I was born in Ecuador, I grew up in Chile, and at the age of 19, I emigrated to the United States, the country where I reside to this day. From a very young age, I played tennis, which led me to travel through various territories. I have known many cultures, and I have experienced different walks of life. Therefore, I could consider myself a citizen of the world. But if you ask me where I am from, my answer is Chile. I am Chilean.
What is it that makes us identify with a nationality? Probably human affections, childhood memories, and the first life lessons. But there is also a sense of belonging: if I close my eyes and imagine myself in a place, I see myself on top of a hill in the Maule Region, looking out at the Pacific Ocean, and I feel at home. In fact, the feeling came true and my family created a wonderful hotel called Hotel Puerto Viejo Llico in this very place. I would like to explain what makes me continue to feel that I am Chilean, even though I have not lived in Chile for more than twenty years. I tried to find the words, and they seemed untranslatable. Nevertheless, I think it is a sensation that all human beings should experience. No matter how far we go, there will always be a place to call home.
As I write this text, I can feel nostalgia for my country and think of many ways to return home. I revisit spectacular sceneries that I have seen only there.
Chile is a long and narrow strip of land that many would consider the last corner of the world with astonishing geography; its landscapes never cease to amaze me. We have the driest desert in the world that, fortunately, due to the rain, makes the flowers grow, staining many kilometers of this one with colors. A central area with prosperous valleys and natural rivers that sustain agriculture. A wild south, an indomitable territory of extreme temperatures, with a beauty that evokes for introspection. All this is circumvented by the Andes mountain range and the Pacific Ocean. And as if this is not enough, we are subject to constant telluric movements, which reminds us how fragile life, in our journey through earth, is.
My life has been an adventure, and a large part of that I owe to tennis; at the age of 13, I left my parents’ house to represent Chile worldwide. It was a very intense time; each day was a tremendous challenge. Uncertainty and loneliness coexisted within me; however, every morning, I repeated to myself, let’s go for more. Deep down, I don’t think I knew where I was going, but the conviction of wanting to improve day by day sustained me and encouraged me to continue, to fight with all my strength, to give everything for the Chilean jersey. I learned that obstacles are an opportunity to grow, that it is essential to stay alert in order to cease the possibilities that arise in life. When I was 19 years old, playing a tournament in the south of France, I met an Argentinian tennis player, Gustavo Gómez, who convinced me to study in the United States. In addition, Gustavo helped me contact universities as he had recently undergone the same process and had graduated from East Tennessee State University. Looking back at the fact that I played tennis for college and received a scholarship to study was one of the best decisions I ever made. Still, it came with significant challenges even before I traveled to the United States. After years of not attending school and taking exams, I immersed myself in the world of studies; I became friends with mathematics, and exceeded my own expectations, silently repeating my mantra, let’s go for more. I studied International Business and Marketing and was the Tennis team captain at the University of Toledo, Ohio. At the end of my degree, I told myself I am here going for more. I became the assistant coach of the University women’s tennis team, and, as in previous careers, I also obtained a scholarship to pursue an MBA in Finance. Upon graduation, I had 12 months to find a job before my visa expired. But it couldn’t be just any job; it had to be a job that would bet on and also sponsored me. Though running against time, but with all my desire, I moved to Miami to be closer to the Latin community. But, unfortunately, I began a frantic job search, time was running out, and my attempts were unsuccessful. One day that impacted me was when I went to eat at a restaurant in Coral Gables, and to my surprise, the hostess was Chilean. In a fraternal tone, we started a conversation; we talked about Chile and the melancholy of being away from home. I told her a little about my story, and she said to me that a Chilean friend was starting a commercial office in the American market to import Chilean wines. The vineyard, Viña Requingua — Sur Valles Wine Group, for which her friend worked, was from the Maule Region, the same one where I grew up. So I felt that, despite not knowing wine, that job was for me. That was how I got a job interview and started working for Chile. I put on the jersey once again; I gambled on representing my homeland in the viticulture industry, of which the Chilean territory is one of the most prominent exponents. Surprised and excited, I told myself, let’s go for more. I have been working with Sur Valles Wine Group of the Achurra family for more than 12 years, and in fact, we have become the second most sold winery from Chile in the United States.
In my formative years, my parents taught me to make the most out of time and work to make my dreams a reality. I learned from my father that limits only exist in the mind and that there is an inexhaustible force in each person that pushes us daily. From my mother, I learned that a sense of humor is essential to face adversity. And from my wife and children, I learned to cherish family every day as they are a treasure. There is no way to stop time and move forward without getting lost, and it is necessary to remember what matters most. I want my children to learn about Chile and interact with the people that live there to let them know that this country has seen the birth and evolution of great poets. So they could see the house where I grew up, and the tennis club where I played my first matches. To show them photographs from when I was a child and when we moved to the countryside to see how it has evolved into a city. So they know where I come from and understand a lot of what I project daily comes from my origins.
As Chavela Vargas says, “you always go back to the old places where you loved life,” and for me, Chile is that place. Therefore, I want everyone to visit my country and be captivated by its scenery, people, wine, and so much more.
In 2022, after 14 years working in the wine industry, I developed a project for which I had always been preparing: Toral Wines & Spirits. Currently, we have an import license for the United States, with which I will continue to represent wineries around the world, especially Chilean ones, and promote exclusive brands for large retailers.