Life, Interrupted: The Concierge

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Why you should care

Because coming to America is still a successfully achieved dream for some.

Thirty years ago, when Luis Gatti was 18, he left his family in Peru to escape the danger posed by two terrorist groups: Shining Path and Tupac Amaru. His father, a lawyer, decided it was safer for him to emigrate to the United States, which, in his father’s eyes, was the “best country in the world.” The rest of his family remained in Peru, but Gatti fled to New York City alone, and with nothing but an idea that America was the place where you could succeed.

Gatti arrived with little more than a bit of English, a high school education and an optimistic demeanor — which meant he was unable to pick and choose his career. He soon got a job as a construction worker and decided that no matter what he did, he was going to do it to the best of his ability — even if he didn’t like it.

But his first year in America was hard. “I didn’t know what depression was until that time of my life,” Gatti says. “I missed my friends, I missed my family, I missed my way of living.” But he didn’t think about returning to Peru. “I always looked forward and said, ‘You know what? Things are going to get better. Everything is going to get better.’ ”

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Luis poses for a portrait in Central Park in his uniform on Feb. 4, 2018. Luis has worked as a concierge for the same residential building on Fifth Ave for 29 years.

Source Dominique Hessert/OZY

Within a year, his boss recommended him for a job as a concierge at a residential building on Fifth Avenue, and that’s where he has worked ever since.

As a doorman, Gatti sees different faces, attitudes and paces, but he notices a similarity in everyone. Everybody is trying to fill the daily goals that will eventually fulfill life goals. Some people pass by in a limousine, feeling comfortable but filled with worries and troubles. Some pass on bicycles feeling happy and fulfilled. “It’s just perspective,” says Gatti. “As a doorman, I see hundreds of people every day. It’s the feelings that everybody has inside that are not seen. The only difference is some people cover them well, and some don’t. In general, we all have the same worries.”

The perspective Gatti’s gained on his trip from fleeing terrorism in Peru to his post as a concierge in Manhattan has pushed him to realize the importance of his evolving American dream. Initially, his American dream was just to be happy. After he met the love of his life, he married her. He and his wife spent 14 years developing the courage to confront life and have their son, Gabriel.

Every night, Luis presses his hands together and kneels next to his son in their home in Queens to pray. He asks God every night to give him the strength and knowledge to be a better father. Looking at his son, he understands with a deep, terrifying and beautiful resolve that his dream is for Gabriel to develop the biggest wings so that he can do whatever he wants when he grows up.

Luis laughs at his 9-year-old son Gabriel’s reaction to Gatti’s mispronunciation of “river” during their nightly routine of reading aloud from Gabriel’s encyclopedia in their home in Queens.

Source Dominique Hessert/OZY

“America showed me discipline,” Gatti says. “America showed me that, if you work hard, you can succeed. The best thing that ever happened to me was coming here. My dream? I’m living it every day.”

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