Beto

Interviewee

Anita Isaacs

Interviewer

June 13, 2019

Mexico City, Mexico

Call centers as social networks

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Anita: We're good. I'm back with Beto after having messed up with the recording yesterday. Rather than going over everything, tell me about what it's like to work at a call center.

Beto:

Well, a call center is a great place. I have nothing to say bad about call centers because basically you're in the process of making money. Right? But as I mentioned before, for me to get stuck in a call center is a dead-end point. You don't go farther than what you're expecting to. This I learned, maybe I didn't also tell you about the story that I have encountered all over the call centers, which got me to getting my own business, a small little business, which is like a little grocery store. I found out that every time I used to go to a call center, I used to go down the stairs, try to get something to eat, a snack, and I saw this guy selling a lot of stuff down there. I used to give them almost like 50 pesos every time I went down to eat. That's when I was like, "Okay, what am I doing here? They're making more money than I'm making, and they're just here for a couple hours." That's one of the things I actually encountered in the call centers. You're there for eight hours. Nowadays, you don't get your lunch paid, which is like, it's another hour extra of your life because you have to travel two hours from your house all the way to work and then you have to travel back two hours from work to your house. It's very difficult.

Beto:

Like I told you, a dead-end point, because you might get to be a general manager, right? You're relying a lot on the companies, on the accounts, I should say the accounts because a call center, they also rely on the accounts. If the account moves and you already become a general manager or supervisor, if they moved back to States, you're going back to [_____] again. You go back to [_____], you go back to start at where you started from, like the beginning. I decided to stay where I'm at, which is just a regular agent. I mean I don't have any problems, such as if I become a supervisor then the money that you get, it's like, I was getting this much for now I'm going back to zero. I'm going back to my regular pay. That's the way I see it. After that, you hit the wall. You don't actually get to move forward.

Beto:

I'm pretty sure the call centers are doing their best to help us out, but I don't know. It is very difficult. You're actually waiting to see what's going to happen. Every time you go to a call center, you wait to see what's going to happen next. Okay, I'm here right now. This is a good account. I'm getting my money, but what if it moves? For us it's difficult because, as being in this business, I think it is a business, I got to invest my time and I’ve got to save money because I don't know what's going to happen next. That's why I've been in so many call centers here.

Anita:

You told me you've been to a lot of centers.

Beto:

I've been to a lot of call centers, a lot. Tell me about it, you can ask me about the call centers, the things I’ve done, the accounts. I've been to a MasterCard, Kohls, I've even sold packages for cable TV, all those things. You get to learn too. That's one of the advantages because you're learning too, because you're managing money, people's money, you actually get to know. I mean, on my end, that's what I've learned. I don't talk bad about the call centers. I learned a lot. I never, well, in the States I never had a credit card due to the fact that I was an illegal immigrant. But here I have been managing people's credit cards, and it's like, "Oh, I didn't know about this." I mean, right now I'm in a call center where you lease phones. I was surprised about leasing phones. I never heard about leasing phones. I heard about leasing TVs, leasing cars, but phones?

Beto:

Right now, I'm leasing the phones and have to explain to them that they're not financing the phones. I learned other stuff, like when you finance, and you rent is a completely different thing. You’re learning a lot. you really get to learn a lot about call centers.

Anita:

When you call up these call centers or customer service and you end up at a call center, people know so much. With all this movement, how do you master everything you need to know to be able to offer that service?

Beto:

Okay, well actually, at every call center... It's amazing when you go in and apply at a different call center. Because the first time I got to a call center, it was difficult for me when the company moved. For me, moving to another one is like, "What am I going to do? I just know how to manage this system." But it’s amazing that most of the call centers have a similar system. They manage a similar system. I mean they all go and manage this system called Abaya, which is the one that you get to answer the phones. Most companies have the Abaya. I really don't know why, but all of them are similar. Okay?

Anita:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Beto:

After that, most of the steps that you follow are the same. Even though they're different products, the steps are very similar. You don't get really trapped in like what am I going to do next? No, it's very similar and they actually give you a very good training and you get to know, “I used to do this at this call center.” I used to manage, for example, setting up a credit card to make a payment. Most of the systems are the same. It's like, okay, I know how to do this. Most of the accounts you get the personal information about the customer, so you have to get the customer's information. You know that you have to set it up on tabs and all the squares but it's very similar.

Anita:

But dealing with Kohls, are we talking about the clothing? Dealing with customers calling about Kohls and dealing with customers calling about leasing a phone is a completely different product.

Beto:

Right. Different products, same process.

Anita:

How do you learn about the product? Don't you have to know about the product?

Beto:

Yes, they teach you about each product and how it works. The similar thing is at every call center you must ask for personal information. After that then it goes to product, which is not difficult. It's just the process that – in this case, for example, Kohls, clothing product. They teach you. You don't have to learn about each and every clothing. No, it's numbers. All of the clothes go by certain numbers that you'd have to click in. It's called S-K-Us, right? Here in the phone industry, we manage the phones, but it's the same at Kohls because you're not managing clothing, but you manage a number. Okay? You click on the number and the basic number pulls out the brand of the phone. I know on our end Samsung Galaxy or an iPhone is called iPhone or Samsung, but in this industry it's a number. That's why you don't really get to move like, okay, I need to learn woman's miniskirts or a woman's bra or a bunch of phones. Like, "What am I going to do?" I mean it's been a long time. “Nokia? Somebody is asking me for a Nokia? They're gone.” But yes, you just put on the number and it's amazing. “Nokia It's been a long time since I've seen you. I had you once, and you fell down, but you never die.”

Anita:

Is it boring?

Beto:

Sometimes it is. It is something that is very routine. It's a routine. Especially when you're back-to-back, when you have one call after another, then it is boring. Even the call centers try to help you out with certain days, like, "Okay, we'll take you out for, I don't know, a little breakfast." Still, you're going back to the call. It is boring sometimes. It's very stressful. Managing people, customer service, face to face or on the phone, is difficult. Dealing with people is, I'm not going to say the worst because we have to deal with people, but it is very, very difficult.

Anita:

You're dealing with angry people.

Beto:

I deal with very angry people. Yes. I have to breathe. I put myself on a little mute. I listen to everything they got to say. Sometimes they tell me, I mean what customers tell me is like, "I'm not angry about you, I'm angry about the product. I'm angry about the company." But I have to take it because I'm still the company, right? At the end, you're the company and you work for this company. You’ve got to talk good about the company that you work for everywhere you go. You have to go back and say, "Yes ma'am, let's go ahead and verify what the issue is, and I'd be more than glad to help you out with whatever. Let me exhaust my help. Let me see the most I can do for you. Even if I have to talk to my supervisor and you need to talk to him, but it has to be fixed." That's how it is.

Anita:

You also told me yesterday about the ways in which you have this kind of network of people who all moved, spread news.

Beto:

Yes. At a call center you turn out to be friends with everybody. For example, I left a lot of friends at some other call centers. If I move on for better pay, we just move to another call center and verify if they actually pay good. I have friends that we manage to, we actually call each other, "You know what? I'm here at this call center. They're paying, I don't know, 3,500 3,200 why don't you come over?" That’s like, "Okay wait, but don't come yet. Let me just get my first paycheck, and I'll let you know if it's true." So it’s like, "Okay, let me know." I have to wait. I’ve even waited 15 days or if he just got in, for example, on the 5th of a specific month, I have to wait because they don't get paid exactly on the 15th. They would probably get paid on the 31st, and I’d have to wait a whole month waiting for him to show me his paycheck.

Beto:

"You know what? Yes, it is true. They're paying this much." Then I have to go, "Hey sir, I've got to go." "Why are you going? Why are you leaving?" "Well, I found a better place." Most likely they don't retain you, they don't try to keep you because this is a very rotating place. You rotate time to time. That's how we communicate through this networking as you call it. "I'm here, I'm at TeleTech, come here, there's a brand-new account and they're going to be paying good." That's how we travel around.

Anita:

Let's say you’re in TeleTech or you're in one place and some place opens and it's a new account that pays better. What happens to the old account? Everybody leaves and then what?

Beto:

Most likely everybody leaves. It's like somebody is crying wolf. "Let's go," and eventually they all leave. I mean they say, "I'm sorry" but I don't know what exactly happens. I've seen companies that, for example, there was a brand-new place, an AT&T. As soon as they opened, everybody took off. The call center got empty.

Anita:

The other call center?

Beto:

The other call center was empty. They started setting up advertisements everywhere. "Hey, we need people, we need people." But that's how it is. That's basically what we want is really, we're trying to get a place with stability and a good pay.

Anita:

Do the other call centers raise their pay?

Beto:

Not the call center, there are accounts that pay good.

Anita:

But the ones that lose when everybody runs off to AT&T and leaves their other jobs. Do the other call centers sometimes increase their pay to retain?

Beto:

No. No. I guess we talk about it. You asked me about what happens to the new immigrants that come here. They're the ones that come on to take our place because they don't know what's going on. They just, "Oh, a call center. I'm going to get 2000 pesos, I don't know, every two weeks." It's good because they are new immigrants. Even if we know about it, and they become our friends for a little while before we move on to the other call center. We let them know, "You know what? Why don't you come with us?" But they're afraid. "No, I need to get experience." As soon as they get experience, "What was I thinking? What happened in my head that I was stuck right here?" That's what they do, and then they call us up. "Hey, do you think they're still hiring?" "Yes. Come over."

Anita:

Roughly what percentage of the people in the call centers lived in the States, and what percentage are Mexican would you say?

Beto:

Okay, I will tell you in my head that 25% are from Mexico, 75% are immigrants. People nowadays, from here, start learning English. It is becoming very popular to learn English. I've seen people from here that don't need to work. They actually just try to improve their English, and they get into a call center.

Anita:

As a way of improving their English?

Beto:

Exactly. Not to get money. Well, they actually are taking advantage of it because they're getting money, and they're learning English. That's the 25%. Some of them, because they're in school, they learned it maybe by playing games. When we're in training and we have to actually introduce ourselves, I'm amazed that they learned English playing games online or by watching movies. I was like, it took me a lot in the States to learn English because I was just listening to English. But it took me a little while and they're just like, "Oh I learned it by watching, I don't know, Finding Nemo and Toy Story.” I'm laughing at all of it, "Yeah you did. Yes." We've had this guy introducing himself, he actually knew the Toy Story song and I was like, "Yes, you did learn English with Toy Story." That's the 25%. Some of them, they do need it because they're actually in school here, they study they're actually just trying to keep on learning and move on.

Anita:

What's the relationship between the two groups? Is there like a solidarity between the returning immigrants and then the Mexicans?

Beto:

We're together. We're actually together. We become very good friends because this is what happens when they learn English, they get to learn the culture. They get to learn the American culture by all these games, by watching the movies. We can have a conversation. If someone here does not have the same ideas, we don't actually have this problem. Some of them ask us, "Hey, you've been in the States, how is this? How is that? You've been to Disneyland?" "Yes." "Mickey mouse is big?" But that's simple stuff. They don't ask much. I'll give you another example. I had a friend that didn't know, "Hey, what is a money order?" "That's like a voucher. We don't have these here." “Oh, that's a money order.”

Anita:

A money order?

Beto:

A money order. Yes. "I don't know what's a money order." "Okay. That's a voucher. You go to the liquor store, you go to the store, you ask for certain amount and then they put some numbers, and that's money." "Really? How come we don't have this here?" "Here I don't think that’s going to be a good idea." They don't know those things because they've never been there. But that's certain little things.

Anita:

That's really interesting because a lot of other people talk about the discrimination that they face here for speaking English.

Beto:

Right.

Anita:

It looks like things are a little different in a call center. It's like an oasis maybe.

Beto:

Right. Because they get involved with us. They want to know. They are a very curious people that already learned or are trying to learn the language. “We're planning to go to Olive Garden, we're planning to go to Chili's, but that's very expensive. But, I mean, we like Chili's. We want to go Olive Garden. Let's go.” Just for being curious, they learn. There are a lot of Olive Gardens. We have Wendy's here in Reforma. We’ve been there and they're surprised, like, "Is this in the States?" "Yes, it is in the States." Beautiful burgers, so you want to try them out. That's basically what, we don't have this discrimination in between people who want to learn the culture and the stores because most people here are not very curious about it. Most of them, I should say. There's very few people that learn.

Anita:

This is a sort of mini little group who are actually interested.

Beto:

Right. College guys, university guys. Here we have a name for the guys that just live with their parents and they don't work. We call them Ninis [00:26:06]. They also are the ones that learn English a lot because they don't do anything at home but watch movies, play games. But they're very curious. They get to be very curious too.

Anita:

They don't discriminate against you.

Beto:

No, not really. No. They actually want to know more. They stick with you. They stick with you and we learn from them because we actually don't know where a place is. "Hey, we want to try another thing" especially food or restaurants or maybe a bar. " Oh, you've never been to this place?" "We don't even know where it is,” “Let's go." We learn from them too. "Oh this is a nice one, I've never been here." We actually get together, and they learn, we learn, and at the end we become very good friends and that's when we become the network. "Get over here, what are you're doing there? You're getting little money. Come with us. Here's better now."

Anita:

That's fascinating. To go back to something else, I asked you what you missed from the United States. Let me ask you that again. You said you missed the tastes. Can you expand on that?

Beto:

I miss the taste. I miss the relaxation, everything that's around in the States. It's very –you don't stress that much. I used to travel around at work and the view is beautiful. There's a lot of places that are beautiful. I haven't had a chance to travel here. But the food, the American stuff, the things I used to do early in the morning like to go to this American restaurant and ask for my hash browns, my bacon, jar of orange juice and a coffee, it’s just amazing. The cook was my friend and, he knew me already. "Hey Beto." "Hey my friend. Same?" It was amazing. Something that we don't have here. Something that's missing here when you go in, the way they treat you, it's beautiful.

Anita:

What do you mean the way they treat you?

Beto:

Like they always smile at you. They actually say good morning, good afternoon. I never had a bad experience at a restaurant. Most likely, in a public area, never had a bad experience.

Anita:

When you went in there, he remembered your order.

Beto:

Yes. They remember my order. It was amazing because they got me there. Now I know why Starbucks puts your name on the little thing because by putting your name, it's like you are part of this place. They make you feel like you are part of that specific restaurant. Not like what you see in the movies. But I had a lot of restaurants where I used to go in, and they were all my friends and they told me here, "Why don't you change your name when you, when you make- " "I don't have to, everybody knows Beto."

Beto:

I go, they know Beto everywhere. Every time it's like, "Beto, hey Beto, amigo, same?" "Yes. But now make a little bit more toasty." It is beautiful. I mean I got the taste of American food and all of the areas. I even went to Chinese places. There's a lot of people there. I mean I never had a bad experience. It was good.

Anita:

The last thing is, tell me this lasagna story again.

Beto:

Oh, the lasagna.

Anita:

Then I'll let you go.

Beto:

[31:47] Okay, well we're talking about discrimination in this case. I was just cooking lasagna and my family told me, "What are you doing?" "I'm cooking a lasagna. You guys want some?" This was a beautiful lasagna in a crystal base. They told me, "Why don't you cook something Mexican? You're in Mexico." "What do you want me to cook, beans?" "Some beans, I don't know, something Mexican." "But I love lasagna. You guys want to have some lasagna?" "No, it looks nasty. No." This is one of the things that you encounter when you're here that we're talking about people that are trying to learn and people who don’t want to know what's going on. It's like, "Taste lasagna. Have a little taste?" "No but it looks nasty." "It's just pasta there and then tomato. Take a little taste." "No, I’ll just go back to my kitchen and have some beans and chicharron and all this Mexican food."

Beto:

I mean, I like it, but I also like to have something from over there or what I used to eat over there. I brought my microwave. I'm living like I’m in the States. I mean I try to make my living like in the States: nice and easy. When I met my wife, I had all my stuff, my cooking stuff. She was like, "What is this?" I have my [inaudible 00:34:04] I don't know like heat, not the microwave. The other one.

Anita:

A toaster oven?

Beto:

Toaster oven, yes. "Why is that? What's that for?" "Well, I cook lasagna, and I make potatoes with cheese and I put a lot of stuff on it and I cook there." "I didn't know you cook." "Yes, I do.” Sometimes I don't like to eat a lot of greasy stuff from here. I do want something else. I want something that can remind me of the States. That's true. I cook. I also make, for myself, big pieces of meat, and I cook them there. Yes. It's like, "Why are you like that?" Because I used to go to restaurants, Black Angus. Oh my God, beautiful meat. I love meat. That reminds me of the meat. I can even have it medium like I like it. It's not that I really love to cook, but I have to cook because I want a little bit of over there.

Anita:

What's the food that most reminds you of over there?

Beto:

American breakfast. It reminds me the most. American breakfast is the best. Sausages. I love sausages. When I had my first sausages with honey, it's like meat and sweet, but that taste in your mouth, it takes you to some other place. Like, this is good. It's like the American breakfast with sausages and bacon. I used to put a lot of honey syrup. It's like, "This is great. Let me have another one." Or I used to stop by in the mornings. That's one of the things that really reminds me, because the morning there, everybody's awake early and there's a lot of places already open for you to have this good American breakfast. It reminds me a lot because you go there, and I have my hash browns, bacon, my big orange juice and coffee, American coffee. Here, well it's very tough to decide. There's nothing like over there. It reminds me a lot.

Anita:

Remind me finally, where did you learn your English?

Beto:

I learned English in California.

Anita:

How?

Beto:

[37:17] I went to middle school. I learned the hard way because my dad actually just put me into school like from one day to another, and it was like I was in the middle of nowhere. I felt like a little ant. Everybody was like, "The new guy" but I didn't know what they were talking about. And you feel very, very tiny listening into everybody. They put me into ESL classes as well. Now that I'm 41 years old and trying to remember when I was like 13 years old, I'm thinking at that time it was 1991 when they had these ESL classes. Where did they get these ESL classes from? At that moment, there wasn't that many immigrants. Everything in California was pack of Americans. It was an all-American state. They had this ESL class that they put me in. Most of my friends talked in Spanish. I was feeling like home. But it was just a certain class for me to learn how to say parts of my body and clothing. After that you need to go to history class. "Huh? Okay." You got to learn who is Abraham Lincoln. "Okay. I heard about him." But then the language, I just heard the teacher going, "Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah."

Beto:

Okay and I understood “Abraham Lincoln,” and that’s all. "Abraham Lincoln." "Good. What about him?" Yes. It was difficult. Math? I didn't talk at all. I was good at math because I learned –here in Mexico, they're very good at math and still they are very good at math. My algebra teacher – It was a Chicano girl. I remember that Chicano girl. The teacher pointed at me for something and then the girl told me, "Hey he's calling you. The teacher is calling you." She said that in Spanish. "Mm-hmm. What you want me to do? What does he want me to do?" "He wants you to go to the board and complete the mathematic there.”

Beto:

"Just go try to do it." She actually translated for the teacher, so I just went in without talking. I just finished the equation. It was an equation. The teacher was like, "How do you do it? You got to show me how you do it. How'd you get that result?" When he looked at me with those surprised eyes I was like, "Oh, I think I did something wrong. Oh no, he's going to call my parents." Then the girl says, the translator said, "How do you do it?" "Because that's how I learned to do it." "Where do you learn to do it? He's asking where you-" "Mexico." "He wants you to teach him how you did that." "Well, this, this goes like this and you go like that". "But how come you don't put anything on the board? How come you don't write anything? How come you just put the answer?"

Beto:

"Because in Mexico you just got to do the math in your head. My teachers will get mad if I do the math on the board. They don't like you to do that." Here, now this is different from my times. If you do a subtraction, you just do this subtraction. That's it. If you are going to do division, you just put the answer in and put the few steps down there. You don't do the minus thingy on the bottom and continue with the big line on the bottom. No, you just do the equation and that's it. My teacher was like, "Okay, I'll teach you guys more. This guy is crazy." I remember when he called me crazy, "This guy is crazy, how come he did this? I'll show you guys how to do this."

Anita:

Was he impressed?

Beto:

[42:45] He was impressed. He was impressed. When he taught them how to do the equations, I already knew how to do them, and when he taught them how to do the geometrical, that's how you call them, the geometrical, Pi and try to get the– He drew a circle and, in the circle, just to get the equation for you to, on the circle, make a pentagon, things like that. I already knew how to do those in my head. "You already knew?" "Yes. That's what I learned here in Mexico."

Anita:

Was he surprised that a Mexican knew that?

Beto:

Yes, very surprised. He was very surprised, and he wanted to know how, and I showed him how. He used to-

Anita:

Was he respectful at all?

Beto:

Yes. Yes. He was. I remember one time he got me, it was like [unintelligible 44:03], I mean they had this ticket for breakfast at that time when you go pick up your breakfast and he's like, "Here, I'll give you an extra for you to take another breakfast tomorrow in the morning or lunch." "Thank you, teacher." I was just learning. "How come you got all this?" "Because I learned it in Mexico." "They know more than us?” I don't know, but here in Mexico I learned the hard way. Teachers were very tough at that time. I had teachers that they actually pulled your hair if you didn't bring your homework at that time. That's the teachers I had. When I got there it was like, mathematics was like-

Anita:

Abraham Lincoln?

Beto:

No, no, I didn't know who that was. I knew he was in in Washington sitting down right there in a big sculpture. That's all. It's like, "Abraham Lincoln. Something about the Constitution." The Constitution? No, I don't know what it is.

Anita:

But you learned.

Beto:

I learned, yes. They used to put us, those cartoons for politics, I remember I don't know how else to call it. I remember that with cartoons they used to tell you about the amendments, the Constitution, who Abraham Lincoln was. I didn't understand them. After a while, I just started comprehending English and learning. But it was very difficult.

Anita:

Did you recite the Pledge of Allegiance?

Beto:

Yes. Yes, I did. I didn't know it, I was just [mumbling 00:46:07] didn't know. But then I learned it. I remember we used to do the Pledge of Allegiance, it was every morning, every morning. After that, I don't know what happened to schools. They stopped doing it, but it was every day. I used to do it every day. The Pledge of Allegiance. I even learned the American anthem, but all of a sudden everything started changing. I really don't know why. Times change. Things change. It reminds me a lot when I used to ride my bicycle to school, put the lock on it. I felt like in the movies. When I was little, I felt like I was in the movies, because of me on a bicycle, putting my bicycle and locking it. I felt like the Back to the Future guy, and I always wanted some Nikes like this guy. It was difficult for the language. It was difficult for the culture because it got me mixed up with the American culture and Chicano culture. There was a big division there because I had to learn from both.

Beto:

That's when you get like a Chicano burrito, Americans potato, mashed potatoes in this. Then, okay, Chicano goes to LA Dodgers stadium, and he's American. Cinco de Mayo, he's Mexican. What's going on? It's like, what's going on with this guy? But then American culture, [sings] “take me out to the ballgame.” I asked my mom a lot of stuff. I asked my dad a lot of stuff, and I believe I mentioned when you asked me how I felt, American or Mexican? That's what they taught me. "You're Mexican. You're Mexican, you know the pyramids. You been there, you studied there. You remember this?" "Yes." Okay. Then you're Mexican. You're not American, but you're learning the American culture. Okay? Chicano, it's different. Way, totally, completely out of, don't pay attention. Yes. Pay attention. But don't go too much into it. You're Mexican."

Anita:

Were they worried that the Chicano's were sort of gang members-

Beto:

Yes. At that specific time, I remember I didn't know about the drive-by shootings because I've been, well we were afraid of those at that time and that's what they were trying to avoid. Since I had my childhood right here, which I remember too, I didn't like Chicano that much or the gang members at all. I don't have tattoos. When they, "Oh I put on my new tattoo." I just gave them my like sign here. "Good for you." Don't like tattoos. I just look at them and go, "Good for you." But that's it.

Anita:

You think that having your childhood here made a difference because you went later.

Beto:

Yes.

Anita:

A lot of the people we talked to who went as children became sort of street people. Because you went later you think it was different?

Beto:

Right. I believe because of what we had before here in Mexico. We had a lot of pressure at school. I don't know, this new expression about bullying is brand new. Bullying. You didn't have this here in Mexico. There was no bullying. You just got out of the school, "Okay, why are you doing this to me," and you fight. That's it. No words, no nothing, no bullying. It was like, "I'm not fat. I'm not skinny. I'm not short." No. Teachers were very, very strict. Also, my cousins my age, we lived this experience with the teachers who were very strict. You don't do this, you don't do that. I remember them having my hands or my fingers together and they had a ruler, and they hit me if I didn't have the homework, if I was misbehaving. Teachers were very– you have to respect them at that time. When you go to a different country, and you had this Chicano culture that there, I mean, no respect. It was like, "No, that's not what I learned."

Anita:

Kids who are undocumented, boys who went to the States as very, very young children sometimes become part of gangs. You believe that because you went to Mexican school and you had a certain set of values, you went a different way.

Beto:

Exactly. Most people that I met in the States, we had these ESL classes. I should say that 70% lived here, and the values that you mentioned, the values were very, very settled. Not in the next 30%, the ones that maybe because of here they just were immigrants, and they were poor. I mean, I'm not saying that I was rich, I was poor too. But I mean they were having a hard time here in Mexico. Probably they were trying to find out what they were going to do with their lives. Even though we were kids, we knew like, "I don't like this, this Chicano, this gang member thing." I was invited many times to join them because of discrimination with them. I never had this bad experience with an American telling me, "You're a wetback."

Beto:

No, I had the bad experience with Chicanos telling me I'm a wetback, and I had a lot of fights there. I used to tell them, "You know what? I'm a wetback, but guess what? I know what I am. I'm Mexican. You don't know what you are. You don't know. Tell me what you are, and I’ll respect you." That got me into a lot of trouble, a lot of trouble because that's what my mom told me. "They don't know what they are. You know what you are. You're Mexican. They don't know." She taught me about it. “You know, they go to Dodger Stadium, they're Americans, hotdogs, beer, all this. Cinco de Mayo, they're Mexican. So tell me what they are.”

Beto:

"Do you ever go-" "Yes, I go to the Dodger Stadium." "Okay. How do you feel?" "Good. A new thing. That's a new thing. That's an American culture thing.” “You joined them, right?" "Yes." "But what are you?" Mexican. You don't have to be wearing all these Dodgers thingys. Because I used to wear my regular clothes to a Dodger Stadium whenever. You don't go like wearing you cap and, "Oh, I'm a Dodger fan."

Anita:

Did you wear a Mexican Jersey?

Beto:

No, it was regular. Yes.

Anita:

Were you a soccer fan?

Beto:

A little bit, not much. I was more into American football when I was little. I just admire when they used to train at high school. I loved that.

Anita:

Who was your team?

Beto:

At that moment, we had this team which was the LA Raiders. They were my actual team and the Rams. Yeah, but I don't know what happened. They moved to Oakland. We don't have no more, like, the LA team. It is in Oakland, but we don't get this feeling like, "Oh my team."

Anita:

Final question, did you have American friends too?

Beto:

No. Well, yes. A few of them, but I was in middle school. After high school, not many. It was all mixed up. Americans actually started moving when the Chicano movement was there, they started moving. High school I didn't have that much American friends.

Anita:

Who were your friends?

Beto:

Mexicans and black people. A lot of black people. I met a lot of black people.

Anita:

They accepted you?

Beto:

They had to.

Anita:

What do you mean?

Beto:

It was very tough because they wanted us to stick with them as, I don't know. Schools are like– they do have certain stuff going on with gang related things and country stuff, and they wanted us to be part of them. Whenever an American would say something or do something, we're together, but we actually said, "No." We're good friends. But that's it.

Anita:

You had a strong home environment. Your mother and father were there?

Beto:

Yes, yes.

Anita:

They were happy?

Beto:

They were happy because they didn't know what I was going through. I never told them my experiences at school because of the respect I have. I knew if I would tell them something that I was going through, because of Mexican culture before, they were very strict. I was afraid of telling them, "You know what, I'm going through this struggle at school, these difficulties" because my dad would tell me, "You're just going to study. That's why you're going. You're just going to study. Don't pay attention to anything, and I don't want you to do anything stupid. You're to go to school and that's it."

Beto:

I knew his answer already. I knew what he was going to tell me, so I just decided just to continue with my stuff. Now that I'm older. We have this conversation. I had this conversation with him. "Did you know about me having these difficulties with Chicanos, with black people? Did you know they wanted me to become a gang member? Did you know all this?" "No. How come you didn't tell me?" "Because I was afraid of you knowing that I was having this problem because I knew you weren't going to do nothing. You, you, you were not going to take me back to Mexico because we were already here." He's like, "I didn't know."

Anita:

How did you resist becoming a gang member?

Beto:

I resisted because I really didn't like it. Because of the culture here in Mexico, you don't fight for a street. Don't fight for a street. We fight, I mean we have this argument, because you took maybe something off me but not because of a street. We know it's stupid. We're like, "Oh, that's your street? You own it? Go for it." I'm like, "It's your street? What about the street? That's good.

Anita:

Thank you so much.


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