New man at the town, by way of Argentina

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

Juan Mauricio ‘Mo’ Pugliese is the Town of Slave Lake’s health and safety coordinator. He’s been in that position since September of last year, making things healthier and safer at town workplaces.

“A lot has been done,” says Pugliese. “But there’s still a lot of work to do.”

Pugliese, with his wife Claudia and their daughter Soleil, has been in Slave Lake full-time since 2013. That’s when he landed a position in health and safety with a road construction company. And that came after a couple of seasonal stints with the same outfit on paving crews, heading back home to Argentina when construction season was over. Two years of doing that was enough.

“I had to leave my wife and daughter in Argentina,” he says. “It was very difficult. So in 2013 I said, “We’re all going.”

‘All’ included the family dog, which he says his wife laid down as condition to agreeing to the big move.

It wasn’t a case of immigration for Pugliese. He’d already done that, as an eight-year-old, in 1978. That was when the family pulled up stakes in Cordoba – Argentina’s second-largest city – and moved to Winnipeg. His dad was an electrical engineer who wanted a safer place for his family.

“Those were not good times,” Pugliese says, of the late 1970s in his home country. “Military rule, people disappearing, bombs going off.”

The family lived in Winnipeg for a couple of years, five years in Saskatoon and then in the Toronto area. When his parents moved to South Carolina, Mo decided to stay in Canada.

Next came something unexpected: his dad bought a vineyard in Mendoza province – the biggest wine-producing area of Argentina.

“He needed someone to look after it.”

So that’s what Mo did, learning a lot in the process. It was tough, he says, but you could make a living. Along the way he went to school and got a degree for teaching English as a second language, which he did in a local institute. He also met Claudia there, and started a family.

It was “difficult to make ends meet,” though. So when a friend offered him the summer construction job back in Canada, he went for it. In the spring of 2011 he was helping to pave Southshore Drive in Widewater and living in the campground at Canyon Creek.

“I had never been to this part of the country,” he says. Seeing Slave Lake in the condition it was in was “pretty shocking to me.” It didn’t stop him from moving here two years later, though. When things slowed down in construction he lost that job, but has moved on successfully. His wife has a cleaning business and their daughter is a star swimmer with the Slave Lake Sharks.

“She has a good chance at making provincials,” says Pugliese. “We’re very proud of her.”

Juan Mauricio, ‘Mo’, Pugliese

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