El Camino: From Costa Rica to North Carolina

El Camino: From Costa Rica to North Carolina
Sussy and Ian Huskey, photo by Teresa Puente

Sussy Huskey, 36, moved from Costa Rica to North Carolina 15 years ago.

She was recruited by Harrah's to work at a casino on an Indian reservation in Cherokee.

"The Cherokee people gave me a nice welcome because of my dark skin and hair," Huskey said. "At first they thought I was Cherokee too."

But many of the whites in the town where she lived, Whittier, had never met a person from Costa Rica before. They asked her questions like, "Do you wear clothes?" and "Do you have electricity?"

Hispanics are around 9 percent of the population in North Carolina, an increase of more than 111 percent since 2000.

Huskey shares her culture with the people in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Two years ago she decided she wanted to teach salsa and other Latin dance classes, including Zumba, in her community.

At her Studio Rumba, she has as many 60 people take her classes each day. Some of them are the same people who held stereotypes about Latin America.

"People have opened up their heart to my culture," Huskey said. "It's amazing to see black, white and Indian people all dancing together in one room."

Huskey was married to a Cherokee man and she has a 9-year-old son, Ian, who is half Cherokee and half Costa Rican.

"I want him to be proud of his cultures," she said.

She divorced and now has a boyfriend of Chilean and Spanish heritage. They work together at the dance studio and the Fusion Cafe they opened two months ago near the reservation. She is doing so well that she left her job at the casino.

At the café, they serve everything from empanadas to chicken salad and Costa Rican coffee.

"We really are a fusion," she said.

 

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