This profile is a part of the Community Champions campaign of the South Okanagan-Similkameen Local Immigration Partnership (SOSLIP). The Partnership project is led by the South Okanagan Immigrant and Community Services (SOICS), which provides a range of services for newcomers to the region. An earlier version of this article was also published on Castanet.
Claudia Reyes Nunez was visiting B.C. on a backpacking trip in 2003, far away from her home country – Mexico. Years later, her adventure would come full circle, becoming the owner of an outdoors shop in downtown Penticton.
At the time of her initial visit, Claudia really wanted to learn English, having only very basic speaking skills.
“I wanted to find someone who could help me with that, and I did,” she recalls. Her path led her to meet Margaret, from Germany, who owned an organic farm in Oliver.
“I will teach you English if you teach me how to cook Mexican dishes,” offered Margaret.
Unsurprisingly, Claudia jumped on the offer, even though she had no idea how to cook. In fact, Margaret ended up teaching Claudia to cook.
Let’s fast-forward a few years... On a sunny afternoon, Claudia met Richard (Ricky) Rodrigues from Osoyoos. His father is Portuguese, and his mother was originally from Quebec. They went to Mexico but soon realized it would be easier for the couple to settle in Canada, so they returned to the Okanagan Valley, and got married in 2010.
It was not an easy immigration journey. Contrary to popular belief that all immigrants are leaving behind hardships, Claudia’s story is different. Before she left Mexico, she received her Industrial Engineering degree and was ready to start a professional career in the respected field. She explored options for getting her engineering licence in Canada but realized that it would require too much time and, most likely, she would have to move to a big city to find a job.
For a few years, she worked at a fruit-packing facility in Osoyoos. She was a manager but, because of the existing work culture, was paid less than a forklift operator. On top of it, she lost her mother and felt ready for a change.
Claudia and Richard moved to Penticton. Claudia reached out to the South Okanagan Immigrant and Community Services (SOICS) to connect with the community. Soon she found herself working as a manager at True Outdoors, where she found her true passion. She loved her work, met fellow climbers and made friends. But one day the store owner informed Claudia that the store would be closing down soon. Claudia was in despair.
The owner of the boutique asked Claudia: “Why don’t you open your own outdoors store? You obviously know a lot about this business and love it. Nothing stops you from following your passion.”
In September 2019, Eskala Mountain Sports opened its doors on Front Street, and has been doing well since then. Claudia’s store offers Canadian and European brands of high-quality outdoors products.
The name ‘Eskala’ came from the Spanish “escalar,” which mean: “Go climb!”
Much like Claudia’s determination, she was willing and ready to pursue her dream.
“Go climb,” she told herself. And she did.