Not everyone is able to wake up for work at 3:30 a.m. with a smile on their face. But that is how Silvio Ribera, 46, starts his day – with a sense of purpose and pride in the life he has built for his family. A journeyman electrician with Ennis Electric who has spent two years on the Silver Line Phase 2A, Silvio came to the United States from Bolivia and began learning the construction trade in New York City. He eventually ventured south to Manassas, Va., where he, wife Wendy, and baby Juliette enjoy the warmer climate and proximity to Washington, D.C.’s offerings. The Lincoln Memorial is a favorite, he says. With CRC, he’s helped build a lasting public project while simultaneously advancing his skills in electrical work and English. He remains grateful for the help of fellow tradesmen and colleagues. Most of all, he exudes an honest excitement for his job and an appreciation for the opportunity to put his skills into practice on the Silver Line project.
When did you get to the United States? I came 19 years ago from Santa Cruz, Bolivia. I’ve been a citizen for two and half years.
And what brought you here? The American Dream!
Do you feel like you are achieving it? Oh yes, because my family is more solid and strong (financially). I wake up early every day, I go to work and I am happy. Every day, we have a good life and I have these emotions every time. It’s different here. Americans wake up in the morning and go to work, and we did too in Bolivia. But the in-between – Bolivia is poor and sometimes you’d have to go out to get water to bring it to your table. Here you go to the sink and you have water, hot water! You have to appreciate that, because other countries don’t have that luxury. You go to these supermarkets and it’s clean, it’s safe, and there’s so much food. In other places, you have to harvest your food to put something on the table!
How did you get into electrical work? I’ve been doing it six years. Four years ago, I was living in New York City, working for myself doing home improvement. I had some friends in Virginia asking me, “How are things going in New York?” I’d tell them, “Things are going slow.” They all told me to move to Virginia. I was working in a big city and already knew the electrical code book, so I came to Virginia and went to work for Ennis Electric.
Did you go to trade school? Ennis has a four-year training program that I finished. I just graduated and became a journeyman.
How long have you been on the Silver Line Phase 2A? Two years, and I’ve worked at two stations, including Dulles Airport.
Tell me about your average day. What sorts of things do you do on the project? I bend the pipe into conduits, free the wires, and put in fixtures. I like working with the other electricians and trades. I wake up happy every morning and I am never bored! It’s exciting!
Have you had to overcome any challenges? English! I’m still learning to communicate in English. I try to listen to the guys, my boss, my foreman, my mechanic…
Is it fair to say CRC has been helpful and kind, willing to work around the language barrier? Oh yes! Everyone helps teach me!
How do you feel about the quality of the work you’re doing? It’s very high quality. When it is finished, the people will see it and say, “Wow, this is beautiful – this is high quality!” But safety too. It’s excellent. Everyone takes care of each other. They say, “Hey… safety! Put on your hat, glasses, and gloves!”
Was there any particular task or day on the job that was a real accomplishment for you? The whole job! It’s a big, big project, a lot of people working and that means a lot of coordination. The mental part is big. The mechanics, electricians – they all come from different companies. But the organization is accurate. CRC knows how to manage the moving parts. It’s a big project, and it’s in our nation’s capital.
Does working on a project like this instill a sense of pride? I am proud to be part of something that people will use to travel and will wonder how long it’s been here. I would like my daughter, 20 years from now, to travel to the airport [on the Silver Line] and say, “My dad worked here – he built this!” I’ll be proud to show my family the work I’ve done. I come home excited about what I’ve done.
It’s, in part, a monument to your good work and many others’! But what’s your favorite monument in Washington, D.C.? I have visited all of them, but for me it’s the Lincoln Memorial! I like the big eyes and the big chair. For me, he symbolizes America. I like his story.