An Inca Warrior Princess in Black Suede Boots

Ysabel Laura Hanco (+Video)


Winter winds in the Canadian Rockies rush down mountain slopes robbing one of warmth and comfort, but they are nothing compared to the feelings of fear and isolation I experienced as a newcomer to Canada.


This pair of suede winter boots has been my shelter since I arrived in Canada in October 2012. They protect me from cold weather, for I come from a land of desert heat. Symbolically, they shield me from fears, giving me the confidence to go forward every day, like a best friend. 

When I looked out the airplane window as we descended into Calgary, I fell in love with a city covered by green carpet and beautiful houses surrounded neatly by gardens and parks. I was Alice arriving in Wonderland. The Bow River flowed through the city like a turquoise serpent. My eyes filled with tears; my dream had become a reality. At the same time, I shuddered as the curtains on the next act of the drama of my life opened before me. 

I lived with my parents all my life in Arequipa, Peru. According to my culture, a woman cannot leave her home until she is married. Although I was an adult, my mother was like two eyes constantly watching over me. When I went out at night with friends, my mother would not sleep until I arrived home. I was not free. I was not Ysabel.

My father, a spiritual man full of faith, was the lantern of my life. He taught me to have faith and to believe that I could do whatever I set my mind and heart to. Since I was a teenager, I dreamed of going to Canada, the land of mountains and lakes. When he died suddenly in 2000, I knew I had to fulfill my dream in my heart. He would want this for me. 

With my father’s confidence swelling in my heart, my mother was crying, and me in tears, I boarded a plane for Canada on October 1st, 2012. One day later, I stepped on Canadian soil for the first time.

I came to Canada through the Live-in Caregiver Program as a nanny and worked for a family with a three-year-old girl. They gave me a bedroom with a big window in front of a garden. At first, I felt so happy and free, but it became my prison after a while. 

The family expected me to teach their three-year-old girl to speak Spanish. I was a good teacher, but not a miracle worker! They set up a classroom with a desk and whiteboard. I had two hours every morning to teach her Spanish, but all she wanted to do was play. Her mother became upset with me, and suddenly my happiness turned to insecurity. 

In spite of creeping fears, I experienced great joy the first time I saw falling snow. I was like a giddy little girl touching it, tasting it, and watching it disappear in my hands.  But my feet got cold, and I realized I needed winter boots! With Pamela, my first Canadian friend, I went to the Shoe Company and found stylish black suede boots, mid-calf high with zippers on the inseam, and flat rubber soles. As my work situation deteriorated, my new suede boots gave me stability on snow and ice, protection from the cold, and an encouraging sense of control over my first Canadian winter. 

Relations with the family got worse, so I quit. Within two weeks, I was on my own, walking the streets in my black suede boots without destiny. Heavy tears rolled down my cheeks, falling upon my boots, making black dots on the suede, witnesses to the saddest day of my life in Canada. I was a bird without a nest.

Soon after, I moved into a home with three darling girls and their gracious parents. I fell in love with a handsome Canadian, Patrick, who calls me his “Inca Warrior Princess.” I wore my boots on our first date, a magical walk on the water of frozen Lake Louise!  We got married in June 2016 at St. Mary’s Church in Banff. He is my perfect match.  I am now a bird with a nest in the Bow Valley of the Canadian Rockies, where I still wear my black suede boots.

YSABEL LAURA HANCO came to Canada in 2012 through the Canadian Government’s Live-In Caregiver Program as a nanny. She comes from Arequipa, Peru, where she was an English teacher. Ysabel loves to dance Peru’s traditional native dances, as well as cook her country’s delicious cuisine. In 2016, she married a Canadian and now lives in Banff, Alberta, where she is an educational assistant with the local school board.

Watch the Performance

More Stories from Canmore 2019