What part of Mexico are you from?
P- Sonora, in the north of Mexico in the city of Altar. It’s the border with Arizona.
M- He would have been very proud if you asked him maybe 15- 20 years ago but the reason that he hesitates now is that Altar is a hub for a lot of Central American immigrants. That is their hub stop before they cross into the US. And so now where before it was just a small farm ranch town, very peaceful where he grew up. Now it is just bombarded.
What led to that?
M- It’s very convenient. It is close to the border and it’s just a good stopping ground before they met up with whoever is crossing. So that’s why he kind of hesitates because if you Google Altar Sonora you will see the issues with it.
P- This is very sad you know.
What was your life like in Mexico?
P- When you’re little you don’t worry about it. You’re very free-spirited.
M- He’s from a farm town; he had to work hard on the farm with his brothers and sisters. His family had a bunch of farmland.
Did you have a lot of brothers and sisters that also had to work?
P- I had four sisters and one brother. I used to work you know at the age of thirteen. I had to start working after school. During summer vacation, we would have to go to pick cucumbers. After that you have to go pick cotton in the sacks the old fashion way.
That sounds like hard work?
P- Yeah, when I grew up when I was thirteen or fourteen we started growing in our own land. We used to have around 30 acres. We used to grow watermelons, cotton and wheat.
How would you sell them?
P- We would have to sell them to trucks from big cities they would come from two, three hours away. So when I turned eighteen I decided to go to the United States. I turned nineteen here when I came from Mexico. I was eighteen and October 5th was when I crossed the border and I turned nineteen here.
Did anyone from your family come with you?
P- Yeah my cousin he invited me. He surprised me you know. He said, “Hey let’s go to Phoenix now!” I said “What”. He said “Yeah just grab something you know your shoes or whatever let’s go right now.” He surprised me. Yeah there’s this guy that he needs money too. He was from the border; he was from the reservation, the Indian reservation.
The reservation in Mexico?
P- No in Arizona, it’s San Miguel because it is the border with this side. So I said let me think about it you know. I used to have another cousin that he said this lady is coming with us and the other lady too you know two girls coming with us. But one of them was our real cousin but the other lady he said I am going to take her I am going to marry her. (Laughs) So I had to ask my mom to see if it was fine. She said are you serious he wants to go over there… ok …God bless you! So my mom said ok if you’re going right now you need to wait I have to make you some burritos. My cousin goes no it’s going to be late, it’s going to be late. Don’t do that; let me quick make you some food. So she made me like almost twenty burritos, a big bag, and my cousin goes I just told you we don’t need we’re ok we need to go. The guy was waiting for us in front of the house, the coyote. And then we just came to the border, in this car… we would take turns under the seat, hiding under the seat.
P- No just under the seat. No, mientras I’m sorry his brother take us to the border. It was him and me and the two ladies. We crossed behind the guardita station. We went behind you know.
Y’all were driving?
P- No we were walking behind the immigration office or the patrol office. By the time we came from my town, it was like two hours to the border. It was like it gets late like five or six o clock. It got late so he said we have to sleep here. When we crossed there were houses…like
Like older abandoned houses
P- Yeah he said let’s go sleep in there and in the morning we can keep going. We were tired and everything so we all had to sleep on those pieces of cardboard in one of the houses. It was cold… It was really cold. So in the morning he said, ok let’s get the burritos. I said no I’m sorry you said you didn’t want any we don’t give you any. What are you talking about me and the girls are going to eat them. Hey c’mon, c’mon man I’ll make us a little fire here. Ok, Ok let’s make a fire…so we ate the burritos, and uh they were good man… they were super good!
What did you bring with you? Did you have a backpack or anything?
P- Just my burritos because we were trying to get a ride as soon as we crossed. So in the morning we took off and one of the girls my cousin was good for walking. My cousin said ok we have to go now and I said but you know what the other girl is not going to make it. The other girl was from a big city. Because you know in the big city they don’t walk as much. In my town it’s all desert so you have to walk everywhere. I talked to my cousin and said she wants to go but she’s not going to make it. We were carrying two gallons of water…and not even a half hour in she was drinking all of the water. She had thorns from the ground and everything you know. She was struggling very much so me and her cousin walked like hundred yards behind. My other cousin was walking fast because he was desperate to get here. I said you see I told my cousin she is not going to make it. So we get back like after eight hours of walking and she starts feeling bad. And you know what I told my cousin hey come over here we need to go to the street. To see if we could find a ride or something. I knew that something could happen to her and I told my cousin, we need to get close to the road because if something happened to her and we were walking in the desert, it would be hard to carry her to go get help. So we did that but there was no more water because she finished everything by herself.
All two gallons?
P- Yeah! She was not used to walking in the desert. So when we got to the road she was with fever and I told my cousin, “You see!” Because He wanted to keep going through the mountains. So uhh we went to this ranch. There were abandoned houses there and we went to knock on the door to ask for water because we don’t have any more. We went to get water in the sinks of abandoned houses but there was nothing. SO we saw this cow’s corral and there was like a little tube like a one feet tube… like a faucet like a pipe out of the ground with a hole on the top and the side. I said ok there maybe has to be water for someone here. We need water because she’s sick. I told my cousin let me do something here. I pushed the holes from the side I blocked them and I blew air in the top very hard. And I waited and then water came up.
How’d that happen??
P- I think it was a well there but they removed the things the faucet things to turn. I don’t know how maybe God, you know use your imagination. I blew very hard and the water came up and came through the hole from the side. When the water came up, my cousin was holding the empty gallon on the side and we filled them up. And it was clean water; it was clean water you know. So we moved to the road again because she was in fever she was shaking herself.
Was it cold?
P- Yeah it was cold! During the day it’s hot but at night especially here its more elevation so it gets very cold at night. We were close to the border because we had been walking for eight hours. So after twelve hours she started shaking again and there were no cars around because they close the border at night. We hear like a car coming like you know with the big sound and the tires and I told my cousin you know what there’s a car coming. Outside in the mountains you hear no noise except for the cars. So we talk about it because they got close. I said this must be an immigration truck or sheriff like the border patrol. So we need to take her, we need to give up.
To get medical attention?
P- Yeah to get medical attention and for us detention. once the guy got here he was a sheriff I was right. We tried to stop him but he kept going. He didn’t care about us. What happened this is terrible, but he came back in ten minutes. He said ok guys where are y’all going, uhh we’re going to phoenix can you take us please. Oh sure I can give you a ride to Tucson, get up in the truck and he put the handcuffs on.
Back to the border?
P- No he took us to the main detention center office in Tucson.
Were you scared?
P- No, no, no because the girl was sick so he took us to the detention center. When I was in the big room, they put the women in another room but in my area there were like three persons sleeping there. They have like little cement benches and people were sleeping on there. Some of them had the luxury of cushions on their first come first serve. My cousin and I were very tired so we get to sleep right away. When I wake up in the morning my cousin says, “Hey Pedro, Pedro look at this,” and I saw two hundred people. I was like wow what is this! Some of them were standing and sitting because there was no room. So the next day in the morning around ten o’clock I think they gave us like a hamburger, you know like McDonald’s. But back then that was like a good restaurant for us. So they get our names and give us back our wallets and they put us on the bus to take us back to Mexico. So there in Nogales Mexico, Nogales is a very dangerous city to sleep on the streets. So my cousin had money with him. And he said don’t worry we are going to sleep in the hotel. Ok so we sleep there and once we got up from the hotel there was another guy, coyote waiting for us. If you are any immigrant coming from another state in Mexico they can tell. They have backpacks and they look like you know.
Oh so they could tell and they wanted to make business off of y’all?
P- Yeah, they said hey guys you want to go back I can take you easy like that. You don’t have to pay me now you can pay me over there.
How much did they charge?
P- Well they charged $350 back then and now it’s like $3000, $5000 for one person. But this guy we said ok let’s go and we jumped the fence. The fence used to be like chain linked and he said ok let’s go through here but you have to be quick. So he goes first and I follow him and then my cousin and then the girls too. And then we turned into a K-Mart and he said there is a car waiting for us behind the store. So we turned and we were running very fast and we turned behind the store and the border patrol was waiting for us with the trunk open.
M- So they just jumped straight into the trunk they didn’t even bother.
So did he set you up?
P- No, no he didn’t know either but they have camera and they can tell when someone is trying to do that. So they can call each other in the main office. We tried to cross from there seven times in one week.
P- Another guy cheated us; he said ok guys I know it’s very easy I will charge you on the other side not right now ok follow me. SO he took us in a car and his friend dropped us at the fence. He said ok there is an opening where the fence was broken and behind a little mountain there was an abandoned house. So we were waiting with him in a ditch by there. So he said you know what let me see what is going on over there. He went and in five minutes he came back and said you know what the driver said he needs $20 for gas and everything. My cousin said I don’t have no money man so I gave him $20. And He came back and said this is not enough. SO I gave him $50 and he said ok,ok wait here now. When you hear this sound (whistle), then quick run. I am going to whistle not too hard but you have to listen. It was past three hours and I told my cousin you know what I don’t think he is coming back. He was lying so we just kept going but we didn’t rent a hotel so we slept in the immigration station.
So y’all kept trying and trying but when did you succeed?
P- So we went to the bus station to go back to our town and we were very sad. When we were there, there was this other guy who said are you guys going to the other side? You know what you can do it, you can do it! But we give up because a lot of coyotes cheat us already. You don’t believe me I buy you food right now. He goes I buy you the food right now and you don’t have to pay me anything. I looked at my cousin and she said I think he’s serious if he buys us food that means he knows something. So he take us in a van to this house near the border. We go into the house and there were another ten people there waiting to get a big group together. After a while they bring us in the van with like 25 people.
In one van?
P- Yeah 25 people in one van but there were no seats. They cut them out. They bring us to the border and at the border we start walking. He told us you know we are going to have a hard walk it’s going to be like four hours but if we hustle we won’t have no problem. So you guys ready; yeah we’re ready. 25 people and the coyotes one in the front and one in the back on the trail. It was very hard very,very tiring. It was like six hours going up mountains and up and down. SO finally we get to this town across the border from Nogales. And someone was waiting for us behind a restaurant in two trucks because people go different ways. When I crossed the road, we had to go over the bridge and everyone started jumping into the ditch. So when I jumped I hurt my ankle and I told them man I can’t walk, but my cousin grabbed me and we walked through the path. When we got there, there were like 35 people but my cousins and I have to stick together. And they drove us three hours on the highway past the checkpoints and stuff. My cousin was next to the driver so that if the police saw these guys they would think it was a couple driving. But we were under one little space. So after a while we made it. We drove all the way to Phoenix.
How long did it take?
P- I would say like 3-4 hours through the mountains and stuff. I came to my brother’s house.
Oh your brother lived here already?
P- He was here already like 3 years before me.
Do you think that helped you to know someone already?
P- My father was here before; I didn’t even know my father when I was little because he was over here working. So we came when I was little during school vacation to come here with my mother’s passport.
M- He was familiar because he had come vacationing with his mom.
Where’d you dad live?
P- Before a long time ago, he was working in Surprise, AZ in a farm and everything.
M- It’s the name of the town.
(Laughs) yeah I know it
P- To stay here and start working and everything I was eighteen. When you were little you can cross the border with your parent’s passport because you’re not an adult.
Where’d you start working?
P- The first time when I was working here I was working in a nursery. My brother and I would ride together.
Would you write your family back home?
P- Yeah, I used to write letters back home. A long time ago there were no telephone lines. I mean if you could afford it but we couldn’t afford it. I used to write letters and send money by money order. I would send it to my mom in Mexico. I would keep enough to pay utilities and buy food and then send the rest.
How did you get the job at the nursery?
P- My brother, he got the job for us.
What was the biggest difference going from Mexico to the US?
P- In Mexico you can sleep late, here…oh man you don’t sleep nothing. There is a big difference. You know if you have your own land too. Like I mentioned before we used to grow watermelons. We don’t have to be there every day early morning we can go whenever you want. But here you have to be there early every day.
Yeah you have to pay the bills
P- You have to pay the guy that gives us a ride. Now my brother has married this guy…(laughs) sorry the guy who used to give us a ride my brother married his daughter.
What was it like not knowing English?
P- Well I don’t know, in Mexico I finished middle school and they taught English over there. I have a little bit you know I pick up things.
No you’re English is really good!
P- It was better, it could be better but you know what happened… I started speaking Spanish to my kids because when I was dating my wife. My mother in law, her granddaughters
M- My nieces and nephews
P- They don’t speak a word of Spanish and my mother in law didn’t she speak nothing English. When I was there dating her
You didn’t want that to happen
P- When I was at the house her sister would bring the kids over for my mother in law to take care of. And they would start asking questions to grandma and she didn’t understand and she said oh man. And she would start saying bad words I remember this.
M- She would get so frustrated because they couldn’t understand each other.
P- And I thought you know what when I have my own kids I am going to make sure. Because it is very sad I knew a lot of people here and the parents don’t speak English and the kids don’t want to speak Spanish anymore. Once they go to school and everything…it’s sad it is very sad at least for me.
No I wish my parents would have done what y’all did.
P- So when I was here when I got from Mexico to here. I think it was the first week my brother said you need to go to this school to learn English.
Oh did your brother know English?
P- Yeah he did, a lot more because he was two years before me here. And he took me, he used to say get ready take a shower after work.
Where would they have the classes?
P- They would open up a couple classrooms at the local school. There were these nice ladies, nice old ladies that would teach us immigrants. I had an aunt that lived close to there. My brother would say after this is over go to your aunt’s house and I will pick you up from there. My brother was worried about me to keep going forward and never stay in the same place. I liked it but one night it was like nine o clock it was dark. Two guys followed me and it was dark you know a light here a light there. And they said hey man come here..hey man come here.
Were they big guys?
P- Yeah like gang members…They kept calling and I started walking faster. I don’t know what they want but nothing.
M: They wanted to jump him.
P- I start running and running very hard to my aunt’s house. And they never catch me and I thought my aunt I’m done with school. Why? Because two guys followed me. It was in the barrio in a bad neighborhood. So I stopped going. I kept working for the nursery.
How long did you work at the nursery for?
P- For like three months because they closed the nursery. But they gave us a referral to this big, big nursery in Buckeye, Arizona. We worked there for another three months.
What kind of work did you do each day?
P- Just moving plants around you know driving tractors. There was more to do like watering plants, I learned how to drive the big tractors with the thing that picks up dirt. And sometimes they would take us out to a ranch by the air force place and we would have to dig around the orange trees. It was fun!
How long did you stay in Arizona?
P- I worked there for sixteen years before we came here.
Oh so y’all met in Arizona?
P- She was living next to my brother’s girlfriend.
Oh and she caught your eye?
P- No I never saw her before, my mom told me.
M- His family came over later on; his whole family came later on.
P- My sister went with four kids. My mom, my cousin, my sister, the kids, it was a lot of people.
M- We would joke about the fact that you could tell that there were ten people that lived in there. (Laughs)
P- I had to change jobs all the times because they were temporary jobs. When I was dating her I was working as a busboy for this restaurant.
What kind of restaurant was it?
P- It was like uhh…like a Denny’s…kind of like a chili’s but it was a local place. I really liked to work as a busboy because you don’t do nothing. I mean I’m talking compared to hard work. You’re inside and it was easy it was an easy job. It’s nothing hard. And you made the same money or more because of tips. If you clean up the table and serve water and coffee all the time when people finish you get good tips.
M- So back to his question?
P- Oh oh
(Laughs) I want to put this in the interview
P- My mother and sister came with passport.
M- I used to walk to school every day in front of their apartment.
P- My mom told me about my wife now. She said Pedro look at .. she was watching through the window..(laughs)..come here come here what is it an animal outside? She said look at that girl. You like her? She looks pretty serious and she was walking with the books and everything. Go outside and ask for a ride see if she wants a ride and it was embarrassing.. I was like oh no what am I doing? Hey excuse me ay what’s your name blah blah blah. She said “Olga.” I’m Pedro, where are you going? To school. You want a ride? You need a ride? Oh no thank you. You sure? This is my car here. Ok and so she went and that’s how I met her.
M- We got married right out of high school. We started having kids while I was in college. He was working, and it was not easy.
What was your favorite job besides bus boy?
P- We used to work in another factory at Sunkist. We would pack drinks, and it was hard because we would work a lot of hours. 12 or 14 hours for five days a week sometimes, that job was hard.
P- I used to work with this other guy doing swimming pools. It was hot out there! We would mainly would on the nice new houses. We would be working in the mountains and it was very hard to dig into the ground. We had to do this work with a pick. It hurt my shoulders and back, but I could not stop because I had a family and everything. I had to put food on the table. Besides that I had a lot of jobs. I was a meat cutter too!
How long did you work as a meat cutter?
P- I worked there for three years.
What kind of meat was it?
P- Beef, I used to work for this factory as a butcher. I used to work on my own as a landscaper.
Oh you were an entrepreneur?
P- (Laughs) yeah, you know you have to do something by own self sometimes to get more money and everything. I had like three or four workers with me. I had a truck with equipment. I worked for this company that bought houses and I would design and do the landscaping. It was good pay. I like that one more than the bus boy, but the bus boy was easier. You didn’t have to work outside. The last job that I worked there was as a custodian. I think I worked there for a year and a half, and in two months I became the night shift manager. The lady there asked me before I was the manager why should I make you the managers because there were a lot of gays that wanted that job.
(Laughs)… you mean guys?
P- Oh I’m sorry (laughs) I mean guys. Make sure to don’t put that in the application. The principal knew my child and said ok I need to talk to you. She pulled me into her office and she said ok you applied for this job here but you speak very little English. How are you going to talk to people, I really like you but how are you going to communicate. I told the principal to teach people how to clean up the toilets you don’t have to speak much English. She said you got the job man!
M- So how we ended up here, I got a job here at the medical school. So all my family and his family are still there.
P- She was working for the health department in Arizona.
M- I got a job here and then I got my master’s here. We had a young family at the time I thing the oldest one was 12. Moises was just a baby.
So what is your official position at the hospital?
M- My official position is research associate I work with the state. I help run the place. We moved here because of me and we thought this is a good community for the kids. The biggest difference is over in Arizona they were A students. When we came here, they told us that they were two grades behind. Maybe it’s just the two different school systems.
P- The school system over there is just horrible.
So how long have y’all been in New Hampshire?
P- Thirteen years, thirteen and a half. The first year was too hard for us because it was too cold. The first year in the summer it was very nice, beautiful. Compared to 100 degrees in Arizona in the summer it was very nice. We used to play baseball at like noon and it was perfect baseball weather.
M- It was not only the weather but also the culture. Now Dartmouth has done a great job but back then I didn’t find that it was. It was very difficult to adjust. Even at the stores you just thought everyone was staring at you. And we didn’t know any one so it was very hard.
P- When the snow came, my kids were happy and ran outside. But they took their jackets off and they were like oh my gosh dad let’s go back to Arizona.