Puerto Rican Gave Up Island Life For Job In Minnesota

WORTHINGTON — Though born and raised in Puerto Rico, Ruperto Lazzu chose to spend nearly all of his adult life in southwest Minnesota, where the work is plenty, the weather is colder and the people are friendly.

The weather may be better in Puerto Rico, but as Lazzu said, the job market was not the best when he was in school.

“There was no high school, and no high school means you don’t get good job,” he said, adding the only thing available for young men was work in the construction industry.

Puerto Rico, an island in the Caribbean, has been under U.S. sovereignty since December 1898, when it was seceded by Spain.

The U.S. dollar is the currency used in Puerto Rico, and the languages spoken there include Spanish and English.

Lazzu is Spanish-speaking, and required the use of a translator to share his story about coming to U.S.

At the age of 20, Lazzu moved from his homeland to New York City. He spent just a year there before returning to Puerto Rico.

Several years later, he returned to the U.S., seeking work in Texas before he learned of a possible job opportunity in Worthington.

“I was just looking for a job, and that’s what brought me up here,” Lazzu said. For the past 21 years he has worked full-time at JBS, and plans to remain there until his retirement.

In a few years, he and his wife, Clara Lazzu Cortez, plan to retire in Guatemala, which is Clara’s home country.

Until then, they are enjoying life here.

“It’s a calm town,” Lazzu said. “The people here are very nice when you meet them.”

“It’s easier because it’s a diverse community,” Cortez added. “The Chinese store (Top Asian) has a lot of spices that we can buy.”

Lazzu has five children, including a daughter in Sioux Falls, S.D., one daughter and two sons in Philadelphia, Pa., and one daughter in Puerto Rico.

Since moving to Minnesota, Lazzu has made a few trips back to Puerto Rico, to visit his daughter and a sister. While the country’s job market has improved, he said he still prefers to live in southwest Minnesota. In an ideal world, he’d be able to enjoy the Puerto Rican climate here.

“It took me two years to adjust to the cold climate,” Lazzu said. “The winters were hard.

“I like to be down in Puerto Rico because it’s too cold up here,” he added with a laugh.

The couple owns their home in Worthington and is in the midst of fixing it up, room by room.