By Manolo Betancur
To me, as an immigrant and small business owner, climbing Rocky’s steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, was not about being Rocky for a minute, it was about being able to say after 36 years of fighting: I did it.
In the depths of my soul, It liberated me, took a weight off me. I discover that I did it is not only the end, it is the awareness of a better you and it feels awesome.
God, I could hear the song of Rocky training scenes in my head when I went upstairs. (watch my video tribute to the great music of Rocky Movies especially this one “Gonna Fly Now” of the brilliant composer Bill Conti.
Manolo Following the steps of Rocky Balboa.
As I have said too many times, one of my books will be called – Don’t blame me because it is your fault. Let me explain to you what I mean with these title.
I was raised in Colombia, South America under the influence of the United States. When I was in Kindergarten I started hearing, watching, reading and hearing about WaltDisney. In elementary school all that I watched in TV was coming from the north, The A Team, MacGyver, The Fall Guy, CHIP’s, then hearing my parents talking about an Avenue called the Kennedy Avenue.
That was the first time when I questioned myself: I am wondering who was this famous Kennedy?
Also it was the same time when I started hearing these words which are very familiar to you, which are no longer of much use in the USA – Made in America- I remember being in my grandpa’s house and my dad showing me an engine for a tool that it said was made in America.
Now you know why that word got stuck in my head and now I have a company that uses those words: “Made in America By Immigrants’ hands”.
A VHS and everything changed.
That is when I fell in love with this country which now is my country too. One day, my mother brought home a VHS, without knowing it brought all the USA to my life.
It is in that moment when she gave me the biggest fountain of inspiration. My mother brought Rocky into my life:
-“Rocky, you believe that America is the land of opportunity?
I was 8 years old the first time that I heard those words, and those words marked me forever.
I just can’t believe, 36 years later, how those words got stuck on me. I think not even Stallone would believe how his words would change mentalities in a good way around the world. I moved to this country 21 years ago and every single day I found an opportunity here, I knew and I am living proof that this is the land of opportunity.
Another moment from the Rocky movies that I remember clearly is a conversation when someone he loves tells him: “You Can’t Win.”
Hearing those words are painful and they hurt more when they come straight from your closest loved ones. I really think those words should not come out from anyone’s mouth, it takes a lot of strength to overcome that stay of doubt created by that painful comment.
Climbing those stairs up, helps me to leave every step a painful memory.
The first group of steps: My Father.
I began leaving my father’s dead away; knowing that no matter what I can’t bring him back. God’s purpose is the only way that I can accept in this life.
The second group of steps: Deportation.
I left behind my deportation order- I left a broken immigration system which made me realize that this nation is not perfect and there is still work to do.
Third group of steps: Be Father
I left behind all that many times that I have been in court in the last few years. Fighting for my rights to be a father and to be with my kids.
Fourth group of steps: Covid 19.
Not even the war I experienced as a military officer in Colombia made me feel death so close by Covid, it is always good to remember that we are not immortal. One more Memento Mori as Marco Aurelio would say.
Fifth group of steps: The death of My Kyoshi.
I left behind the feeling of guilt that I could not fulfill the dreams I had with my friend. mentor and karate teacher after his tragic and unexpected death. I will never forget the importance of living in the present and being more attentive in the life of those I love.
Six group of steps: Leaving my country.
I left behind the weight of doubt, of questioning myself, criticism and self-punishment, whether I did it well or badly, leaving my country was the right decision. 20 years later I realize that I was not wrong. In the end I discovered that you can be a citizen of the world while still being the citizen of the town where you were born.
I feel I am putting my heart in this writing, and my soul is directing my hands on this keyboard. I’m just exercising my freedom to express myself and to be who I want to be, as I hope we all try to do.
I write to leave my children a legacy to overcome their fears, to show that I am not perfect.
It’s about always being myself and that includes the story of how the unleashing power of Rocky’s words got me here.
By Manolo Betancur
This is my small corner over the internet, a place to connect with you.