Thursday, February 15, 2024

From the Magazine: From Disability to Strength

By any measure, Cayetana Uranga embodies an exceptional immigrant story.

She was born in Lima, Peru, in 1985, and was raised on her father’s dairy and cotton farm. Following her father’s passing, Uranga moved to South Florida with her family when she was 10. She learned English, adapted to American life, and was voted homecoming queen at her high school. She attended college at Lynn University, graduating with a degree in business administration with a specialization in fashion management. Today, she lives in Palm Beach and is a social media manager for a major Washington, D.C., real estate development firm.

And she’s accomplished all of it despite the diagnosis of cerebral palsy (CP) she acquired at birth, when her mother’s umbilical cord wrapped around her neck and she lost oxygen to her brain.

“I began physical therapy at 3 months, and it was three times daily, so my first years were all therapy-filled,” she recalls. “But I did interact with my sisters [she grew up with Alejandra, the elder, and Aránzazu, the youngest—Ed.] on the weekends, and at the end of the day when we all gathered in the family room and watched TV. I began noticing that I was different when I started kindergarten, and other kids would ask me why I walked and talked the way I did.”

At home, she says, her parents never treated Cayetana differently than their other children, which she believes is vital to the self-sufficiency she would exhibit as an adult. “It kept me normal,” she says. “[There was] no distinction, and that helped me face my difficulties without the distraction of overprotection.”

But it took years for Uranga to fully “come out,” as it were, as a disabled person. She grew up hiding pictures or videos that revealed her condition. This all changed in March 2022 when she launched “JustCpNotSpecial” on her social pages. On the account, which has nearly 63,000 followers on TikTok and more than 77,000 on Instagram, Uranga addresses life as a person with CP with insight and humor, revealing so much of what able-bodied people take for granted—carrying a glass of water across the room, walking on certain uneven surfaces, learning how to parallel-park a car (earning a driver’s license would prove to be a two-year ordeal). Her followers witness her horseback riding, exiting a pool, working out in the gym, vacationing in Italy, attending SunFest—things we all do, which is exactly the point. The support she has received from commenters has been overwhelming in its positivity.

“I started JustCpNotSpecial in part to help others while also helping myself,” she says. “Because CP is not that common, I feel it is especially important to create a space where we can come together as a community that understands our trials.”

While Uranga may not view herself as “special,” others are proud to herald her unique contributions as a communicator and advocate. In 2022, Discover The Palm Beaches, the destination marketing agency for the county, named her one of its Brand Ambassadors.

“Cayetana is passionate about sharing why she loves her home in The Palm Beaches and proudly posts about the most accessible spots throughout the county, helping other locals and visitors find the best attractions, restaurants and events to suit their needs,” says Erika Constantine, VP of marketing at Discover The Palm Beaches. “Her dedication to sharing her story and educating others makes her a great addition to our new social media Brand Ambassador Program.”

Dr. Lisa Benedict, who taught Uranga in five courses in Lynn’s Fashion and Retail Program, adds, “I would say she belonged in a Nike ad. She had that attitude of, ‘just do it, never give up, and nothing’s standing in my way.’ ‘No’ was never in her vocabulary.”

Uranga is currently putting her fashion management degree to use with her startup business the Green Bracelet Shop, where she designs and sells beaded jewelry in various shades of green, which is the color of cerebral palsy. It’s all of a piece with her broader efforts to raise awareness of, and normalize, CP.

“Sharing my experience in life with CP has helped others like me in comparing notes, in dealing with situations which may be sensitive, in showing how to achieve goals and keep on trying new things and experiences which they may otherwise have not tried or even imagined,” she says.

This article is from the January 2024 issue of Boca magazine. For more like this, click here to subscribe to the magazine.

John Thomason
John Thomason
As the A&E editor of bocamag.com, I offer reviews, previews, interviews, news reports and musings on all things arty and entertainment-y in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.

Related Articles

Latest Articles