20 Under 40: Renzo Walton
Renzo Walton envisioned himself living in Steamboat Springs for one season and one season only.
Walton was a medical student at the University of San Martin de Porres, a private university in Peru, when he was offered an opportunity to practice his English in the U.S. He was born and raised in Peru and knew no one when he moved to Steamboat in 2006.
After about a week working at Sheraton Steamboat Resort Villas and City Market, Walton said he fell in love with the city and its beauty.
In 2008, Walton received a visa and returned to the Yampa Valley. Due to the Great Recession, Walton was unable to find work in medicine and took a job at Space Station. While working there, Walton attended an ’80s-themed night at Mambo, where he met his husband, Matthew.
See all of the Steamboat Pilot & Today’s 2021 20 Under 40 winners here.
“That’s when I knew I would be here for a while,” Walton said.
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In 2015, Walton joined Integrated Community, a nonprofit that serves immigrants in Routt County, as a medical interpreter, and three years later, he received accreditation from the U.S. Department of Justice to work as a non-attorney professional representing low-income immigrants. He essentially practices immigration law without a law degree. As one of only a few people who have earned the special accreditation, Walton, 36, assists immigrants from around the West in obtaining citizenship and overcoming other challenges.
“I feel like I have a responsibility to give back to the community and make things better for other immigrants that might not be as lucky as I was,” Walton said. “It’s very important work that really helps this community.”
While Walton said he was treated fairly when he first moved to town, he has noticed an uptick in what he called “racial tension” over the past several years.
“I’ve received comments and things that were disrespectful about my ethnicity,” Walton said. “I think that has been my biggest issue to overcome. We’re here like everyone else paying taxes, and we love the community and we give back.”
As an openly gay, Peruvian man in a predominately homogeneous area, Walton said he has faced difficulties navigating his identities, though Walton said residents he has come in contact with have always been accepting of his marriage to another man.
“We live in kind of a bubble here in Steamboat where people are usually accepting of that,” Walton said.
Walton also said he can relate to immigrants who are experiencing difficulties during the citizenship process, which is why he works hard to provide resources to others going through it.
“It’s just scary that you could be deported and not see your family members,” Walton said. “It is very stressful, and I totally relate to it because I lived through it myself.”
Irene Avitia, early childhood education specialist at Integrated Community, said while he never takes credit, Walton is an important, contributing member of Routt County through his work and volunteer service with the immigrant population.
“He goes out of his way every single day to make sure everyone’s needs are met and to ensure all voices are heard at the table,” Avitia said. “He has done so much in our community.”
In addition to his work at Integrated Community, Walton also works part-time at UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center as an interpreter, serves as the chair of the BookTrails board and secretary of the Latinx Alliance, as well as being a member of the Patient Advisory Council at Yampa Valley Medical Associates. He’s also an avid skier and snowboarder.
To reach Alison Berg, call 970-871-4229 or email aberg@SteamboatPilot.com.
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