Anita Isaacs


June 14, 2018

Mexico City, Mexico

Raising a US-born son in Mexico

1 of 3


*To hear more about Rodrigo listen to the playlist above

Anita: So how old were you when you went to the states?

Rodrigo: I was 12 years old.

Anita: Do you remember?

Rodrigo: How did I went?

Anita: Not how you went—

Rodrigo: How did I cross?

Anita: No. Do you remember arriving in the US? Your first day there? That's what I wanted to hear about.

Rodrigo: Well, pretty much, it was something different. I mean, you are used to be right here in Mexico, where I was used to being right here in Mexico. To go over there, to see different people, pretty much, the differences, how people speak, because it was really different. I didn't know anything about English. We were like, "What are they talking about?" We were like, "What?" That's the only word I knew. But it was pretty much good. But at first it was like even the TV, the news, everything was different. I was a kid. I mean, the way you see, I was a kid and it was really different. I tried to play with the other kids, but they couldn’t speak Spanish, and I couldn’t speak English.

Anita: Where did you arrive?

Rodrigo: First of all, I arrived in Texas.

Anita: Yes. Is that where you lived first?

Rodrigo: Well, I just arrived in Texas. From there, I went to Minnesota.

Anita: Minnesota. Wow.

Rodrigo: It was far away from Texas.

Anita: You lived in Minnesota for a while?

Rodrigo: Well, first of all, let me explain to you how it was. I cross the border, and I went to Texas first. From Texas, my aunts, they went from Minnesota to Texas, to pick me up. From there, I went to Minnesota. It was close by Canada. So, from there, it was pretty much, "Oh my God, there is a lot of white people." So, it was hard for me to talk to anybody. When I went, first of all, I did like five days to stay at home, to get clothes because pretty much, we didn't have any clothes. So, first of all, we have to get clothes, get used to it. Then from there, we went to the school.

Anita: Okay, so I have questions for you. What month was it?

Rodrigo: That was in April.

Anita: So, was it still cold? [Laughs].

Rodrigo: Yes. Yes. I still see a lot of snow at that time.

Anita: Is that the first time you saw snow?

Rodrigo: No. One time I was right here, by ___, that was the first time that I see a lot of snow. Then I went to the school, and it was really, really hard for me because I couldn't say, "May I go to the restroom?" I couldn't check anything. The first day for me was horrible. Because I didn't know English. I didn't know anybody. I was a really different person than the students from there. They just looked at me like, "Who are you?" Some people would talk to me, and I was like [gestures] with signs. Then they put me with a tutor. It was just pretty much, all the year, I stayed with the tutor all the time, just learning English.

Anita: Was the tutor nice?

Rodrigo: Yeah. I still remember she was nice to me. Then from there, I pretty much, I didn't learn a lot, but I learned how to ask for food, to go to the restroom. Small things. That was in the beginning. Then from there—that was in 8th grade.

Anita: 8th grade.

Rodrigo: Because when I started over there, I was in 8th grade. Then from there, I moved to my aunt’s because my dad left me over there.

Anita: So, your dad took you over?

Rodrigo: He took me over, but then he left me.

Anita: Where did he go?

Rodrigo: To Texas. And then he went to Texas, and from there, we haven't talked since then.

Anita: You haven't talked until today, with your dad?

Rodrigo: Until today, I haven't. He found somebody else, and he got married, I guess. He just forgot about me. So, I started living with my mom's side of the family, with my aunts, and my grandma and grandpa. They would help me a lot. Then from there, from Minnesota, they wanted to move to California. So we moved to California. I started high school, 9th grade to 12th grade, in California.

Anita: Where in California?

Rodrigo: I don't know if you know the Central Valley area. It's a small town, it's called _________, California. Pretty much all of my family lives there, and around there. My mom had a big family. There were like 13 brothers in total. So, it was a lot.

Anita: So why Minnesota?

Rodrigo: Because they live over there. To be honest with you, one of the reasons that now I get it is because in Minnesota, they didn't have a lot of Hispanic people. So, when you apply over there to get an immigration—because my aunts, they were trying to get the residential for my uncles, for their husbands—it was more faster for them to do it over there. So, they moved over there. Then they started buying houses. That's why we stayed there, for a while. Then they come back to California when they get their papers, and some of my uncles, they stay in Minnesota, and some, they stay in California.

Anita: Wow. So, was California better than Minnesota?

Rodrigo: Pretty much, yes, and no.

Anita: Okay.

Rodrigo: I have to be honest with you, in California, there were more Latin people, more Hispanic people, more Mexicans. I will say that, where we live. It was easier for me because they have more programs on the high school to learn English. We have the ESL, ESL one, ESL two, ESL three. That helped me a lot. It was better because I was used to being always at home back in Minnesota, and over here, not, because it was more sunny. It was better. It was more familiar with Mexico.

Anita: So how many years were you in Minnesota?

Rodrigo: That's another story. I stayed in Minnesota for six, nine months in the beginning. Then I moved to California, and as soon as I finished the high school, I moved to Minnesota again.

Anita: Why did you move back to Minnesota?

Rodrigo: Because I finished high school, and I couldn't go to the college, because I didn't have a social security number. So, I didn't have a way to keep studying. I had to work. The only work that they have over there, it was pretty much for people that don't have papers, was the fields. I didn't have a way to – a car or something to move.

Anita: Did you work in the fields at all?

Rodrigo: Yes. On the summer. Summer I used to work on the fields, just two or three weeks, just to get some money to buy my clothes for the new year. So that's what I did.

Anita: So what did you do in the fields?

Rodrigo: Picking onions, and the cotton.

Anita: Cotton?

Rodrigo: Yeah.

Anita: In the Central Valley?

Rodrigo: In the Central Valley area. That's what I did. It was not a lot. I didn't work, like I say. I used to work for three weeks, and then from there, I would be at home. Just to get some money to buy my clothes for the new year.

Anita: So, when you worked in the fields, you worked with other Mexicans?

Rodrigo: Yes.

Anita: Who were working full-time?

Rodrigo: Yes.

Anita: How was that? Did they say, "You lucky kid, you're going to school?"

Rodrigo: No. Pretty much, I used to work with my aunts. One of my aunts, the one that raised me, she would go with me.

Anita: She worked in the fields?

Rodrigo: Yeah. She would go with me, and she would take a look at me, keep an eye on me, just so nothing happens, because, you know, the border patrol and immigration would go in the fields. So, she always was there for me. She's like the main [inaudible].

Anita: What year is this in California?

Rodrigo: I'm talking about '98 to 2001.

Anita: So, your aunts really wanted you to finish school?

Rodrigo: Yes. Pretty much, I grew up with them. My mom was here in Mexico. But pretty much, they helped me a lot.

Anita: Did they have children of their own?

Rodrigo: Yeah. Yes, my cousins, my little cousins. They're not little anymore. I'm like the big brother for them.

Anita: How much older were you?

Rodrigo: I was 15 when I moved to California.

Anita: Wow. They were how old?

Rodrigo: They were like five, three, two. They were not old.

Anita: In California, were your friends mainly Mexicans?

Rodrigo: Yes. First of all, it was Mexicans. Then when I started getting to know them a little bit more, and then started speaking more English, then I started getting Mexicans that were born there, they’re called Chicanos. Other Mexicans. Pretty much, it was Mexicans.

Anita: Did you have any friends that weren't Chicano or Mexican?

Rodrigo: Pretty much in the beginning it was Mexicans. Then after that, it was more Chicanos too.

Anita: What about others?

Rodrigo: Not really. Not in California. It's because pretty much all of the people are Mexican or Chicano. You could find some other kinds of people, but that's ...

Anita: What about school? Were there other kind of people at school? Or was everybody at school Mexican or Chicano?

Rodrigo: No, I mean, it was ... How can I say it? Because I didn't know enough English. They would put you aside. Not aside, but they would put you, "Okay, you don't talk English, you have to go to ESL class." "Okay, you're American, you're fine, you went to English class." It was different because all of the Mexicans, that we didn't know English, we were all in the same classes.

Anita: What about Central Americans?

Rodrigo: I didn't have that many right there in California. It was probably a field thing, from Guatemala. It was probably a few, like five, it wasn't a lot.

Anita: Okay, so you couldn't find a job that wouldn't have been in the fields after finishing high school?

Rodrigo: After finishing high school. Then from there, I moved back to Minnesota. In Minnesota, that's when I started working in a fiberglass company. We used to make snowmobiles, all of that kind of parts. Even the front end from the buses, they are made from fiberglass. Even parts for airplanes. We used to make them, because they're made of fiberglass. That's where I knew more English. That's when I started getting along with white people. Right there, I met more Central American people. That was more different, because over there, there is not a lot of Mexicans. So that's where I learned more skills in English. At the same time, how they lived. White people, how they lived, black people, how they lived. We will see a few black people there. But we will see Indian people, how they lived. Bosnian people.

Anita: What was different about the way that the white people lived to the way the Mexicans lived?

Rodrigo: Well, pretty much it depends on the persons because you could find a racist person, or you could find a person that tried to be a Mexican—or not to be a Mexican but get someone with Mexicans. That's when you compared those persons. Because some people, they don't care, they just see you, and some persons, they want to know how you lived, how everything goes. Some persons, they don't even care about you. When that happens, I got to know a lot of American people. We used to get along. I will say that they were my best friends.

Anita: Americans?

Rodrigo: Yes. At that point, yes.

Anita: Did you go to Mexican restaurants? What did you do with them? How did you hang out with these people?

Rodrigo: Pretty much, they were from work. On the weekends, we didn't work on Saturday and Sunday. So sometimes they would show up at the house, and we will cook out. Even sometimes the weather wouldn't let us, we would cookout in the garage. That's something that we would do.

Anita: What did you cook?

Rodrigo: Everything. I mean, even they tried carnitas, carne asada. [grilled meat] I don’t know if you know tripa [intestine]

Anita: Yes. They tried tripa?

Rodrigo: Yeah. One of my best friends, he loves guacamole. It was something new for them at that time because it was like nobody knew that guacamole was avocado. It was something new for them. He would love that. He would always be like, "I brought some chips, you make the guacamole." He will show up at the house, and we will make it. He would get along with my aunts, with my uncles. He was like a part of the family.

Anita: What food did he cook for you? Did they cook for you too?

Rodrigo: No.

Anita: They just wanted Mexican food.

Rodrigo: Yeah. His food was pizza, that was all. Pizzas and hamburgers. Sometimes we would be like, "Let's go out to eat." "Yeah, let's go." He would go, "No, I want some pizza. I want some hamburgers." I would be like, "Let's go to my house, let's see what thing we can make." One thing he would love, it was tinga. I don't know if you know—

Anita: Yes, I know what tinga is. My favorite tacos.

Rodrigo: Yeah. We would make it—

Anita: With chicken?

Rodrigo: Yeah, with chicken, and onions, and chipotle.

Anita: It's very good. Did you ever go in a snowmobile while you were there?

Rodrigo: Yes. Yes, I went on the snowmobile, ice fishing. We would go to the rivers, and sometimes, especially over there, the ice would be this much. So, you could close the river and everything. We would go in a snowmobile. Where I used to work, we made something that is called a SnoBear. That's like for people that like to go snowmobile, or to go ice fishing. Sorry. So you got six holes, three in this side, and three in the other side. You would have a seat for each one. Then you would just go ice fishing right there.

Anita: So, you would sit on the ice through a hole?

Rodrigo: Yeah. But it wasn't like a big snowmobile. It's called a SnoBear.

Anita: Oh, I see. So they were special snowmobiles to go fishing?

Rodrigo: Yeah. It would be like a van, and you will have the special thing like a snowmobile, and you will have three holes right here, but you would have the seat by the three holes, and three over there.

Anita: I see. Did you get used to the cold then?

Rodrigo: Yes, I got used to it. I mean, I lived there for a while. I lived there for three or four years.

Anita: So, there were there other Mexicans who went snowmobiling and did all of this?

Rodrigo: Yeah, pretty much it was Mexicans, Americans, because we would get along. Yeah, we would go. Even in, I still got friends from over there, they still go ice fishing, and they send me pictures still.

Anita: So, you stayed there for three years?

Rodrigo: Well, from California, I stayed there three years. Then I came back.

Anita: How did you come back?

Rodrigo: I got deported.

Anita: What happened?

Rodrigo: I went to work—

Anita: At the fiberglass factory?

Rodrigo: Yeah. I get off from work, and I would have to drive around 45 minutes. I got stopped by the stop sign, for the light, for the back-up light. It was a sheriff, and he just asked for the driver's license. I have only the permit license. So, he asked me for if I was a resident, if I could show any proof. I was honest with him. "No, I'm not." So, he right away called Border Patrol.

Anita: Really?

Rodrigo: Yeah.

Anita: What year is this?

Rodrigo: That was I think 2002? But from then, I already had a daughter right there. I was married.

Anita: You were married to a Mexican?

Rodrigo: To a Chicana.

Anita: You didn't get residency?

Rodrigo: That's another story. [laughs]. No, from there I got deported. They called Border Patrol. From Border Patrol, they told me that they will let me go, but I will have to go to court because I already had a daughter, and I was married, and I had a baby coming. So, from there, I went to court and everything. But when I went to court, they deported me. So, they gave me some time to come back to Mexico. So that's been, already, 11 years. They gave me papers, so I have to come back over here. I came back with my daughter, because my son, he was only three months.

Anita: What about your wife?

Rodrigo: She stayed over there. But we already made the papers, so we could fix the residence. But from then, I came over here, and this is a sad story. I came over here with my daughter, and she was with my son over there. She came over here, but she was pregnant from somebody else.

Rodrigo: Yes. So, from there, she came over here, we tried to fix things. It didn't work out. I mean, it worked out for a little bit. She went back to have the baby, and she took my daughter, and she left me my son. So, she left, and she had the baby, and from there, she didn't fix my papers anymore. I stayed with my son right here. Right now, I'm a single dad.

Anita: You're a single dad.

Rodrigo: Yeah. My son is from over there, he's already 11 years.

Anita: He's living with you? He's an American.

Rodrigo: He's an American. He's living with me. He lives right here; he goes to school right here. He's going to turn 12 years old next month. I can't take him back because he doesn't know his mom, and he doesn't want to know nothing about his mom. He wants to go back with my aunts, but it's kind of hard. He doesn't want to let me go. I want him to go over there, but he doesn't want to go without me, and I'm not going back without my papers. Illegally, I'm not going back.

Anita: What was it like for you when you came back?

Rodrigo: It was really hard.

Anita: What was hard?

Rodrigo: Everything. Because I didn't know my mom, because I left for so much time. I didn't know my brother and my sister because they never went over there. I came over here, I couldn't find a job. I didn't know how to work right here. It was everything different for us. Plus, because we had tattoos, they were kind of racist, like in the face. Because you got a tattoo, you cannot get a job. Then it was hard for me to find a job, because first of all, I didn't have all of my papers, like the security number that we have right here. So, I started working in a restaurant. From there, I started looking for other jobs. From there, I started working in a gas station. Whatever I will put the gas, and whatever they will give me, that's it. That would be what I get.

Anita: That's it?

Rodrigo: That's it. Plus, I will have to pay to the gas station for me working there. Yeah. When you go right here, and you see the gas stations, the people that work there, they only work for the tips. They will have to still pay for that, to the gas station, to be working there. Everything.

Rodrigo: Then from there, I met this person, on the metro. And I found TeleTech. I started working there. I worked for three years. I started at zero, by nothing. I didn't know anything about call centers. From there, I went to [inaudible] for nine months. From there, I stayed there for three years.

Anita: What company do you work for?

Rodrigo: Right now, I started working for Alliance.

Anita: The insurance company?

Rodrigo: The insurance company. I got like three weeks that I started there. But before that, I worked at AT&T.

Anita: AT&T?

Rodrigo: Yeah. I haven't started working. I worked three years for TeleTech. As soon as I finished with TeleTech, I went to AT&T. I was already hired, and then I quit over here.

Anita: So how long were you with AT&T?

Rodrigo: A year.

Anita: You did customer service for AT&T?

Rodrigo: Yes. Customer service. I assume. I worked—

Anita: That's my phone company.

Rodrigo: Good luck. [laughs]. I mean, it's pretty good. As long as you know the terms and conditions, which we don't really read that much. That's what happens. We never read it. Sometimes they will call us, and they will call me and be like, "No, but this guy told me this." "Did you read the terms and conditions?" "No, but he tells me this." "I'm sorry, but you have to check the terms and conditions."

Anita: So, what should I know about AT&T that I can be careful about?

Rodrigo: Just pretty much check terms and conditions.

Anita: Which terms and conditions? Tell me what I should know.

Rodrigo: Everything. Pretty much all the time when customers call, it's because they have a higher bill, pretty much it’s for that. When you have a higher bill because you don't got a discount, because all of the things will be for 12 months or 24 months. They give you another discounts, out of your bill, every month. You're getting another contract right there.

Anita: When people call you up really angry—like they call up, and some people are really angry on the phone—what do you do with them? Do you put them on mute?

Rodrigo: Well, sometimes you listen to them. The first thing that you have to do—

Anita: You seem like such a calm person, so I'm asking you.

Rodrigo: The first thing you will have to do is listen to them. Don't interrupt them. They don't want to hear what you have to tell them, so don't interrupt them. Let them talk. As soon as they finish, just be like, "I'll be working on it. Let me check, let me repeat the information." They will calm down. As soon as they calm down, you will be like, "Okay, I have to check what I can offer." If there is nothing you can offer, you will be like, "Sorry, sir, there is nothing I can do, but this is what happened," and you're telling them everything. Why? Because he's – oh, that person is not going to yell at you because that person is now telling you everything. As soon as that point, when you can tell them, "You know what? Your promotion is not available anymore." They will get upset –

Anita: They'll accept it?

Rodrigo: Well, sometimes. Other people will get upset, and will think that a manager or a supervisor, they will ask right away for them. They will think that they're going to fix everything. But no, they are more specific on the terms and conditions because they go by the book. So, when an agent tries to do everything, it's because he's trying. But when you request a manager, and you're requesting something that agent can't do, you're going to be denied.

Anita: So, it's better to stick with the agent?

Rodrigo: Yeah, sometimes. Or sometimes say, "I want to cancel."

Anita: What?

Rodrigo: I want to cancel.

Anita: Ah, is that the best thing?

Rodrigo: Yeah, because you will go to retention, and they will get the right skills. It's because every department, they have different skills. The retention, what are they trying to do? The department of cancellations, what are they going to do? They have all of the promotions that the customer is happy for. They never tell you that the promotions, they will probably hook you up with another contract. Even though you don't say anything, but by you saying you want another discount, "Okay, don't worry, I'm going to provide you a 12-month discount." You're hooked with that.

Anita: So every time I call AT&T, they're always telling me, "Can I tell you how we can give you a better ..."

Rodrigo: Yeah. But with them, you have a script. They have a script, and you will have to follow the script. So, the best point is, "You know what? I want to cancel." You will go with the department, and they will try to do anything to keep you as a customer.

Anita: Okay. So, I'll never ask for a manager again.

Rodrigo: No, don't do it.

Anita: Just say I want to cancel. This is good. But do you ever put them on mute and not listen?

Rodrigo: Yeah. Sometimes you have to put it on mute, so the customer can relax. There are some phones that you will have to let the client speak, even if you put it on mute, they will be like, "No, I don't want you to go on mute." Or some people, "Okay, take your time."

Tim: So, I'm just wondering, does anyone ... I assume most of these calls are coming from the United States. Does anyone hear your accent and ever attack you?

Rodrigo: Oh yeah, all of the time. That's in every call center here. I mean, that happens all of the time, that when you talk to somebody, and they say, "Oh, I don't want to talk to you. I want someone from the United States." The only thing that you control is, "You know what? I'll transfer you to the IVR—"

Anita: To the what?

Rodrigo: The IVR. "But I won't promise you-"

Anita: What's the IVR?

Rodrigo: When you call to customer service—

Tim: An automated system.

Rodrigo: Yeah. So that's when you will be like, "You know what? Okay. I will transfer you to the IVR, but I won't promise you that you will be speaking with somebody from the United States." They will get upset and they will hang up. Other than that, you will tell them, "If you want to talk with someone from the United States, you will have to go to the local office to do the process because pretty much all of the call centers are ... I mean, I'm working, right now, Alliance, I don't do any phone calls. I don't receive phone calls, it's pretty much back office. It's kind of different. But it's better, I think. It's less pay, but it's better.

Anita: Do you think that being in the United States, living there, that there are certain things that made you feel American in any way?

Rodrigo: Yeah. Yeah. Because there is one thing, and I'm going to put it that way. Thanksgiving. Yeah. For me, Thanksgiving is like something that I had to do on my own. First of all, at my house, they were like, "What's this? Why you do this?" I go, "It's because I thank God because I have food on the table." That's something that we do every year. There’s some points, football, like baseball, basketball, things like that, that over here, they don't see it that way. But Thanksgiving, yes, it's something important.

Anita: So, did you become an American football fan?

Rodrigo: Yes.

Anita: The Vikings?

Rodrigo: Yes. Well, pretty much, I'm not a fan for one team only. I like Vikings, I like the 49ers, and Oakland too—they have no difference to the Raiders in Oakland, because the only difference is that bridge. But yes, pretty much, I like a lot of teams that we used to do over there, that we don't do over here. But I see them doing it. From here, too, I've got some teams that I knew.

Anita: So, what about in your way of thinking? Do you think that there is anything American that's different about Mexican?

Rodrigo: Yes. Yes. I mean, it could be a lot of things. It would be the persons, the way I think.

Anita: Like what?

Rodrigo: Like you know, the way I think right here, sometimes people are really close. They don't see further than what Americans can see. Americans can have liberty to do more things, and Mexicans, they're all tight. They don't let you do things. That's the difference. For me, like with my son, he's, right now, he's going to graduate from primaria [elementary school]. I let him go to sleep late. Some people, like my sisters, to their son, they don't see it that way. So that's something different. I let my son, with a cell phone. She's like, "No, my son is not going to have a cell phone until he's older." That's a difference that we have.

Rodrigo: But I mean, I like it because I'm a single dad. I like to have communication with him, to be like, "How are you? How is school?" One of the things, I quit AT&T, that was one. It was far away from my house. I used to wake up at 4:40 in the morning. I used to be there before seven. I will get out around six, from AT&T, and I would be at home around, from eight to nine. That was from Monday to Friday. So, I didn't have time with my son. Now on the job that I have, I work from seven to three. I work from Monday to Friday. So, it's pretty good. But my son will go alone to the school, where I will have to pay a taxi, but I will go to pick him up out of school. That's something that helps me. I'm not making a lot of money like I used to. But I'd rather be with my son.

Anita: Does your son consider himself Mexican at all?

Rodrigo: Yes. Yes. He could be one Mexican, and he's completely the Mexican flag. He knows he's American, but he looks Mexican. If you will tell him, "Yes, I am from the United States, but I'm from Mexico, too." He will be like, "Mexico, Mexico." This is funny, because sometimes, when we had the soccer games, Mexico versus United States, we will be at home, and be like, "A quien le vas?" [who are you rooting for?] He will go, "Mexico." That's funny, because that's something that we would play with him because we would tell him, "But you're not Mexican. You have to go for the United States." He's like, "No. I go for Mexico." But that's something—

Anita: Who did you go for? Who did you root for?

Rodrigo: I'm not really into it, to the soccer. Whatever wins. I'm not used to it, to soccer games. I'm more used to—

Anita: But if somebody asked you to that soccer game? Para quien le va? [who are you rooting for?]

Rodrigo: Oh, I would be like Mexico.

Rodrigo: Yeah. Even over there, I mean ...

Anita: But I'm wondering, because your son came here so little, whether he might be more Mexican than you are in some ways.

Rodrigo: Yes.

Anita: Even though he's the American, and you're the Mexican?

Rodrigo: I know. That's something that I will tell him. My son doesn't speak English. Some people will say to me, "Why you don't teach him?" I mean, I teach him some words. He knows, like I tell him, "Do your bed." He knows what I'm telling him. But he doesn’t know how to pronounce it. Why? Because at school, they only speak Spanish. They don't have an English class. He doesn't have nobody to talk English but me. I'm the only person.

Anita: In his way of thinking, is he more Mexican in some ways than you?

Rodrigo: Yes. Yes, even the way that he talks sometimes.

Anita: The way that he talks, you said? Like what?

Rodrigo: We call right here, we talk like Chilango, they have some different words. I'm from here, but I don't even talk that way. He talks that way. I'm like, "Mijo, why you talk that way?" I don't mind it, because he's a good boy. I'm not going to complain about him. Sometimes it's hard for me, because it's only me and him. Before, when he was a kid, I think he needed more of his mom. But now, we're getting there.

Anita: How old was he when he came here?

Rodrigo: One year.

Anita: One year old. Wow. So, he's an American citizen?

Rodrigo: Yes.

Anita: Who came here because you were deported, and although he's an American citizen, he's growing up in Mexico — I mean, he's a Mexican 12-year-old.

Rodrigo: Yes. I mean, he pretty much, even on Independence Day—that's another thing that we celebrate here too. Him and me, on fourth of July, we celebrate. We do something. Everybody is like, "Why you do this?" There is something that people don't know. It's like Thanksgiving, too. People don't know why we celebrate that. But we celebrate it, because for me, because I used to do that, and I want him to keep doing it.

Anita: So why is July 4th important to you?

Rodrigo: Well, we used to get all together, like family, and fireworks, and it was the long weekend, so we would go swimming, we would go to the river. In Minnesota, it was the river. In California, it was to the ocean, to the sea, to the bay.

Anita: Do you do hotdogs and stuff on July 4th?

Rodrigo: No. Well, always, always, on Thanksgiving it was the turkey. On the side, they would make some Mexican food. Same thing on the Fourth of July. We would make some Mexican food.

Anita: So, let me ask you just one final question about the deportation. Could you have done your papers earlier?

Rodrigo: No.

Anita: There was nothing you could have done?

Rodrigo: There was a period, because on the beginning, I had my interview, in Ciudad Juarez, but they asked me for a waiver. So, when they asked me for the waiver, I will have to reschedule another appointment. When that happens, she didn't really help me out anymore.

Anita: But when you were still in the United States, did you delay?

Rodrigo: No. The processes, it takes too long. That's why they let me go—Immigration, when they got me, they let me go, because I was in the process for my papers. They told me to keep going to court.

Anita: Do you have any contact with your daughter?

Rodrigo: Not at all.

Anita: How old is she?

Rodrigo: She's 15. Not at all, her mom doesn't let her talk to me at all. Not even with my son. But I mean, life is good. What can I say? Before it was really hard, but now I'm used to it. I have to keep living with it.

Anita: You sound like an amazing dad.

Rodrigo: I'm trying to. It's hard. Believe me. Two years ago, my mom passed away. So, she was the one that used to help me a lot. But now it got a little bit harder, because now he's getting a little bit older, and he's getting older, and the problems start.

Anita: Yeah. You don't have a partner?

Rodrigo: No. No, I'm single. [Laughs]. No, I mean, I used to have a girlfriend. But nothing else.

Anita: Thank you for sharing your story.

Rodrigo: No, thank you to you. I wanted to talk. I mean, this is something that is like therapy, because it helps me. Yesterday, one of my friends came, and she was like, "You need this. You need to go." I'm like, "Okay."

Anita: And? How do you feel now?

Rodrigo: I like it. I like it a lot. It's something new. It's something that I'll let everything go at this moment.

Anita: You really sound like an incredible dad.

Rodrigo: Thank you. I appreciate it.

Anita: It's very, very moving.

Rodrigo: I appreciate it. I've been here for a lot of time. It’s tough to be a dad sometimes. Sometimes there is things that I want to do, but I can't because I have to be at home.

Anita: You know, I've been hearing stories all day long, about kids who went, and their Mexican dads abandoned them.

Rodrigo: No, that won't happen.

Anita: I'm ending my day – You are helping me.

Rodrigo: No, I mean—

Anita: You are giving me—

Rodrigo: One of the reasons that I will never do that, is because my dad, when he was in the states, he left me.

Anita: Your dad did it.

Rodrigo: He left me. From that, I was like, “No.” From that, I was like, "No, I can't do that." I mean, I wouldn't do it. My son is my son, and he'll always be there.

Follow up on June 8, 2019

Anita: Yeah. Okay. Has the last year been difficult?

Rodrigo: Yes.

Anita: Oh. What's been difficult?

Rodrigo: Well, first of all is because for some time I stayed without a job. Why? Because I was trying to ... For me to find a job is really hard because I had to be with him. At the same time, I had to take care of him from school, so for me it was really hard. So, I found a job, but it was two hours and a half from my house just to go. And to come back, it was two hours and a half. It was almost four to five hours, so I wouldn't have time for him. And not just to take him to the school, to help him to do homework. It's really hard. But I stayed without a job for two months.

Rodrigo: So right now, I found a really good job. I mean, it's really good. I work from Monday to Friday. It's 45 minutes away from my house, so it's really good. And then I got Saturdays and Sundays off.

Anita: What job?

Rodrigo: This is East Concourse Servicing. It's just a call center, but it's a collision agency. I mean, it's pretty good. I wouldn't say, I don't make a lot of money, but I'm getting there. It's close to my house. I will be able to take him to school, and then he will have to go from school to the house by himself. But I know that he went to the school. I know he will be there, and I got time for him because I only work nine hours.

Anita: You work nine hours per day?

Rodrigo: Yeah. From Monday to Friday.

Anita: What are you being paid?

Rodrigo: Well, right now, the gross pay is $8,000. I mean, 8,000 pesos. I'm sorry.

Anita: 8,000 pesos for ...

Rodrigo: Per month. Plus with that you have 2,000 pesos in vales de despensa, that’s what they call the food vouchers they give you.

Anita: Plus 2,000?


Per month. Plus a bonus that we could get. We could get from 2,000 probably three or 4,000 more. All depends. And I mean, it's pretty good because I got time to spend with him on the weekends. He's getting older already. I mean, he's not a boy anymore. He's growing up, so I have to take care of more of him. I have to be more time with him.

Anita: Are you worried about him?

Rodrigo: Yes

Anita: What are you worried about?

Rodrigo: About everything. I mean, to be really honest with you, I don't know, but if you go to one school from here from Mexico-


I'm worried because sometimes you never know what could happen. Sometimes they could go to the ... On the way to the school, there's a lot of danger sometimes, even to cross the avenues. Some people, there's a lot of bad people around here, too, sometimes, no? So that's why I'm worried. That's why I'm always trying to get a good job, to have the money so we could survive. At the same time, so I could be able to be with him, too, when he needs. Right now, it takes me time, but the job that I have, it gives me the opportunity to do a lot of things with him. So that's what I want, and I want to stay with that job for a while. I mean, it's really good. I don't make as much money as before, but I will be able to be at home to cook for him, to do things with him. So that's something that I really wanted to do because it's only him and me. If we don't take care of each other, who's going to take care of us?

Anita: And do you ever think about him going back to the States?

Rodrigo: Yes. Last week ... I have another daughter.

Anita: Yes. I remember.

Rodrigo: I don't know if you ever remember that I told you. She's going to be 17 already next year, so she didn't talk to me at all before. She started talking to me last Sunday. She was like, "You know what? I want to go and visit you guys." And I'm like, "Great." Well, I was happy. It’s something that I would never expect. First of all, I never expect that phone call at all. Second of all, when she says, "Well, I want to see you guys," and I'm like, "I want to see you, too, Mija, but we had to wait for you to get the passport and everything." I know it's going to be a process and you know everything will cost money, but I will make it. Probably next year, she will be here, at least for a couple weeks, no?

Rodrigo: But, yes, I want him to get the passport and everything so he can go, too. Later on, I want to see if I could get my visa, just to go and visit them or just to take him to visit and so he will be able to know his country. Because, believe it or not, he wants to go and see. Sometimes he, like in the school, sometimes he gets racismo. I don't like it. I want him to go over there, too.

Anita: He gets racism because?

Rodrigo: Because he was born over there.

Anita: But how do they know?

Rodrigo: In the school and by the teacher, by one teacher.

Anita: But how do they know? He doesn't speak a word of English.

Rodrigo: I know but everybody around there knows him. They know who he is, and they know me, too, and they're like, "Well, he was born over there, but he doesn't speak English. But he's born over there. “Es el gringo." [he’s the gringo] I mean, that's how they tell him.

Anita: And what does he answer back? What do you answer?

Rodrigo: [to Roddy] Cuando te dicen el gringo en la escuela o el maestro que te decia, que decias? [when they call you the gringo in school what do you say?]

Roddy: [inaudible]

Rodrigo: Pero que le decias? Es la pregunta. [what do you say? that’s the question]

Roddy: [inaudible]

Rodrigo: He's always shy.

Anita: I know. Except when he's dancing.

Rodrigo: I know. [laughs]

Anita: But what is he saying? What does he tell you?

Rodrigo: On the beginning, he got upset because we talk about it. I was like, "You know what? If you want me, I will go and talk with that teacher to stop the bullying," because he's pretty much that. But he getting to swear me he doesn't care. He's like from here. He just, you know, nothing changes. It’s just like normal because he's been raised in here for almost all his life.

Anita: So how did your daughter get in touch with yeah?

Rodrigo: By her grandma. I had her grandma in Facebook, and we talk sometimes, and she got ahold of me by phone. I was like, "Great." I mean, it was for a long time that she wouldn't get in touch with me. She didn't even try to talk to me, and now she did. I'm like, "Well, this is one step, no, towards –.”

Anita: Your friends with her grandma, which is your ex-wife's mother, on Facebook?

Rodrigo: I get along with them, except with the mom. I get along with both sisters, with both brothers, and with the grandma. I mean, we get along, but with her, we don't get in touch at all. I mean, she doesn't want to talk to me, and I mean, that's fine because she's already with somebody else. I respect that. Plus, I don't want to know anything about it either. But there's something, she don't want… It's because she doesn't want... She will want it. She will be like, "You know what? I pay for the passport. She pays for this. We do this. We do that." So, he will be able to go over there, and my daughter will be able to come over there. We could be connected, but she doesn’t want to do that.

Anita: She doesn't want to? But is she going to allow her daughter to come here?

Rodrigo: Well, that's the thing that we were planning. I mean, I was telling my daughter, "Right now, I wish I could have the money to be like, 'You know what? I'll send you for the passport. And I have the plane ticket.'" But it's a process. I mean, I don't want to put things on the hurry. I want just to be little by little. Probably if not by when she will be 18, it will be different. Right now, this is one step. I know in one time she will be able to come and is sooner than before.

Anita: When was the last time you saw her?

Rodrigo: Oh, yeah. It has 11 years.

Anita: It's been 11 years?

Rodrigo: It's been 11 years, and I want to see her already. I mean, I want to see her. I know she needs me, and I need her, too.

Anita: Have you spoken on FaceTime?

Rodrigo: Yeah.

Anita: So, you see each other?

Rodrigo: Yeah. But, I mean, it's not the same. I wish it would be like I could have her here right here.

Anita: Yeah. Does she look like you?

Rodrigo: I will show you a picture right now. Let me see. Hold on. Let me see. She's really big, though.

Anita: What's her name again?

Rodrigo: America Natalie.

Anita: American-

Rodrigo: America.

Anita: America.

Rodrigo: Natalie. Natalie.

Anita: Oh, my daughter's name is Natalie. Did you know that? Did you say that?

Rodrigo: Yeah, I think you remember that you told me. Yeah, she's Natalie. I'm trying to find a picture.

Anita: It's a great name. You called her America?

Rodrigo: Yeah. Yeah. That's her name. I got some pictures, but ...

Anita: So these guys are actually Roddy and ... Do you call her America or Natalie?

Rodrigo: Natalie.

Anita: And Natalie are actually real sister?

Rodrigo: Yeah, they're real brother.

Anita: And they're complete siblings, by blood?

Rodrigo: By blood. Yeah. They by blood. Oh, this one.

Anita: Oh, wow. Is this her?

Rodrigo: Yeah.

Anita: Wow. She's pretty.

Rodrigo: And she's really tall, they say.

Anita: She looks like – Well, so are you.

Rodrigo: You think so?

Anita: She looks like you. She really does.

Rodrigo: Yeah, and she's the big one. She's right now 16. She's going to be 17.

Anita: Wow. Well, that's great. So she Facebooked you once?

Rodrigo: Yeah, I mean-

Anita: All of a sudden you got a message on Facebook?

Rodrigo: Yeah.

Anita: Saying, "Hi, this is Natalie"?

Rodrigo: "Hi, Dad. This is Natalie." And I'm like, "Hi. How you doing? It was great to get to know you."

Anita: It must have been.

Rodrigo: Yeah. It was good. I mean, I wasn't – On Sunday, we were just watching TV, and then I just see my cellphone, and it says, "Hi, Dad." And I was like, "Wow." Then I was like, "Hey, how you doing, and how you been?" And that's it.

Anita: Pretending for it not to be a big deal, but of course.

Rodrigo: Yeah, and it was good. I mean, because I know her mom wasn't around, so she will be able to talk to me to tell me more things. Because on the last times when I talked to her, it was like, "Hi, Dad." "How you doing?" "Oh, hi. How are you?” “Bye." That's it. She wouldn't be able to tell me, "Hey, this is what's happening over here. I miss you. I want to go," or something like that. It's a good start.

Anita: But she said those things?

Rodrigo: Yeah. Now, yeah.

Anita: And has she talked to [gestures to Roddy]

Rodrigo: Yeah. [to Roddy] ¿Si, verdad que hablaste con Natalie también? [you talked to Natalie too, right?]

Roddy: ¿Que?

Rodrigo: [to Roddy] ¿Hablaste con Natalie? [you talked to Natalie?] [to Anita] I mean, but the difference between them is that we have one issue.

Anita: Language.

Rodrigo: He doesn't speak English, and she doesn't speak Spanish. So, I mean, he may understand a little bit, but some words and something. It's all the same thing. She may know some Spanish and words, but that's it. So, it's kind of strange. I mean, she doesn't speak Spanish, and he doesn't speak English.

Anita: Which is crazy.

Rodrigo: And it happens. I mean, but we're fine, I guess.

Anita: Well, that's fantastic news. I'm just going to ask you. The most difficult challenges you faced this year was finding a job?

Rodrigo: Losing my job and finding a job.

Anita: Yeah. Over the years, things have gotten better, though?

Rodrigo: Well, yeah. I mean, yes. The only thing is that when you don't have a job, that's a little bit hard. But then when you start working, you start getting on your feet. You start on the track again, but we're getting there.

Anita: Do you know about programs that support returning migrants?

Rodrigo: Not really. No, because even right here if you check, they have help for madres solteras, [single mothers] but it won't happen to me because I'm a single dad. I won't qualify for that. I mean, sometimes it will be great just because you will get benefits like programs where they can go and do some sports or something like that. But I don't apply, and he won't apply either because he's not from here.

Anita: So, let me just finish this. We ask which of your relatives live in Mexico?

Rodrigo: My brother and my sister.

Anita: Okay. Siblings. Are you in touch with them?

Rodrigo: We live together.

Anita: Oh, so you live with your brother and sister?

Rodrigo: We live together in the same house. Like everybody has his own part, but I mean, everybody – they have to go to work. They have their own families, so sometimes, even though they help you out and we help each other, but sometimes you have to do things because they got other things to do, too.

Anita: Would you consider going back to the US?

Rodrigo: Yes.

Anita: Why?

Rodrigo: Because I grew up over there, and to be honest with you, I miss a lot over there. I know I could do more things over there than over here, but you know one of the things that I don't want to go illegally, not anymore. I mean, I want to go legally, and I know it may take some time. But I could do it because my son and my daughter, they're from over there. They will be able to get my papers fixed. When that happens, I want to be able to go legally, and I want to go to work, do some things. Like how it was my American dream back when I was over there. Right here, I won't say that. At the beginning, when I got here, I didn't know nobody. It was really hard. I got in depression and a lot of things, but now, I mean, I'm living day by day, and I have to like it. I'm okay now. But, yes, I will go back one day. But I want to go legally, not illegal.

Anita: And one question is do you think that the US government has responsibility for Roddy?

Rodrigo: In some parts, I think, but they won't do anything. I mean, to be really honest with you, they never going to do anything because they have so many people over there. It's not just Americans. It's not Mexicans. It's everybody. It's all the Latin people, all the people from Europe or from Africa. There's a lot of immigrants from over there, and they, some of them, they already born over there. So, they're Americans, too. They don't even receive help.

Anita: But what about Roddy being here. What kind of responsibilities – What do you think the US government should do to help Roddy?

Rodrigo: Well, what I would like is probably just to help him with medical. That would be all. I mean, because over there, they give you that – How's it called? That program that they give you meals and all that?

Anita: Yeah.

Rodrigo: And they give you benefits. Well, for that, I mean, I work for it, and we used to pay our own things with your own work. But, I mean, I wouldn't ask for money. The only thing that I would ask is for medical assistance for him.

Anita: What about for his school?

Rodrigo: And schooling. Yeah. And that's one of the things, too, because on the future, one of the things that I want him sooner or later for him to go back is because I want him to go to school over there.

Anita: He's got to learn English.

Rodrigo: Yeah. So right now, my goal up to this point is I want him to go to an English school, and that's my new goal. I won't be able to do it in this month, but probably next month, he will start doing English. And not because I don't want to. It's because we need money to do all the process, too. I'm starting my track and probably not this paycheck, I can’t do it, but next paycheck, next month, I will be able to do it. And that's something that I really want to do because, to be really honest, I probably just want to stay probably right here one or two years more, and he may go back. That's something that I have. I want him to go to high school over there, just out of high school to go to college, so he could start the school over there already.

Anita: And would his mother – could he live with his mother?

Rodrigo: No. No. I grew up in California, and I got a lot of aunts for my mom's side. So, they will be able to take care of him, and plus, that's my other goal, too. For next years, I want to try to apply for my visa. I mean, I don't have no bad records at all over there. I didn't do anything wrong over there. I came over here to fix my papers. I have everything, but it didn't happen. So, I never tried to come back illegally, so I want to go and try to get my visa. If I get it, good. If not, I'm just going to wait for him to get my papers fixed. So that's my dream. I wish it will be done, but we will try.

Anita: Those are great dreams. That's great dreams. Let me stop now.

© 2021 Migration Encounters. All Rights Reserved.