Herald JournalHerald Journal, Jan. 31, 2005

Snow, friendly faces attracted South American dentist to Winsted

By Heidi Stutelberg

Spending a year in northern Minnesota years ago convinced a South American exchange student that Minnesota was a good place to live.

Now a dentist at Winsted Gentle Dental Care, Dr. Edgar Mantilla enjoys snow and the friendly people year around that inspired him to move here.

Mantillo spent his senior high school year with a host family in Plummer, near Thief River Falls, in 1985.

“I wanted to come back.  I liked the seasons, the winter,” he said. “I liked snowmobiling.” 

He also liked the people.  Mantilla’s host family helped him come back four years ago so he could earn his Minnesota Board of Dentistry certificate, which took three years.

Residing in St. Cloud with his wife, Adriana, and son Juan Sebastian, 6, Mantilla and his family continue to get together with his exchange family in Plummer for holidays such as Thanksgiving and Easter.

The Mantillas visit Colombia every few years, since they miss the food and their family.

Adriana enjoys cooking their native South American foods, but some foods, such as eggs, taste different here, so their native dishes also taste different.

Since moving to Minnesota, the Mantillas have done plenty of fishing and enjoy trying new foods. 

Adriana is still adjusting to Minnesota winters.  She keeps in contact with her family in Colombia several times a week by e-mail or telephone calls. 

She did not know English when first arriving in Minnesota, but has been gradually learning the language over the years and even more since taking on a part-time job.

Juan is in kindergarten this year and likes the Vikings.  Although he talks a lot about Colombia, “He’s more from here,” said Mantilla. “He speaks pretty good English.”  At home, the Mantilla family speaks Spanish.

Schooling for dentistry in Columbia is the same as the US, he said.

In fact, the teachers in Colombia earn their masters degree as in the US.  The books are the same, but in Spanish, although some books are not translated.  Mantilla stated, “They teach you everything.”

When comparing dentistry technology in Colombia to technology in this country, it depends where you go. 

But, he explained “You can find almost the same technology.  We are a little behind,” Mantilla said.

In his spare time, Mantilla enjoys jogging and playing basketball and some day would like to move his family closer to Winsted.

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