Looking for a New Shining Path

The Texas Story Project.

Dictatorship and revolutionary movements impacted Max’s life more than he could have ever imagined when he was growing up.

Max Saravia, the oldest of six siblings, was born in 1953 and grew up in a modest household in Lima, Perú. Even though it was hard for his parents to afford the cost of education for their children, he and his siblings were able to study in the Naval High School because of their uncle, who was a Marine.  Max was a role model for his five siblings: Manuel, Mario, Miguel, Maria del Carmen and Marco Antonio. He set an example in different aspects of his life, especially in the academics: he was the valedictorian for his class throughout high school. In 1969, a year that represented major changes for humanity, also represented the loss of his father. At the young age of 16, Max, or Maxi as his family used to call him, had to rise to become the example and paternal image for his siblings more than ever. 

After graduating from high school in 1970 and considering his ability for mathematics and academics, he decided to apply to the National University of Engineering. This is one of the most selective universities in Lima. It is very competitive not only because of its prestige, but also because it is public and completely free. Nevertheless, Maxi got accepted in 1971 and ranked 21st out of the entire pool of applicants. This was a major achievement in his life that promised happiness and a bright future for him. However, there were several things going on in Perú at that time. Juan Velasco, a military general, organized a coup and took the position of the President of Perú. He was a dictator and he had a leftist government. The government controlled everything and set official prices for goods and services. Along with this, Sendero Luminoso, also known as the Shining Path for its English translation, a revolutionary organization that employed terrorism, was starting to take form. They recruited several people from student councils and had significant presence at the university where Maxi studied. All of these events impacted the students at that time. The university suffered constant strikes and classes were repeatedly cancelled because of these rising social movements. Max started debating whether to continue studying when an opportunity came up. His school friend was going to study in Texas where his family had contacts. Maxi decided to come with him and start over in Houston, Texas. Thanks to the support of his family and his mother, Ana, he was able to pay for the plane ticket and the visa paperwork. Maxi decided to leave Perú in order to pursue his dream, just like thousands of other Peruvians did at that time.

He moved to Houston in 1974. Maxi was not fluent in English, but he was able to communicate given what he learned during high school.  He started taking English classes and working in order to save money and be able to pay for his career. By coincidence, he met a woman in his classes, and it turned out that her husband was Peruvian. This connection created a long-lasting friendship. A couple of years later, Max was able to continue his career in the sciences. He first earned an Associate’s degree in Sciences from the University of Houston in 1978. By 1981, he earned his Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering in the same university. Although his high school friend returned to Perú as soon as they finished their careers, Max decided to stay. He launched his career working in electrical engineering and systems, and then started teaching classes at Houston Community College. He first started as a part of the faculty for the bilingual electricity program in 1986 and held several relevant positions such as Department Chair and Associate Chair for the Industrial Electricity Department. His life in Houston was very interesting. He lived alone with his four dogs, treating them as his children. 

Even though he did not return to Perú to live and his family surely missed him, he never failed to call and visit. He always traveled to Lima during some of his siblings’ birthdays or during the holidays. One year, he even surprised his only sister during her 50th birthday. His career was bright in Texas, and he never regretted the decision of coming to the US. Professionally, he climbed to be the Division Chair for Construction and Manufacturing Technology. He held this position from 2009 until April of 2013, when he passed away. His death was unexpected and painful for his family in Perú, but it gave the family an opportunity to visit Texas for a last goodbye. In October of 2013, all of his siblings and their sons visited Houston to commemorate Maxi’s 60th birthday and deal with some paperwork. They decided to organize a mass for him and a little gathering with Max’s friends afterwards. Little did they know how many people would attend that mass. Not only friends of his, but also colleagues and students from HCC who deeply appreciated him. It was at that moment when his family understood how beloved Max was and still is in Houston. Houston was never an escape from Perú, but rather a place and a community that gave him a second chance to start over and show all he was capable of. Houston was his home away from home, and he and his family will be forever grateful to Texas. When the youngest of his first-generation nieces won a scholarship to study in Texas, all of his family knew for sure that he had been present in that achievement and that he would always look after her. 

Ana Paula Saravia is a junior international student from Lima, Perú. She is pursuing a double major in Economics and Mathematics. Ana Paula is studying at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas thanks to the Peruvian Scholars Program. She is involved in extracurricular activities as the Treasurer for Tri Sigma’s Epsilon Iota chapter on campus and as a Social Chair for the professional fraternity Delta Sigma Pi. Ana Paula plans to apply for a doctoral program after graduating from St. Mary’s and pursue a career doing research in economics and giving back to her home country.

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