Cuban immigrant dream comes true in Carson City

Marbella Hair Salon owner and stylist Yamila Perez tends to a client at her new salon in north Carson.

Marbella Hair Salon owner and stylist Yamila Perez tends to a client at her new salon in north Carson.

Cuban immigrant Yamila Perez has hit Carson City by storm. With so much raw energy, she will become a force in representing the Latino community as she grows her new beauty business catering to those who want to look and feel better. Getting a haircut at Marbella Hair Salon might become secondary to the sage advice she dispenses along with her captivating stories of her time in Cuba and how she was able to legally emigrate to America in 2003 with her then-3-year-old son.

Not many immigrants have the energy or the will to assimilate into a new country. Learning English alone is a commitment most immigrants from many countries find daunting. But not Perez who, upon arriving in Las Vegas to live with her uncle, asked herself, “Now what am I going to do with my life?” She got a job at Taco Bell, saved her salary to enter beauty school — she was a beautician in Cuba — cared for her son and took Saturday English immersion classes at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

She asserts, “Sometimes I was so tired, I’d fall asleep on the bus and find myself at the end of the line.”

The road to becoming a U.S. citizen was not an easy one. She knew that to create the future of her dreams, she had to depart Cuba leaving family and lifelong friends behind. Taking advantage of the opportunity afforded by our government to join in a lottery to come to this country legally instead of via boat that often had dire consequences, she entered the Diversity Visa lottery in 1998 and her “number” was finally drawn in 2003.

She has never looked back. In Las Vegas, she met her husband Percy Penafiel, also an immigrant from Peru and a civil engineer now working for the Nevada Department of Transportation. Both studied together to become U.S. citizens and had two more children.

Perez moved to Carson City four years ago to join her husband. It was a bit of a culture shock to leave the lights and hustle and bustle of Las Vegas behind, but she soon acclimated to the slower pace and found a job in the beauty field. Today, she owns her own business and credits friend and fellow stylist Olivia Edralin with helping her to launch Marbella Hair Salon that formally opened on Nov. 2 at 1817 N. Carson St. near Grocery Outlet. Most of all, she credits her supportive husband who helped her to completely remodel her space.

When asked how she now likes living in Carson City, she replied, “My dreams are coming true in Carson City.” She was enchanted with Mayor Robert Crowell who helped her to cut the ribbon to launch her new business and stated, “Those who came for my ribbon cutting were most impressed that the mayor took time to talk to them. He made me feel very welcome to this community.”

Perez has come a long way from being a poor immigrant who entered this county with nothing other than her son and a big dream. Once living in a one-bedroom apartment in Havana with a family of eight, today, Perez and her husband own two houses — one in Las Vegas that is now a rental and one in Carson City where the family resides. Both are gainfully employed, and Perez hopes to become an integral part of the community she now calls home.

Those who enter Marbella Hair Salon will be greeted with a ready smile and leave with enough energy to get through the rest of the week. Appointments are welcome by calling 775-430-3687.

Ronni Hannaman is the executive director of the Carson City Chamber of Commerce.


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