Jose Demetrio Renteria

The following interview of Jose was done by students from Castilleja School in Palo Alto, Nyanika Kapoor and Katherine Moldow – at the Day Worker Center.

What was the hardest part about leaving Mexico?

Jose: The most difficult part was that I knew I wouldn’t be able to see my family.

What was your life like in Mexico?

Jose: My mom died young, when she was 39. We were very poor in Mexico. My
dad was a baker. We’d have one pair of shoes for an entire year, and
each year we’d get a new pair for Christmas. That was it. I have many
many brothers and sisters. Surprisingly, all of them had daughters,
and they are all very pretty.

Has anyone come to visit you?

Jose: My dad came to visit me three times — 1995, 1998 and 2001. He would
stay with me for 2 or 3 months. We’d go walking in the park, and he’d
cook for me. It was very emotional. I started to do things for myself
ever since I was 13. I worked as a copier, construction worker, an
airport runway worker, anything. I LOVED everything I did and
everywhere I went. Everything I saw was like a dream. I didn’t go to
school. I didn’t study much.

What were the people like here when you first arrived in the United States?

Jose: You know, even though there’s a lot of money, all of the people
that I met were the same as me, poor. Some would get money and buy
drugs, but if I got any money, I sent it to help my brothers and
sisters in Mexico. Almost all the ones I knew here are dead, or gone.
I don’t know where all of them are, but almost all of my friends who
got into drugs are dead. The money I make I’m going to send down to my
family. It’s all I do. Work, and help my family. I only have money for
myself for emergencies. I feel happy when I know I’m helping my
family. More than anything.

What was the hardest challenge you faced when coming to the US?

Jose: You know, when you’re young, you don’t think you’re going to have any
conflicts in life. You think there’s an angel that tells you what to
do and takes care of you. In Mexico, you have an instinct to be aware
of everyone. One day me and my friends were playing soccer, one day we
were playing tennis. One day we’d swim. We did this every day. When
we’d play, we’d play all day and into the night and I wouldn’t go to
bed. My goal was always to help my brothers and sisters. If they asked
me for anything at all, I’d help them and with affection. I’d always
help anyone. Ever since I came here to the Day Workers Center, I’d help
anyone. I help in the kitchen, I help in the office, I love helping.

Do you have a favorite part about California?

Jose: California… well it is similar to Mexico. The climate, the smell, the
air in the evening, all of it reminds me of Mexico except for the
food. Nothing compares to the Mexican food. I prefer my Mexico food,

If you had the opportunity to study something, what would you do?

Jose: If I could study anything, I’d study writing. I want to learn to
write well so I can write a column in a newspaper in English. Give me
any word to write and I’ll write it down in English. Every day, I
practice. I will read a book and copy down the words. Every book,
every day. I think I could write about anything.


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