister still lives in Ecuador and visits Pesantes when she can.

He is very grateful for the good luck that landed him in New York.

“I missed my mom, but the life they led was not very suitable in my case. I was lucky. I was better off being away,” he said.

It wasn’t too long after his return to New York that Pesantes was drafted into the Army


Joan Cronk, who wrote this article, is a freelance writer.

Victor Peasantes, holding a photo of his family, came alone to the U. S. from Ecuador at the age of 14. “I missed my mom, but I was better off being away,” he said. (Joan Cronk/for Senior Scene)