“I grew up in a small village in Mexico and was raised by my grandparents. My grandpa counted on me the most because we raised animals and he trusted me to take care of the cows. I would wake up at 5 and go check on the animals. Then, I would go to school and then check on the animals again midday. My recess was to go see the animals. Even though I was the only one in my class that did this, I didn’t think anything of it. I think since I was born, I had this internal drive to work. I liked caring for the land and the animals. I started at the age of 8, and little by little, I began to take care of everything for them. My grandpa had some land where he grew coffee so he would be gone for a month at a time and I would take care of the cows while he wasn’t there. If one of them was sick, I would have to identify what was happening.
When I was 10, I started working in the fields and I dried the corn stalks so that the cows had feed. You know, I would cut them and leave them to dry until they shriveled up. If we didn’t dry them completely and we fed the corn stalks while they were a little green, the cows could get sick so I had to make sure it was done well. When I turned 15, I went to the fields to till the land and plant corn for other people so that I could start earning my own money. I also helped dry wood to earn money.
I met my wife at a dance and I courted her for six years before we got married. We threw a big party, but since there was no electricity in my village at the time, we rented a generator. A lot of people came, even from the neighboring villages. We celebrated all through the night. During our first two years of marriage, we lived with my grandma so that we could take care of her. Our first son, Fredy, was born right there in that house. I worked in the fields and went to Mexico city for 6 months to work, but I only had enough money for food and some clothes. It wasn’t enough to try and build a house for us or to have a good future for my family. So, when my son was 2 years old, I came here to Wisconsin to work.
I worked on a farm where I worked side by side with the boss from 12am to 5am. I got close with that family and I liked learning how to milk cows. I sent money home to a bank during that time so that when I went back to Mexico, I could start building a house. I ended up going back earlier than planned because my wife got sick. She strained her abdomen while carrying firewood and she tried recuperating on her own, but she was in a lot of pain. Two months after finding out, I decided to go back home and help her. We went to some specialists and she eventually got better, but it took some time. Our second son was born in April of 2005. A few years after that, some of my friends came up to me out of the blue and encouraged me to come back here. At the time, I wasn’t thinking about it at all, but I knew that I had to do it if I was going to build something comfortable for my family.
I made the trip 10 years ago and I am still here. I have stayed for so long because when I go back to Mexico, I want to go for good without feeling the need to have to come back here to make money. I also have a great boss. If I need a favor, he does it for me. He helps me with whatever I need. Plus, he lets me use his land to plant a huge garden. I love planting vegetables because I like eating fresh food. I can save money and besides, I like food straight from the garden better. I plant green beans, dry beans, tomatoes, and hot peppers. In Mexico, I only planted corn and beans, but here, I have learned how to plant many different vegetables. I don’t have to buy any of those veggies from the store because I freeze or dry everything and we can eat it all year long. I also have hens for eggs and chickens for fresh meat. It tastes so much better than frozen meat. I process them myself. It makes me feel like I have part of my life from Mexico here.
Life here is beautiful because there is work that pays well, but being away from the family for so long is hard. I didn’t get to see my sons grow up, but if I stayed there, I would have had no way to provide for them in the way that I wanted. If I could have earned a similar living in Mexico, I probably would not have come here, but life doesn’t work like that.
When I do go back to Mexico, I will probably rest for a month at first, but then I will get to work. I am thinking about making a store. I also have built a large second story on my house that I can convert into a rental hall for parties. Those will probably be the first two big things that I do when I go back. Then, I will plant. I have some land outside of my village that I’ll turn into a big garden. The roads are different where I’m from so it takes 30 minutes to get there whether you travel on foot or in car. I plan on walking there unless I am bringing large tools or compost from the animals.
I like having steady income here, but I miss Mexico and my family a lot. I also miss walking everywhere. In Mexico, if I go to visit my mom, I can go walking. Plus, I can save money on gas and it is natural exercise. I don’t know how much longer I am going to be here. It depends on when my boss wants to retire. He is such a great person that I think I’ll plan on staying here until he is ready to stop milking cows.”