Finding Success in America
By: Melissa Binkerd
Jonathan’s passion for life shines brightly through his deep-brown eyes.
“I came to this country with nothing after fleeing Venezuela. It wasn’t safe anymore,” he says after pausing for a moment to reflect.
He left a country he loved.
“It’s beautiful there. It has everything: deserts, snow-covered mountains, the world’s highest waterfall. I grew up on the beach, was schooled at a military academy, and worked at restaurants, for my dad. We had a good life until the country changed.”
When Jonathan left his country of birth he took with him a very strong work ethic he learned from his father while growing up in Caracas. He explains, “My father put many hours and much energy into his businesses, never giving up. He taught me and my brothers those lessons. He’s an entrepreneur, and I’m like him. I didn’t go to college;, I’ve always been interested in having my own business.”
Civil unrest ultimately caused Jonathan to leave Venezuela. He chose the United States as his new home despite not speaking English. Putting his childhood lessons of seizing opportunities and dedication into practice, he taught himself the language. After wandering around Georgia and Florida, he landed in Wilmington with his first wife.
“I like it here. It’s not too big and crazy. The people are nice, it’s a great place to create a business.”
While a youngster in Venezuela, Johnathan studied Judo and developed a passion for martial arts. In Wilmington, he began taking Brazilian Jiu Jitsu classes. This is where his father’s teachings for hard work and a love of the sport would coalesce. He trained many hours a day, seven days a week to learn the craft of Jiu Jitsu. He competed, successfully, while travelling, learning, absorbing.
He met his second wife, Hope, who was also a student. “She’s my best friend, more than a wife,” he explains, his face engulfed with a smile.
Jonathan seized the gifts life had given him and opened his own Brazilian Jiu Jitsu training center seven years ago.
“This nation is great. You can do anything if you’re willing to work, to put in the long hours. My father is my guide. I learned from him.” The pride and love Jonathan has for his father is evident as he speaks of him.
Students begin to file in for the 6 P.M. class. “We’re recovering from the shutdown. My goal is still the same:, build the studio, share the knowledge of self-defense.”
Jonathan’s sons are in the background cleaning the gym in preparation for the upcoming class. “I’m teaching them the lessons my father taught me: we are not oppressed.There are many opportunities out there, put forth the effort.”
Before he ends our conversation to instruct his waiting students, Jonathan emphasizes one thing. “I am the American Dream.”
To find more information about Jonathan, visit
Uzcategui Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
5424 Oleander Dr. STE 6, Wilmington, NC