From Alicante to America: the Spanish roots of Victor Vela

Sophia Ibrahim and Selam Weimer

You might spot him running around the fourth floor with his bike in tow before class starts, or hanging out in the staff break room during his planning periods through a crack in the door. With his impeccable fashion sense and seemingly always perfect hair, Spanish teacher Victor Vela Martinez is hard to miss. Vela arrived at Wilson in 2016, but unlike many other Wilson staff members, he did not grow up in the U.S. Instead, he spent his early life in the southeastern Mediterranean town of Alicante, Spain. 

Vela appreciates his lively childhood in Spain, a country with immense diversity. “There are four official languages. Culture, traditions, and cuisine change a lot from region to region,” explained Vela. This varied environment made for an enjoyable adolescence. Vela enjoyed spending summers getting together with friends in his grandmother’s small village of Tordesillas, even as his classmates went on vacation elsewhere. He remembers the summers of tree-lined streets, evenings filled with games, and late dinners with delight. 

Growing up, Vela, a chatty student, enjoyed succeeding in school, but ultimately saw it as a means for socialization. Even as someone who made it far in academics, his favorite subject was physical education. Vela went on to attend the University of Alicante and the University of Valladolid, where he earned two bachelor’s degrees in teaching and translation interpretation. Outside of Spain, Vela studied abroad in Germany and interned in Rome. These experiences nurtured his love of travel, and Vela continues to explore the world at every chance he gets. Among his recent trips was last year’s excursion to the Philippines, which he described as “exotic and beautiful.” 

After college, Vela made the decision to come to America in 2012, leaving behind his friends and family in Spain, including his older brother Jorge. Vela’s first stop in the US was Auburn University, which he attended for graduate school. After graduating from Auburn, he spent time in Seattle before eventually coming to DC in 2015. 

Vela never saw himself as a teacher growing up even though he has been working with kids since before moving to the US. Vela considers his first teaching experience to be his counselor work at a summer camp in Alicante and the Pyrenees, where he enjoyed connecting with the campers. 

Vela’s love for working with young people has translated to Wilson, where his favorite aspect of teaching is the interactions he has with his pupils. This devotion to the students of Wilson is evident as Vela has become a prevalent figure in the community over the past three years. Vela is known for greeting all with a friendly, “Buenos días” in between every class and at STEP his room is often used as a gathering space for former students with whom he continues to maintain strong relationships. 

Outside of Wilson’s campus, Vela can be spotted exercising and hanging out around the city. He plays futból with his friends every Sunday, along with coaching Wilson’s girls JV soccer team. His favorite place in DC is Rock Creek Park, where “you’re in the center of the city but it seems like you’re in the middle of a forest far away.” Vela also likes walkable streets such as 14th and 18th, which have “a city vibe, a community feeling.” 

Although he cooks mostly at home, Vela enjoys the many restaurants and cuisines DC has to offer. He especially enjoys frequenting Spanish restaurants that remind him of home. However, if he needs to grab something quick in Tenleytown, his first choice is Crisp and Juicy. 

An artist you would find frequently on Vela’s playlist is Leiva, a Spanish singer native to Madrid. Vela is the type of person who aims to dance to the beat of his own drum. When asked about his future, Vela expressed his desire to shake things up; “I would like to try something different for a challenge, but I don’t know what specifically. Not anything soon, but in the near future to test myself.”