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On Island Profile: Alfredo Alejo

May 25, 2007 — If you attend any one of the myriad community-issue meetings on St. John, you'll know Alfredo Alejo: He's the slender guy with the charming Spanish accent who always takes his turn at the microphone to make his views known.
"I'm trying to make a difference," he says.
Living near the controversial Sirenusa condominium development, Alejo has been especially vocal about the project's impact on the neighborhood.
Alejo's efforts don't stop at community meetings. He's a member of St. John Rescue, the St. John Community Foundation, the Animal Care Center of St. John and the St. John Unity Group. He's also active in the Love City Pan Dragons, which counts one of his children as a member.
Though St. John has a growing Hispanic community, Alejo is frustrated that his is usually the only Hispanic face to show up at meetings. While more V.I.- and Caribbean-born folks than Hispanics attend and speak out, most of the faces at community meetings are of white transplants from the mainland.
Alejo, 42, says he doesn't really understand the reluctance to get involved. "This is home,” he said. “This is where you live.”
On the other hand, he says, the community needs to reach out and provide more services for its Spanish-speaking population.
Alejo has called St. John his home for more than 20 years. He arrived from his native Dominican Republic, like so many others, looking for opportunity and, in those days, to escape rising crime in the streets of Santo Domingo. In training as an engineer, he also wanted to further his education.
Alejo had a brother already living on St. John, so he settled in with his brother and his wife. They already lived in cramped quarters, however, so he had to sleep on the porch.
Since St. John looked like the Dominican Republic in many ways, Alejo says he found it easy to adjust to life in his new home. He has since become a U.S. citizen.
His first job was working as a construction laborer at $6 an hour, but within six months Alejo was the foreman for contractor Puerto Rican Pete. He worked on jobs like building the Virgin Grand Hotel, now the Westin Resort and Villas, Wharfside Village shopping center and homes in Peter Bay.
When he met his wife of 15 years, Marie, who hailed from St. Thomas, his life got even better, Alejo says. The two have two children, Alfredo Jr., 14, and Kisha, 10, with another due in November. Both his children attend the Gifft Hill School.
Seven years ago he opened his own business, Alfredo's Construction, and Alejo is currently busy on a job in Fish Bay. He's also building his four-bedroom vacation villa in Chocolate Hole, which he plans to put into St. John's busy vacation villa rental market.
He's a homebody, spending his free time on family activities.
"I enjoy doing gardening and being around the house," Alejo says.
As for his future, he says he'd like to buy a piece of flat land with good soil on St. John so he can grow bananas, sweet potatoes, vegetables, sugar cane, mango and other island produce.
"My dream is to live in the country,” he says. “I have a strong respect for mother nature.”
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