Immigrant Voices: Aliou Sow

Aliou Sow was born in Mauritania, and lived in Senegal before he finally found a home in Steamboat Springs, where he now lives with his family.
John F. Russell

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Aliou Sow is a native West African who has lived in Steamboat Springs since 2004. He moved here from Senegal, after continued conflicts forced him to leave. The 48-year-old now calls this mountain town home and owns the house where he and his wife of 30 years, Mayram Diallosow, live with their five children.

Sow is originally from Mauritania, another West African country. From 1989 to 1991, during the Mauritania-Senegal border war, nearly 40,000 blacks were forced out of Mauritania in what relief workers and Senegalese officials said were racially motivated expulsions, according to The New York Times. 

The conflict centered on disputes over the two countries’ River Senegal border and grazing rights and caused diplomatic relations to erode, creating thousands of refugees on both sides of the border. This situation is what forced Sow over the border into Senegal and, eventually, led to his decision to immigrate to the U.S.

“We came here to get help,” Sow said.

In Senegal, Sow made a living like most people did — buying and selling items in street markets.

He now works at Alpine Lumber in Steamboat, a job he has held for 12 years.

Sow said he mainly spends his time with other West African people who live here and work at Walmart or City Market. He said his only white friends are his coworkers.

“I don’t have a lot of time,” Sow said. “I’m not going to the bar, I’m not going to the restaurant. I just cook at my house. I just go to work and come home to be with my kids. That’s just what I like.

“My friends are just like me,” Sow added. “They go to work, and after, they go home.”

All five of Sow’s children — Adama, Mer, Abdou and twins Mohamed and Oumou — were born in the U.S. and go to school in Steamboat.

When asked if he has experienced racism or prejudice due the color of his skin, Sow said only a few times at work.

“Racism is not good — I hate that,” Sow said. “But I can’t really say anything about it.”

He also said Steamboat was nice but could be more welcoming.

“Life is good but a little bit hard,” Sow said. “In Steamboat, everything is expensive. Rent is expensive, and food is expensive. But the people are nice.”

Sow said he doesn’t really miss Senegal although he has plans to move back there one day.

“I feel good here, because I’m healthy and safe, and that’s why I moved here,” Sow said. “When I retire, I want to go back to my country (Senegal). I want to die in Senegal because they are Muslim there.”

He said he does not have a real place to worship in Steamboat because there is no mosque, but his employers allow him to pray anytime he wants throughout the day.

“I just pray at home; there is no place here,” Sow said. “I pray five times a day, and my boss at Alpine Lumber said anytime I want to pray, I can go pray.”

In addition to his work at Alpine Lumber, Sow was a member of the food and nutrition services team at UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center, which helped make brown bag lunches for Steamboat students during the early months of COVID-19 when there wasn’t access to school lunches.

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