The Story of Vilma Da Cunha

This post is also available in: Portuguese (Brazil), Spanish

By Maria Danniella Gutiérrez- Salem
Every dream is definitely different, unique and unrepeatable. It’s impossible to meet an immigrant without a dream, and that is because we all came to United States with a goal, which sometimes changes with the adversities or opportunities that show up as the months and years go by. Our interviewee is one of those exceptional immigrants that do not go unnoticed, and that is because she can fly. Yes, you read it right; she can fly!

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Vilma is from a beautiful city in Brazil called Cianorte in the State of Parana.  There, after completing her undergraduate degree in Literature, she went to Law school. She is the mother of two teenagers whom she fights for every day of her life, hoping that they become upright citizens. She came to Danbury exactly 18 years ago.


When I asked her why she chose Danbury, she gave me the same reply that many would say: “I had a friend!” And definitely, from friend to friend, Danbury has become one of the largest communities of Latin Americans in Connecticut.


Vilma started out in housekeeping, which later blossomed into a small cleaning business of her own. It wasn’t until five years ago that she discovered her true “American Dream”. A friend once invited her to a helicopter ride over New York City. Once in the air, she felt like never before. “It was a feeling that cannot be compared to a plane ride, as it provides a better perspective of the space and scenery.”

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She discovered that same day that this was the job she wanted and so she invested all her savings to obtain a pilot’s license.


You might wonder, as I did, if flying was difficult. She replied: “That depends on how much you want to do. Training requires both theoretical and practical flight lessons and, at the end, you need to pass some exams in order to get a pilot’s license.”


“Is the investment profitable?” was, of course, my second question. So she explained that the secret is to provide good customer service, since clients pay particular attention to the pilot’s expertise, control, caution and respect to each and every one of the safety rules. Something in common we find in all jobs is that excellence is required, starting from the person who prepares a cup of coffee to someone who pilots a helicopter that is worth about $400,000.


Due to the cost of this type of aircraft, its popularity seems curious, so Vilma explained: “Helicopters nowadays have become the preferred means of transportation for entrepreneurs. This is thanks to their efficacy, comfort and speed, as well as the fact that they do not specifically require an airport to land or takeoff. This has significantly increased its use over the last years. However, the cost of maintenance, fuel and staff qualified to pilot is not cheap.”


Without a doubt, Vilma is certainly admirable, because she did not let the fact that she could not practice her profession in Connecticut prevent her from advancing professionally. She decided to do this in the United States, which surely in Brazil would have been almost impossible. However, she emphasized that her dreams did not end with being a pilot. She now wants to be an instructor so she can provide others the opportunity to learn a skill and enjoy it much as she does, for the best dream is the one that transcends.


When we are immigrants, we have the opportunity to reinvent ourselves and discover all that makes us unique and unrepeatable. Lastly, I must say that I flew with her over New York, where it all began. And I agree with Vilma. A helicopter tour is one of the most fantastic experiences I’ve had the opportunity to enjoy, but even more significant is to meet people that demonstrate it is possible to live, achieve or find one’s dream.


Maria Danniella Gutiérrez-Salem practiced law in Venezuela before following her very own American Dream and becoming a writer in the United States.

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