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Sault Ste. Marie, ON






Gabriela is an Indigenous person originally from Venezuela, who claimed refugee status in the US, and has been living in Sault Ste. Marie since 2020. Gabriela’s husband is a First Nations person, whose family lives in the Thessalon First Nations Reserve (100km away from the city).

“I enjoy doing things outdoors and would go to the reserve a lot to feel connected to Venezuela.”


I was a cardiologist back in Venezuela. My daily activities would involve performing surgeries with other doctors and professionals. I would’ve never imagined being in Sault Ste. Marie. Leaving Venezuela, I thought of going to another Latin American country as it would be similar in language and integration, initially landing in the US and now in Canada. I do miss being in the workforce and being financially independent. But I know that this is part of the settlement process.

In Venezuela, we do not have Halloween. This is one of the first things that I wanted to integrate. My Canadian husband and his daughter shared with me these activities that are outside of my culture. I feel part of this community during Halloween, through enjoying activities such as carving pumpkins and I think this is part of settlement and integration.

This is Arepa, a traditional Venezuelan dish made with beef. I enjoy cooking and sharing Venezuelan food with my husband which he also enjoys. I cook a lot of different meals in addition to Venezuelan food.

With my niece, I’ve visited Thessalon, an Indian reserve as my husband is Indigenous. Here we would do many activities such as swimming and using the trails which we would often come during the spring and summer.

This is Pan Dulce, which is “sweet bread.” I’ve made this and shared this gift basket for my neighbors. My neighbors loved it, and they would say, “oh my god, the bread is so good!” This is a way to share with my neighbors something from my culture. My neighbors have also invited me for a BBQ. All my neighbors are Canadian.

This is at Whitefish Island, where I’ve visited with my husband’s daughters. We like to feed the squirrels, and we enjoy many outdoor activities, even during the wintertime.

On a nice summer day such as this one, I like to be outdoors. In Venezuela, I would do outdoor activities. Even though Sault Ste. Marie is quite different and when my family and husband are not with me, I would engage with locals outdoors.

I have always enjoyed the outdoors and being in nature. On the left, is a waterfall in Venezuela, at Los Aguacate, Carabobo State, and on the right, is a lake on the Thessalon First Nation Reserve. I’ve always enjoyed being in nature and the walking trails. I felt that the water at Thessalon was similar to Venezuela. It felt amazing. I enjoy doing things outdoors and would go to the reserve a lot to feel connected to Venezuela, relating through the weather.

In Venezuela, birthday celebrations are so important. This was on my birthday. My husband was working at the time, and I went to the boardwalk by myself to celebrate and make the best out of the day. My family was looking for me at home then eventually meeting me at this boardwalk where we shared the day with each other.

Given the situation in Venezuela, my family has been apart but we stay connected by WhatsApp. This is a call with my sisters and my nephew in Peru. I have not met my nephew yet. The last time I was with my family was in 2019, and my brother in 2017. I would love for my family to reunite in Canada or we could consider meeting up in another country outside of Venezuela, such as Colombia or Mexico. The situation in Venezuela makes it hard to go back.

During Christmas in Venezuela, we enjoy Ham Bread which is made from ham, bacon, olives and cream cheese. I like to share this during Christmas, as in Canada, we have turkey. I incorporated bringing in Ham Bread for Christmas dinner.

I would often visit Thessalon First Nations to have a family meal together with my husband’s family. We would spend time together, sharing, and helping to make meals. Family generally loves my Venezuelan and Latin food. On the reserve, many residents know my husband and myself, and often people ask about the name of the foods, and recipes. I’ve heard very painful stories of the experiences of the residential school and how sometimes people from Thessalon feel out of place in Sault Ste. Marie.

Although there are many nice places in Sault Ste. Marie, a negative side is an environmental issue: the smog from the steel plant. It’s part of the location, but when it is too smoggy, I prefer not to go outside.

On a super cold day, I still like being outdoors. I like to do winter activities such as snow shoeing, and I am learning how to ice-skate. I enjoy the summer and spring because of outdoor activities and I want to enjoy it as well in the winter.

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