27 Oct Love Letter to New York City: From Colombia to Queens: The Celebration of a Success Story with Juan Plaza
Text Message from Juan Plaza.
I swiped to open the message and it read:
“35 years ago, a dreamer got into a plane. I felt like the biggest dreamer in the world, chasing everything that today I have accomplished. Today, 35 years ago, I flew from Cartagena to New York. Wow, I just realized that.”
I put the phone down with a big smile. I thought about the magnitude of decades. I thought about the idea of time, and how it marks us.
10 years ago, I was invited to a networking event in New York City. As with most networking events, I handed out a few business cards, collected a few numbers, and was enthusiastic to “follow up” with several people. And as with most networking events, despite my best intentions, most of that follow-up fell by the wayside.
There was, however, an exception. He was from Colombia. He had a contagious smile and larger-than-life energy. His name was Juan. Juan Plaza.
Every time Juan Plaza’s name appears on my cell phone screen, I know that something is about to uplift my spirit. A text he has drafted to share a story or life lesson, a video where he is dancing to liberation and self-acceptance he wishes for all, a voice note of encouragement or gratitude, an invitation to a home-cooked meal with friends and family. Juan transmits love, generosity, adventure, and deep care and loyalty to those of us lucky to be in his inner circle.
When I spend time with Juan, a thought constantly loops in my head. “This man has it all,” I think. He has the financial abundance to see the world and live around the globe, a loving family, unending energy and vibrant health, a joyous disposition, kindness and curiosity, languages, rhythm, style, and an ability to make dreams come true for himself and others. I have felt this from the minute I met him, and the more time I spend with him, the more this rings true and reinforces itself. At the same time, the more moments I get with Juan, the deeper we deepen the conversation, and the more his heart opens to his past, I realize that this man has worked with tremendous tenacity, discipline, and dedication for decades to “arrive here.”
His bite of the big apple started on a flight from Cartagena to New York City, or so he thought. Juan told me how he accidentally took a flight to Jersey’s Newark Airport and then had to figure out how to get into New York City with no connections and no English. He ended up at Port Authority Bus Terminal waiting for an unknown friend of the family to pick him up. As he waited, people would walk by and try and steal his suitcase. He did not know what to expect, but his expectations remained hopeful and high. Juan found a sales job, then a second job, and then started a side business, all at the same time. Since then, Juan had a wide dynamic and successful business career ranging from city government, real estate, media, and fashion, and now as a motivational content creator and internet personality.
When I recently had a chance to feature Juan in my Love Letters to New York City series, I was able to witness Juan with his heart on his sleeve as he shared how much this city meant to him and the opportunity it afforded him, and the big “why” that brought him here in the first place.
“This city gave me the opportunity to be who I am today. I came to this country with the goal of buying my mother a house, and now I am proud to say my mother can live wherever she wants. I walk around the streets screaming, New York, the city that I love. People may think I am crazy, but I am happy, and that’s what counts.”
And anyone who knows Juan Plaza knows that when he has a dream or a goal, he achieves it, that he is crazy in all the right ways, and that he is the definition of happiness, exuded daily.
10 years ago, I arrived at a networking event and left with a new best friend. 10 years ago, although I may not have realized it at the time, I met a real-life, everyday hero. 10 years ago, I met a man that has changed and improved my life in countless ways. 10 years later, I realized he has done the same for countless others around this glorious globe.
What a gift you are, Juan Plaza.
To our city, our country, and our world.
Whatever room you are in, and whatever hand you are shaking, is better because of your presence, your light, your warmth, and your heart.
Welcome home, and happy anniversary.
“I scream in the streets; New York the city that I love. People might call me crazy, but I’m happy, and that’s what counts.”
Meet Juan Plaza, a true success story!
Thanks for reading!
This letter is a part of Brian Rashid’s “Love Letters to the World,” a global initiative bringing stories of hope, humanity, and travel/tourism to our world.
A huge thanks to Bradley Tusk, the sponsor of this series called, “Love Letters to New York City.” Bradley is owner of Tusk ventures and Founder of P&T Knitwear.
You can find their story, here.
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Thank you so much for being here on what is literally my dream coming true.
Oh so true!