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Colombia native counts her blessings in the Q-C
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Photo: Paul Colletti
Elsa Romero-Bolet lives in Bettendorf with her husband, Benjamin Bolet, and daughter, Mariana. Ms. Romero, originally from Colombia, works as a translator and makes jewelry, with many of the proceeds going to different charities.
BETTENDORF — Ask South American native Elsa Romero-Bolet about her impressions of the Quad-Cities, and she gives an answer worthy of a smile. "If you think the area is all corn and cold, it's not true at all. It's very diverse, very calm, very clean and beautiful scenery," she says.

She also mentions the contentment and happiness she has found in the Quad-Cities community, considering this place her reward for years of hard work and many ups and downs. "I go to the Quad-Cities, and I pick up my blessings," she says with a smile and a charming accent.

Born in Massachusetts, where her father was studying at Clark University, Ms. Romero-Bolet was raised in Colombia, where she has dual citizenship. Moving to the United States in May 2000, and to Bettendorf in February 2008, she has found joy in the community and has created her own traditions while honoring the heritage of her homeland through food, feasts and the closeness and creativity of family and friends.

Ms. Romero-Bolet and her husband, Ben Bolet, who was born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico, love to entertain guests at their Bettendorf home, and they say it's not unusual to have dozens of cars parked on their street on any given night.

"I am very passionate about culture, and I channel that in the right way," Ms. Romero-Bolet says. "Our heritage is honoring each other with food." Many evenings are full of "conversations on many subjects, connections and lifestyles" with friends they have made.

Ms. Romero-Bolet met Mr. Bolet, her "hero," through friends of friends in Miami, and they were married in 2002. Mr. Bolet works in Deere & Co.'s forestry department, which prompted their move to the Quad-Cities area.

Their daughter, Mariana, was born Dec. 22, 2011, and she has been a "source of inspiration" for the couple. "It's a magical thing, being a mother. You learn to let things go," Ms. Romero-Bolet says.

Family members still live in Bogota, Colombia, and Ms. Romero-Bolet makes it a priority to speak with them daily via Skype and to visit Colombia at least once a year. Her father, Jairo, teaches economics at Bogota University, and her mother, Elsa, is an artist, a passionate and prolific oil painter. She calls her parents "very hard workers, very humble and very giving." She is the middle child, between Juliana and Catalina, who live in Colombia and Japan, respectively.

Ms. Romero-Bolet received a law degree in Bogota but essentially found it nontransferable after her arrival in the U.S. She attended the University of Miami and received her master's degree in comparative law and for a time became a "professional in answering phones." However, her fluency in English, Spanish and French paid off when she got a job as a translator for the Department of Justice, a job she still does on a part-time basis.

But it's into BolEro Unique, the line of jewelry that is her pride and passion, where Ms. Romero-Bolet pours her creative energy. Bracelets, necklaces and earrings are the specialties, and they can be found in six shops and counting in the Quad-Cities.

She has different lines that reflect her life in its current state. "Like You, Like Me" was inspired by a friend battling cancer. "Basically Tangled" jewelry sets are her newest creations, "combining basic colors and materials with a splash of romance."

She contributes proceeds from certain jewelry pieces to charities such as Quantum Healing in Belize and Friends for Humanity in Bettendorf, a nonprofit group she and her husband founded to help local shelters."I'm helping to give voice to people who otherwise might not have it," she says.

Part of her business strategy is to hold fashion-show fundraisers, engaging her customers and encouraging contact between all the attendees, whether they are young girls modeling the jewelry or clothes, guests who were invited via Facebook or bystanders at the restaurant or cafe where the event takes place. Community and sharing will always be a part of her essence, no matter where she lands.

As for her homeland, Ms. Romero-Bolet is more than happy to to share about the "amazing richness of country." She calls the locals "receptive, knowing about other cultures and curious." She keeps up to date on news through the Internet, but is happy to call the Quad-Cities home for this part of her life journey.

"This area brings out the best in people. I feel so clean, so green, so amazing." Her face lights up as she counts her blessings in the Quad-Cities: "I have a good job, family and health -- my life is complete."


Colombia

-- Location: Northern South America, bordering the Caribbean Sea, between Panama and Venezuela, and bordering the North Pacific Ocean, between Ecuador and Panama.

-- Population: 45,239,079 (July 2012 estimate). No. 29 in the world.

-- Languages: Spanish (official).

Source: CIA World Factbook.


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