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Foreigners hunt for jobs on Christmas

Chris Outcalt
Vail, CO

VAIL ” Augustin Chivilo and three of his friends got to Vail on Dec. 14. They each saved 10,000 Argentine pesos ” about $3,000 ” before making the trip from Buenos Aires, Argentina, to the Vail Valley.

They planned to work and ski for the winter; some of their friends made the trip in the past and had some success.

“Many friends said it was awesome,” Chivilo said.

On Christmas Eve, Chivilo, Juan Andres Puissegur Rossetto, Francisco Balantzian Berhongaray and Juan Martin Campodonico ate pizza and each raised a glass to make a toast.

They toasted to work ” they’re still hoping to find some.

Chivilo said they’re more accustomed to celebrating Christmas on Dec. 24 in Argentina. Besides, they thought Christmas would be a good day to look for a job.

“If we don’t find a job this week, we’re scared,” Rossetto said.

All four walked through Vail Village and Lionshead Thursday, stopping everywhere that was open to ask about jobs.

“It seemed like this was a good week to find a job,” said Berhongaray, who thought town would be busier and there would be places that needed help.

But nobody was hiring, he said.

“(The restaurants) said they’re scared to hire,” Rossetto said.

The visas Chivilo, Rossetto, Berhongaray and Campodonico have are only good for a month if they don’t find a job. They’re each down to about $200 and have started limiting themselves to spending $2-$3 a day to make sure they have enough money.

Tsu Wolin-Brown, director of the local Salvation Army, said she’s seen more people struggling to find work this year than she ever has.

“I’ve had more people sleeping in their cars, in the transportation center and in tents in this cold weather than ever before,” Wolin-Brown said.

The Salvation Army gave Chivilo, Rossetto, Berhongaray and Campodonico ” who are living in West Vail ” bus passes for a month and some extra warm clothing.

After looking for jobs during the day, the four Argentineans went to a church service in Lionshead.

Anywhere they look

The first thing Chivilo, Rossetto, Berhongaray and Campodonico did after getting to Vail was go to the human resources department at Vail Mountain. But all of the jobs available at the mountain required they work through April, and they could only get visas that allowed them to stay in the country until March.

They’ve looked for jobs at Wal-Mart, Home Depot and most of the grocery stores in Valley.

Campodonico said they knew they were taking a chance when they decided to come to Vail.

“We knew about the crisis when we bought the tickets,” he said. “Our parents told us this is a bad year.”

But, based on what they heard from their friends, they still thought they’d be able to find a job within a week of getting to town.

The four 22-year-olds have tickets for plane flights home in March. If they don’t have a job by Jan. 14, they’ll have to pay $100 to switch their return flights to an earlier date.

Berhongaray turned 22 Monday. He hasn’t celebrated much, he said.

A Christmas away

The group is used to celebrating on Christmas Eve in Argentina ” they open all their presents at midnight. Like in the United States, it’s a good time to spend with family, they said.

The snow is a big difference, though, Chivilo said.

“It’s too hot (in Argentina), it’s 80 or 90 degrees,” he said.

Even though they haven’t found jobs, all four are still pretty optimistic about their situation and the Vail Valley.

“We’re giving thanks to being here and being safe,” Chivilo said.

“We think Vail is a great place,” Rossetto said. “The people are very nice.”

They hoped to do some skiing while they were here, but that doesn’t seem likely anymore, Berhongaray said.

“That seems very far away,” he said. “Our priorities are others.”

Staff Writer Chris Outcalt can be reached at 970-748-2931 or coutcalt@vaildaily.com.


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