He came from San Juan, Puerto Rico. She came from Rio Bravo, Mexico. Together, Pablo and Viridiana Vega make up one of the most charming, outgoing and easygoing couples in Cleveland.
Always positive and enthusiastic when meeting people, the Hispanic couple said, “What makes us happy is helping others in our community and trying to make a difference in as many people’s lives as possible for the better.”
Their volunteer spirit fits perfectly in The City With Spirit, known for its hospitality and community service. Cleveland has a thriving Hispanic community as well — the fastest growing population in Bradley County.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Hispanic population growth between 2000 and 2010 accounted for more than half of the nation’s population growth. The U.S. Department of Labor predicts, “After 2020, the Hispanic population is projected to add more people to the United States every year than will all other groups combined.”
Pablo, being Puerto Rican, is a United States citizen by birth, but is well aware of the challenges facing other Hispanics as the nation’s largest immigrant group. Mexicans and Puerto Ricans make up the two largest Spanish-speaking groups in the United States.
“I believe the biggest challenge that some Hispanics face is the challenge of any immigrant moving to any country,” Pablo said. “They encounter being in a new environment, culture, foods and language. Confronting those things is not easy, but when someone moves from the place they call home to confront all these obstacles it is not out of pleasure or to seek great riches. It is to survive and obtain what we as all human beings want.”
The spirited young couple said they were living in a small Tennessee town called Sparta before deciding to serve where the need was greater by relocating to Bradley County.
“We moved to Cleveland because of the Spanish community,” Pablo explained. “We are Jehovah’s Witnesses and we go door to door preaching the good news to our Spanish-speaking friends.”
The couple said they believe the Bible holds the answer to all of today’s problems and enjoy sharing a message that is helping families around the world draw closer to God and encourage trust in God’s kingdom. Pablo, who works for a software company, said he and his wife enjoy providing educational work in the community that is bringing greater hope and happiness to many Hispanics who long for a better life, now and in the future. They said they especially enjoy doing so in a town where people work at being hospitable and open to diversity.
“I love the fact that Cleveland gives you the big city commodities in such a compact size,” Pablo said.
The close-knit couple said they met at a friend’s graduation party where Pablo immediately recognized the first time he saw “Viri” that she was special. One conversation led to another, which blossomed into a romance. The rest is history. When asked what they like most about each other, Pablo said, “I love my wife’s laugh and good sense of humor.”
Veri, who is always smiling, said, “I love my husband’s patience.”
Both said, “We enjoy spending time with friends and family. We also enjoy going to the movies and a little traveling.” Pablo added, “At the moment, I personally have a father that is very ill and has been for a very long time. My wife suffers from strong migraines. Also, like everyone else, we have a hard time keeping up with the bills.”
Despite their challenges in life, Pablo and Viri said they face all life’s problems with the confidence that if they imitate Jesus and seek first God’s kingdom, all other things will be added to them.
According to the U.S. census for 2010, Hispanics have become the leading minority in Bradley County, with 4.7 percent of the population (and now an estimated 5.1 percent). African-Americans were at 4.3 percent.