How many siblings do you have?
P- Four sisters and one brother and they are all older than me.
Oh so you’re the baby?
P- (Laughs) yeah
What was it like being the youngest?
P- I felt special man. I remember my mom used to play jokes on me. She wasn’t as serious with me. I would get home from school and she would pretend like she was asleep and then jump out at me.
When did you start going to school?
P- I started in kindergarten just like regular school but there was no bus because it was a very small town. Everyone just walks or if someone has a car. I had my first bike when I was fifteen years old. My mom gave it to me because I used to sell empanadas.
P- Two kinds, pumpkin and fig. I used to go all around town yelling hey does anyone want to buy empanadas. My mom baked them and I sold them. She bought me this bike because I was a good kid (laughs) and it helped me go around town. Before, when I was like ten years old my mom used to cook homemade bread. She used to wake me up very early. The bread had a little bit of sugar, and she would wake me up and tell me to get going. I would sell all of them, and my mom said don’t come back with any bread.
M- If I remember correctly, some people would buy on credit and pay the next day so he would have to remember.
How early did you have to wake up?
P- It was on weekdays before school.
M- It was also before work because people would eat it for breakfast.
P- A lot of day laborers, men, would buy it. My mom would wake me up with coffee and water and bread and tell me to eat it. And then hours later she would wake me up with the bread to sell.
Would you ever get tired of waking up so early?
P- No I would go to bed early so that was no problem. There was one thing that I used to do, I used to shoe shine in the town. In the plaza you know I would ask people hey you need a shoe shine and I would get two or three pesos like fifty cents.
When did you start playing sports?
P- We used to play in front of the house. We used to get together with all of my friends. We live in main street and it was very wide. My house was like home plate and we had bases on the streets. Sometimes we would clean up the river bed and play there. We used to have a lot of rubber balls and we would get boiling water and put the ball under so that it would shrink and fly longer. Back then it was so hard to get a hard baseball. People who had money had them.
M- Everyone would pitch in to buy a new ball.
Did you play with your older brother?
P- No, he was three, four years older than me. He would play with his friends. He would play ball there to but not with me and my friends.
Was baseball the only sports y’all played?
P- Yes, everybody almost because soccer then was not as popular.
M- Soccer is more popular in Southern Mexico. But baseball is more popular in the north.
P- In the north every state likes baseball. My first playing baseball was in fourth or fifth grade I think for the school. It was like a travel team.
Did y’all win?
P- Yeah, yeah we won. I used to have a cousin like your size. He pitched very fast. I was a pitcher too back then but not as fast as this guy. And because of him we won when the towns would get together.
Was there a baseball team that you were a fan of?
P- I used to watch the Dodgers when I was little because back then there was no Arizona Diamondbacks. After playing baseball in the river, you know we used to get together and hear the radio when the Dodgers were playing. It was very funny me and my friends would get together and hear the radio. One of my neighbors had a tv and not too many people had tv’s back then. They used to take the tv out to the backyard and a lot of people would get together. So they would put the volume down on the tv and turn up the radio haha. There were also teams in northern mexico that I liked.
Did you want to play baseball for one of those teams?
P- No I never had that dream when I was little. Actually my dream was to be a singer. Because when my father used to live here, my sister took an old record player 45 revolution.
Oh like the thing where you would have to put it down?
P- (Laughs) yeah so I used to start sing back then when I was like 10 years old and I used to memorize the songs. My favorite singers were Vicente Fernandez and Ramon Ayala.
(Laughs) oh really my mom likes all that music, so you wanted to be a singer? Did you sing in school?
P- No, no I used to sing by myself.
M- He used to go out with his friends to the pool or cement rectangles ( which they use for irrigation)
P- We would go after school and walk like five miles and it was hot but when we got there it was worth it. My friends would ask me to sing and imitate the famous singers. My friends in secondary school would say can you sing like Luis Miguel, Ramon Ayala, or Vicente Fernandez. (Laughs) it was very fun! When I came to the United States, I never followed up on singing. I just started working. I had an accident at work on my back and I said you know what if I can’t walk any more I should do something else. I should learn English or something. I got together with my friend who was a musician before and he taught me more about how to do to breathe and voice lessons and everything. So I started practicing at my house with the karaoke.
M- So he started going to a local Mexican restaurant where they had mariachi karaoke and anyone could go up.
P- Once I get good I start singing with this guy who was my singing coach. He said you know what let’s try you have a pretty good voice. So since they I have been singing. I used to sing for quinceneras, weddings, and horse racing. I would sing and announce and do impressions.
Did your parents sing?
P- My father asked me one day where did you learn to sing? I told him you should know because he had a beautiful voice. And he said you know what let me tell you something my mother used to sing and play guitar for the town here. My grandpa used to sing but not as beautiful as my mother. I was shocked because I was like why didn’t you tell me. My aunts had told me that when my dad was building the international highway, my dad used to work there. And when people take a break they get together with tequila and guitars and my dad used to sing to entertain them.
So it seems like it runs in the family, so can any of your kids sing?
P- In school yes. When they were little I used to sing in the house and they would hear. I told them that they needed to start practicing. My kids sing beautifully.
M- When we were in Arizona Pedro would sing at weddings and the kids would go up and sing a song. But when they moved here it was a total culture shock and they didn’t sing any more.
P- When Pedro Jr. was very young I used to take them to Mexico to my town. One day we went to the big city ten miles away and they said good ice creams and I used to go there when I was little. I used to really like horchata. I buy two for my kids and Pedro was five or six and I have pictures there because I always had my camera. There was a park across the street and we started eating our ice cream and Pedro was done before all of us. And he said, “Dad, Dad I want another ice cream.” What? Are you serious goes my other kids. Yes I want another one. No you need to wait. So the ice cream man was walking through there and he asked me to buy him one, and he still wanted one. He said dad I have an idea if I go talk him in exchange for singing a song is that ok. I said ok go for it. Valeria said dad I can be his secretary. So they went over there and come back running saying he said yes. The ice cream man comes over and says if he sings pretty good then I can give him the best ones with coco. But it has to be good. Pedro said what song should I sing, Volver, Volver? El Rey? So he started singing the song very good and I was impressed by my own son. When he finished the song there were a lot of people around. And they ice cream guy said ok he deserves it here’s your treat. My daughter said mister if I sing a song can I get one and he said no, no I am going to go broke.
What did your parents do when you were young?
P- My dad was a farmer/rancher like a cowboy then back then he came to the United States to work because life started getting hard. My mom told me that my dad talked to her and they decided it would be best for the family for him to work.
M- He didn’t really get to know his dad that much because he was over here. He worked the irrigation for a big farm.
P- Like a citrus farm, orchard. We used to come from Mexico on vacation but when you were little you were just looking forward to playing. We would play under the lemon trees making houses with my dad. My sister and me and my brother had fun. A lot of people when I was growing up the dam has a lot of water and it gives the water for all of the towns but you pay for that, but now it is dry. Now there is no more farming because there is no rain, back then it is hard because now I don’t know what we would be doing now. It was very hard work. My mother would bake and work the lands. You had to pay the tractors too much to do your land, and my uncle Pepe would help us and give us a hand. It was hard there was no future. At least for us because there were some kids who their parents had money to pay for university. If you had to go to the big city for high school you had to have money to pay a taxi and books. In order to go to high school you needed money because it was ten miles away.
What kind of jobs could you get if you had gone to high school or college?
P- A lot of people that I know were engineers for those who level the land and agricultural engineers. Like I said before those people had money they can make it.
They don’t have financial aid in Mexico?
P- No, no in Mexico if you have money you can make it but not us.
M- In fact we know some families that have kids that are really bright but they don’t have the means to go to high school. So we’re going to see if we can help fund their education.
P- I feel very sad for a lot of people who live in Mexico and I feel very proud of my kids right now. They are farther than I was before. It is a shame that a lot of people here have everything…scholarships and they can’t do nothing compared to people who don’t have anything.
So you are very proud of your kids?
P- Yes, my daughter was the first in the family to have a master’s and they are the first ones to go to school and get bachelor’s degrees. My cousins went to community college but not to a big university.
What led to your kids achieving so high in education?
P- When we married before I always thought you know I always want to push my kids and pay attention to them.
M- When you live in a big city there are a lot of drugs and gangs. You have to be very protective so when I got the job here I said we have to bring the kids here. The school system is so much better. I think it was just between both of us that they need it. Kids that are my kids’ ages already have kids which is very sad. It is pretty sad to see.
P- We never let my kids go to sleep overs because I thought that is the worst thing you can do.
So I guess my other question was, what was your first impression of the United States?
P- When we came with the coyote I was very sore under the seat and he said don’t peek so that they don’t see your head. When we got to Phoenix I saw the lights, and I thought oh yes we made it and I was so happy and stuff! I could not see that in my little town because most of the lights don’t work.
Did that initial impression hold true?
P- I like it here a lot because I started working. In Mexico I would make 10 dollars a week. But here the minimum wage was 3.75 an hour and I said you know what this is a lot! You can make it and still send money back to Mexico. You can go out to restaurants and eat chicken and hamburgers. I never bought food in Mexico maybe tacos every now and then. My brother used to tell me stories before I can to the United States, but I think he exaggerated sometimes.
Did you miss your family a lot?
P- My brother was a lot stronger.
M- (Laughs) he was a momma’s boy because he was the baby.
P- After one year, I was working hard and I missed my family you know a lot. My cousins and I were visiting one night and he said let’s go now! So we took off for the weekend, and my dad was so mad. My brother called my town and he said your dad is mad. He is very mad and is going to beat you. My mom said don’t worry let him touch you. I was like oh nice!
What would your life be like if you didn’t come to the United States?
P- I have no clue, because the business over there now is all around immigration.
M- It is the hub so the residents open up their homes and host them to make money.
P- I can’t imagine having a business over there because there are people for the cartels that take money in exchange for protection. I can’t even.. it is very sad thinking about it. My family has a restaurant pharmacy place by the bus stop. There is even a hotel, motel in the back but the whole town does that. I don’t know if I would still be alive or not but when you bring people to the border you get good money there. But the cartel members charge you a tax for taking people through. They only take dollars and not pesos. My town has changed, because then you could breathe fresh air but now you breathe marijuana. All of the police and government officials are paid off. They are corrupt. They kill and hurt innocent people.
M- You can google Altar, Sonora and you will get a lot of stuff.
P- You know I don’t want to say that I am from there because it has changed so much.