All they need is love
Solar energy not only fuels Anibal and Laurie Guevara-Stone’s activism, but it’s also the source of their interracial romance.In 1996, the two were attending a solar energy conference in Cuba. They met on the first day and quickly became friends.”We felt the same about the environment, and Anibal worked hard to make positive changes in the world,” said Laurie, the 39-year-old international program manager for Solar Energy International and a Chicago native. “Also, he was adventurous, fun and made me laugh.”A year after meeting Anibal, a 47-year-old Ecuadorian native, Laurie traveled to his homeland to teach a class. She called Anibal, and they traveled to Ecuador’s capital, Quito, and other areas, including Otavalo where she met his family.”Before she met me, his mom did not like Americans,” she said. “Now his family totally embraces me when we go to Ecuador.”The Guevara-Stones soon fell in love and faced the challenge of obtaining Anibal’s visa. Originally he was barred from returning to the United States because records showed he overstayed his visa while living in Seattle for a year. After researching his status, Anibal learned the document was stamped incorrectly.After the visa mistake was resolved, the couple married on Sept. 4, 1998, in a private mountain ceremony in Carbondale with their dog, Sasha, as a witness.
“I think a lot of people thought we were married so Anibal could come to the country,” said Laurie, a Colorado resident for 20 years. “Actually he didn’t want to come to America, but I didn’t want to live in Ecuador.”Parenting philosophiesOnce in the United States, Anibal changed his position. He became a U.S. citizen two years ago. “After I came here and met the people, I found out people aren’t all the same,” he said. “I saw a lot of people involved with the human race and the environment.”On May 23, 2000, Laurie gave birth to son Camilo, who is named for a Cuban revolutionary. He was born at home with the assistance of a midwife, which didn’t phase Anibal.”When I lived in Ecuador I worked with indigenous people and I helped women give birth two times,” he said. “It’s very different over there – they have nothing.”Although 4-year-old Camilo is Laurie and Anibal’s first child together, they were somewhat prepared for parenthood. He has three children from a previous relationship – two sons, 19 and 24, who live in Laurie and Anibal’s Carbondale home – and a 22-year-old daughter who lived with Laurie’s dad and step-mother before recently moving to Miami.”The biggest challenge is our ideas in how we want to raise Camilo,” Laurie said. “We grew up with such different styles of parenting.”
Along with parenting conflicts, Anibal and Laurie wrestle with a language barrier. Before coming to the United States, Anibal did not speak English.”I mostly learned English from work. Every morning when I’m driving to work I listen to the radio to learn more English,” Anibal said. “In the house we try to speak Spanish so Camilo will be bilingual. He doesn’t like to speak Spanish because most of his friends speak English.”Laurie said because Anibal does not speak fluent English, she sometimes takes on additional responsibilities in their household.”I always have to be doing all the talking when it comes to having the car fixed or speaking with the airlines,” she said. “Probably most women have that problem anyway.”Facing prejudiceAnibal said communication in an English-speaking society can be a struggle in his everyday life. “I need more independence,” he said. “It’s hard when I call the telephone company or Visa company.”
Not only has Anibal faced adversity regarding language, but he has also faced prejudice, both locally and abroad, Laurie said.”Anibal has had some problems with a few co-workers,” Laurie said. “When I was pregnant we were coming back from Puerto Vallarta and the airport official gave him a hard time. He kept asking me why Anibal couldn’t answer his questions. And I’ve heard people say racist comments in this valley not knowing I’m married to a Latino. I think we are lucky to have the diversity, and I think a lot of people should learn about the Latino culture.” The couple also works through lifestyle differences, especially when it comes to meals.”Laurie is a vegan, and I eat meat in every meal,” Anibal said. “And I don’t like to take sandwiches for lunch. I like to sit down for a hot meal at lunch. I say ‘PB & J,’ what’s that? I like soup, rice, and potatoes caliente.” Despite their differences, Anibal and Laurie are much like any other married couple.”All you need is love,” Anibal said. “When you have love, everything is nice.”Vail, Colorado