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This interview took place in the little library of Casa Juan Diego’s men’s house in Houston, Texas.

Mark presented me to the group of men who are staying there during one of the two weekly meetings with the men. I explained to them my interest in listening to their stories and then sharing them. I believe, I told them, that the testimony of Mexican and Central American migrants has much to teach Catholics and the general public on both sides of the border. The suffering, the solidarity, the courage and the faith which accompany the experience of the migrants are a cry of evangelization for a society dulled by consumerism and indifference. Besides, the knowledge of the condition of economic exploitation and injustice in their countries and also here in the United States is a challenge for all those of us who claim to be followers of Jesus and who believe in a God of Life. I believe also that telling one’s story gives a person the opportunity to learn about oneself, to voice even just a little of their anguish and to value the path one has taken.

Francisco: And so…
Eduardo: Where shall I begin? Well, I left my land two months ago.

F: From where?
E: From Aguascalientes, Aguascalientes, Mexico…and this time it is true that I had a hard time getting through.

F: You told me that you had come thirty times…
E: More or less, thirty-three times I have come to the United States.

F: From what age?
E: I came the first time when I was 16, I’m thirty now. I arrived in Houston, without knowing anyone. Thanks be to God, many Latinos reached out to me: “Come and stay a day or so at my apartment, we’ll give you three or four days to rest, to find work and to rent an apartment.” They connected me with other people: “Listen, there they are lacking one in that apartment,” and I was soon staying there with them. There I earned enough for the rent and something to eat.
This time it was very difficult because of the special operation of Immigration, the one that has the Border Patrol every 200 meters on the bank of the river. They still have that going, don’t they?

F: Yes, it seems they even have a new phase of the operation…
E: Oh, no! Then one day when it was raining, we were able to get through. The patrols were very close to one another, but we were able to make it. But they caught me ten times in all.

F: Then when it was the eleventh time, you got through.
E. The eleventh it was, and it was very easy, although I came already very discouraged. This last time I told myself, “No, this time if they throw me back, I’ll go to my land and my family.

F: What age are your children?
E: My children–I have a girl, the oldest, 10 years, a nine-year-old girl, a four-year-old boy (he’ll soon be four), and a seven- month-old boy. I have two boys and two girls. We’ll see who wins this time, me or my wife, we’ll see if this time it’s a boy or a girl.

F: And? You don’t plan to have one more of each?
E: Well, we’ll have to see, because it’s very hard right now, with the studies of the children. My two girls are in school. The boys are still little.

F: How far were you able to go in school?
E: Only through the fifth grade. I started to work very young. I also got married very young, at sixteen I was already married.

F: And at seventeen you started to come here, right?
E: Yes, well, since I got married I started to come here to the United States. But I don’t stay here very long. I come, make a few bucks and I leave.

F: And then what do you do?
E: There, what do I do there in my beautiful Mexico? Well, when I arrive, it is just to rest. There I rest from the beatings that they give me here. Yes, because they do give one a hard time working here.

F: And with this you can live several months in Mexico.
E: Yes, I’m there two months, three months, and the money runs out and I come again. There, I work on my little house. Each time I go I invest a little in my little house there, what I can do myself. And yes, this is how I have spent these years. But now, I already want to settle down. I want to spend more time with my children. Now when I go home, they don’t even know me! The smallest one, the last time I went home, when my wife left him in his bed, started to cry. I said to him, “Don’t cry, my son, it’s me.” And my wife came over and said to him, “What’s the matter?” And he, very scared, acted like he had seen Satanás (the devil). (We laugh). “Well, what made the kid get frightened of me, or did you already present him with another?” (We laugh) “Another what?” “Another Daddy.” Ha, Ha.

F: It has to be hard to be away from your family.
E: Yes, sure, very hard.

F: What kind of work do you do here?
E: I’m a chef here.

F: And where did you learn to cook?
E: I learned here. And in a Chinese restaurant!

F: Very good. (He laughs). And aren’t you going to start a Chinese restaurant in Aguascalientes, for Chinese food?
E: Well, I don’t think a Chinese restaurant would go over there. Have you ever tried Chinese food?

F: Sure.
E: Well, you can you imagine that, there? They would stone me if I made these foods there, sweet and sour pork and all that, forget it! (laughs).

F: A question. Does Aguascalientes have a tradition of sending a lot of people here? Or is it that only recently people are coming?
E: Well, actually you see only a very few here from Aguascalientes.

F: Because a friend of mine told me that Aguascalientes is the state which has the best economic development in Mexico and is thus the most stable, of all the country.
E: Well, we can say so, there is a lot of work there, but the salaries are in the basement. There, yes there are many factories, a lot of work in factories, but most of the workers are from outside Aguascalientes, a lot from outside, and many of those who live there also, but I don’t know how they can possibly live on that salary, 150 or 200 pesos.

F: It’s difficult.
E: Very difficult.

F: Another question, on another subject, is this: Are you Catholic? Do you practice any religion?
E: Well, I’m Catholic, I am. It is the religion that my parents inculcated in me and it is the religion that I try to teach my children.

F: Then, the question is: From this faith that they raised you in, how do you relate all these experiences that you have here as a migrant with your faith? Do these experiences help you to understand, or what happens with your faith and your experiences as a migrant?
E: I don’t understand you.

F: Well, look. Let me explain it from my personal experience. For me, I see that people who suffer much, many times have a more profound faith and understand much better the teachings of the Gospel than people who live here, with everything resolved for them.
E: With all the…

F: This has been my experience of working with simple people, with the poor, with Guatemalan refugees, with farm workers in Nicaragua, with Native Americans in Chiapas. These people have always been the ones who have taught me the most about the faith.
E: Well, yes, I think so, as Father said a little while ago (the priest who came to celebrate Mass at Casa Juan Diego), that all of us who suffer, all of us who have these experiences, are closer to God. On the way here, we pray to God and ask his help and all…

F: Do you believe that the Catholic Church could do something for migrants, the Catholic Church in Mexico or the Catholic Church here could do something more than they are doing for the migrants?
E: Well, the Catholic Church here in the United States does a lot for migrants, the Church in Mexico, well, no I don’t believe so.

F: And what do you believe that the Church could do, if you could suggest something to the bishop there?
E: What could it be? In Mexico I understand them, because there are so few economic resources. And here there are many economic resources to help people. You can see that they help one so much here. Here in Casa Juan Diego, we live, they don’t ask us for a penny–here the only thing they ask of us is to help with the cleaning. But in Mexico, I understand, because there are no resources.

F: When you return, is it easy to feel comfortable, to feel accepted, or do you feel rejected, do you have trouble finding yourself?
E: No, I would rather be there a thousand times than here. A thousand times better there if there were the possibility of living there near my family, earning a salary more or less adequate, there I would stay. I wouldn’t come here any more. In the part of the year that I live there, I learned a trade, which is that of a driver, but I can’t make a living doing that. It pays only 250 or 300 pesos a week.

F: This shaky existence, with children and wanting to educate them, is difficult.
E: It is very, very difficult, but the people who live there earn this and they do live. They eat, but can’t buy clothes. You would have to see their children, barefoot in the streets, with a pair of shorts and a T-shirt, because they can’t afford any more. Their little pants torn and mended. And they can’t go to school.

F: Among the Mexicans, for example there in Aguascalientes those who never come here, are there people who look badly on you? Another friend was telling me that there the local people would refuse to accept the migrant, just as he is also not accepted here.
E: Many of those of us who go back there are at fault because we arrive and put on airs. Have you noticed that? Some want to feel better than the rest, those who stayed. It shouldn’t be like that, we are all equal, right? And the two of us buy property at the same time, right? That is normal. He has his little property that he is proud of and I already have a bigger place. But how can we compare with what I earn here and what he earns there. He is making miracles because with his little salary it is very hard to do anything to improve his little place.

F: And he doesn’t get mad and resentful with you?
E: No, in fact, I don’t get along badly with him, either. On the contrary, if I have an extra sack of cement, well, “Here, use it so that it won’t go to waste.” I give it to him.

F: If you were going to speak to a youth who wants to come here, what advice would you give?
E: It depends on what he is thinking. If he is a young man who wants to make a few dollars, I would encourage him. If he is a guy who wants to come to see the country, nothing more and to make disorder here, I would discourage him and tell him not to come.

Houston Catholic Worker, Vol. XVIII, No. 3, May-June 1998.