My name is Roberto. I grew up in Mexico where I studied and went to school, but only through primary school. I came to the United States just a little bit of time ago. I have been here for about five or ten years. I liked to live in Mexico more because it was more fun. There were opportunities, but we did not have many. There are many more opportunities here for me. I came to the United States to protect my family and to have money for the next day. Also, I came to hopefully save money for a small trip.
Are there any experiences in particular that have strongly impacted you?
The nature. What can impact me about nature is that here, the birds are not very colorful, while you cannot get very close to the birds in Mexico. Here, one day, in the morning, I was eating an apple and sitting down and a bird arrived. What I did was I grabbed the apple and bit it and showed it to the bird. It started to eat it and I had the bird come closer and it came very close. I put the apple down and he started pecking at it and he ran up my arm and all the people saw me. I don’t really understand the English, but I think they were asking ‘How the bird run up his arm? Maybe because he is hungry?’ But when I tried to grab the bird, he shrieked and flew away into a tree above me. I like all birds and plants. My favorite is the eagle. He is very beautiful! I do not have any pets; I would love an eagle or a puppy.
How has your experience with the Day Worker Center been?
It has helped me. Mostly because it keeps me disciplined. If I want to speak English, I can learn some of the language. However, I do not know much English right now so the center helps me communicate and find work with establishments I would not be able to communicate with alone. If I want to find work, there are many options here. I sometimes work at a meat store. I like it very much. It is nice to go somewhere else and to be a help to their business.
How often do you work?
In the winter, very little because it is cold and there is no work. When I do work, only during the week.
What do you do for fun?
I love soccer. I love to play with other people and to watch all of the teams.
I do not have a favorite team. However, the league in Mexico disappoints me very much. I enjoy watching Barcelona, but since I am Mexican, it is difficult to see the Mexican league be so disappointing. I have always loved to swim. I also enjoy riding horses.
Do you have any hobbies, such as playing cards?
I would like to do many activities, but I do very few because I have a small amount of money and it is all so expensive. Sometimes, I cannot even play sports. I do not know of any board games that I have played before. I know the lottery, though. It is the one where you can win and lose big amounts of money very quickly.
Do you have any children?
Yes. I have one son. He is nine years old. He lives with his mother and my parents. It is good for him, but hard for me because I cannot see him. He is in the primary school, in Mexico. I enjoy my time with him, but he lives very far away from me. We talk on the telephone, but he is studying, studying, and studying for his school. Sometimes I do not know anything about what he is doing. On weekends I play soccer and I have a group of boys who are nine years old who I train in soccer. Coaching these boys is very fun. We went to the finals, but got second place. The other teams were very hard. The boys did not know what it felt like to win and we thought we would win in the finals. When we lost it was just a disaster. It was okay for me, but the boys had a very difficult time losing.
How far away is your hometown, where your family lives, from here?
Extremely far. In the car, it takes six days. In a plane, it takes only four or six hours. It has been five years here and I have not been there. No one from my family has visited me here. We have only talked on the telephone. It is very difficult. It has been especially hard not to be with my son. He is growing up so fast and it is so hard not to see him in so long, especially while he is becoming a man. I have many photos of him that remind me of him every day. His name is Wilbur.
You mentioned earlier that you love plants and animals. Do you enjoy being in nature?
Yes, I enjoy being in nature.The forest and the beautiful flowers are my favorites. In Mexico, I spent time hiking, but I do not here because there are not many mountains near me. I do not have time to wake up early and go to the mountains. Only on Fridays, I wake up early and go to San Jose and walk around. After, I work in the city. Two days a week I ride my bicycle, but I cannot go up the mountains because there are none close enough.
What are some of your wishes for the future?
My biggest wish is to have the money and resources to go back and visit my son and the rest of my family in Mexico. I want to take all of them on a trip they will never forget. I don’t think I will stay in the United States. Eventually I would like to go back to Mexico because I like to walk around and go everywhere on foot. Here, you live in an apartment and you work somewhere else and everything is so far away. You need to drive or take the bus and I love to walk everywhere. It is also very hard to pay for everything here. In three or four years I would like to leave the United States. It is very expensive though.
Have you made many friends at the Day Workers Center?
I have a few friends here, but some people I have never spoken to. My best friend is Diego, the one drawing over there in the corner. I do not know many people here because I am new. I have met some nice people here but my best friends are all in Mexico. I have been here a very short time, only fifteen or twenty days. The Day Workers Center has recommended me to employers and they help me communicate with others. This center is helpful because if a client does not like what we are doing, they can just report it here, rather than directly to the worker. They always make sure we are satisfied and content with our work.
Do you enjoy any forms of art, such as drawing or painting?
I paint, but only in my apartment. I paint the nature. I only paint and I do not draw because it is very difficult. I cannot draw a park and I cannot draw a train. I just cannot draw. There is one person in here who can draw very well and I sometimes try to learn from him, but it is too difficult for me.
If you could visit one place in the whole world, where would you go?
There are many places I would love to visit, but the truth is I would like to visit my house and my family the most of all. If I could see my family and take a trip without worrying about the money, I would go into space with NASA. I would love to have such a beautiful view of the planet.
Are there any experiences that have particularly resonated with you?
Yes, yes, there are a couple. One time I was dying of drowning. I went into the ocean and I could not swim. I got out of the water, but I was unconscious, with little feeling in my head. I was not scared. Now if I swim, I do not sink anymore.
This interview was conducted and written up by Lindsay Rosston, a student at Castilleja School in Palo Alto.