1.) What was most difficult for you when you decided to leave your country?
Johnny Appleseed (using a pseudonym): “ I would have to say the most difficult thing that got in my way when I was deciding to leave was not knowing how my family would be without me being here with them. Since I was the first one to leave to seek opportunity I had to leave my family behind in order to try and establish something for us before we all came over to the United States. I thought of every single thing that could go wrong and everyday leading up to the day I was leaving I tried to talk myself out of it. But for every day that passed by, all the pros of leaving my ranch always weighed out the cons. I knew I had to do this, I felt selfish if I didn’t.”
2.) Why here? Why San Jose CA and not somewhere like Los Angeles or San Diego closer to Mexico?
Johnny: “It’s nice to get asked this because I’ve never gotten asked this before. The reason why I chose San Jose is because I had long distant relatives here, it was an easier adjustment than if I would have moved elsewhere. I think my pride and stubbornness had gotten in the way because many of my family members had offered me a place to stay but I didn’t want the help or handouts. I didn’t want to get too comfortable and I needed to do everything for my family back home. I slept in parks, I looked for work and took the work no matter what it was. It was probably the hardest thing but the most rewarding and humbling thing now. I also felt that settling in Los Angeles or San Diego was a little too close to home so it would be easier for me to go back home whenever I was homesick and I didn’t want to give up.”
3.) When did the rest of your family finally come with you?
Johnny: “ This one might be the hardest to answer. At first it was just me, my wife was still in Mexico with her family. At the time she was pregnant with our first child but our first child didn’t make it. When I first came over here I got sent back, then I came back again. Then I got sent back to Mexico and for the third time my wife had finally decided to come with me. By then I had already established enough for us. Since it had just been the two of us we made it work for a while. We then started to grow our family after the pain my wife and I had suffered knowing that our family would have started already. But you know what they say, God has his own plans for you. We accepted what it was and healed together. Then came our growing family.”
4.) So what would you say your main goal was for leaving home, did it change since you had already come back and forth so many times? Weren’t you scared to get caught again?
Johnny: “ My main goal at first was just to come and see if it was what everyone said it was. The limitations and the poverty I grew up in was so normal to me that I never thought anywhere else would have been different or in other words better. It was more of a reflection on my life and what I had to do when I was younger. Not much school, working when I can at a very young age. I knew one day that I wanted a family but there was no way I wanted this lifestyle for my kids. To be able to give your kids a different and better life than what you had is the most rewarding thing and it makes you forget about all the bad things that may have happened when you were younger. So I would say my main goal for leaving home was a better opportunity and an actual future for myself, my wife and future family. But now that I’m older I can’t wait to retire and go back home! To answer your other question about being scared, I was terrified. It was terrifying but sometimes you have to push yourself to get things done. I knew my intentions for coming to the US weren’t bad, so I was confident in myself and was willing to risk what it took just to have a better life.”
5.) Since being here what would you say was the hardest thing to adjust to?
Johnny: “People usually say the language barrier, but for me it wasn’t. It was very difficult at first but after a while you just find a way to communicate. The hardest thing for me was just getting over the fact that people would look at me like I was so different. Although since the beginning San Jose to me has always been so diverse, you would still get people who treated you differently. That was the hardest for me, I didn’t care so much about what people thought of me. I cared more about how they treated me. I’m still a person, just because I’m a little tanner, speaking a different language shouldn’t make me a target for you to belittle or get satisfaction by using power or control or whatever you think you have. It was tough. There were days where I’d pick up a job doing someone’s lawn front and back, take care of their flowers, trees all of that and would be paid with food or drinks. Not that I wasn’t thankful, I’ll take a hot meal anytime. It was the fact that I was looked at as not someone who was capable of being paid with money. The way I saw it was, you go to work, you do your work and you get paid in order to support my living and household. What was I supposed to do with that meal, I couldn’t provide that sandwich or coca cola to the rest of my family. Some Days it sucked feeling that I Had to prove myself worth more than a sandwich.“
6.) What motivated you everyday to keep pushing knowing that your situation was different compared to someone who already lived here?
My family of course. But more for myself. I needed a reason to get up and prove to myself that I was capable of doing more and providing more. I wanted my kids to grow up and see that they could do anything they wanted. There were days when I was intimidated by others and how easy and natural things came to them but then I realized if I had the same opportunity and learned what you learned I would probably be in the same boat you are. I noticed I started to get a little envious but I knew that my motivation was to prove to myself that I can take any situation and turn it into an opportunity for myself. Plus there were days where I just didn’t care and whatever happened happened. It was definitely something I struggled with mentally but back then men had to be the strong ones and hold it together. Different times, very different times.”
7.) What did you do for work? Was it hard to get work?
Johnny: “For work I did a lot of things, I was a farmer out in the fields picking produce from sunrise to sunset. I was a gardener for my neighbors then was a gardener for my neighbors and their friends. When I finally got around to being a little more established I got a job at a company that cleans parts they use for hospitals, military and other things. It was really cool to look back on my journey. Not only had I landed a good decent job that allowed me to now provide without having to worry. I knew that I was going to get a paycheck and a consistent one. But it was nice to see that I also learned a lot of life skills. As my kids got older I was able to build things for them, I was able to teach my oldest son how to build things as well and now he loves to build different things around the house and others. I would say my overall work experience was humbling and always kept me grounded. I never forgot or forget where I started, but I appreciate where I ended up.”
8.) If you can tell yourself something you know now that you didn’t know back then what would it be?
Johnny: “ I would definitely tell myself to slow down. I think my body is paying for it now! Just kidding. I would tell myself to keep the same dreams and to never let anyone make you feel like you can’t do something. Anything is possible whether you have the same resources as someone else or not. It’s your own journey and what you want to do with it. No one else is going to work for you, so how bad do you want it? I grew up in a time where you have to work your butt off to get anything that you want, I guess that’s why when it comes to our kids we bend a little and sometimes give them what they want because we remember how it was. But it’s a good lesson in life to learn and if I would’ve told myself this back then I think at least work wise I could have started my own business or something. But I’m okay with it, I’m happy.”
9.) What do you enjoy most about being here now?
Johnn: “ What I enjoy the most about being here now is that my kids have kids now. I’ve got to see everyone grow up. I like to think that I planted the seed for all of them and it was up to them what they wanted to do and I can say they’ve all done a pretty good job. I’m so proud. My kids are happy, healthy and have a good job. My grandkids are the best. I’ve got to share my own stories with them and hope one day they get to share these stories with their kids. I am ready to go back home, once my wife is ready to retire. We miss home and it’s almost like our work here is done. That’s always been our plan though, to go back home and live a slower lifestyle, so we’ll see when that day comes.”
10.) What do you wish more people knew about people who have immigrated here from other countries?
Johnny : “ I wish others knew that when people come over here from other countries it’s not to take over or start a war or anything to that extreme. It really is for a better life. Governments and authorities are different everywhere. Some places are the worst. They limit you and what you can do even with having all the resources and ability to do what you want. It’s like when people see a commercial for a hot brand new car everyone has to have it right, everyone wants it. Now imagine a commercial for a new start, more opportunity and the freedom to be able to do everyday life things normally without having limitations. I gotta have it, I want it. There’s nothing wrong with wanting a better life for you and your family. Together as people we provide different resources, we provide different skills and perspectives that’s what helps make the world a better place. Being different.”
This interview was done by Denee Lopez, a student at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA.