“I spent my adolescent years working around cattle. My dad worked for a large oil company in Mexico and when he retired, he used all the money he made to buy 1500 hectares in the neighboring state of Veracruz. Back in that time, he paid what would be the equivalent of a bit more than $10 for two and a half acres. You can’t get land for that anymore. I was about 12 when we all moved from our home in Guanajuato to our new home in the state of Veracruz.
Working with cattle has been my profession since I was 14. My dad worked a lot. There were seven of us: all boys and we all had to work just as hard. We grew a lot of corn and my dad bought nice tractors on credit so every harvest, we collected 80 or 90 tons of corn. When I decided to get married at the age of 28, I moved out of the house and didn’t work as closely with him. I met my wife in the village’s festival. She was loyal, kind, and I knew I had to choose her. After I moved out and starting working my own land, I just helped him during harvest time and the seasons when there was a lot of work. He didn’t want me to move on because we were used to working together for all those years.
My dad talked to all of us very well before we got married. He said, “You have to know how to work well so that when you leave from here, you know what to do and how to do everything that you need.” I am grateful for my parents and everything that they taught me. If any one of us boys were wandering around, perhaps drinking too much or something like that, they would talk to us firmly. They made sure we knew what they expected of us, no matter how old we were. They would sit us down and say, ‘What’s happening, what’s going on with you?’ We were a close family; everything that happened to us, we talked about it.
I learned a lot from my dad. My cattle all eat grass, a grass called insurgente. It gives the most nutrients to them. I always had it in my mind that I would do something to earn extra money in the states until I was 55. However, it is getting harder to be away from the family and my cattle so I think I will go back for good next year, when I am 53. Right now, I have to hire someone to take care of them. I can hire people to do the job I do when I am not there, but I cannot find people that will treat the cattle as well as I will treat them. Even though I am earning more here, I still have to pay for someone to take care of my cattle back home and I am thinking it will be better if I go back and do it myself.
My first job in the states was in construction. However, I eventually decided to come up to Wisconsin to work on dairy farms because it was less taxing and I was used to working with cattle. Even though it wasn’t the same kind of work with cattle as I did back home, I was familiar with handling the animals and it wasn’t working outside in the hot sun. The work up here is really different than the work down there. You can’t miss a day here; if you don’t complete your work, you could lose your job and not finish what you came here to accomplish. One doesn’t come here to sleep or rest. When people ask me if I am going to parties, I say, “What party are you talking about?”
I didn’t drink when I was younger because I saw my dad and my uncles act poorly when they drank and say lots of mean things to each other. I didn’t want to do that. However, after I got married in my late 20s, for some reason, I started drinking. I had an awful accident in 2004 in Mexico and I don’t drink anymore. That night, my friends and uncle came to look for me at the house and wanted to go out drinking. I didn’t want to go out with them, but they absolutely insisted. They called me names and somehow, even though I didn’t want to go out with them, I went. On the way home, we had a horrible accident and the car turned over on the side of the road. My uncle broke the whole area from his collarbone to his ribs and one of my friends died. It was the worst day of my life. I haven’t had a drop of alcohol since then. It doesn’t matter if everyone around me is drinking somewhere, I have no desire to drink at all. Somehow God saved me and I have to show my gratitude, I will never forget that night and I never want to drink again.
My dream is to build a barn for hogs on the land I have. I would want to plant some yuca and a bunch of sweet potatoes and we will feed the pigs with all of that. Mexico is my home and I want to go back and complete my land. I have 4 grown children; 2 sons and 2 daughters and I will gift parts of the land to them. If they want to sell it because they need the money, that is fine. However, there will be something in the contract that says they need to sell it to family. I want to keep the land in the family. They can decide if they want to keep farming and I want to give them that chance.”