October 10, 2018
Mexico City, Mexico
Being undocumented: depression, jazz and the blues
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*To hear more about Billy listen to the playlist above
Anita: So, you said you wanted to start off by singing a song?
Billy: Yeah, well I’ll sing a song. [Singing] “Well I guess you wondering where I'd been. I searched to find the love within. In my world only you make me do for love, girl, what I would not do. My friends wonder what is wrong with me, but I'm in a daze." Alright. That's it.
Anita: That's pretty cool.
Billy: Yeah, I'm sorry for doing that just, I have to burst out and sing.
Anita: Yeah, no that was great. That was fantastic. So, as you can tell, Billy is a musician.
Billy: I love music, I love to sing. It's just... it's like a form of therapy for me. Yeah. It really is.
Anita: Do you sing Mexican stuff or just...?
Billy: You know what, it's embarrassing because a lot of people tell me, "Oh, sing this Jose, Jose song or Mexican traditional songs,” and I don't know them and so it's like, "Bro, I'm sorry. I don't know it." I only play grandpa music.
Anita: But it's grandpa American music?
Billy: It's American music history and if it wasn't for that there wouldn't be a lot of genres today. I really like that old stuff, for sure.
Anita: And how did you get exposed to that old stuff?
Billy: So, that was in North Carolina. I was actually going through a really big depression. I didn't know what to do anymore, being illegal in the U.S, not being able to find jobs, not being able to go into college was difficult for me so I was falling into a depression. And then I came across this guy called Robert Johnson. Robert Johnson is the king of the Delta blues. He's one of the most important American musicians, ever.
Billy: So, I started listening to his music and just the pain and the story of him uplifted me. He was letting me know, "You know what, you're healthy. You're young. Look at these African American people back in the day, what they went through and compared to what you're going through? Don't be a sissy and don't complain."
Billy: So that music just uplifted me, and it gave me energy and it let me know, "Bro, you don't have to just be this kid with”—because I had a lot of anxiety—"This kid with anxiety. You can play music and make people feel good." And so that helped me out a lot and eventually that led me to, and this is going to sound weird but, it led me to discover the purpose of what a human is because, listen to this, when you play music, you're helping other people out, right? And you're really contributing to the change that you want to live in the future.
Billy: And I was, like, "Dude, what's the purpose of a human being? Why are we here?" And it's simply to help others. That's all it is. It is to contribute to the change you want to live in and it's very fulfilling when you help somebody. And so that let me know, "Dude, you're here to help others and, yeah, just do it."
Billy: And jazz helped me discover that because it's like a chain. African American people help each other out through their music, that helped other people out, that helped me out. Eventually I took my friend out of a heroin addiction because of that, because of the music. And I started crying when he told me. He was like, "Dude, I just wanted to thank you because you took me out of my heroin addiction." I actually did something. So that music was really important for me. It gave me an identity.
Anita: So, you were attracted to African American blues and jazz?
Billy: Yeah, because my brother was listening to it and so I'm like, "Dude, what are you listening to? This is weird We usually listen to rock." He's like, "Man, this is called blues, bro. This is a really cool music, and it has to do with African American people back in the day and it tells the story of America."
Billy: So, I just looked into it and I became obsessed with it. I couldn't stop. Once I discovered Louis Armstrong, that was just it. I could not stop playing jazz and so yeah, in North Carolina, I was just feeling kinda crappy and that music came at the perfect time.
Anita: Do you think that you identified at all, as an undocumented Mexican living in the U.S., with what the African Americans went through?
Billy: I think that I identified with it because when you're feeling at your lowest point, and that's how these people were feeling, going through all the racism and being judged by your color and through all this crap, they were able to create gold, like a piece of gold. So, I was like, "Man, you are at your lowest point, but you could still do something if you want. You can become somebody if you want. Just like these guys created this amazing genre, you can be somebody if you really want."
Billy: And so, it just gave me faith. I had low self-esteem. That uplifted me and then I started playing guitar and got more girls in—just kidding, just kidding [Anita laughs]. But, yes—
Anita: It helped, probably [Laughs].
Billy: It helped a little bit, yeah [Anita laughs]. But it just came at the perfect time, man. Honestly.
Anita: How old were you?
Billy: I was 21 when I started playing music. Prior to that I didn't know how to play one note on the guitar.
Billy: Seriously, dude. And I would love to show you, not right now but when you have time, a video of me playing and it's just... I'm not trying to sound cocky but I'm very proud of that progress. Yeah. And you know it's funny because my dad will be like, "Dude, if you learn one whole song, if you learn one whole Blues song, I'll give you $100." So, me being young and money hungry I would stay up all night learning these songs and then in the morning he would give me the money. So that also was a motivation like, "Dude, I'm just going to get this money." I would learn the songs and stayed up all night like, "Dad, I can play now." And he's like, "Man, all right. Here's the money." So, that was pretty cool.
Anita: So, your dad was a musician. As a musician he must've been pretty proud of you wanting to do that?
Billy: Yeah, he was really happy that I got into it but, for me, I would go a little harder, he would offer me money, which was not necessary, but in a way it was like, "Dude, I want to just show my dad that I can play music well. I can be like him in a way." So, yes, he motivated me a little bit. And then he said I was better than him. After a year of playing he was like, "Dude, you're better than me now."
Anita: Did you ever play with him?
Billy: Yes, I would play sometimes. A rhythm like “[Singing 00:06:32] Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo” and he would just do the “[Singing] dein neih neihn.”We would play sometimes but yeah, when he saw that I got into it he supported that, for sure.
Anita: So, this Billy, is that really your name or is that musical name?
Billy: That's really my name. Everybody asks me that like, "Dude, is your real name Billy or is it William?"
Anita: Or Guillermo, exactly.
Billy: And it's really Billy… o Guillermo, exactly. But he named me after Billy the Kid, which, he was a killer and a robber, but it's a very important part of American history. It tells the story of the old West and how the U.S. was before the industrial era. I think Billy the Kid's story is pretty cool. He was not a good guy—but maybe he was, just in the wrong time [Anita laughs]. But it's a very important story. You have to know about that. So, yes, he named me after Billy the Kid, man. It's weird.
Anita: But was he in the States already? How did he know about Billy the Kid?
Billy: I don't know. Oh, because he used to watch Westerns with his dad in Mexico. The black and white ones. Yeah, so he liked Billy the Kid and stuff. He was like, "Yeah, I'm going to name my kid Billy."
Anita: Wow and the Jack?
Billy: Billy... I have no idea where that came from. Maybe he just wanted me to have a white name or something [Anita laughs]. I don't know why they named me Billy my brother's name is Miguel ___. And—
Anita: So, Miguel ___ and Billy?
Billy: Yeah, it's odd. You know what I think it was? He just saw I had green eyes or something and he was like, "No, I'm going to give this guy a white name" [Anita laughs]. I don't know. Something dumb like that. But Billy is my name and a lot of people here are like, "I've never met somebody named Billy." Because it's not common in Mexico, that name. In the U.S. it is.
Billy: But it's weird because when I'm 50 years old you can't keep calling me Billy. It sounds like a little kid name. You have to call me Bill or something. And yeah, it just has to do with the Westerns. He really loves Westerns, yeah.
Anita: I just want to ask you one more question and then we move back.
Billy: I'm sorry if I'm—
Anita: No, no, no. This is super cool. So, you said you fell into a depression at a certain point. Tell me a little bit about that and then we'll move back.
Billy: Yeah, so basically, I struggle with OCD, right? I'm sure you know what that is. It's a double-edged sword, it's helped me out of a lot of things to be more consistent. For example, if I'm doing a skateboarding trick, if I land like this, I have to keep doing it over—
Anita: Are you a skateboarder too?
Billy: Yeah, I have a lot of videos on YouTube. Dude, I was sponsored by a skateboarding company called VIP.
Billy: Bro, I think about my life sometimes it's like dude I almost forget that I had a skateboarding career. That's crazy to me. But yeah, if I would not land correctly, I would have to do it over until I landed in the middle of the board. And so, I would do that 10 times and then I would feel good. So that helped me to be more consistent but, at the same time, it does cause anxiety and stuff like that. It's a double-edged sword.
Billy: Anyways, I was struggling with OCD, I was like, "Man, you're just a freaking kid with OCD, dude. You're not going to do anything in life." And I started playing these Robert Johnson songs and my dad sees it. He's like, "You know what, man? I'm going to try and motivate this guy so he can get more into it." So, he would talk to me, he offered me money. And so, I started getting into these songs and I started feeling more spirit. More enthusiasm. I'm like, "Wow, dude, you don't just have to be this weird kid, you can be a jazz musician. You could be something if you want to."
Billy: And so, I just started playing and playing it and then that dude just took my depression away, honestly. And now I have OCD, but I don't even care. I know how to cope with it, and I know how to work around it. So, it really gave me an identity, which was really important. I think I was going through an identity crisis.
Anita: So, you said, though, that it was also difficult being undocumented and that that contributed to—
Billy: That pretty much affected my whole life in the U.S. Being somebody that spoke perfect English, and I had a lot of good characteristics, but just wasn't accepted because of the legal information. Funny story, though, one day I was skateboarding on private property. Police came and they arrested me. Because me and my friends, we hopped this fence. It was basically a school and it had a perfect hill. It looked like a skate park almost. So, me and my friends were like, "Dude, we have to skate this."
Billy: Anyway, we started filming. Police comes and they arrest us and so they take my friends' information and whatever and they look for me in the system and they can't find me. They were like, "Mr. S__, we can't find you in the system. Where were you born? This doesn't make any sense." So, I'm like, "Bro, this is it, this is it. I'm going to Mexico." They were like, "Are you native American, sir?" I'm like, "Yeah, sure. I'm native American." “Okay, well, that's fine. You're free to go, sir, don't worry about it.” So, that saved my butt. The English and the way I looked saved my butt a lot.
Anita: And your name.
Billy: And the name, too, probably had something to do with it, yeah.
Anita: The Jack was a good idea.
Billy: That's crazy, really. But yeah, we were skateboarding and yeah, that helped me out a little bit. But what was the question?
Anita: I was asking about you said you felt depressed and I so you talked about the OCD but, being undocumented, you said you started—
Billy: Oh yeah, exactly. Being undocumented, it really affects your whole life because you can't go into college, you can't get good jobs. It's hard to get a driver's license. You know what I'm saying? So, it really affected the quality of my life, I would say. And so that would be a yes, being undocumented does affect you.
Anita: Yeah. What I'm trying to figure out is, is there a certain stage of your life where all of a sudden you realized that it was different for you?
Billy: Oh yeah, for sure. For sure. When my dad started telling me, "Bro, if you get arrested, you're going to get deported," and when he started telling me, "If you don't finish school, you're not going to do anything. You're going to be the illegal migrant working construction." And so, when I started, I was like, "Oh man, this means that I'm like them."
Billy: I am a Mexican right? And so, it's like, "Dude, you're American but you're not? This was crazy!” and so right there I was like, "Dude, what am I?" At one point I was like, "Dude, what am I? Am I...?" Not in terms of who I am, in personality, but my nationality. I was like, "Am I American or am I Mexican?" Eventually I just said I was Mexican. That's my nationality, that's where I was born but I had an experience in the U.S. you hear me?
Billy: Yeah, it's just like, because people are like, "Bro, are you white?" I don't like saying I'm white because I'm not white. It's like, "I'm not white, Bro, I'm Mexican." They're like, "How are you Mexican, man? How do you speak English like that?" It's like, "Yeah, man. I'm Mexican. It's cool, bro, it's cool."
Anita: So, you said you were Mexican. Why did you say you were Mexican?
Billy: Just because I couldn't say I was white. What am I going to say? I'm white? No, I'm Mexican. But at first, I thought I was white. I was like, "Dude, you're just a skater kid. You're American." Then after I started... My dad told me, "Dude, if you get arrested, that's going to be an issue." That's when I realized, "Bro, you're Mexican, dude, and this is part of you. This is part of your roots. Just be proud of it. Grab it and be proud of it."
Billy: So now I'm proud to be Mexican and it's awesome because when a white guy thinks I'm white and I start speaking Spanish he's like, "Whoa man, I didn't know Mexicans could do all that." And it's like, "Yeah, bro. Yeah, man. I'm here to show that. I'm an example." So now I'm even more proud of being Mexican.
Anita: So, at what age do you remember that? What age did your father tell you these things?
Billy: Oh, he started telling me this when I was 15.
Billy: Yeah, when he started seeing that I was going out into the streets more and hanging out with my friends he was like, "Dude, be careful with the law. Don't get arrested." But yeah, I think it's a good thing because I'm an example that Mexicans are not just people that listen to reggaetón and they like to drink. There's people like me. Oh, but you should meet my brother. My brother's a... he reads philosophy all day. It's all he does is read philosophy. Super smart guy. Super cool and yeah, he's very proud of his Mexican culture. He even buys the Mexican shirts.
Anita: What the Mexican soccer jerseys or?
Billy: No, no, no. He buys the handmade shirts in Oaxaca that have the designs and stuff. They're pretty expensive but he kills that standard. Honestly.
Anita: Yeah. Where does he live?
Billy: He lives here in ___ He got deported. That's the reason that I'm here because me and my brother are one. We cannot be separated. It was either he goes back to the U.S., which was not going to happen, or I go to Mexico. That's the decision I made.
Anita: So, you came back with him?
Billy: No, I came back for him. He basically got deported. I'm going to tell you the story. This is crazy. So my brother goes—he has a really good job, he was getting paid $1,500 a week—goes out into this bar—
Anita: What did he do?
Billy: He works in construction. He works on framing and they pay a lot for that. So anyways. He goes down to a bar and he drinks-
Anita: Like framing pictures?
Billy: No, framing as in the houses. You frame your house, yeah.
Anita: Oh, yeah.
Billy: Like the skeleton of a house.
Anita: Got it.
Billy: So, he goes into this restaurant and he drinks a little bit. Then in come these soldiers, U.S. soldiers, come into the restaurant.
Billy: Yeah, so they come in, they sit down and then they get into a political discussion. That's already the first error. My brother, he starts talking about the corruption dude and just about the government bro and he's saying this to these U.S. soldiers.
Anita: About the corruption?
Billy: Yes, in the U.S. of course. So, the soldiers, I don't know what happened, I think it got heated, the argument, and they called the police, not to arrest anybody just to get the information out of them. Just to get the story. Okay? Yes, so they come, and they start talking, "Oh yeah, it was just a political discussion that got a little heated." They get the soldiers' names, they leave, they look for my brother and they can't find him. They were like, "Sir, we can't find you in the system." [Claps] Deported.
Billy: Dude, a guy that's been in the U.S. his whole life just goes back to Mexico like that. It actually made me cry when I saw his first photo that he posted on Facebook. Him in Mexico. You could see that he's already been burnt by the sun and he's wearing these Mexican clothes. I'm like, "Damn, my brother's in Mexico." That was tough for me, honestly.
Anita: Did he use to wear that stuff in the U.S. too?
Billy: No, I'm saying seeing him with these cheaper clothes. You've seen him with these, because here in Mexico they wear... It's not like over there. Over there it's easier to get quality. Over here it's a luxury. You know what I mean? So, I'm like, "Damn, this dude is already... he looks Mexican, dude." It was crazy for me. And so, I'm like, "Man, I can't leave my brother there. I'm going to go back." So, I saved them 200 bucks and I just took a plane here.
Billy: Yeah. There's another reason as to why I came. I'm just going to go ahead and tell it. This is very personal, but I don't care. So, my dad, he started getting involved with another woman. This white girl. She had a farm. She was more like a country girl. She was all about the country life. So, my dad got involved with her and we ended up moving to a farm with her and I was on the farm with them. It was awesome, to be honest, I had my own little go-cart and I was working with horses. Had my own room.
Billy: But then I would see them kissing and I would see them hugging and that was just too much for me bro. It was too much knowing that my mom was here in Mexico, busting her ass, and my dad is doing that. I'm like, "Bro, you're tripping, dude, doing this in front of me, man." I just felt disrespected. I'm like, "You know I love you, dad, but you're not very considerate."
Billy: So, I just got the money, I'm like, "I'm just going to leave. It's better that I don't see this because I'm going to end up getting stressed out and pissed off.” So, I'm like, "I'm just going to go to Mexico. I'm going to be happy with my family, eating good food and save myself some stress."
Anita: Does your mom know about your dad?
Billy: Yeah, she knows about that. She doesn't really say anything because they give her money. My dad sends her money. But it's just sad and I feel bad for her. A woman that devoted herself, all herself, all of her life to this guy. It's like, "Think about this, bro, you wasted your whole life, in a way." I don't know. So yeah, that got me mad and that was just another reason for me to come.
Anita: So, she never went to the U.S.?
Billy: She went to the U.S. and when they deported my brother, she didn't want to leave him here by himself. So, she was like, "Man, I got to go with my baby. I have to go look after him." So, boom. Both of them leave. I'm stuck there with my dad, on this farm, with this new woman. You know what I'm saying?
Anita: But was your dad with the new woman while he was still with your mom? Did they split up?
Billy: Yeah, but she discovered him because she snuck in his car and he was driving to the farm like it's all good. And he pulls up to the farm and my mom just hops out the back seat.
Anita: Oh my god.
Billy: Yeah. She's like, "What the hell are you doing, man? I knew you were doing something." But it's weird. The lady, the white lady, actually calmed my mom down and my mom ended up liking her. It was weird. So yeah, that was strange. She ended up calming her down, sat her down, like, "Relax. Don't scream, don't get mad." It's just ironic because you have these three people in the same room. It's just crazy.
Billy: Either way, I think my mom understood that it wasn't her fault. She didn't know anything about that and so that's probably why she didn't get mad. But yeah, my mom knew while she was in the U.S.
Anita: For how long was that going on before—
Billy: That was going on for three months before my mom found out.
Anita: And now...?
Billy: Now my mom just doesn't give a crap and she sits here in Mexico.
Anita: Has she found someone here?
Billy: No. She's not even trying to date. Like I'm trying to tell you, she gave her whole self and her whole personality to him. It's almost like there is no other man for her. Super strange. And even today she talks good about him. But here's the positive thing, they have talked to each other. They're on the same page now. She forgave him. He feels bad for what he did. And he broke up with the white woman.
Anita: He did?
Billy: Yeah, he broke up with her.
Anita: Oh right. And he's going to come back?
Billy: And he's going to come back and supposedly, they're going to be together when he comes back. They're going to reunite. My dad told me, and he told me this in secret, he was like, "Look man, the reason why I'm doing this is because right now this woman is helping me out." She bought him a car. I swear to god. This is so weird, bro. She literally went to the car dealership, not even in payments, bro, just bought a car. $30,000 and just gave it to my dad.
Anita: She was that wealthy.
Billy: She was a millionaire.
Billy: Yeah, her husband, his name was Jack. Died of alcoholism but he was very wealthy. He died and left her, bro, left her so much property, so much money, so many things. And she ended up falling in love with my dad because of the music. And when my dad got in a car crash—I forgot to tell you this—that's the reason she bought the car was so he could go to work. And so, she's a nice lady, bro. She's not mean at all, dude. She saw, "Okay this guy has a family to support. Can't get to work. I'm going to buy him a car. Okay, this guy right now doesn't have anywhere to go, he can stay at my place." So super nice lady and I don't have anything against her. It was just... it was my dad. He was inconsiderate. But he's not a bad guy. How is he a bad guy when he's been supporting two families for 18 years? He's the nicest guy ever.
Anita: Two families?
Billy: Two families. Yeah, I'll just go ahead and tell you. So, my dad... I have step-siblings. I have Alejandro, there's Miranda and Brenda. Brenda died. She went to the U.S. and she died when she was 21 years old.
Anita: What'd she die of?
Billy: She fell out of a building. Yes, it's crazy. It's not even like, "That's crazy-"
Anita: An accident?
Billy: It was an accident, yeah. Well, she was hanging, and she was with her boyfriend, "You don't love me I'm going to let go." She was playing. Her arms couldn't lift up no more and so she just let go, man. She was only there for three years.
Billy: So, my dad is the nicest guy ever and I don't blame him for anything he's done. If he decided to get involved with this white woman maybe it was for a reason. Maybe it was so that we don't end up on the street. You never know. And at the same time, he's a man. Maybe he got bored. Maybe he was feeling lonely. Needed a companion, you know what I'm saying? And so, Norma came up—that's her name, Norma—and he felt good. I don't blame him and I'm nobody to judge him.
Billy: So yeah, that's another reason why I came back.
Anita: Yeah. You're so American.
Billy: You know what? I am American but I'm also very Mexican. If you hear me talking Spanish, I'm very like, from the city and got not much—
Anita: You can do it?
Billy: Yeah. I'm a Mexican boy dude.
Anita: So, I'm going to ask you both these questions. In what way do you feel American?
Billy: The fact that I understand the culture. The fact that I grew up in African American neighborhoods and lived the whole American experience. Not just that but I had friends from all over. Friends from Cuba, living in Miami. From Columbia. Then I had Asian friends, white friends, black friends. I got into the skateboarding culture which really introduced me to a big part of American life. Going out and filming with your friends. Learning jazz music showed me the history of the U.S. and why African American history is so important—it really, in a way, shaped what the U.S. is.
Billy: And so, in those ways I consider myself American. Just those experiences. But blood-wise, I'm Mexicano [Anita laughs]. Culturally and in terms of my roots I'm Mexican. I've been exposed to the tacos al pastor. I would give my friends Agua de Jamaica in the U.S. and they were like, "Man, what is this, bro? Man, what is this juice?" I'm like, "Bro, this is not juice it's a plant." It's like, "Man, this is good, bro. I got to buy this." And stuff like that. I've been exposed to the Mexican culture, yeah. And, of course, living in LA, Mexican culture's everywhere there. Think of it.
Anita: Yeah. You spoke Spanish at home?
Billy: I had to speak Spanish because my mom doesn't speak English. So, in order to communicate with my mom, right, I had to speak Spanish.
Anita: So, you're completely fluent?
Billy: Completely fluent in Spanish. Another thing that I forgot to mention, my mom's from Nicaragua. So, I'm half Nicaraguan and I lived in Nicaragua for two years with my grandma. She had me locked up in a cage.. But my grandma is very overprotective, and she would have me... because the houses have cages and so I would be behind this cage all day. She didn't want to let me go outside. Very overprotective. But I lived in Nicaragua and I got exposed to that culture. They're very simple people and very poor.
Anita: Yeah. Do you miss anything about the States?
Billy: I miss speaking English with people. Because when I'm speaking Spanish a lot of times, I'm trying to express a certain idea, but I don't know how to use certain words. So let's say that I'm telling this guy, "Oh dude, that was a great experience." I don't know how to say 'experience' in Spanish. It's like, “Oh esa fue una experiencia muy buena” It's just things like that. And so yeah, just being able to speak very quickly in English and express myself better. That's what I miss. Here I have to tell them in Spanish “oh está aquí por la carretera y me fue algo muy excelente” and I have to think when I'm speaking. And so, there's pauses and stuff. That never happened to me before.
Anita: Did you face discrimination at all in the States?
Billy: Let me think about that. No, never. Never.
Anita: What about here?
Billy: That's something that I always thought about like, "Dude, I never went through racism in the U.S., but I saw my brother go through it, so I understood it."
Anita: Was your brother... what is it your brother-
Billy: My brother, he looks like me, you get me? He has the nose, speaks like me, he has the characteristics but he's darker and he has brown eyes. And I remember my friends would play around, "Oh, Mexican. Or we're going to go back to LA man," and they would mock him. They never did that to me. And, as a matter of fact, this one white guy, he was like, "Man to me you're white, bud. To me you're white, bud." So, I never went through that. I don't know why.
Anita: So, did African Americans discriminate against you?
Billy: Especially them, they're not going to discriminate. They go through that every day. So, they're not going to do that. But they would be like, "Dude, I know you ain't fully white, you got black in you, don't you? You got black, huh?" I'm going like, "Yeah, man I got black, bro, I got black." And then I would sing the blues so they would be like, "Yeah man, you got black, man, for sure.” [Anita laughs]. You're like, “[Singing] She don't even want it maybe," that type of music and so they feel it bro, they really feel it.
Billy: Man, I'm going to tell you something. One day I was playing the blues, I was like, “[Singing] Dun dun dun dun dun dn…I got a kindhearted woman.” Then my friends starts rapping out of nowhere. He's like, “[Singing] Yeah man you know I've got a kindhearted woman, she'd shine up at him,” and just started rapping and he really felt that music. So, African Americans were never racist with me and they actually thought that I had black in me. They're like, "Man, you're skinny, bro, but I don't know, man, you don't look white. White people look different. Man, you've got to have something in you, bro." I'm like, "Dude, I have Nicaraguan in me. And Mexican." So, they'd talk about that.
Anita: What about sports? Were you a sports fan?
Billy: Since I was nine years old, I was involved with sports. I was playing basketball and stuff. They put me in soccer, but I couldn't do it because people were kicking me in my shins [Anita laughs]. But horrible, man. My dad put me in this little Mexican team. It wasn't like the American soccer mom team. It was like a Mexican team and my fellow players they would kick me in the shin man [Makes kicking noises]. After two weeks I was like, "Dad, I can't do this no more, please. Can't do it.” [Anita laughs].
Anita: So you started doing what? What did you do instead?
Billy: After that I started skateboarding. I got a skateboard and I did that for 12 years of my life. Every day for 12 years of my life. And I actually took that somewhere so that was pretty cool.
Anita: Were you a fan of sports teams?
Billy: The Red Sox. I always like the Red Sox. Not because of—
Anita: The Red Sox?
Billy: Yeah. And you know what? It has to do with the historicity of it. They were the first baseball team in the U.S. They have so much history. When you look at the old pictures, they have the big mustaches and the baseball bats. It just looks crazy and so I really like the history of it. And even just back in the '20s when they first started filming baseball and stuff. So, I just like the history of the Red Sox, but I don't watch it every Saturday.
Billy: But yeah, after soccer I got into skateboarding and that became my whole life. Then I suffered a really serious injury when I was 21. I was doing a kick flip. I'm like, “Boom kick flip,” but then I throw it out in midair and I land with all my weight on my leg and my leg went backwards. So, I tore my ACL and that ruined my skateboarding career forever. I can still skateboard, small ledges and flat ground, but I can't do it as a career.
Billy: I think that's part of the reason I got into music too. I was in my house bored, got to find something to do. So, I picked up the guitar and it helped me out. But yeah, that injury stopped my whole career, but it started a new one because when I got into music, I ended up doing gigs. Got paid $100 an hour. Imagine you play three hours, $300.
Anita: Just by yourself you did the gigs?
Billy: By myself. I have the pictures on Facebook from my first gig—I even had the little blues hat. I was dressing all old-school and man, it was amazing because these little kids in the South they love this music. So, all these little kids would stand in front of me and I'm playing, “[Singing] She don’t hear no…dun, dun, dun, nana….I’ve got a kind-hearted woman.” And just the little kids sitting, and their parents applauding and really involved in the music.
Anita: Could you do this music here in Mexico?
Billy: There's been three times when I'm walking and I see a jazz band playing on the street and I tell them, "Bro, let me borrow your guitar. I give you 50 pesos, man. Let me borrow your guitar, let me do a song." And when I start playing a whole crowd gathers and they start giving them 50s and tips and stuff. I'm not saying it's because of me, but I'm just saying I start playing, “All of me.” “All of Me” is a song. And they start giving them 50s and stuff. I'm like, "Man, maybe I should just sit on a corner and put a hat out you know?"
Anita: But would it be possible to do it professionally in gig places?
Billy: It would be possible in weddings, restaurants, different gigs. But I don't have the equipment. I don't have a band. It's just right now it’s not good—I just have my acoustic guitar and my trumpet. But if I start making money, I'd buy myself equipment and then I'll start finding gigs and then maybe I can just start making that my job. Because it pays, what? 400, 500 pesos a day—
Anita: It might be attractive in Mexico. Would people go to it? Are they interested in that kind of music?
Billy: People in Mexico are more into jazz than Americans, which is ironic because Americans created jazz. So, people here are more into jazz. When you start playing it, they're mesmerized. Like, "Whoa, dude." And if you're American it's even better for them, "Man, you're playing jazz and stuff. I really like jazz."
Billy: I guess, to them it's a novelty thing. They see it on the TV and on YouTube, but they've never seen a ragged ass black dude with a saxophone. [Makes saxophone noises]. That is an amazing sort of scenery right there; you can see that these people have maintained their culture. So yeah, they're really into jazz here in Mexico. To them it's almost a little novelty thing, it's like a little movie thing. They've never seen a full American, like a New Orleans jazz band, do you know what I mean? Hardcore. They have not seen that. You have your—
Anita: You can make a career of this here.
Billy: Oh, you can make a career here, easily, out of jazz.
Anita: Can you do it by yourself or do you need a band?
Billy: You can do it by yourself, but I would need equipment and somebody to show me restaurants and places. It just takes time and I got to adapt a little bit more.
Anita: Yeah. So, racism here, have you felt it?
Billy: Over here it's not about racism. Over here it's about money. Over here if you have good shoes and good pants, that's your stature. In the U.S. it's about color. If you're white and tall you can do whatever you want [Chuckle]. No, I'm just kidding. But here it—
Billy: Here it's about money, okay? It’s about your economic situation. Because Mexico is such an old country and the economic situation's not that good. You know if you have Jordans it's like, "Whoa man. This dude has Jordans." In the U.S., it's like, "Yeah, I got Jordans. So what?" So here it's about money. You could be ugly or whatever, you're going to have a pretty girl.
Billy: In the U.S. it's more about race, obviously because of the history between the black and the white. It’s about race. If you're a tall white guy with green eyes, I'm telling you, it's so stupid, you get so many opportunities.
Anita: I know.
Billy: And so, that's what I would say.
Billy: They're living in a country which is not first world like the U.S., and they know that themselves. They know that, okay, this is a dude that's coming from—I forgot the word, my dad told me—a more privileged country, obviously. And so, people here, dude even when they look at American TV shows they're very involved in that culture.
Billy: So, I've never gone through like, "Oh, go back to the U.S.," as a matter of fact, they're like, "Dude, how is the U.S. bro? I've always wanted to go. I want to see California." So, never any racism. Maybe people that are jealous, for example, I've been on the Metro and like this dude is with his girl. He starts making out with his girl. He’s like, "Bro relax man. I'm not going to take your girl. Have a little self-esteem, you know?" Or when I'm buying a Gatorade, they charge me 22 pesos instead of 15.
Anita: Because they think you're American.
Billy: Because they think that I'm American or something. I'll be like, "Hey, can I get a Gatorade?" They're like, “que es eso? No tenemos eso”. [what’s that?] I say, “Señora que está hablando, alla hay un Gatorade atrás de usted” Oh eso se llama G-A-T-O-R-A-D-E mi hijo, no podemos tener [Ma’am what are you talking about, there is one behind you. Oh that, that is called G-A-T-O-R-A-D-E my son, so we don’t have] -- So yeah, stuff like that but not any racism. Like stuff like, "Oh, go back to America you fucking gringo," nothing like that. Excuse my language.
Anita: And, I was going to ask you another question, have you got your high school diploma certified and all that? Do you have other papers?
Billy: I have my report cards and my diploma, but I haven't... I don't know I haven't brought my diploma here. But I have documents.
Anita: Don't you want to continue studying?
Billy: I do want to continue studying a lot but right now, I need to help my mom. But yeah, if the opportunity shows itself I will definitely study.
Billy: I'm definitely going to do it once I get more stable. I'm going to go to the [foreign language 00:39:36]. You know that's what it's called, the [foreign language 00:39:38]. The university and I'm going to try to study political science or something like that.
Anita: So last question, you made this wonderful comment about the news and Trump, Trump, Trump.
Billy: Oh, yeah.
Anita: What do you think?
Billy: Well I think that Trump... It just has to do... because the U.S. right now is very disoriented and there's been so much racism and controversy that when they chose Trump they were in a state of irrationality. People were just looking for something new. They wanted something new. They didn't want to deal with the same thing every day. You hear about this dude got shot or the case with Trayvon Martin. And you hear about the same stuff every day, the school shootings.
Billy: So, they probably wanted something different and out of desperation they were like, "We need Trump," almost like when you're looking for hope. It's like, "We need Trump." But I think now everybody realizes that was a mistake.
Billy: Not everybody but a lot of people that originally voted for him, now they're against him, which is weird. Now they don't agree with his ideas, they differ in the way that they think. So yeah, now I think a lot of people realize that it wasn't a good idea. But more than anything it's just like, in the state of shock or being disoriented you choose this guy and that's just what happened.