Alex Quintana becomes U.S. citizen

From left to right: Aurora Quintana, Melisa Quintana Day. Judge David Matia, Gabriella Quintana, Mathew Marrone, Jeff Hildebrand, Alex Quintana, Thomas Day, Cuyahoga County Councilman Julian Rogers, Mike Kenney, John Quintana and Dawn Quintana. Photo by Patrick Mullen.

Alex Quintana, co-owner of Quintana’s Barber & Dream Spa, became a citizen of the United States last month. On Nov. 16, surrounded by family and friends, Quintana took the oath of citizenship at the United States District Court in downtown Cleveland. It was the end of a long journey.

Quintana came to the United States when he was four years old. “My mom Aurora, dad Pedro, and I came in February of 1976,” said Quintana. “We were political refugees. My dad had just spent the last three and a half years in a Chilean concentration camp. My dad and all his brothers were unionists, which is what landed them all there with the coup and Pinochet's regime.”

Quintana said that it was luck that landed them in the United States. “Amnesty International had asked several countries if they would offer asylum,” he said. “No one got to choose what country they went to; it was a lottery. Two of my uncles went to Germany—West Germany at that time. Our family and my uncle David and his family got to come to Cleveland, Ohio.”

Local churches sponsored the families and helped them transition to a new life. “My uncle David's family was sponsored by the Greater Lutheran Church of Cleveland,” said Quintana. “My parents and I were sponsored by Shaker Heights Christian Church. The church helped us with housing, English classes and jobs. It also surrounded us with wonderful people who helped us assimilate to this country.”

Quintana grew up in Cleveland Heights. He attended Noble Elementary and Monticello Middle schools, and graduated from Cleveland Heights High School in 1991. Quintana met his future wife, Dawn Mongelluzzi, as a teenager. “But it wasn't until years later that we started dating,” he said.

The couple married on Nov. 15, 2002. Both had started their own businesses; Quintana a barber shop and Mongelluzzi a day spa. “We bought the building on South Taylor Road in April 2003,” said Quintana. “We remodeled the space and opened on Nov. 15 of that same year, on our one-year anniversary.” The Quintana’s combined business, Quintana’s Barber & Dream Spa, is an anchor of the Cedar Taylor neighborhood, and both Quintanas are leaders in the business community and active supporters of local causes.

The Quintanas initially lived in Little Italy, where Mongelluzzi had grown up. Three years ago the couple purchased a home in Cleveland Heights.

Quintana said he became a citizen too late to vote in this year’s election, but that he is looking forward to the next one. “I didn't think that I would feel any different becoming a citizen, but I was wrong," he said. “What I realized is that no matter how engaged I was, what I accomplished, I was still not a citizen of this country. Standing in that courtroom, looking at the portrait that said ‘We the people,’ [I knew] that now [it] meant me, too. This country is now every bit as much mine, as it is every other citizen’s.”

Deanna Bremer Fisher

Deanna Bremer Fisher is executive director of FutureHeights and publisher of the Heights Observer.

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Volume 5, Issue 12, Posted 10:11 AM, 11.27.2012