For the second time, E52 organises the annual Expat Top-10. There are a lot of internationals in Eindhoven who have done a great job for the city, and by this, we put a spotlight on them. This year’s theme of the Top-10 is ‘Sport & Leisure’. Every day we present you an interview with one of the winners. In this interview, you can read about how they ended up in Eindhoven, how they put an effort in the city and how they look at the Eindhoven with their international perspective. Today: Milagros Maldonado.
Born in 1946
From Caracas, Venezuela
In Eindhoven since 1980
#1 on bucket list: “to let my close family come over to Eindhoven all together”
All the way from Venezuela Milagros Maldonado found her way to Eindhoven. In 2000 she founded C.L.O., Centro Latinoamericano de Orientación. An organisation which organises activities and gives information to help with the integration of Latin-American inhabitants of the Netherlands. In 2015 Maldonado even got a royal award for her work.
“It wasn’t decided like that, I had my job, my children, my connections, my everything there”
In Venezuela, Maldonado was a sociologist. “I actually had a pretty high job. I was the general director of urban planning in urban development. Once I had to go to Scotland for a congress about new towns. I went there as the representative of Venezuela, there I met my husband. He was there as representative of Eindhoven. For four years we had a long distance relationship, then I moved to the Netherlands.” Maldonado found it pretty hard in the beginning, but she saw it as a new phase in her life. Nowadays as a woman with the Dutch nationality she still meets new phases in life. “In life, every time you get a new challenge. Even on my age. 1,5 years ago my husband died. I don’t want to make drama about it, I see it as a new phase.”
“I learned from my grandmother, that you always have to be independent”
In the Netherlands Maldonado started as an advisor for different exchange projects. She worked for Fontys for example, where she coordinated exchanges with universities in Spain. Later on she started to work for the Venezuelan embassy in Brussels. “I worked there for five years as chief of promotion and investment throughout Europe. When a new government gained power in Venezuela, I quitted my job. I didn’t want to work with the ideology they had. After that I focused more on the projects at Fontys again.”
Because of her work experience, Maldonado knows her way around in politics and culture. That’s why the local government of Eindhoven asked her for her help. “There were a lot of Latin-American immigrants in Eindhoven, people didn’t know much about them, which caused a kind of fear. The local government asked several people, including me, to do something. We did a lot of interviews and research and it became clear that an organisation like C.L.O. was necessary.”
The organisation is a place for Latin Americans to find information, to share experiences, to learn about Dutch culture, to relax and much more. “We want people to feel home so we offer them activities such as theatre or Spanish lessons for children. Besides that we offer information, for instance lectures about the Dutch healthcare system.” Another important job of C.L.O. is to activate women to be independent. “Most Latin-American immigrants are women. We want them to preserve their identities. It’s not only about culture. In their home country they were a lawyer for example and here as a job, they have to clean houses. It’s important that if they divorce they won’t end up in the lowest social class with no money. They have to make sure that they can be independent of the best man in the whole world.” C.L.O. also organises the annual international women’s day in Eindhoven where all cultures come together.
“When you get to know each other, that’s when you lose the fear”Milagros Maldonado, – Winner Expat Top-10
“I’m a witness of the change. Some internationals aren’t that well represented in Eindhoven anymore”
The biggest difference Maldonado saw during her life in Eindhoven is the local governments’ policy. “First they connected all the cultural organisations together. Now we have to do it ourselves. For us as C.L.O. it’s not a problem, we grab every opportunity to interact with locals. But I see less and less the Turkish and Moroccan organisations and internationals. Some internationals aren’t that well represented anymore, because it’s still hard to penetrate in the Dutch groups.”
Maldonado doesn’t have much difficulty with the ‘planners’ culture in the Netherlands. “For me personally it’s not that hard, I was already used to it because of my job. But most Latin Americans only think in one week, not about next year’s holidays. I think that here time is shorter. You plan so much and then it quickly passes, we dream more about the future.” Another difference is the family culture. “Families are small over here. It’s more of a closed circle with only parents and children. By us, a family consists of uncles, aunts, nieces, nephews, grandma, grandpa and more. The immigrants miss that over here.”