Maribel Ramirez, 43, at Golden Om Pathways

Tanya recommended I reach out to Maribel. They are friends from back in the Miami days. I really love getting these referrals because it allows me to meet people I would very likely never run into otherwise. I met Maribel at Golden Om Pathways, which she is the founder of, and had the wonderful pleasure of conducting our interview in a very serene space - listen carefully to the AUDIO (brand new feature at the bottom of the page!) and you'll be able to hear bubbling water in the background. Maribel has a soft but deliberate voice and communicates directly and thoughtfully - traits that will serve her well as she pursues her education in counseling. 

Who are you?

Mmmm. Ah, I'm so many people. Right? But, yet, essentially the same person that I was since I was two years old and as far as I can remember. But it almost seems like we have so many lifetimes in one. And there's a continuous essence that follows through all those different chapters, but definitely lots of changes. Right? Not the same person that I was at 19 or at 25 or at 30. And at 43, I'm emerging, I feel. Like I am finally coming into my own and all the practices and all the learning that I have done is finally kind of showing up and manifesting in my life in all these amazing ways. 

Where do you come from?

I was born and raised in Miami, Florida. My mother was Cuban-Chinese and my father's Colombian. And I've lived in different places. I spent five years in Costa Rica and I feel like that's very much one of my homes. I've always been attracted to the Pacific Northwest and that's how I ended up here. I like the sun, so Bend was the perfect place to be at. 

What brought you to Bend?

I love the energy of the Pacific Northwest. I love the open-mindedness here. I love that the West is always kind of like a few steps ahead on everything. I love Portland and I love Seattle and I love all the small towns in between, but I don't think I can do the rainy. So when I found Bend I thought, Okay, this is it. This is perfect. 

In the year that I've been here, I've seen it grow. And I've seen more diversity than when I first got here. I grew up in a place where I was the majority, so I have never quite experienced not being the majority. I never notice. I never go around thinking, Oh my gosh, I'm a minority. Oh goodness, there's no one else around like me. Until Tanya pointed it out when I first moved here. We were sitting and having a beer at The Lot and she said, Wow, look around. How does it feel? And I'm looking around and I'm like, Great! (Laughs) She's like, You're the only brown person here. And I was like, Whoa! Oh my goodness. It's true! (Laughs) And all of a sudden, I realized. And then I went through a few months where I went through it. Oh gosh, I'm the only one here. The self-consciousness kind of started creeping in. And of course she didn't ask me to make me feel self-conscious. We just have a very open kind of dialogue going all of the time. And then I started looking for the other Latinos in this community and I didn't find them at the places where I was frequenting. You know, they weren't having dinner at Spork. They were not having a beer at The Lot. They have their own places that they hang out at. And they usually work service jobs. And it was a real eye-opener to understand. I mean I had an idea of what it was like to be a minority somewhere outside of Miami, but I didn't realize how real it was until I went through that. Until I walked through that place of, Whoa, this is what it's like in other places. 

What does community mean to you?

That's a great question. Community means shelter. It means home. It means diversity, for sure, where I come from. It means different people coming together to make something work. To make something grow. To make things happen. I think that's what community means to me. And there's probably a lot more, but I'd have to sit with that for a bit. 

What do you appreciate most about this community?

What my experience has been has been an incredible openness. People have been very welcoming and very receptive - sometimes inquisitive - and always warm. Bend has kind of opened its doors to me. It's been a really beautiful experience so far. 

Do you have thoughts regarding Bend's growth?

Yeah. You know, I can see both sides to the argument of growth in Bend. Coming from Miami and seeing what Old Florida used to be - it went through a stage when it was first starting to grow where a lot of people from the fashion industry, but mostly thrift stores and artists and cool little teahouses and places to hang out at. And then it grew and grew and grew and grew and it just became a giant strip mall with Victoria's Secret and the Gap and Banana Republic and all the places where the thrift stores used to be and the cool little shops and all of that. So, in a sense, I'm a little bit intimidated by growth. But, at the same time, coming from a city where there's so much access to art and culture and diversity, being in a place like Bend, I feel like it can use some more culture, art, and diversity. And the only way that can happen is by bringing in some new blood. So, sometimes people ask me, Why did you come to Bend? and I just jokingly say, Because Bend needs more brown people. So it's a tough question to answer. How do you bring diversity without growth? It's impossible. And I do feel that diversity is important for health. Even genetically speaking, you need to mix up the genes in order to create stronger breeds. It's just the way it will go, right? The world is getting bigger and every place will get bigger along with it.

What do you wish for the future?

Oh my gosh. That's such a heavy, loaded question. Of course, and this is cliché but it's true, I wish for peace and I wish for higher consciousness. And I wish for evolution, growth, and awareness. And I wish that we continue to evolve as a species but come back to our roots as indigenous people because we all are indigenous people from somewhere, right? I would love for us all to live closer to the earth in a more sustainable way so that we can succeed as a species. That's pretty much it (laughs).