Article Written by: Tiffany Anderson
Photography by Ruben Gomez
In 1999 on vacation in Greenville, Ghisela Eljach fell in love with South Carolina. “There was something about it I just loved! I went back home and told my parents I wanted to move to the United States, and they looked at me and said ‘What?!’”
Originally from Barranquilla, Colombia, Ghisela was studying to be a lawyer and had completed a year when she moved to Greenville in 2000. “I was 19 years old, and of course that’s the age when I thought the world was mine - I could do anything!” But moving to a new country was not only a culture shock but a wake-up call into adulthood.
“Suddenly I had to get up early, go to work, pay for groceries and bills, and I kept thinking ‘Why did I do this?!’”
While she worked to get her feet underneath her, Ghisela went through multiple job positions including packaging, factory work, retail, and even a daycare. And in 2000, she wanted to attend Greenville Tech. “I remember applying and I realized I had nothing I needed. I didn’t even know what a green card was.”
By 2003, she found a job as an office assistant and spent her days answering the phone, connecting with customers, and placing orders. And that’s when she believes her career really started. Through this position, she learned English better, learned how to describe all the products to customers, and went from receptionist to general manager. Throughout her multiple years there, she learned payroll, account management, and learned as many facets of business as she could.
In 2015, Ghisela knew she wanted to get back to her roots by working with the growing Hispanic community in Greenville. “I didn’t feel like I had a publication to inform, entertain, and connect me to other Latinos in the Upstate so I decided I would make one.” InSouth Magazine was born to connect cultures and became the first bi-lingual publication in the Upstate.
Throughout her experience, Ghisela considers herself multicultural in her perspectives and experiences. “As an immigrant, it’s hard to start from zero. My heart is to help people who were like me at 19 years old who are starting with nothing. I know how that feels, and I want to help.”
Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month means a few different things for Ghisela including traditions she didn’t grow up with. “I’ve learned about Dia De Los Muertos and I love it. We don’t really have a celebration like that in Colombia, but since moving to the States I’ve adopted it into my celebrations!” Her husband, son, and parents live in Greenville and for other celebrations, like birthdays and Christmas, they’ll travel together to Florida to see her brother, niece, and nephew. “My family is the most important thing to me. They’re everything.”
Ultimately, Ghisela’s passion lies in supporting people who walk in the shoes she used to fill. “When you move to a new country and there’s a language barrier, simple things become so difficult. That’s why InSouth is so important to me, I’m finally giving people resources like what I needed when I first moved here.”
“I’m helping people learn what I didn’t know either. That’s making a difference in my community.”