Luis A


Anne Preston


June 11, 2019

Mexico City, Mexico

Losing hope and returning to Mexico

1 of 4


*To hear more about Luis listen to the playlist above

Anne: I've heard a little bit about your story through the survey but the people who are going to listen to this interview have not. So tell us about, originally going to the U.S with your parents, the circumstances behind it, that sort of thing.

Luis: Okay. Well, initially my grandfather was working on the fields somewhere in California. I don't remember exactly where. And we were living in a really poor neighborhood in Mexico, in the State of Mexico, which is outside of Mexico City. And we weren't doing so good. So I think it was when the amnesty of ‘85 came in—something like that—my grandfather was actually able to get papers to become a citizen. And he invited us to go there and live with him. So my parents took on the offer, but we didn't have money, or whatever to do it in a formal way. So we had to cross. I was one, or maybe even less when I crossed. And yeah, that's how I got into the first time. I was living in ____ at that moment.

Anne: And you said you went with a woman who had papers for you.

Luis: Yeah, we didn't even know that lady. My parents were like, can you please cross my baby boy, we're going to cross over here. You could do it legally and it's going to be easier. And yeah, it was actually easier and I was lucky then, because I was given back.

Anne: Yes.

Luis: And yeah, that's how we got there.

Anne: And you had siblings with you too?

Luis: Yes, I had a little brother. So I was definitely one, because my little brother is one year younger than me. So yeah, I was with my big brother who's four years older and my little brother who's one year younger than me.

Anne: [Affirmative noise]

Luis: So yeah, everybody crossed. Yeah, so she crossed me and my little brother who were actually given to this lady. And we got there, my uncle was already there, and we got into an apartment and we were living with them in ____ for my first years. Should I continue, or what else? Like the whole story just kind of?

Anne: You just continue on.

Luis: Super long.

Anne: Well, just talk about how you learned English and—

Luis: Oh, okay.

Anne: —integrated to the community that first time and then why you went back up.

Luis: Okay. Well so, the first time, when I was a kid and I didn't even know that I wasn't really American. So, I just grew up normally. My uncle's partner at the moment was really nice—she was American—and she was an incredible person. She was really caring. So, she would take care of us and we would just watch TV, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Power Rangers. And to me language was just whatever. So we just learned naturally English and Spanish. I just thought it was the same language, because we were speaking both back and forth at my house. So yeah, it wasn't hard at all. That's how I learned English. And in terms of like really fitting in, I was so little that I don't really remember exactly. But I mean they were good times. I didn't work, I didn't go to school, I was just watching TV.

Anne: Were your parents working?

Luis: Yes. They were working there. Yeah. My dad was working in a pizzeria, and my mom was a waiter. My big brother was going to school at that moment, so it was just me and my little brother and my aunt in the apartment. Mom would take care of us too. What else? Well, a funny thing is that I never spoke until I was six, so they thought I was autistic or something. I never ever spoke. I would just watch TV. I mean, I would understand everything, but I didn't speak at all. So I don't know if it's like a repercussion of the whole experience, but I mean that's interesting I guess.

Anne: Very interesting.

Luis: Yeah. I would just watch TV and play piano because they had a little piano in the house.

Anne: Read musical?

Luis: A little bit, I don't know, we just sit there and just play away. Yeah. And then we came back when I was seven, eight or something like that.

Anne: So they never brought you to school?

Luis: No.

Anne: Even though you were six or seven, it might have.

Luis: Yeah. I never went to school because they were like deciding should we enroll them, should we not? Should we go back? Because the first time we left the States, it was because there was a lot of gangs as well [Chuckle], so it was like running away from violence, which is ironic because the second time I went back is because we were running away from violence, again. It seems that violence follows us.

Anne: So were they worried about—

Luis: They worried about my big brother going—

Anne: Your big brother?

Luis: —going into like a gang or something like that. Because you know how the media kind of tells you what you're supposed to be over there—you're Mexican, so you're supposed to be like a Cholo, or something like that. So yeah, that kind of mentality wasn't really down with my parents. So they were like, you might as well leave.

Anne: So you get back to Mexico and suddenly you had to?

Luis: Go to school and readapt and—

Anne: Then you had to speak Spanish all the time. Was that hard?

Luis: That wasn't hard actually. Because I always saw English and Spanish as one language. But for my big brother that was really difficult for him cause he couldn't even write Spanish. It was just really easy to adapt for me and my little brother, because we never went to school. We just had to skip a couple of years in Mexico. I don't know how my parents did it, but we did it, and—

Anne: Now you were back in your original village? Your hometown?

Luis: Yeah. It was still kind of dangerous, but it wasn't as bad as before.

Anne: [Affirmative noise].

Luis: I currently live there. I don't like it, but I currently live over there. What else? Yeah, so I was there and then it got a little bit rougher as time passed. And violence was… just a poor quality of life overall. Violence, poor services. Because since it's outside of Mexico City in another state—it's close but it's still another state. It's called an unprivileged neighborhood or something like that—they have a formal name for it. So, we were living over there and the conditions were really poorish. There was some kind of domestic violence ingoing on with my parents. They were having a lot of issues. So, one of my uncles invited us… “You can always come and live with me.” And my mom just got fed up of this whole situation with my dad and so just one night took us all and [Snaps finger] we disappeared.

Anne: Without your dad?

Luis: Yeah. It was interesting. We went to Tijuana, we stayed with some dude, I'm guessing he was a coyote or something like that. And then, he gave us like the shittiest IDs to cross and we did. My mom was super nervous at the time, but since I was 12, 13, I don't remember. I didn't know the scope of the seriousness of what we were doing. So, me and my little brother, we were like, “Ah, it's like whatever.” So yeah, I think that sold it pretty well to the guy that was checking the IDs. So yeah, we crossed. And the funny thing is that we were on a shuttle to ____, that's the name of the town. And we were driving in this freeway and everybody’s just sitting there really serious, really quiet. And then we passed a couple immigration officers, and they actually stopped another shuttle. So, we passed them by, and I could just hear like [Sigh of relief] and everybody was cheering and stuff and like “Wow.” So it was a funny moment. It was surreal, like “What is going on?”, “Is everybody an inmigrant like me?” It was crazy [Laughing].

Anne: That's crazy, yes.

Luis: So yeah, when we got off the shuttle my uncle's already waiting for us.

Anne: And did you go to a different town this time?

Luis: Yes, we went to ____, really close to ____. So that's where we used to live. It was an eight hour drive, so it was horrible. And I remember we stopped—my first experience on the second time—was me stopping at the gas station and getting down and some dude randomly asking me if I was in a gang. That was my first experience. And I should've known, I should’ve known this is not going to go well. Okay. So he just asked me because I was wearing a red shirt, but I like red, you know, just the color. So he asked me, “Norteño or something like that?” And I was like “No, I think I'm from the South.” And he gets all pissed off and everything and I don't know what the hell is going on. Then luckily he realizes it. I had literally no clue of what the hell he was saying.

Anne: Yeah.

Luis: So yeah, he left us alone. But yeah, it was weird.

Anne: It's crazy. You're 12 years old.

Luis: And I was 12 but I'm a pretty big dude.

Anne: Yeah. Probably looked older.

Luis: Yeah. So people were always thinking I was older. That's how I was able to work, since I was like 13.

Anne: That's it.

Luis: [Affirmative noise]. So yeah, well we go back to the house. I know English, but I don't really speak it that well. I understand everything though. Everything.

Anne: Well you never spoke till you're six.

Luis: [Affirmative sound]. Exactly. It was good at first, but then once you go to school and you talk to other kids, you start to realize that your life is not the same. That you cannot really relate to some of your peers. And you cannot do certain things. I didn't realize that I was going back into the United States as an illegal immigrant until I was actually a junior in high school.

Anne: So you said you started high school when you went to the U.S.

Luis: [Affirmative noise].

Anne: And so two years went by, you're going to school—

Luis: Yeah. And I was super open about my story. I was like, yeah, we just crossed. I come from Mexico, but I wasn't really aware of the fact that I was "illegal". This is just how it happened.

Anne: So how did it dawn on you?

Luis: When I asked if I could be part of a scholarship program or something like that, I don't remember exactly what it was. It was something about art because I was—and I'm still—really into art. But I asked and I remember that some of the requirements were, I don't know. Also when I was working, because they asked me for a social security number and stuff like that and I didn't had any or any official IDs. We went to some dude to take a picture of me and make me an ID. But at the moment I was oblivious of the fact that it was an illegal ID, it was a fake ID. But then like after that moment when I wanted to apply to this specific scholarship, I was like wait a minute. I'm illegal in this country, I cannot apply to this thing! And yeah, from that point on it was like, I need to be careful, I don't want to get deported. But actually, California is like a really, or at least where I was, is like a really chill state. Not in terms of like people treating you well, but they don't ask. So I mean that's good enough I guess.

Anne: So, is school really different when you came to the States versus when you were in school in Mexico?

Luis: When we got here it was like on summer vacation I think—well between school years.

Anne: Yeah.

Luis: So, it was perfect for us to just enroll for the next year.

Anne: [Affirmative sound].

Luis: So, we got here and my uncle took us to this high school, that was called ____. That wasn't the nearest high school to our house. But this high school had specific programs tailored to immigrants.

Anne: Okay.

Luis: So we took a test, an English proficiency test. And it was my brother, me and my uncle, because my uncle is my age. And so he's like a brother. So we took the exam and it was, a number out of five. Right? So my uncle gets one out of five, my brother gets two out of five and I get four out of five. So I mean, I guess I did good or like they congratulated me, but afterwards I realized that I should have done worse, but anyway.

Anne: And do it again.

Luis: I would have gotten-

Anne: More help.

Luis: Exactly. So yeah, they tell me that, my English is proficient enough to go to regular school, but my brother and my uncle needs to go to that specific high school because they have classes for, they have ESL.

Anne: ESL?

Luis: [Affirmative noise]. They went to that school and I will go to this other high school called ____, but a bus would take them to ____, in another district. And I wish I would've known that it was easier over there because the immigrant community is bigger, right? So you have more people to relate to because the one I was going to, no one spoke Spanish and the people that knew how to speak Spanish did not want to speak Spanish. It was like a process of I'm not going to let them know that I know Spanish. I'm not actually American. And that was very few. I mean people were very nice. I'm not going to deny that, but at the same time I couldn't relate to anybody. I became a loner of some sort and I was just like isolated. Because I was at first, since I didn't talk, I was really introverted, but then like I blossomed. When I was in middle school and I was like really extroverted. But then with this change I became introverted again. So I would just mind my own business and I liked to play basketball a lot. So I will play basketball. I will do handstands. I liked to be very physical at the moment. So I would just train you know? It was funny because for some reason people thought that I was really mysterious like, “That dude must be a Ninja or something. He's really mysterious. He's just like doing flips and stuff.” I was really athletic at that moment. Not anymore.

Anne: I'm sure you're still athletic, you just have to practice.

Luis: Yeah. So it was, that was that it was really tough. I didn't have any friends. I had one friend, but I think he was only my friend because he didn't have friends—so, it was like a pity case. Also, one of the things that I remember strongly about high school—my first experience in high school—is that in Mexico, usually rules are kind of rigid in the sense that if you're late, you need to knock on the door and ask for permission to enter the room. So, I did exactly that when I was over there in my first day of high school. I wasn't confident in my English so it was like really difficult for me and I did it. And everybody's like, what the hell is this guy doing? I was like, sorry for being, courteous, I was just trying to not be a douche. Okay. But then I understood that and then rallies, rallies were like really interesting because it's like what are we doing in the gym, school spirit or what do you mean? It was really weird and kids were, kids are bullies. Most of them even if they're bullied, they want to bully somebody else for some reason.

Anne: Do they bully you?

Luis: No, well sometimes but not really because I was big, I remember that on my first rally I was just sitting on top of the bleachers and this small kid just started grabbing my thigh, right? Doing weird stuff to it. And I told him, "You need to stop please. You need to stop.” He wouldn't stop. So I just hit him like this [makes a gesture with his arms] and with the elbow and I just ran away to the bathroom because I thought I was going to get expelled. So that was, that was interesting I guess. And yeah, so it was really tough. The first year on that high school and I was living with like ten other people on that house. That was my uncle's house. That was before the real estate bubble in ‘08. So my uncle was doing pretty good. He was on, on real estate, doing real estate.

Anne: Oh, yeah.

Luis: So he was doing pretty well. Pretty good.

Anne: Yeah.

Luis: And he had that house, he had his house and he had another house, but he lost everything.

Anne: Did you start getting interested in art in high school, or before?

Luis: Way before, since the beginning of my life, I was really artistic. So since the first time I was here I will play piano and then I will try to draw like comic books and stuff like that as well. I was always really proficient because I always practice it. Yeah. Man, what else?

Anne: And in high school you had the opportunity at least for a while to do art and then the scholarship.

Luis: Actually, in high school I stopped.

Anne: Oh, you did?

Luis: I kind of stopped.

Anne: Because of the scholarship?

Luis: Yeah. It was kind of like a heart-breaking moment for me. Because my arts teacher had asked, “Do you do envision yourself going to an art school program or something?” And I was like, “You know what, I never thought of that and do I have what it takes!” And, she was definitely pushing me towards that route. But she didn't know my exact situation and I never told her because I don't know, I just don't like people pitying me, you know? So yeah, I kind of stopped and I started dancing after that—just as a hobby, nothing serious yet. And then we moved from that house because it was a lot of people, a lot of problems. We're actually living in a garage. Me, my mom, my uncle and other four people in our garage.

Anne: Your brother?

Luis: My big brother actually moved with my grandfather. So it was just my mom, my little brother and me and my uncle on that small garage. With other four people. And it was freezing cold and then super hot. It was really extreme. Anyway, those first years were really tough because I couldn't really talk to people. I didn't have friends at school. The high school that I went to, is supposed to be the closest to my house, but it was forty minutes away walking. And yeah, I don't really have a choice. So I had to walk. So yeah, sometimes it would rain and I had to cross a field of strawberries to get into the high school. I mean, it was good when there were strawberries.

Anne: Yeah, I was just going to say.

Luis: Yeah, exactly. I needed to wash them though. But yeah, it was kind of tough. And also, the whole culture kids are not used to, or maybe just humans, they're not used to like alien things. Because I remember I didn't know to say “salad.” And when I was at lunch, I will always try to eat a salad, try to be healthy, but I didn't know it was called a salad. So, I will just call it green thingy—I think it was my go-to word for whatever I didn't know. I will just tell them, "Okay, can I have that green thingy?” And they will give it to me but they would look at me strange. And then one kid got really offended for some reason, like "It's called a salad dude do you even speak English?” And that was it, then I got really offended as well. And I was like well, "Of course not. If I would, I would call it a salad.” It was dumb. But anyway, so yeah, that was strange. Also like the promiscuity of kids in that high school was really amusing to me. It's like holy cow, twelve, thirteen year olds already doing those things?! because my family's like really, is liberal in the sense that everything's okay, but at the same time they don't talk about it. So I mean, for me it was like a real shock. And also malls—malls were super scary. My first time going into a mall was when I came back. When I was in high school. They're like these massive buildings and a lot of people there just buying stuff and the flashing colors, it was crazy. Anyway, it was an experience. And then we moved to an apartment.

Anne: Same high school?

Luis: No, the other one, the ____, the one that had a bigger immigrant community.

Anne: So then you transferred?

Luis: [Affirmative noise] I transferred to that one. At first my mom was really against it because supposedly this one was better.

Anne: Yeah.

Luis: But it was just misconceptions. This high school is better because it doesn't have a lot of Mexicans… just unfunded things. So yeah, I then transferred to the other one. And the ironic thing, at least for my mom, is that I didn't really have any close Mexican friends. They were immigrants, but they were not Mexicans. And it's not because I didn't wanted to. It's because, I didn't feel that I fit in with that Mexican culture. I still don't feel like I fit in with Mexican values and culture, or with American beliefs. I don't really like either. So, I ended up being really good friends with a lot of Asian people actually. Korean people have really similar experiences—Korean people, Vietnamese people, Filipinos- with Mexicans. So it was like really interesting to know all of that people. It's actually beautiful, like a beautiful cultural exchange. I think you grow as a person. And I also had like American friends. Like one of my best friends is American. So, anyway, so we were over there, and we're supposed to be living in really shitty apartments. So, I was expecting like really horrible walls and rats everywhere and cockroaches— they told me that it was supposed to be like a bad neighborhood. But it was actually pretty good. I thought I was rich. So, we were living over there and I spent my senior year in that place. So luckily, my school social life improved slightly.

Anne: Yeah.

Luis: And the only thing that I don't like is that just because I was Mexican, they assume a lot of things. Like the first day I got into that high school, I was called to the principal's office and he asked me, "Are you in a gang? Why are you wearing those colors?" The same thing! "What colors? What do you mean?" I was wearing blue this time and then I kind of got the gist of it, right? So I told him, "Is it because of the blue? Because this is not my first time, that people are asking me these dumb questions".

Anne: Yeah.

Luis: And since that day they thought I was a smart ass, or something like that. Because I was like…I don't know how to call it, but it was dumb. A lot of the things, a lot of the attitudes that they had towards almost everything, was really stupid to me. Like for example, why are you assuming these things, just because of my shirt? And yeah, that was one thing. And since I used to draw a lot, I also like street art, graffiti and stuff like that. And my backpack was actually covered with my own artwork. So they thought I was the one doing...on that neighborhood.

Anne: The graffiti?

Luis: [Affirmative noise]. They thought I was the one doing graffiti. So, they just warned me not to do it and not to write any offensive things on my backpack.

Anne: So, it's interesting, you're talking about this because we do talk to a lot of men, who go to the United States, when they might be six or seven, and then they grow up and they do join gangs. I mean a lot of them do join gangs and do bad stuff, criminal behavior. But you didn't.

Luis: No, I didn't.

Anne: I didn't ever thought you would. But what do you think drives those other kids to it and why not you?

Luis: I think that it was just a matter that my parents are really ignorant in terms of education—they didn't even finish elementary school—but the one thing that they did do well, is surround me and my siblings with books. I think that's like a great thing that they did. Because sometimes I was just bored of TV. And I will just go to the library—well our own personal library—and I would just grab a book. We had a bunch of good books…about sci-fi. I remember The Time Machine by Wells. What other good books? We have a lot of books, fantasy books, we had The Lord of the Rings. And I would just grab the thing. And we had a lot of math books. For some reason. I couldn't understand anything, but it was just fun looking at the—

Anne: Comic books?

Luis: —a lot of comic books as well. I'm a huge comic book nerd, so yeah. We had a lot of those, and I would just, surround myself in knowledge and art and whatever. I do think that expands your knowledge or like at least it gives you some sort of point of view, to realize that you don't have to necessarily comply to whatever standard society is telling you. So, I guess, at least for me, that was the difference with the people that actually join gangs. Because I think that the people that join gangs, that's a part of the environment—not solely faulty on them, but on society, because society is fostering those environments. So just, they want to feel accepted, they want to feel like they have a family in my opinion. So yeah, I think that was like the only difference. The only real difference.

Anne: That's interesting. So you graduated from high school, you started a community college nearby, right?

Luis: [Affirmative noise].

Anne: And then you left?

Luis: Yes.

Anne: Talk about the decision.

Luis: Well, while I was in high school, the overall feeling that I got from my counselor was that “He's Mexican and he's lucky if he graduates.” Right? So I didn't even know what an SAT [Scholastic Aptitude Test] was. And then I did the research myself and I realized that I wasn't going to be able to apply to a real, a four-year college or something like that. And thankfully I met a guy from, a Puerto Rican guy, from this community college and he told me, "You know what, you can do your general ed and then you can decide on studying something.” He just approached me, and he was really nice. So I went to the community college with hopes of doing general ed and some art classes and maybe find a way to transfer to CalArts [California Institute of the Arts] and try to study animation or something like that.

Anne: Okay.

Luis: And I did that. And the first obstacle was that since I wasn't really a resident, or even a citizen or whatever, the fee, the tuition for, per credit was triple. So it was, I had to work a lot just to pay for mediocre education.

Anne: They've changed that now, in California.

Luis: They have, that's what I heard. I was like, [annoyed sound]. It's okay though. I mean, because my little brother actually graduated and he's like a mechanic or something. And he has DACA [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals], so.

Anne: Okay.

Luis: But the funny thing is that with all of those things, his life hasn't really improved that much. I was still going to school, paying triple, it’s okay, I don't mind—well I do mind, but I have no choice. So yeah, I'm doing that and I'm working a lot. And then after a year I realized that, what am I supposed to do? Am I really going to get into CalArts? I don't have a social, I don't have an ID, I don't even have a bank account. I don't have nothing. What am I supposed to do? And it was kind of hard because I had to give that dream away.

Anne: You lost hope?

Luis: Yeah, a little bit. But I mean that was really—fuck, this is the first time happening [Clearly emotional].

Anne: Sorry.

Luis: Anyway.

Anne: Sorry.

Luis: So I always like to dance. Right? So I thought, okay, maybe if a formal education is not from me, I can do something more attainable, that requires no money and I can still be somebody. So, I decided to start breakdancing a lot [Choking up]. A lot of hip-hop dancing.

Anne: Oh, yeah.

Luis: And a lot of breakdancing. I will focus on breakdancing because I saw these incredible athletes on TV. And I was like, “Oh, this is what I do for fun. I can really focus on that thing and maybe become a pro. Maybe even get papers.” But it didn't work out, because competitions were all over the country and I couldn't move.

Anne: You couldn't get on a plane, right?

Luis: Yeah. So I was really disappointed. I just told my parents, "You know I'm out. This country doesn't want us here and my dreams keep getting obstacles and obstacles, I just can't.” They didn't want me to and for two years they were like really against it. But I mean at the end of the day I was almost over eighteen, so what could they do, right? So, I came back with the hopes of going to school, be better. I'm actually the only one in my family that has a bachelor's. [Emotional] So anyway, I come back because I want to keep studying and I want to stop that cycle of not being free to do what I want to do. Because after break dance I was like, what if I become a firefighter? Never mind, I can't do that. So yeah. And so I came back and I thought, “Okay, this is going to be…this is going to be kind of difficult. But I mean I already been here. Right? I already been here and—"

Anne: What did you, do for you? Move in with your grandparents?

Luis: No. We had a house, we had the same house that I left too, so.

Anne: And with your dad still here?

Luis: No my dad actually, cleared things up with my mom and like three years later, caught up with us.

Anne: Oh, okay.

Luis: Yeah. That's like an important thing that I didn't mention. Yeah. So, I mean luckily things are well my family now.

Anne: That's good.

Luis: But I came back and I’m in at a big old house, that was it because it’s old.

Anne: Yeah.

Luis: So I'm there and a lot of people that keep telling me, “You better be careful you're going to get kidnapped.” They just keep scaring me to the point that I like set up a decoy on my actual bed and sleep in the closet. And that is ridiculous, because nothing happened. And it was always here. And I started going to universities. I had a cousin, so he was like, “Yeah I'll drive you, or we'll go together, or whatever.” And it was really scary because like traffic here is nuts. It's like I thought I was going to have a heart attack every single time I would get on a bus or something, but I had no option. So anyway, I started going into universities and trying to apply to private universities because I wasn't even sure if I was going to be eligible to going to a public university. So they keep telling me that yeah, definitely if I have the money, but that also I need to formalize my education by Mexican law, or something like that. And I didn't know anything about that. So, I had to call my big brother to go to my high school and ask for a—not my diploma, because I had it—but a transcript. And go to the Department of State and ask for an apostille thing. And he did, it took him like two years.

Anne: Yes.

Luis: Like he did it at the end. And yeah, I was able to get it. And then here I went to the offices, they have a high school division that takes care of that. So I went there, and I give them all of my papers and stuff. I had to translate everything and just pay some dude, some lawyer, to call me every hour because he didn't speak English. So, I basically paid him, I did his job and his assignment, and I had to pay him. Anyway, so, yeah, that happened. And after two years of struggling with that, I was able to finally have my high school accredited under Mexican law. So finally with that I get into a private university, a cheap one because I have no real income.

Anne: Right.

Luis: I mean I work at a call center, but you cannot really work and study at the same time in Mexico. Because here the idea of a part time job is six to eight hours. So that's a part time job, anyway. And the regular job is like ten hours. It's crazy. Anyway, so, I talked to my parents and they're like, “You know what, we are going to support you, while you do your university.” And at this time, I also meet a girl, she becomes my partner. She's still my partner right now. And she just encourages me to apply to a public school and we applied together and we ended up going to this university together. And five years later, we finish top of the class and yeah, it was great. There the sad part is that, the actual degree, I don't have it because they're giving me some bureaucratic problems because of my high school. So yeah, this is a ridiculous—one thing after another!

Anne: What did you study?

Luis: Economics.

Anne: Oh? I'm an economics professor.

Luis: Yes! [Anne laughs]. I really like economics. Like everything in life is economics.

Anne: Yeah.

Luis: Yeah and my girlfriend studied the same. And she has the same problem actually, but not because she is an immigrant, just because she did homeschool.

Anne: Oh.

Luis: [Affirmative noise]. And they don't want to validate her studies, even though it's already been validated.

Anne: Because you graduated from college.

Luis: Yeah, exactly! Anyway, so we were struggling with that right now. But I got really excited, I thought I was going to make it after college, but just the market in Mexico, the labor market, there's so much. There's a lot of supply, cheap labor.

Anne: People need jobs.

Luis: [Affirmative noise]. That allows companies to pretty much set up the rules—“We're going to pay you low wages and if you want it, good, if you dont, there's a lot of people waiting, so...[Goodbye gesture]”

Anne: That's rough.

Luis: Yeah. So, I noticed that you cannot really be, an economist, unless you know the right people—unless you can hook up with somebody in the government. So yeah, I was doing like really menial, administrative work and I was really depressed because so much effort and coming back and just feeling stuck, just like in the U.S. That's when I web searched, how to improve my life and I found ____. I actually found ____ that way and I applied the same day. The next week I quit my job and I just started studying programming and now yeah, here I am.

Anne: Do you like it?

Luis: I love it.

Anne: That's great.

Luis: Yeah, I do love it.

Anne: And right now you're graduating. Do you have a job waiting once—

Luis: I do have a couple of interviews scheduled, because I think that my specific background helps a lot, since I have knowledge in design and I have really strong math abilities—

Anne: Economics.

Luis: Yeah. It correlates very well with the requirements for a computer science student or something like that. So just the whole programming thing is really easy to me, to understand.

Anne: Right.

Luis: So, I advance really fast. So I do have very good job offers. Actually it's great because my salary can improve three times as much as before.

Anne: That's great.

Luis: So I mean I'm loving it right now. I'm really grateful with all the code. And finally with people that are actually trying to do something with immigrants. Because when I was here, literally none, zero programs geared towards returnees, or the deported people, or whatever. The only thing that will help you is call centers and it's not really help. They just want to exploit you. So, yeah, I'm really glad that stuff like this is happening.

Anne: That's wonderful.

Luis: Yeah.

Anne: So, when do you think you'll start work?

Luis: Most likely this month. Because I already had got an offer, but I was advised not to take that offer because they were underpaying me.

Anne: I see.

Luis: So I didn't take that offer.

Anne: So you're still—

Luis: I'm still looking for a better option.

Anne: That's great. Is your partner also, did she do ____ too, or?

Luis: No, she's working right now. She has a job, but it's still hard because her family suffers a lot from violence from their own family members. So, they're kind of dealing with a lot of legal issues. So yeah. Basically, I want to work hard and support them. Because I mean, it costs money to maintain such ordeals. But yeah, that's basically my story, I guess.

Anne: So what are your dreams now? I mean you talked a bit about your dreams in the U.S how they kept getting sort of barriers and you'd have to cut back, what about now on your dreams?

Luis: Oh, right now I'm really ambitious. I noticed that nothing's going to be given to me and I need to take what I want. So right now, I just want to be the best programmer in Mexico City. And I think I can achieve it. And even, I don't know, move somewhere else… somewhere where my values, because I have really different values from like Mexican people, I'm really disciplined, I'm really honest. I'm extremely... I don't know how to say it. I'm really different, I guess. Even when people throw cigarettes on the floor it really bothers me. So, yeah, move somewhere like, I don't know, Singapore or something, where they're really strict because that's how I am. My dream is just to maybe move with her and her family—so they can avoid so much violence as well—to somewhere else. Maybe even Canada. Canada sounds good.

Anne: Where did you get those values? Was it the U.S.? Was it family? Was it your meeting? Where do you think you got those values?

Luis: Honestly, I do think it was reading. I do think it was all the books because unlike me, my family is really different. We don't listen to the same music. I'm the only one who's artistically inclined. I just think that the key to a better society is definitely education. Definitely. Because it changes lives.

Anne: Do you think being in the United States made you different than you would have been if you'd stayed in Mexico?

Luis: Definitely. It was really bad most of the time. But those experiences made me the person that I am right now. So, I wouldn't change it. And I do think that it played a big role in building my character and my personality and in-depth values that I have.

Anne: What about the Mexican government? What do you think they can do? What should they be doing to help returning migrants?

Luis: Well, first of all, just create something like ESL [English as a Second Language], like Spanish as a second language. I was lucky, but a lot of my peers, they can barely speak Spanish and they're supposed to be Mexican. And everything is in Spanish here—nothing is in English. At least in the States a lot of documents are in Spanish or even other languages. But in here, that's really hard. So, I would really encourage the Mexican government to create some sort of program that teaches deportees and immigrants Spanish as a second language. What else? Some sort of way to speedy up bureaucratic processes to get your birth certificate, IDs, and even bank accounts. ____ actually helps us out getting bank accounts, so that's really great. I think they could do that. What else they could do? Just exploit the skills that these people have—they speak English and they speak it incredibly well. That's just a waste of talent right there, you know?

Anne: Of course.

Luis: And yeah, I think those are like—

Anne: That's great. Okay, well we're pretty much done. But is there anything that you'd like to share at the end, that you haven't said yet?

Luis: Well I don't know. I just think that the U.S.— they don't say it and it’s never going to be said—but immigration, illegal immigration in the United States is a business. They require that cheap labor. And right now the only thing that they are trying to do is just to balance things out the way they want it. Because illegal immigration is still going to be a thing, I think, forever because they need people to exploit. Because at the end of the day, we live in a capitalist society. And I understand that for me to have these Calvin Klein shoes that I bought at Payless, somebody else had suffer. For me to have a good life, somebody else needs to have a bad life and that's just how the world works. But I think that just understanding that fact and understanding that immigrant people in the U.S are more than just assets. They are people, they have dreams. They could be like a positive force for the communities. And just, I don't know. It's just as difficult, because money rules the world I guess. And at the end of the day, a lot of companies just don't care and they want cheap labor. And a lot of people just want to pay less. Just understanding that things are this way, that your wonderful life is wonderful because other people suffer. I think that's just a huge, big step towards a better, more equal society. Yeah, that's pretty much it.

Anne: That was great.

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