My name is Emanuel Anzules and I’m from Lima, Peru. I have a fancy title—Mr. United States 2017—that I won in the national competition for men between the ages of 19 and 34. Men come from all parts of the country and convene in New Orleans, Louisiana over a weekend in August to battle it out to become the nation’s gentleman. My entire competition drew upon my immigrant experience and being able to confront challenges, surpass them, and get to the finish line. My talent was spoken word poetry and my poem was dedicated to my father who immigrated to the United States in the late eighties.
My grandmother raised me in Peru until I was 7 years old when my parents, who were living in the United States, decided it was time to bring me to join them. I’ve lived in the United States now for 25 years, and I became a citizen 12 years ago when I was 20 years old. As a child, I had no choice, but now as an adult I realize that the decision that my parents made to immigrate to the U.S. has benefited my entire life. It sounds corny, but it’s so true!
The United States of America, although flawed in its ways, gave me opportunities that might not have been possible if I were still living in Peru. I graduated from college and then I became a high school teacher. Now I teach 11th grade U.S. history at a charter school in a predominantly Latino and African American community in the South Bronx. I became an educator because I want my students to feel empowered in the way that I felt empowered when I was their age.
When I begin the academic year I always tell my immigration story. It continues to come up throughout the year because much of United States history is based on the notion of immigration and allowing people from other nations to come here. The door has always been open to those who are denied opportunity, persecuted, or restricted in their own lands. Many of my students are living in immigrant households and communities so they can definitely relate to this. Tying it all together for them makes my experience as a teacher really worthwhile. This year I plan to start a scholarship fund for students on their way to college and I am hoping to found a nonprofit down the line to benefit DREAMers.
The United States is beautiful in that it allows people to come here to get a fresh start. And when they can, it’s very important for people to become citizens of the United States because, first and foremost, it gives you greater power, allowing you to fully participate in society and to discover all the benefits of citizenship. Voting, for example, is so important, especially for communities that are often without a voice. People take voting for granted, but it gives you a voice and allows you to vote for representatives who will hold your best interests at heart.