June 5, 2019
Mexico City, Mexico
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*To hear more about Noe listen to the playlist above
Lizzy: Do you have a favorite memory or a least favorite memory of your childhood?
Noe: I was born in a city called Tasco. Actually, my parents, they're from a small village around thirty minutes from the city. The village is really small. As I remember, we used to have dirt houses, small dirt houses. What else? We didn't have any… Like the roads, it's like dust and ground, like raw ground roads. What else? I remember that the people, they used to were more kind. it was just love everywhere in my childhood. I used to be shepherd, I used to have a sheep. I used to go to the mountains with my sheeps, trying to feed them and everything. I used to have one small cow. I used to have two horses and everything. After I immigrate to the US with none English, I went there, live with my brother first, and I started went to school, and started looking for a job actually. I was underage, so my parents have to sign off the sheet for me to get a job.
Lizzy: And you were fifteen at that time, right?
Noe: I was fifteen. Yeah, you're not sixteen, I think, you cannot work over there. I was just having a little, small part-time. After that I went to ___ High School. I went there and after I moved to ____, which is, I got my GED from there. Well, it was just fine. I was growing up, making friends and everything. I got used to the city. I got used to, how can I say? Literally, the U.S., it swallowed me right away. [Chuckle].
Lizzy: It swallowed you?
Noe: Yeah, it swallowed me.
Lizzy: How do you mean?
Noe: Well, to get me into, how you say, the living style over there. I adapted very well. I graduate, I start moving by myself. I move into my own apartment. My own connections. After that, I became a chef. It was a little bit of an expert on the kitchen. I got an offer, a job offer, from Iowa about a restaurant opening. They offered me a pretty good salary, and I didn't have to pay rent, so I didn't think twice about moving out there. I opened the restaurant. They were really happy with my work. They were doing very well. I set up everything right.
Noe: Well after six months, I decided to return to California because I thought I was missing the weather because it's really cold over there in Iowa. Well, after I saw the living expenses in California and living expenses in Iowa, I make my statement. I was like, “No, I'm not staying in California anymore.” Then I decided to move for good to Iowa. I went to WITCC [Western Iowa Tech Community College]. I was trying to go for a dentist.
Lizzy: That was the community college that you went to?
Noe: Yeah, the community college. It was one year and a half only, but it was only in generals before I decided what to do. I was undecided between being a dentist or a medical assistant. I was just going to generals before I decide, and I was making my own investigation about salaries—first priority was money, then timing, and then work bills and everything around the community. Luckily, I didn't get to really get into the college about my major. Well, after I return, I came to my small village—
Lizzy: Let's back up just a little bit to what led to you getting deported.
Noe: I was just having a good time with a friend. I was not the driver. First, we got detained for swinging lines.
Noe: Swinging lines, like roughly driving, like reckless driving. Well, we were kind of a little bit of drinking. They were like, “Okay, drinking and driving.” I was like, “Oh well.” I thought I was not going to get arrested, but the people decide to arrest me.
Lizzy: You weren't the driver?
Noe: I wasn't the driver, no.
Lizzy: Your friend was arrested for reckless driving, and what was your charge?
Noe: We charged for… Because that guy had an open container. It wasn't a beer, but it was just a small glass from the bar that he took. They decided to charge us both with open container. When I got into—well they just detained me. Well, they scanned me literally, they run all my information, they didn't find any social security number. That's how they called ICE. ICE literally detained me for about a month before I decided to sign on my deportation because I was sick of the jail. I was just tired and everything. I speak to the judge once, “Okay, we'll see you for the next court.” I was like, “No.” I was so sick already because I spent in County for about four months as I remember, and then one more month with ICE. I was just sick of it. I was like, “No, I just want to go.”
Lizzy: You decided you would rather leave and be deported back to Mexico than stay in detention longer?
Noe: Uh-huh. I was like, ”No, I'm not staying here.”
Lizzy: What were the conditions like in detention?
Noe: Detention, it's just disgusting. It's just disgusting. There's hair everywhere. Everything is dirty. It smells. The beds are hard. They give you like, a little mattress like this, and it's just plastic. No, it's undescribable. If you've never been there, it's undescribable. You can't sleep because you always have to be aware. You never know who's going to come through that door or who's going to be sleeping with you on the next bunker. Yeah, it's rough. And you get sick there. I was just sick of it. I was like, give me my deportation. I just want to go.
Lizzy: How did they treat you there?
Noe: Not bad, but they always intimidating, like trying to ... It's like you are in jail, I guess. They don't want anyone to feel that they can make whatever they want with them, or trying to intimidate the [inaudible], or any other type of misconduct, I would say.
Lizzy: Yeah, misconduct.
Noe: Yeah, it's just hard. It’s undescribable.
Lizzy: What was the food like?
Noe: It's just gross. The portions are none literally. Sometimes they give you rotten milk—just little boxes, like little milk boxes, like a little carton thing. Yeah, so sometimes there's hair in the food. Sometimes it's just the portions, literally, they just like shoved in like a half of a spoon, just throw it in there. What else besides the hair..?
Lizzy: You were hungry a lot?
Noe: Yeah there was a lot of hunger in there. You can't save food either. Cause I remember we used to save the peanut butter sandwich to keep it for later on, for late night, so we wouldn't get hungry. They would search you so if they found you everything that's ... They will penalize you, either with the hole and everything, or twenty-four hours locked in. It's kind of hard.
Lizzy: Big punishment just for trying to save food for later?
Noe: Yeah. Well... [Chuckles]. You're in there, you can't do anything. You're just one more number and one more inmate.
Lizzy: Were any of your family members or friends able to come visit you while you were in detention?
Noe: No. I was just by myself. My only family, they all stay in California, and I was by myself in ____, Iowa. I didn't really want to call them, because they say [inaudible] They were never going to support me.
Lizzy: They wouldn't support you?
Lizzy: Can you tell me more about that? They wouldn't support you in terms of that they would be upset with you, or just that they wouldn't help you?
Noe: I think they would help me, but they would be disappointed of me. They'd say, “Why you do this?” or something like that. I rather not to call them or tell them about...
Lizzy: They didn't know that you were detained?
Noe: No, they didn't know.
Lizzy: When did they find out?
Noe: When I got deported. [Chuckles]. When I got deported, I got released on… What's it called? Nuevo Laredo, it's like the Texas border. I got released over there, and then I called my brother because he owes me money. I called him just to tell him I'm here in Nuevo Laredo. Send me some money because I got to come home. [Chuckles]. Well, yeah, that's how they found out I got deported. I'm pretty sure they would’ve helped me; they gave me some money. But after that, no. That's when I got here.
Lizzy: Do you remember what it was like that day crossing the bridge from Texas back into Mexico?
Noe: Yeah. I will never forget that. They just gave you this small bag with your belongs, [Chuckles] which is like clothes from jail, so they're not really good. They give you small needs, like a bag with needs, with everything. They just release you. They take all the chains off. They're just like, “Get off the bus, walk across the bridge.” That's it. Well, you had to cross it. [Chuckle]. What other choice do you have?
Lizzy: What did you do when you were across the bridge?
Noe: I was a little scared, a little excited about a new thing, but I was just thinking too much—like I don't have money, where am I going to go? What I going to do? There was a lot of rumors about the cartels recruiting immigrants as soon as you cross the bridge; they going to make you get into a car, and they going to take you from there. If you with them or not, they going to kill you. I was just looking around like, “Where's the car? Where's the car?” [Chuckles].
Lizzy: Did you have any experience like that?
Noe: No, not really. Luckily, I got welcomed by this group of people—the one I mentioned. They literally just went, “Okay, where are you going?” I'm like, “Oh, I'm going to Guerrero.” “Okay, so listen. We are from the Mexican government. We here to assist you and help with everything that you might need.” I was like, “Okay.” “Just come with us.” it was a little scary because they say, “Okay, just come with us,” and they just take you around the building. You don't even know, what other choice do you have? You either stay with them or just stay in the street?
Lizzy: And you're not sure whether it's safe to—
Noe: Yeah, whatever.
Lizzy: No other choice?
Noe: They say they from the government and they have a little logo, a Mexico logo, so I was like, “Okay. I'm going to just go with them. Whatever happens is going to happen.” They give you access to computers to communicate with your family and everything. That's when I got in contact with my brother. I was just like, “Send me some money here. I'm going to need for my bus ride at least.” Then one of the guys heard me: “Hey, where did you say you were from?” I'm like, “I'm from Guerrero.” “Oh, Guerrero, I think Guerrero have some programs about immigrants from their state. It’s their people, and they take care of them.” Yeah, if you're an immigrant from my state like Guerrero, and you were born there, they will pay you. If you get deported, they will pay you the trip. You submit an application, and not even five minutes, they will be answering you with the approve—well, the bus will have to take you to Guerrero.
Lizzy: To take you to Guerrero?
Noe: It was nice, I was like, “Okay.” I just told my brother to send me money to Guerrero. I get to my house. That was it.
Lizzy: What did that feel like being back in your home?
Noe: [Exhale]. It was just awful. As I say, nobody knew me. I didn't know nobody besides my family, my close friends and family, close family. Besides my neighbors, they didn't know who I was. I didn't know who they were—well yeah, the old people, but not, for example, if there was kids five years old, they were almost twenty-five by then. I was like, “No.” It was exciting getting to know more people.
Lizzy: Did you feel like you were returning home, or did you feel like an outsider?
Noe: I felt like an outsider. Yeah, definitely an outsider. Well, literally, you don't know what to do there. You don't know how they are. Even you if try to adapt to the living in there, it's hard. They'll see you and they'll just reject you, because “Oh, you didn't have an answer,” or you didn't know how to speak correctly or formal with them. They'll just get mad at that. That's one of the reasons I decided to come to the city. I was like, “No, I'm not staying here.”
Lizzy: How long did you stay there before you came to Mexico City?
Noe: About one year. I've been living one year here. I've been jumping job by job. Some jobs did not accept me because I don’t have the high school diploma—that's why I'm trying to get it. Luckily, T-Tech they accept you. They don't really care about the high school diploma, it's not an issue. As long as you do the job right and you know how to do the job, they'll hire you.
Lizzy: Do you like working at T-Tech?
Noe: I've only been working there for two weeks, but I think I'm going to like a lot.
Lizzy: What do you like about it?
Noe: About my coworkers. They really help you out. They know how to talk to you. We connect really well. That's why I feel okay. I feel like in high school over there. We get along each other, we joke each other. There’s no… a lot of people speak English better than me, like, “Go eff yourself.”
Noe: My profession was to be a chef, so I was trying to look for chef jobs around here. I've found a few of them, but I was just harassed. I don't know. In my department, on the hotel I was working as a chef, I was the only bilingual, not even the servers. The waiters, servers, hosts, they didn't know how to speak English. Sometimes, I was trying to be nice with them and trying to help them out, translate, because there's a lot of white people coming in there. It's like 80% of the customers, they're white—that's the only people with money. Sometimes I notice that they are having trouble trying to understand the customer, and I was just trying to be nice [Chuckle], and trying to help them out, translate what they want or what their allergies and everything. Instead of thanking me for doing that for them, they was just complaining about me.
Lizzy: They got mad at you?
Noe: Yeah, they got mad at me. And I was like, “Well okay now guys, eff you, I'm not helping you anymore.” I only stayed there for three months. I can't do this, because everyone was just complaining about me. Well, I guess I was just trying to be nice, but they don't see it that way.
Lizzy: Why do you think you had trouble getting along with them when you tried to help them with English? Do you think that they were embarrassed?
Noe: They might be embarrassed or they might feel like I was trying to make them less or something. That was not my intention. I was trying to help. I was not being rude. I was not just like using rude words like, “Hey, you have to say like this, not say like that,” or something like that, trying to yell at people. No. It's the opposite because I was always telling them, “If you need help with any words, any pronunciation, just let me know. I'm here for you guys to help you out.” They didn't take it like that.
Lizzy: They didn't want help?
Noe: Yeah, and one other thing that I was not getting along with them is because they were, like with the company, they always eating the product, stealing this and stealing that. I was like, “I'm not like that, guys, for real. We don't have to. We have a cafeteria. There's cake, there's a lot of food in there, and it's free. You guys can eat everything from there. I don't see the reason why you guys have to eat the product or eat the things. Sometimes we short for the customers because you guys eating it. I'm not taking that.” Also, there's quite a few situations that I went through that the customer forgot their cell phones on the table, on the bar, on the sushi bar, what everything. They just look each other, trying to think what to do. You don’t have to deal with it, you have to return to the customer! The customer's still at the door. It’s like, “What are you guys thinking about?”
Lizzy: Sounds like you had a different work ethic than your coworkers there. Why do you think that is?
Noe: I don't know. Maybe because I was raised differently with the U.S. culture, I guess? In the U.S., you can leave your cellphone anywhere, and even if you lost it, there's a high probability that they will return it. I got returned my wallet twice with money in there, and they didn't really ask for rewards and everything. I remember one time, a lady—a messy girl from the streets, I think she was homeless—she showed up at the restaurant, and was like, “Hey, is this yours?” It was my wallet. I was like, “Yeah. Where you found it?” “Here. There's a lot of money in there, so take care of it.” I didn't even know I lost my wallet, and they returned it. I was like, “Hey girl, just sit down and give you the menu. Ask whatever you want.”
Lizzy: That's amazing.
Noe: She was like, “Oh no no, I got to go. I got to go.” I was like, “You sure? Come on, let me cook something for you. You can have it for later. You can have it for to go. “No no, no, thank you, thank you, thank you.” She just left. I was like, “Wow.” And here, I already lost my wallet once.
Lizzy: Nobody returned it?
Noe: I ain't got no call. I got nothing. I got nothing for it. That's what I hate about this.
Lizzy: You had mentioned in the survey you got attacked and your belongings stolen. Can you tell me about that?
Noe: Oh yeah. I was hanging out with my friend. She's a girl, short girl, and I didn't really know. Those guys, they came to us with the knives. They pull out the knives. They came to me, they put a knife on my neck, and another one in my stomach, like say, “Don't move, don't move.” But as they say that, I didn't show that I was afraid of them. I was just like, “Okay, calm down. Take whatever you want. Don't do anything stupid, something like that.” I didn't want to do anything—hit back or something and run away—because I was with the girl. I was just more scared about her. She was super scared. I was like, “Just take that, just go.” Yeah, after that, there was a police station two blocks from there.
Lizzy: Did you go to the police?
Noe: Yeah, we went to the police. She filed a report and everything.
Lizzy: What did they do? Nothing?
Noe: Nothing. Nothing at all. I don't think she got contacted or something, and I don't think they did something. It's just like a regular thing around here. You get jacked and they steal your stuff.
Lizzy: You had said that you don't feel safe in Mexico?
Noe: No. To be honest, I don't feel safe. I'm always on guard, like everything. When I see people, as long as I’m by myself, and I see people getting close to me, I'm going to get just on guard. I see something you're trying to do to me, I'm just going to scream and run. [Chuckle]. I don't feel safe. I’m always aware. When I'm on the subway, on the streets, I'm always checking my pockets around, “Oh, I still have my wallet, still have my ... “ It's just a daily thing, I have to check everything. When I get out and get into the bus, I have to check my wallet. I get out, I check my wallet and everything. If you drop anything, somebody take it, you're never going to see that item again.
Lizzy: Sounds like it's a stress that's always—
Noe: Yeah, yeah. Have to be aware, have to be aware, have to be aware!
Lizzy: Did you ever feel like that in the US?
Noe: No. Not at all. Never. I used to go to ___ in the morning, Chinatown, by myself. Nothing ever happened. It's just definitely a different world, I would say.
Lizzy: Different world here?
Noe: Different people as well. People here is just—I know there's good people, but it's just, I hate some people really. They super selfish, they only worry about them. They don't give a damn about anybody else. What can they do to hurt the other people? For them, it's just them, them, them, them.
Lizzy: Why do you think that there's people like that here?
Noe: One example from the subway, there's a lot of people that they don't care about the others. I always tell it to my friends when I get to speak about the city that when I came here, I was giving seats to the ladies, to the girls. “Hey, take a seat and everything.” The people get crowded at the door when the subway open the door, they just get crowded. Everybody wants to get in. I was like, for real, just stepping aside, just trying to let them go, and then I get in. Now? Nah. They crowd in, I go too. I have to be like, “I don't give a damn about you.” There are ladies forties, maybe fifties, they're nice, but I'm not giving my chair. Only if I see a really elderly lady, “Okay, just take a seat there.” That makes a big change on you and how you were raised. It's a lot of, the city takes a lot from you: take your manners, take your... If you're kind to people, get ready, because this city is going to change you.
Lizzy: You feel like it's changed you?
Noe: Yeah. For real. I feel like it's taking the manners from you. What else? Kindness. The people ask you for money and everything. They're just crazy. There's a guy in good working condition, just like, “Hey, give me some money.” Get out of my face, get the fuck out of my face, because I can't stand those people. In good, working condition, they can have a job. I got this in my mind, if you in that condition, a homeless condition, it’s because you wanted to. You have two hands, two feet, I don't see that you suffer sickness or something like that, that will not allow you to work or to have a job. There's a lot of work around here. There's work everywhere. You just have to want to work first. That makes me mad a lot. Get out of here, get out of my face, because I can't stand them. I can't stand the people. I can’t stand that.
Lizzy: What's been the biggest challenge for you? What's been hardest for you being back in Mexico?
Noe: The biggest challenge I would say is to adapt and to accept people the way they are because obviously they're not in the US. It's hard for me to accept, to ignore them, to see if someone has stolen something, is not doing things right. It's hard to me to keep quiet. So, to adapt and to accept these people. That's really hard. Sometimes I just feel like I want to scream at people and yell at them. Just, “Get a job, just do something for your life.” It's like, “Do a job. Everybody's getting a job. Why are you jacking off? Why are you just jacking people on the streets or trying to defraud and make fraud everywhere? Just get a job or something.” That makes me mad, because I have a job. I'm paying taxes.
Lizzy: Yeah, you work hard.
Noe: Yeah, why you not? For real? I work hard and I pay taxes, so we have a decent city. You just wake up, go to the bus, and ask for money? That's it? That makes me mad, for real.
Lizzy: Do you think that for some people, they're not able to get a job here?
Noe: I bet there's some people that are not able to get a job, but there's a small fraction. Super, super, super small fraction. Let's say, for every hundred people, at least only two of the people there really are disabled, not able to get a job. The rest, they just don't want to get a job. For example, those immigrants that came from Honduras. A couple of them, they get into the bus, they say, “Just give me money. I don't have any paperwork.” Dude, you don't need a paperwork. There's a food stand that is asking for a server or something. You just fill out an application and ask them for a job. Explain the situation. You say you really need a job, and you want to work, they're not going to reject you. They're not going to let you in the streets. And that’s the reason that they're asking for money like that. Just get out. Get out of here. I'm not going to give you my money. I'm giving you money to [inaudible 00:31:53] you can have a life, you can have all type of programs. I'm sorry, I'm sorry. I might be a dick right now.
Lizzy: It's okay. I like honesty. I would rather have an honest answer.
Noe: Yeah. That's me.
Lizzy: What about, to switch over to a positive note to end on, what's been the most positive thing for you, or what's been the best part of being back in Mexico?
Noe: Hmm. Getting to know more about my culture. That's one thing. I've been reading a lot of books about Mexico. Not the culture right now, but the culture of Mexico, Hispanic Mexico. Visiting the temples, to Teotihuacan, have you been there? Those are not, they're pyramids, but it's called temples. The temples, there's a lot of things. For example, there's a lot of history on my little village that used to be home of the Aztecs.
Lizzy: The what?
Lizzy: Oh okay, yes. Yeah.
Noe: Cuauhtemoc, a big icon about the Aztec. Cuauhtemoc, they used to live there. There's a lot of finds that have been happening around the village. Whenever I go, when I have a chance, I go up there, and just explore the caves. I've been finding paintings, prehistoric paintings. There's a lot of culture that I've been seeing that I like. That's one thing, that I'm getting to know more of my country. Well, my family. I get to see my family more often. If I stay in the US, I will never come, like, “Ah, it's Mexico.” [Chuckles].
Lizzy: When you lived in the US, were you ever able to visit Mexico?
Noe: No. Not at all, due to my immigration status. It's like everything. The U.S.A. just swallow you into the system. And it's fine. It's working. The thing that you not able to leave the country, you get used to it, like, “Oh, it's just Mexico.” I was just playing. To be honest, I would never come back. I would never come back if I wouldn't have deported, so that's one positive thing about the deportation. I got to know my country, my culture. Got to spend more time with my family. If it wouldn’t have been like that, I would never have come to Mexico. Yeah, I think all the people that leave Mexico and emigrate to the US, we do the same thing. “Okay, next year, I'm going to go to Mexico.” The year goes by, and the year go by. “Okay, in two years, I'm going to try to save my money and I'm going to Mexico.” The two years go by, and it just goes by, goes by, it goes by, it goes by. It's just like that.
Lizzy: It would be very difficult, because you would have to—
Noe: Cross the border again. Well, you know that things are getting more hard on the border. There's a lot of chances that you might not make it. Obviously, the cartels, they took over the border already. Either you pay a lot of money or you're a mule or they just not let you in. They'll kill you.
Lizzy: What are your hopes for your future now back in Mexico?
Noe: It's to get a better job. I know call centers, they pay pretty well, more than on the street or working in construction, but my plan right now is to get on track in my studies, get my GED, get to university, get some career. Well, to get a career as quick as possible because I'm not speaking about ten years from now or five years from now, I'm speaking—well maybe five years. Ten years is too much. I'm trying to hurry up as quick as possible and get a job.
Lizzy: Do you want to be a chef again, or something else?
Noe: Yeah. It's going to be something else, but food has always been my passion. I'm planning to get my diploma on PMP. You know what PMP is?
Lizzy: What's that?
Noe: It's like a programming managing, it's computers, technology. After that, I'm planning to open my own restaurant. Start from the bottom, obviously, and open a small restaurant to see how it goes from there.
Lizzy: What kind of restaurant?
Lizzy: Japanese food?
Noe: Yeah. One of my plans is to go to the US because I have ten years deportation, so after ten years I'll see what I can do to that. Hopefully by then I'll have my restaurant at full potential and to get some chains to the U.S., maybe South America. Canada is one of my targets as well.
Lizzy: To live?
Noe: To live as well, Canada. Well for business as well. Have U.S. and Canada for business.
Lizzy: Opening up restaurants?
Noe: Opening restaurant. Small restaurants, to make a chain—not so expensive.
Lizzy: What kind of Japanese food do you like to cook?
Noe: Well, I just go from stir fry into fried, like tempura things, sushi rolls. There's a million sushi rolls that I can make. Mostly typical more homemade Japanese food—let's say like ramens, house ramens, and everything. Some products from Japan, like specifically like a, how I say? Those products that you can't get anywhere except Japan, so I'm trying to do that as well. That's one of my priorities as well.
Lizzy: Why Japan?
Noe: Because I like their culture. I've been raised with Japanese people as well, and well I specialize. Out of the ten years of the kitchen, seven years they were only for Japanese food. I know Italian, Chinese, Korean, but Japanese is the one that captured my attention. All the rolls and everything, the flavors. I know here, their palette, the Mexican people, their taste, they are not really like aware of flavors. I'm working on it.
Lizzy: You can teach them how to like it.
Noe: Yeah, one example, when I first got into my village, I make a shrimp fried rice with fruit spring rolls. They only ate the spring rolls. They didn't like the fried rice with the shrimp. They’re like, “This is the best thing that you gave me?” There is a big pot, maybe three pounds, three pounds of rice. It was decent. “No, I don't like the rice, because it's just rice.” “Eat it with the chopsticks, I don't think you guys can use it, so use a fork.” They're like, “No, I don't want to eat just rice.” “Why?” “Because I'm not a chicken.” I'm like, “Just eat it.” And now they're saying, “Oh it just tastes like garlic.” “That's what fried rice tastes like! Okay, fuck it! Just leave it, I'll just eat it all by myself.” Yeah, they didn't like it. Some of my friends, they like it, but my family, my parents, they're like super Mexican. [Chuckles]. They don't really used to a different type. They give you beans, tortillas, and pork meat, and beef meat. They're happy with it.
Lizzy: Well, hopefully one day, if you have a Japanese restaurant, they'll come eat there and learn all about the food.