Utrecht is home to many nationalities. Every week, DUIC features an Utrechter with a different background. The concept was inspired by ‘180 amsterdammers’.

‘It was so cold the first time!’

Jesús on the stairs of TivoliVredenburg. Photo by DUIC/Fenna Riethof

It was love that first brought the Peruvian Jesús to the Netherlands five years ago. In 2009, he met a Dutch girl travelling through his home town of Lima. They fell in love. He’s a bit cagey about the details (“she’s my ex now”), but it was pretty serious because she moved to Peru. They spent two years living in Cuzco, a town in the mountains. “But she missed her family.” The obvious solution was to cross the Atlantic, so the pair moved to Utrecht. It was quite a change for the Peruvian, particularly the climate. “I’d been to the Netherlands twice before. It was so cold the first time! The second time was summer and I remember thinking: ‘Maybe it’s not too bad’.” He laughs: “How wrong can you be!”

To Jesús, emigrating was an adventure. He learned the language. “My Dutch isn’t that good, but people seem to understand me.” He’s rarely homesick: “I go to Lima once or twice a year and stay for at least 6 weeks. I also Skype with my mother and she texts me every day. ‘How are you?’ she asks, and I say ‘The same as yesterday.’” But he does miss Peruvian food. When I ask him about the best place to eat in Utrecht, he replies: “My place.” But Gys is okay too. Jesús worked as a chef in a few restaurants in Utrecht, including ‘t Gras van de Buren. He now earns a living running his own company.

Arts festival

“Art is my passion. I love making art (my work’s been exhibited at festivals like Soenda and Solar) and giving other artists a podium. That’s why I started Watdajel.” Jesús used to organise the art festival in Lima and has organised it in Utrecht for several years now. It’s still a work in progress; the latest edition in the NUtrecht complex featured a programme with countless artist, dancers and musicians.

He gets a lot of help from people he calls ‘friends’. “Utrechters are kind. They’re always offering to help. A total stranger recently made a promotional film for Watdajel, for nothing!” Jesús is living his dream, drawing attention to art and bringing people together. “My goal in life is to unify; it’s in the stars – literally. I looked it up in the Maya calendar. I read it and thought: Wow, that’s me! I hope I can carry on doing this, either with Watdajel or another company.”

He won’t be leaving Utrecht any time soon. He’s having too much fun. His favourite spot? Lunetten Hoograven. “I live on the water and there are woods nearby. It’s fabulous. I often go for walks, specially when I’m thinking: ‘Fuck, it’s all going wrong’. Joke! I never think that. I just have to clear my mind.”

Name: Jesús Portal Collao
Date of birth: 9 August 1982
Place of birth: Lima, Peru
Motto: ‘Never give up’

Allemaal Utrechters is a series of interviews with people who moved to Utrecht from another country. We ask them about their background and their impression of Utrecht, revealing the true diversity of our city. The ‘Allemaal Utrechters’ series is a collaboration between DUIC and Culturele Zondagen, and has been made possible with help from Stichting Dialoog and the Municipality of Utrecht. We hope to showcase every nationality in Utrecht.

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