Angelo

Interviewee

Isabel Canning

Interviewer

June 2, 2019

Mexico City, Mexico

Trying hard and giving up

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*To hear more about Angelo listen to the playlist above

Isabel: So, just to start, a couple questions, for the reasons for migration. I know we covered in the survey, but just like reiterating what motivated your family to migrate from Mexico to the US.

Angelo: Well, it was really to the point that my dad wasn't doing anything productive here in Mexico. We were staying in a one-bedroom house with my grandpa, it was all of us, it was a really small room. My mom spent a lot of time being depressed, my dad was an alcoholic, and my mom literally told him, "I'm leaving. And you can come or not." So yeah, it was basically for a better life for me and my mom, my siblings, and that's the reason that we went to Mexico.

Isabel: And you mentioned you were young, four years old, and you were given something to go to sleep throughout the car ride, could you then maybe trace back to your earliest memories in the US, like what you do remember?

Angelo: My earliest memories in the US would be probably me seeing sunlight, because I remember we were in a trunk at one point. And my family tells the story as a joke, I guess it. But it seems that they forgot us in the trunk for a little while. So yeah, that would be my earliest memories of you know, me being in the United States, getting out of the trunk and going to Walmart, trying to buy clothes, and just seeing everything brand new, everything was completely different. Honestly, that's the only thing that I can remember because I really don't have much memories of me being young not even here in Mexico. I can't remember.

Isabel: Yeah. I mean, it's really hard to pull back on those memories. From the ones that you're more sure of like going into school, any friends or teachers that stood out?

Angelo: I remember going to school, it was very scary for me because I didn't know the language. There were many times where I would just cry. The teachers would try to comfort me, but I would just scream—I didn't know what was going on. Even times when I was in pain, I couldn't tell anybody what was going on. So it was very difficult. I did have one friend, and that was my closest friend. I was very young, so it was like I needed that, to have somebody support me. You know, obviously my parents were there, but maybe they spent more time trying to get them situated, and not really introducing us to the American life. So it was, basically go to school, you're on your own and then come back in your home. So it was basically like I had to learn everything by myself.

Isabel: What did you have to learn? What was picking up the different cultural experiences like?

Angelo: The main thing was learning how to interact with others, because it was very hard. I feel like an outsider so I wouldn't really go up to people, I wouldn't go up to any other races. So it was very hard, I would really stay to myself and to that just one friend. Even sports, I couldn't do sports because I didn't feel like I fit in. I never felt like I fitted it in. And throughout all my school experiences, I never felt like that belong to me because there was many times where I had opportunities for my academics to get awards or be presented with some stuff, but I was always told "No, you're not American so you can’t do that. And there's no way that you're going to go to another state they're going deport you on the way there, we're going to get pulled over.” And so, I really didn't see a future there for me.

Isabel: Where was that message coming from? Is it just your day to day interaction with people—like the way you felt othered—or did people explicitly say, “You have no opportunity here?”

Angelo: Mainly it was my parents. My parents wanted us to keep to ourselves. My parents just raised us with that mentality that we're here, we're your family, there's nobody else. So you go to school you come home and that's it. So, any other projects, and the after-school activities, didn't even come to mind because I didn't see it for myself. I couldn't seem to picture myself having fun in after-school activities. It was just that mindset that, "Okay, I got to go home because we're not from here and something bad might happen."

Isabel: So definitely…When I asked you the question, Do you fear the US authorities, that was a dominant part of your childhood?

Angelo: Most definitely. Going to the United States from Mexico my dad still had a drinking problem so there was a few times where authorities had to be called. And many of those times, it was basically the road was ending because my dad was going to get deported and we were going to be left alone. It was basically family running around crying. I saw that many times. So, whenever I started getting to the age of into peer pressuring or I would have a friend that said, "Let's go do this," I'll be, "No, I'm going to get in trouble." Or, "No, I'm going to get deported, I'm not from here." And even in school, that was a major discrimination because we had Chicanos—which would be Hispanics that grew up in the United States, that were born there—and then we had the Wetbacks. And so that's what I was always considered. And even with Latinos, I was always discriminated, "Oh I have papers, you don't have papers, you're a Wetback." And so that was very, very, very difficult for me.

Isabel: Did you have anyone to talk to about this or is this really something that you just had to go through individually?

Angelo: My sister, me and my sister—my sister's one year older than me—it was basically me and her. If it was her being offered something, we would just console each other. We would just tell each other, "No, you did good. It doesn't matter if you don't get the reward, it doesn't matter if you don't get the prize, you did it, you got that mail certificate." So it was just me and my sister.

Isabel: So like in those situations, you might receive potential opportunities but like, no, you can't pursue them?

Angelo: Yes, it was very difficult. Growing up like, up until middle school, I was all about school. I was in honors, AP classes, all of that. There was a point where one of my teachers—one of my reading teachers—basically just had me by myself because whatever she was teaching wasn't enough for me. She had me on a college level reading. I forgot the book, The Count of Monte Cristo? The Count of Monte Cristo.

Isabel: That's definitely college level [Laughs].

Angelo: Yeah. So—

Isabel: In what grade?

Angelo: I was in the eighth grade. And so that was awesome for me because I feel like, “Okay, I'm not from here, but they're praising me, and they're saying I'm doing good." And I'm sorry, what was the question?

Isabel: No, no, that was perfect. I was just saying it's a hard dynamic, like refusing those opportunities.

Angelo: Yes. And so after middle school, I was also into poetry a lot. I got a reward and I was asked to go to Nevada to receive the reward in front of a bunch of people. The website was legit—it was if you search poetry on Google, it was the very first one that came up. It was even to a point where you search my name and my poem came up. I got a mail certificate inviting me to Nevada, Las Vegas, Nevada to receive that reward. I ran around the house; I told my sister. But at the end of the day, it was that risk of if we go, we're going to get pulled over, and we're going to get deported. So, you can't receive that certificate.

Isabel: And this is a poem you've written yourself?

Angelo: Yes.

Isabel: What was it about?

Angelo: I think it was a love poem, it was most definitely a love poem, yeah.

Isabel: I love poetry too. I only imagine how awful would be to when you pour yourself into a piece of art, like poetry, and then get recognition for it, and how amazing that feels, but then having that last hurdle that you can't go over.

Angelo: Yeah. So, once we got that established that "No, you can't." Basically, for me it was like, “So what's the point? So what am I working for? If I finish high school, I'm not going to be able to go to college, what's the point?” And I really never saw a future after middle school.

Isabel: Yeah, I feel like some students in high school have a hard time staying motivated knowing that they might be able to go to college someday. So, like being a high school student and knowing that you can't because of the law, I can only imagine being very discouraging in terms of doing that work. You mentioned you stopped going to school midway through your junior year, so what happened there and where did you go from there?

Angelo: Well I dropped out of school because I had a baby. So from then on it was basically work, work, work. And that was basically my life after junior year—just work and work.

Isabel: And you said you became a chef—you started at Applebee's—can you tell me what the restaurant experience was like becoming a chef and moving around from there?

Angelo: Well, when we first got to the U.S , my dad got into construction and so after a few years he got tired of that physically—it was very physically demanding—so he got into the restaurant. By the time I was 16, he had already had his status. He was a very good cook, so he brought me along. I was under his training from then on. I got that spark again, to want to do something, because I saw everybody, how they treated my dad, and literally just because I had his last name, it was, "Okay, you got the job." And my dad was at a very prestigious level to where many people would call him offering jobs or—

Isabel: Your dad was undocumented as well?

Angelo: Yes. When I saw that, I was like, "Okay, I might not be able to go to college, but maybe I could become a manager, maybe I could have my own kitchen, maybe I could have my own store, my own restaurant." And so being under my dad's training gave me that spark. I overpassed my dad, there were points after three years in a restaurant where I wasn't my dad's son anymore, I was my own person. I could go up to people and they would be like, "Yeah, I know who you are." At first it was all like, "Okay, who are you?" “Well, I'm ____ son.” “Oh wow. Okay, well here you go.” But then after a while it was, "Okay, well we need you because we've heard of you and we need you to pick our store back up." And so after that, that was my goal to have a restaurant, my own restaurant.

Isabel: What was your favorite restaurant to work at?

Angelo: That's very difficult, but I would probably say Applebee's just because that's where I started, and it just brings so much memories of me learning, me getting that experience, me burning myself a lot. And so yeah, that was probably the best time of my life, working at Applebee's.

Isabel: Even though you went on to surpass your father?

Angelo: [Affirmative noise].

Isabel: It's really cool. So, you have kind of like this going…Start pursuing cooking and kind of earning that prestige or going after your father. But then you also mentioned that you're doing this because you had to support a family. Were you living with your baby's mother at the time? Were you together?

Angelo: Well it was very difficult because at the age of 16, my father had legal problems. He ended up going away for, I would say, half a year-a little bit more than half a year. Throughout that time, there was a point where I had to basically become the man of the house. My mom doesn't drive, so I would take her to her job and I would bring her back. There was many times where I had to drive at three or four in the morning. So at the age of 16, I wanted to become that. I wanted to become that man of the house. And really that's the main reason why I had my baby, because I said, “I could do this, I want this, I want to be a father, and I'm going to be a father.”

Angelo: And so, at the age of the age of 16, I moved out of my parents' house. After three months of working, I moved out of my parents' house, got my own apartment. And I ended up working two jobs at a time to be able to support my family and be on my own. After a while it was very difficult. So, there were plenty of times where we'd be on our own, and then something bad would happen financially, and so we'd go back to our parents' house. It was just basically on and off being on our own and not being able to make it.

Isabel: So you said you were 16, so did you say you were older when you were renting a house or an apartment or anything that you'd pretend?

Angelo: Yes, when I was 16, I had to get fake IDs, fake social security cards, and so that's how I got my apartment. Even 16, I looked older than what I was, so it was really no problem for me to apply for an apartment, or anything like that.

Isabel: Did the restaurants that you would work with or the people there know that you were undocumented or that are younger?

Angelo: No.

Isabel: How old were you when you were becoming the chef?

Angelo: 16.

Isabel: That's incredible. I'm learning how to like... the other day I Googled how to cook chicken [Both laugh].

Angelo: It was very difficult, but I wanted to do that. I saw my father, and I wanted to be him. I wanted to be him.

Isabel: So, I'm just still trying to wrap my head around this. So, I know you started at Applebee's, but when you started at the last restaurant you work for, it was this like English, British kind of style. It's more on the other ends of the Applebee's spectrum?

Angelo: Oh very.

Isabel: Very much like more high end?

Angelo: [Affirmative noise].

Isabel: How old were you when you were a chef for that restaurant?

Angelo: I was 20, 21 years old.

Isabel: So that's kind of like where your career span…still so incredibly young. So how old did they think you were when you were working for them?

Angelo: Then I could say I was 21.

Isabel: Okay, so then that's fine.

Angelo: Yeah.

Isabel: That's enough credit.

Angelo: Yeah, by then they knew who I was. There was points where I would get called in from other stores and they would tell me, “Leave where you're at and we'll give you $3 more.” Literally, I've never made minimum wage. And so that's basically how about how I got to $15.50 at the end. The reason I went to the British restaurant was because I was at Applebee's, and me and my dad would bump heads. He was the top chef, and I would also be considered the top chef. So whenever we would work shifts, it was all like, "Okay, so who's in charge?"

Isabel: Literally too many cooks in the kitchen.

Angelo: So that's when I said, "Okay, well I got to be on my own. I got to do my own thing.: And thank God I was able to do it. I put my mind to it and I got my name out there.

Isabel: Yeah. I mean, that's incredible. And it sounds like you're really making a life for yourself and for your family in the US. So can we, I guess start to move into the events that brought you back to Mexico? Just going into those in more detail.

Angelo: Okay. Well, I remember the date perfectly. It was November 12, 2015. That's the day that me and my baby mama, wife, girlfriend argued. It was a very childish argument. Do you want me to go into full details?

Isabel: Whatever you're comfortable sharing. I know we talked about this in the survey, but we'll just reiterate it.

Angelo: Okay. So we started arguing, my girlfriend was a type 2 and was that explosive type 2, where she always had to get the last word. And if we weren't done arguing, she would continue the argument even if I needed a breather, she's, "No, we got to talk because we have to talk." And so that day it was basically like that. We were arguing, one thing led to another, she fell on the bed and my little six month baby went flying. As soon as I saw that I tossed myself, and I swooped her up, but—

Isabel: Swooped up the baby?

Angelo: Yeah, but it was too late, her ear hit the floor. Her ear hit the floor, and I tossed myself, so I hit a bunch of furniture and bunch of stuff fell on top of us. And baby started crying and she wanted to take off with my kids—I love my kids to death.

Isabel: Kids? So it was the baby, and also?

Angelo: Yes. I have four kids in total. My oldest kid was barely going into elementary school, so that was the main reason why we always argue a lot, because I told her if my kid's going to start elementary school, he's going to stay in one school. We're not going to have him moving around from school to school just because we're arguing or just because we have problems. If we're going to do this, we're going to be a family, and we're going to get through this. And that was the main reason why we stuck together, I would say the last couple of years, because even though we didn't have that much love for each other anymore, it was basically we loved our kids too much for us to do anything else. And so, she wanted to take the kids, so I absolutely didn't let her. There was a point where I called the police because after the baby stopped crying, she wanted to put her in the car seat, and I told her no. And it got to the point where we were literally tugging at the car seat.

Angelo: We were playing a tug of war at the car seat with a little baby in a car seat. I told my little brothers, "You know what, I need you to sit down and help me." Because we were alone at the house and I didn't want anything to go wrong. So I told my brothers, I need you to help me, I need you to sit down right here and see what's going on. Well, I have two brothers. I told one, “Sit down and see what's going on.” And I told the other one, “I need you to call the police.” I called the police and they told me, “It's a civil argument, we can't do anything until one of you puts your hands on each other, then you can call us.”

Isabel: How old were you?

Angelo: I was 21 years old. I called the police multiple times, they never came. It got to the point where I was sitting in the living room, and out of nowhere I see my baby mama grab her things and just take my daughter. I had two boys and two daughters. My two boys were the oldest and the two daughters were the youngest and the baby of course. And she took the toddler, the two-year old, she took her by the hand and left through the back door. As soon as she did that, I called the police again and I told them, “You know what, this is way out of hand. She's literally taking off with my kid, she's out of control. I don't want her to be detained, I don't want anything, I just don't want anything to happen to her because she's crazy right now, she's super mad and I know her, the way she drives, something's going to happen.” They never showed up. I promise you if they would've showed up then, anyways—

Isabel: No, I‚

Angelo: If they would've probably showed up then, the first time that I called them, everything probably would have been…I probably wouldn't have ended up deported. So, she left with the kid—

Isabel: Are the other kids at your house during this time?

Angelo: Yes. At that point I had told my brothers, "Take my kids, go watch TV and just keep them entertained." So my wife took off, me and my kids spent the afternoon in my mom's house. The next morning, it was around seven o'clock in the morning, I took my newborn out to get some sun and I was out there talking to my mom. While talking to my mom, she paid attention to my little baby and she said, "She has a bruise." And I asked her where it was because I hadn't seen it and she told me, “It's on her ear.” And right away I started putting things together and I said, "My little baby got hurt, something happened." I didn’t tell my mom at the time what had happened, and then I told her, "What do I do?" And she said, "Okay, well maybe it's a spider bite. We need to take her to the clinic." We took her to the clinic, as soon as we got to the clinic, all fingers were on me. They asked me, "Where's the mother?" And I told her, "Well, the mother's not here."

Angelo: "Well, we need the mother because this is not a spider bite, this is a bruise. And we need you right now immediately to take the baby to the hospital, and there's no way around that. You need to go right now because we have people that are waiting for you." As soon as I got to the hospital, I was greeted by a detective. Literally the whole hospital was running around trying to figure out what happened. That detective from the little city that I was staying—it was a very little city and very, very, very little city. So by all these arguments with my girlfriend, they had already gotten to a point to where they knew us. They knew we were a toxic couple, there was always things going on, there was always cops needing to control the situation or calm it down.

Angelo: So, by the time I got to the detective, she did not want to hear my side of the story. She said, "The little baby got hurt, I have four children, I'm going to put you behind bars." My wife got there, they asked her what happened and she said, "It was his fault." This was around 1:00 AM in the morning, I had planned to stay there with my little baby throughout the night. I was in the restroom about to take a shower, getting ready to lay down. I had already given my keys to my car to my sister because she didn't have a way home. So I was literally preparing the water for me to take a shower and they knock on the bathroom door, I come out, and they said, "You need to leave the room immediately. You need to leave the hospital immediately. And in the morning we're going to have an order for your arrest." And I told them, "Okay, well hold on. What's going on?" And they said, "We can't tell you anything, you just can't be around the little baby."

Angelo: I told him, "No, I can't leave. I'm not going to leave my little baby." And they said, "Okay, well you can leave right now, or I can give you a ride home, if I can give you a ride home, then I'm going to have to go ahead and read you your rights." I didn't know what's going on, with them saying that I panicked, and even the hospital ladies were literally scared and they didn't know what was going on. And they were on my side and they told the police officer, "No, no, no, hold on, hold on. He doesn't have a way home, but we're going to get him a taxi. We're going to get them a taxi, we're going to give him the taxi pass and he should be good to go." So they gave me the taxi pass, I went home, nobody showed up the next morning. I called them around half the day because by that time, throughout the time that I was in the hospital without me knowing, they had already went to my house and picked up my other children.

Angelo: The next morning, after them telling me to leave the next morning, I called the police station and I told him, "You know what? I need to know whether my kids are all right, where they're at, I need to know what's going on, I need to know something because you haven't told me anything, I don't know where my kids are at, I don't know if they're with their mother, I literally don't know anything. I need you to tell me something." And they told me somebody will get in contact with you soon. I spent a month waiting. I was working, I came home, my mom was crying on the couch and she told me that they had an order for my arrest and I told her, "Okay, well what's next?" And she said, "I don't know son."

Angelo: I told her, "Okay, well I'm going to go tomorrow and I'm going to see what's going on." The next morning, I was on my way to the police station, I was walking because obviously I didn't want to take my car. So I was walking to the police station, it was a couple blocks away. When I was walking towards there, I guess they had went some other way where they hadn't seen me, but the police were going to my house and they didn't see me walk into the police station. So they went to my house and they asked my mom, "Where's he at?" And she said, "He's walking to the police station as we speak." Literally it was like, I was the biggest terrorist in the world. They closed down the streets, they put fire trucks, they had detectives, and literally they greeted me with, "Mr ____, how are you doing?"

Angelo: So hypocritical because after them saying that they threw me on their hood and put cuffs on me, and I was literally in front of the police station when they did this. So a town so small, everybody saw, all the neighbors, schools, everybody saw. And I was like, "Really? I'm literally in front of police station. Why are you doing all this?" And I was just the biggest terrorist at that time. And I'm getting into jail, they told me that I was being charged with serious bodily injury because it turns out that in her ear she had a little bit of internal bleeding, and they weren't sure if that was going to affect her or not. Thankfully she was only at the hospital for one day, but I didn't know that, I had no idea.

Angelo: So literally it took them about a month for them to build their police report. Once I got to read the police report, it made no sense whatsoever. The detective literally twisted my words because once the detective was at the hospital asking me questions, she asked me, "Who did this?" And I told her, "You know what? I know how this goes, my mom works for the state. My mom has her own daycare." Me and my mom went to the clinic, me and my mom came to the hospital. If at any time I was going to think, "Hey, you know what, maybe I'm in trouble. I would have given the baby to my mom and I would have not presented myself, but I'm here with my baby. I have my baby in my arms, this is my life. You can't tell me that you're going to put the blame on me. I wouldn't be here if I feel any type of guilt." So on the police report it said Angelo ____ brought the baby to the hospital because he feels guilty.

Angelo: And so that was a done deal. Once I got into prison, got my lawyer, there was a pretty good chance of me fighting it. First three months, I presented myself to the court. Well, they took me to the court because I was already detained and my first offer was 30 years. They told me 30 years or fight your case. Ended up waiting six months, and they went down to 25 years, ended up waiting a couple of more months, they didn't go down at all until my lawyer said, "This is where we're at. You want to protect your wife so much, you love her so much, you don't want her to go to jail, you're planning to throw away your life, 25 years.” She literally took out her phone and showed me a picture of my wife in Miami with some other dude, and then—

Isabel: Where are the kids?

Angelo: With their grandparents. And then I told my lawyer, "Let's go to trial, I'm going to fight this." The next day the state called me, and they said, “We're going to offer you three years.” And I told my lawyer, "Okay. So what's going to happen?" She said, "You've already done nine months. You've got to do a couple of more months and you'll be good to go." And I said, "Okay, well, I'm not going to put the mother of my kids behind bars, I'm never going to do that ever in a million years, no matter whatever she's done, I'm not going to be the person to do that." So I said, "Okay, I'm going to do a couple of more months, it seems that I have an immigration bond, so I should be good to go." As soon as I got to prison, immigration bond was gone. I got my papers for deportation and my road ended because I thought a couple of more months and the nightmare is over. But I ended up being deported.

Isabel: That's just like a series of people twisting and it does sound exactly like a nightmare. I'm so sorry that that happened.

Angelo: Yeah.

Isabel: I totally get what you're saying. Like, “If I'm here and I'm carrying my baby, if I was guilty, why in the world would I be here?” Like there's so many steps that I feel like for me so clearly indicate you not being guilty. I think it does kind of get back to problems with US authorities and the immigration services where it's like obviously you're undocumented, or they see that you're Mexican, they're going to assume and paint the picture they want even if you in no way fit that picture that they want. And it's so out of your hands because they have all the power in these situations.

Angelo: Exactly.

Isabel: I just really want to clarify your story for this, in the altercation with your girlfriend or wife, when the baby was on the bed and she was trying to leave with her. And you were saying, "Please don't, you're not leaving with my children." Like, when you said you're in a toxic relationship. Did it also get physical sometimes?

Angelo: It got physical. It got physical because there were points where she would stand at the door and that's the only time it got physical because she would get hit by the door. I would try to pull the door and she literally stand there and, I insist, and pull the door even harder. There was one time where we were playing tug of war with the door, and I let the door go and out of nowhere I just see lights—I see lights. Yeah, she hit me, she hit me in my eye. And I grew up with my dad being an alcoholic, I grew up seeing that happen to my mom. Even to this day, I can't forgive my dad. Me and my dad, we can say we love each other, but I will never forget that.

Angelo: So that was always in my mind. I have a sister, I have a mom, I'm never going to touch a woman. So whenever I saw lights, I was like, "Okay, that's going to make you feel better, go ahead." So at first, she started slapping me and then I saw lights because she punched me in my eye. As soon as she punched me in my eye, I was like, "Okay, okay, okay. it's not slaps anymore, you're out of control." I held her, she was facing the wall, she bit me. She bit me so hard that I literally I threw her, I literally let go and she hit the wall. She hit the wall and I think she said she bit her lip, I'm not sure what the police officer said, but she ended up spitting up blood because at that point she told me, “Get out of the house.”

Angelo: And at that point, we were living by ourselves and I told her, “This is my house, I'm paying rent, there's no way I'm leaving. You can go to your room, I'll stay in the living room, I'm not going anywhere.” So she picked up the phone to call the police, at the same time I picked up the phone to call the police. And so we were both on the line with the police. I waited outside for the police, I waved them down. I literally waved them down and I told them, "Hey, you know what, this is what happened." They took pictures of my eye, they took pictures of the bite, and at the end of the day it was my fault because a woman got hurt. So that was the only point it ever got to a physical altercation.

Isabel: Just in the moment when your baby fell off the bed, was she pushed back onto the bed and then that—

Angelo: It was because of that same reason that she did not let me leave the room. And so I got her, and I moved her away from the door. I literally got her and I tossed her on the bed and that was me not thinking.

Isabel: That is just such a tragic…Like it's the worst way that could have gone. Again, I'm so sorry that it went like that. And thank you for sharing that, and that was the most difficult thing to -

Angelo: No, it's actually the very first time that I've been able to tell this without actually crying or anything like that because I don't want to embarrass myself or anything. Yes, it's very literally very hard. Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, right now my kids are in birthday season—my kids literally have birthdays back to back. So I mean, it's literally hard. My first Christmas here, I had no idea it was already Christmas until I saw lights. So, I literally just stood in front of them where I was staying—I was staying with my uncles—and I just stared at the lights and just broke down. And there's many times where that happens to me. There's a car that I used to have, or let's say McDonald's or any little thing, a pretty park—I walk by a pretty park—and I just picture my kids. So, it's very difficult mainly because of my kids. That's all I wanted to be, a father. I want to say that I gave them everything. And it's just very hard not being able to, for all that work to just be taken away just like that.

Isabel: Yeah. I mean especially when you're saying like being a father, being a good father and talking about not being able to forgive your own father for the way that he treated your mother, being able to rise from that, to be the man that you want to be. Not having that figure as a father, like knowing you don't want to replicate that.

Angelo: Exactly.

Isabel: And the cruel irony of then still be pictured as that person that you never wanted to be.

Angelo: Exactly. And that was my main goal, just like you said it, that was the perfect words. I wanted to be someone that my father was never to me and to my family. So, I said “I'm going to be the best father,” and I want to say that I was, but it just got taken away. It's very hard because my kids right now, they stay with their grandparents—they don't have a father. I think to myself on Father's Day at school, what are they making? Who are they giving the projects to? My oldest son, he remembers me.

Isabel: You mentioned that your return to Mexico was very difficult, you had a lot of struggles, like all the alcoholism, also finding a job, socially. Do you mind just going into some of the obstacles you ran into on your return?

Angelo: On my return to Mexico, my very first day here in Mexico, I spent the night in on the border, in Tamaulipas, Mexico. And literally I didn't want to do anything else. The very first thing I did was go to a store, and I bought a beer and I asked the lady at the store, "Will I get in trouble if I walk around the streets with the beer?" And she said, "You'll be fine. You have two or 300 pesos, right?" I said, "Yeah I just came back from the United States, I have money." “You'll be fine, if somebody pulls you over, just give them that and you'll be completely fine. “So that was the very first thing I did getting here to Mexico. There's so much alcoholism in my family that when I got here in Mexico, I said, "Okay, well it's in my blood. Let's go for it." And literally there will be times where I would just go out and buy a vodka bottle and go to my room, buy some orange juice and just literally drink until I passed out. And that went on for about half a year until one day, I guess I got really sick. I had the hiccups a lot that three or four in the morning, I was making too much noise.

Angelo: I literally do not remember this, but there were people banging on my door trying to get in. Nobody was able to get in, they had to break the door down. And from what they told me, I was just in a corner and just literally choking on myself, with so much hiccups that, and I was just [inaudible]. The next morning and everybody sat down with me, and they literally—

Isabel: Who’s everybody?

Angelo: My uncles. I was staying at my uncle's house, so my uncle's family sat down with me, my cousins, and they had to pull me straight. They literally said, “You're not right.” They didn't talk to me too much because just them saying “You're not all right,” it clicked into my head that it was a very, very, very first time that I blacked out drinking, the very, very first time. So I told myself, "How do you not remember this happening? How do you not remember any of this? Or why are they telling you this? What did you do?" And I just saw my father all over again, and that was it, that's when I stopped drinking on the daily.

Angelo: Yes. Because depression is a big part of my life. In the United States, I got diagnosed with bipolar depression, so there's just times where one time I could be happy, and then I think of something and literally my world ends. So getting here to Mexico, that was my escape, that was my answer, that was my... I can't say it wasn't the answer because for me my goal was to destroy myself, my goal was to get mugged in the middle of the street. There would be times where I literally walked around the state of Mexico three, four in the morning, just in the middle of the street, just looking for trouble. I wanted somebody to find me, I wanted somebody to…you know, all these dangerous streets that people were telling me, I wanted that, I don't know, I wanted to just destroy myself.

Angelo: I wanted to get beaten down, I wanted for something bad to happen, and it was very hard. So whenever they had to break down the door, it was a big eye opener because they had to call my mom, and my mom did not know any of this. And my mom's a very big important part of my life, even over there she would always help me with stuff. She would always run around with me, she would always go shopping with me if I needed anything for my kids, she was always right there, if I needed babysitter, she was always right there. So whenever they had to call my mom, and they told her, "You know what, your son is doing this" [Emotional]. That brought so much shame to me, and that's when I said, I told my mom, "I'm sorry, I'm not going to do what my father did, so I'm done." And that was it. That's when I said, "I'm not going to do this again to my mom."

Isabel: And that was kind of like your early experience, kind of struggling to be back in Mexico and come to terms with not being with your family. So where did you go from there, not only just job wise but, also, how long have you been back? And like what's been going on since then?

Angelo: Well, from there they said I needed some time for myself to think. So I got offered a trip to Cancun, they paid for a month for me to be in Cancun. And literally I just vacationed and spend some time there. And I went with a cousin and we literally had so much fun that I said, "You know what, maybe things will be alright. From the difference of coming here to the state of Mexico and going to Cancun, Cancun was more lifestyle of what I was used to, more English, everything was so pretty. So I was like, "Okay, well they have places like this in Mexico, so maybe I could do this, maybe I could bring my kids down here."

Angelo: And I spent a month in Cancun. And from there I came back to the city and I tried Uber. It was very difficult for me because I didn't know the traffic, how it worked. Literally all the speed bumps, I would pass over them going very fast and people would freak out, but I would just always tell them, "You know what, over there in the United States, they'll let you know if the speed bumps are coming" [Both laugh]. And so, I wasn't able to do Uber; I got kicked out of Uber. I tried doing my studies, that was very difficult and I'm still not able to do it because they won't validate my credits that I have from high school. They said that I have to go literally start from elementary all the way up. So I couldn't continue with my schools.

Angelo: That got put on pause. And so I started visiting Mexico City. I started walking around Mexico City, the nice areas and that's when I started learning about these call centers. I applied for a call center, and it seemed all right money, compared to what everybody else was making. And, you know, it wasn't anywhere close to what I was making the United States, but for this lifestyle of me in Mexico City, it was all right. And that was difficult for me as well because I lived in the state. And so I would have to transport three, four hours to get to my job. I would have to wake up at 4:00 in the morning and get to my job at 8:00 in the morning. And I'd come home at 11:00, 12:00 at night.

Angelo: And so that went on for about four or five months until I literally said, “I can't do this anymore.” I resigned from AT&T, and I've literally been stuck since then besides from my mom giving me what she can—my mom doesn't work so the main income is from my father. Me and my father not having that awesome relationship, I feel shameful asking for him for anything. So, there'd be times where my mom would send me $10, $20, and literally got me two or three days, and that's literally how it's been going on for past couple of months.

Angelo: Until recently I was staying with family, and one thing led to another—my aunt from the United States visited and she did not like how things were going for me. She said, "You're just sitting around, and you have no need to work because people are sending you money, so I'm going to give you a need to work." [Chuckles]. And she kicked me out. And literally that was two days ago. So that's where I found New Comienzos. I've been running around trying to try to get help because literally right now, I'm on my own. I literally had to break down to my dad. I broke down, and I told him, "I need your help. I need you to be there." And he heard me, and so just yesterday I got my apartment, and, you know, moving forward.

Isabel: Yeah. I understand how you would really not want to ask anything from your dad, but it seems like you had to ask for help there. I skipped one part of the story and I just want to backtrack because I think it’s important. You were held by ICE [Immigrations and Customs Enforcemen] for detention for two months?

Angelo: Yes.

Isabel: Two months. Do you mind just touching on the conditions or like the treatment you experienced there?

Angelo: As soon as I got into immigration…it was Houston. So I mean the immigration center, was, I can't say it was things falling down, things breaking apart, it was all right. What the thing that was scary, very scary was that before the first time that I went to court just talking to people, they will tell me that they'd been there three, four years fighting their case. And they had moms and dads that were United States, residents, citizens, and they were still there fighting their case. And I would ask them, "If you don't fight your case, what happens? And they said, "Well, you know, they deport you tomorrow." And I called my dad and I told him, "Look, dad, I don't want to be here three, four years. I don't want to be here. I'll sign my deportation."

Angelo: And whenever I went to court, even though I had already told that to my dad, I still tried to fight for me being there, I talked to the judge and the judge told me, “You have a criminal charge in the United States and you're considered a threat, you're considered a criminal and you're considered a threat to the safety of our citizens.” Those are the exact words that he said, “You are a threat to our citizens.” And I told him, "Okay, well hold on. I have 20 years here, I have four kids here, my brothers are here and my whole family's here. You can't tell me this." And it was literally a one, two, three step process with him. There was no emotion with him. It was, "No, this is your option, sign, fight your case. But I guarantee you right now that you're not going to win your case."

Angelo: So it was like, "Why are you giving me the option to fight my case if...[Sigh]" So I told him, "Okay, well let's sign." And literally the next day, that's when I got deported. And it was just me not wanting to be there, seeing everybody at immigration being there three or four years, and literally they had more chance of staying than I did. Favors were more on their side than they were ever on mine. So I said to myself, "If they can't do it, what makes you think that you're going to be able to stay?" And that was my main decision for me signing the voluntary deportation so I wouldn't be incarcerated anymore. I didn't want to be treated as a criminal anymore. I never felt like I was a criminal, and I got surrounded with criminals.

Angelo: I got surrounded with people that -- I had to change my whole way of being. I had to exercise a lot, I had to change my way of being, I had to be so cold, so reserved just stay to myself because I didn't want anybody to mess with me. I wasn't meant for that. I was meant to be a father, I was meant to be a household person, I wasn't meant to be imprisoned, and it even got to me and I told myself, “No,” because there will be a lot of guards that would tell me, "You're a dirty Mexican." And there will be a lot of times where I would question myself, and I said, "Okay, well your bunkmate, he's here for murder, he's spending here his rest of his life, you're getting treated bad. Well, maybe you are a criminal, maybe you should just start being a criminal." And it was just so hard for me to stay focused on, "No, you got to get out of this, you're going to get out of this."

Angelo: And at any given moment it would've been so easy for me to just explode or something bad to happen, and I just had to concentrate so much on just getting through that. Every single time that I got called something, it was just put your head down and, "Okay, no, you're right." And it was like that throughout the whole time of me being in prison and in immigration. It was just that, "You're a dirty Mexican." And there was nothing that you could ever say to them. If you said something to them, it was a five-year charge added to you. So it was just keep your mouth shut, do what they're telling you, and just keep your head down and stay out the way. And that's literally how I survived being in prison. I stuck to myself and I didn't mess what anybody.

Isabel: If things had gone a different way, and that moment that you describe hadn't happened, what do you think you would be doing, like what would be your dreams to do in the United States?

Angelo: To have my store, to have my restaurants. I want my restaurant and I still want it.

Isabel: What would you call it?

Angelo: All styles, all around the world restaurant. That's what I want, all around the world restaurant. Something from every place. And that's what I wanted to, I want to travel the world, I want to learn every single style of cooking. I got Italian down, I got American style down, and I had a little bit of the London, English, all that. And I just want to keep learning, and I want to expand my portfolio, I want to learn as much as there is, and that's my dream one day to have my own store, maybe here in Mexico—most definitely here in Mexico because I really don't see any chances for me to go back.

Isabel: So that's your plan for Mexico too, or your dream?

Angelo: My dream to have my own store. That's my dream, that's my goal, to have my own restaurant, that's my passion. I love the reaction from the clients and I just love making good food.

Isabel: That's awesome. Well, I hope you pursue that dream. Just some general questions that we like to touch on, you can take them whichever direction you want. Do you consider yourself more Mexican or American or do you consider yourself Mexican or American?

Angelo: American.

Isabel: American, 100%?

Angelo: 100% American.

Isabel: Why do you think that is?

Angelo: Because just everywhere that I go, I have a certain way of walking around. I smile at everybody, I smile and nobody smiles back [Both laugh]. So everybody just looks at me weird. And whenever I talk on the phone, I talk loud, I laugh when I'm on the phone, I don't hide my laughter. And I guess just the way that I eat, walk, the way that I talk, people notice it and there's times where I get stared at or people just look at me, up and down with that face that you think you're better than us, or you don't belong here. And I feel more American just because I grew up in America and I'm used to things being done right. Not so much corruption, not so much all this other stuff that goes around, people hitting on each other and all that stuff. So I just want Mexico to be somewhat like America in the legal ways, just because I'm so used to things being... it wasn’t 100% in America, everything wasn't 100% right, but there was justice, there was some type of justice and I don't feel like that's something done here.

Isabel: Despite your own experience with the US justice system, you have like a larger faith that it is still like less corrupt than Mexico. Is that kind of what you're saying?

Angelo: Well, it's very difficult because in the United States, when I would think about corruptions or anything like that, I think about families getting separated, all this stuff that's going on now with the news, with the President. Those are the bad things that I see up at the United States, about just this one guy has a problem with -- had an argument with one Mexican one day and it ruined his image for the rest of his life, and now a whole country has to has to suffer because of that. And I feel like the corruption here in Mexico is more inside of Mexico, more of being corrupt here and not having to do anything with any other countries or anything like that. But I do feel like there could've been more done.

Angelo: There could have been more people that heard my story, there could have been... Somebody should have said this is not right. Somebody should've said the police report is not right. I promise anybody could read the police report and it makes no sense, it makes no sense whatsoever. And I just feel like somebody could have said, "Well, hold on, this makes no sense at all. You know, let's ask him what happened." But it was never, "Okay, what happened?" It was always, "Okay, you did this." So that's where I saw the bad side of the United States legal system where I literally had no voice—and mainly being in Texas. I mean, in Texas literally, I was the bad guy because a little baby got hurt.

Angelo: And so it was very hard, it was very hard. Even in jail there were people that would fight their cases and just because a woman said something—you didn't even have to actually do it—just because a woman said, "You know what, he did something," it was, "You're going to jail," just because of an outcry. So having this case of a little baby being in Texas, and just hearing all these stories, I was like, "There's no way that I'm going to get past this." And literally the very first offer was 30 years. 30 years, super aggressive, they put in that out of those 30 years, I had to do minimum 25 years. And it was just so scary for me because that was not me, I wasn't what they had on paper. I was not that person, I was different, I was completely—

Isabel: Opposite of the criminals that you were surrounded by?

Angelo: Exactly. And just hearing all these stories of people going through things in jail of all these things, I told myself, "Why are you here then? You're not supposed to be here. Why am I still here after six months? Why am I still here after a year? Why am I still here after me finally signing for some time?" I was like, "Okay, it's all going to be over. You're going to go home, you're going to see your mom." And then out of nowhere you get this paper that says order of deportation and you're like, "No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. That's not what's supposed to be happening. No." And so it was like literally the world ended, and everything was taken just so fast. The only things that I have left is pictures just because of the situation that happened, I am not on good terms with the mother of my kids. And all I'm left with is pictures and just memories and that's the hardest. Not being able to just have some type of context, some type of pictures, or recent pictures and updates, something, something, something, it's very hard.

.Isabel: (pause) Is there anything else you would like to reflect on or you people to know like before we wrap up?

Angelo: I plan to have a future, I'm going to have a future, and it's not going to stop me. It's been hard, the past couple of years have been hard, but I still have kids. I want them to be here, so this is not going to stop me.

Isabel: Thank you so much for sharing.


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