An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

HomeNewsroomNewsArticle Display

Article - Article View

HISPANIC HERITAGE: A journey to support family

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. - Airman 1st Class Miguel Quiroga Barrios, 21st Force Support Squadron fitness specialist, is one of five Team Pete members chosen to be showcased during Hispanic Heritage Month at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo. Quiroga Barrios was born in La Paz, Bolivia and spent seven years trying to reunite with his family in the U.S. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dennis Hoffman)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. - Airman 1st Class Miguel Quiroga Barrios, 21st Force Support Squadron fitness specialist, is one of five Team Pete members chosen to be showcased during Hispanic Heritage Month at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo. Quiroga Barrios was born in La Paz, Bolivia and spent seven years trying to reunite with his family in the U.S. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dennis Hoffman)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. - Airman 1st Class Miguel Quiroga Barrios, 21st Force Support Squadron fitness specialist, fixes a treadmill in the base fitness center at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., Sept. 23, 2016. Quiroga Barrios is from La Paz, Bolivia, and worked hard making traditional breads and empanadas to sell to make enough money to get to America. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dennis Hoffman)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. - Airman 1st Class Miguel Quiroga Barrios, 21st Force Support Squadron fitness specialist, fixes a treadmill in the base fitness center at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., Sept. 23, 2016. Quiroga Barrios is from La Paz, Bolivia, and worked hard making traditional breads and empanadas to sell to make enough money to get to America. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dennis Hoffman)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. - Airman 1st Class Miguel Quiroga Barrios, 21st Force Support Squadron fitness specialist, helps an Airman sign out equipment in the base fitness center at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., Sept. 23, 2016. Quiroga Barrios was born in La Paz, Bolivia and spent seven years trying to reunite with his family here in the U.S. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dennis Hoffman)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. - Airman 1st Class Miguel Quiroga Barrios, 21st Force Support Squadron fitness specialist, helps an Airman sign out equipment in the base fitness center at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., Sept. 23, 2016. Quiroga Barrios was born in La Paz, Bolivia and spent seven years trying to reunite with his family here in the U.S. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dennis Hoffman)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Heritage is a word used to describe something that belongs to someone simply because of their birth. It is an inheritance of traditions passed down from generation to generation.

Airman 1st Class Miguel Quiroga Barrios works hard every day to honor his heritage and ensure it lives on in his sons. Originally from La Paz, Bolivia, the 21st Force Support Squadron fitness specialist is a proud Hispanic Airman who came a long way to keep his family together.

Quiroga Barrios was a standard college student in Bolivia. He hung out with his friends and girlfriend, played a lot of soccer and avoided studying.

Even though he was in college, he hadn’t decided on a set path to follow. All that changed when his girlfriend moved to New York to live with her father and they discovered she was pregnant a few short weeks later.

“Everything changed when I got that news,” he said. “I told her ‘Honey, I love you and I’m going to show you that I can be a good husband.”

Deciding to be a family was easier said than done when they were on separate continents. Quiroga Barrios buckled down at school and tried to apply for a visa to come to America, but it wasn’t as simple as they hoped.

“To get a visa for me was very hard,” he said. “You have to show that you’re rich, that you have a job where you get paid (a lot of money.) So we had good and bad times in that moment.”

At the time, his mother was living in Switzerland and invited him to come live with her there to try and make enough money for the visa. His wife joined him for a few months and Quiroga Barrios met his one-year-old son for the first time.

“When I first saw my son, everything changed again,” he said. “I prayed to God saying all I wanted was help to do everything I can for my son.”

Quiroga Barrios worked hard in Switzerland by making traditional breads and empanadas to sell. He said he must have been the first person to ever make empanadas in Switzerland because he always had a lot of customers.

While he baked, his wife and mother developed a plan for the family to be together in the U.S. His hard work and dedication to succeed helped them decide he should attend one of the best colleges in Bolivia. A degree would allow him to do much more than just make bread when he got to America.

“My mom paid for me to get my degree, all of it,” Quiroga Barrios said. “She gave up a lot, having to stay in Switzerland to make enough money to pay for everything. I couldn’t have done it without her.”

While he studied and earned his degree in Bolivia as a systems engineer, his wife attained her citizenship in New York. Gaining a degree and citizenship simplified the visa process.

“I got my degree in January of 2011 and in February I had my visa to come here to the U.S.,” said Quiroga Barrios.

Finally reunited after nearly five years apart, he and his wife worked together in her father’s laboratory company, but it wasn’t enough. He said it was important to provide his family anything they need. In particular, Quiroga Barrios wanted to provide a better education for his son.

It wasn’t just his son who needed a quality education. When his wife became pregnant with their second son, he knew something had to change because he still struggled with a language barrier. He had been looking for new employment, but couldn’t communicate well during interviews.

He also had a promise to fulfill to his oldest son, a promise for a home to call his own. Quiroga Barrios searched for an opportunity to develop both his English and provide a home for his family. He looked into the military and ended up talking to a Spanish-speaking Air Force recruiter who explained everything to him, sparing no details.

“She told me I was older, so the training would be harder for me,” he said. “I would be separated from my family again for training, but I took this as my new goal. I spoke with my wife and it was decided I was going to join. My son was all, ‘My dad’s going to be in the Air Force!’ and I felt very good about that.”

While basic training was hard for Quiroga Barrios and the language barrier added an extra level of difficulty, he felt he made the right decision. He said the military opened his mind.

“The U.S.A. is a big country with a lot of opportunities, if you want them,” he said.

The hard work Quiroga Barrios continually practices for his family paid off this year when, in April, he received his citizenship, and in May, when they bought a house. The goals he had for his family came true.

The importance of family in the Hispanic culture meshed well with the Air Force life, he said.

“I love the Air Force because family is just as important to them as it is to us,” he said. “There are a lot of sacrifices for you and your family to make, but I believe that you get more. I got my house. For me what seemed impossible in the beginning, I got.”

Editor’s note: This is part three of a five-part series highlighting Hispanic Airmen for Hispanic Heritage Month.

Peterson SFB Schriever SFBCheyenne Mountain SFSThule AB New Boston SFS Kaena Point SFS Maui