BY LUIS GRONDA
Despite living in the United States for the majority of her life, Nayibe Nuñez-Berger has carried the culture of her native country with her and has worked to pass that on to many Hispanic residents in Queens.
Nuñez-Berger moved to the United States from her native Colombia in 1963, and she has carved herself a successful career and life here.
After earning a Master’s Degree in Social Work from Stony Brook University, she went on to be heavily involved in that field for more than four decades. She worked at the mental health services of the Queens Family Court, where she was a social work supervisor and assistant clinic director.
Nuñez-Berger eventually operated her own private practice for 25 years, specializing in individual and family therapy as well as psychotherapy, which helps people deal with and resolve mental issues. She had her own practice in Forest Hills for 25 years.
She closed down that practice, in part, to focus more on helping out the community in more ways than she could through her job as a psychotherapist. Rising rent and other costs associated with running a medical practice was another reason it closed, Nuñez-Berger said.
That was when she turned to her current job as president of the Latin American Cultural Center of Queens, a nonprofit organization that focuses on promoting and developing pride and culture among Latin Americans in Queens and helping them learn American society and culture.
Nuñez-Berger said she was among the people to create the organization because she wanted to promote Hispanic culture among children and young adults. It is important to remember and maintain the heritage of your culture, she said, even after settling in the United States.
“We found that there was too many children feeling embarrassed about their Hispanic culture and we wanted to expose that to them more so that they identify themselves as a Hispanic,” she said.
Among the services they offer are visual art classes, including painting and many other aspects of visual art, host lectures and exhibits, which allow local artists to showcase their work.
Although she is now well established and successful in New York, she had some struggles after her initial landing in a new country.
Learning and mastering the English language was the most difficult part about coming to the United States. Nuñez-Berger said learning the language served as a motivator to succeed in this country because, without learning that, she was not sure how it would have turned out here.
“I was scared that if I didn’t learn English, I wouldn’t be able to succeed. Without learning the language, I had no chance,” Nuñez-Berger said.
She said she picked up English quickly, learning through the schools she went to, reading and writing the language and just conversing with people on a daily basis.
Nuñez-Berger said she did not face that much adversity coming to the U.S., other than the language barrier. She said she was focused and motivated to do well in this country.
“I was always taught by my father that I can do anything that I want to accomplish,” she said.
In addition to her work at the Latin American Cultural Center of Queens, she also co-founded the Latino Cultural Festival, along with Queens Theatre in the Park. The event celebrated film, music, dance and other aspects of Latino culture from a variety of Hispanic Communities in the City.
She has also been a member of the advisory board of Queens Council on the Arts and on the board of trustees of the Queens Museum of Art in Flushing.
Reach Luis Gronda at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 127, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @luisgronda.