One lives better in México with Money*
For most of the Mexican youth who was able to finish their studies, the alternative to obtain a degree has always been a priority. The free cost college education in Mexico allows people to study, but only a few finishes, and only less than a few can work as professionals in their fields. This is Victor Villa’s case, who first wanted to become a teacher, then an engineer, and finally, ended up working in a restaurant in San Jose, California.
He had to quit studying his college degree, but his migratory career seems to conclude fine. His objective is to return to his town and start a business. Victor and his wife have worked for eight years saving everything, and they think to work for another eight years to be able to return with some good capital.
However, life in the United States is also attractive and comfortable, specifically for women and children who have more opportunities than they would have in Mexico.
As years go by, the decision to return becomes more complex. The fact that with money one lives better in Mexico keeps their idea of return alive.
* Interview done by Victor Espinosa in San José, California, in August 1991.
When I finished middle school in Loja, I wanted to go to college to Atacmes, but I didn’t get in. So, I went to Taxo because I didn’t want to lose time. However, the time to enroll had passed, and that’s why I couldn’t study. I return home and my brother in law was vacationing. He was an engineer working at SAHOP, and since I didn’t have anything else to do, I went with him to work to Ensenada.
In 1979, I started working in SAHOP and I also studied my high school. Upon my high school completing, I decided to study engineering. I decided to do so because of my experience at work with engineers. I learned that their pay was good, and that’s why I left for Mexicali. I left with a friend who had money, and I lived at his house without paying rent. However, he changed career to Pedagogy and our friendship declined. I moved with another friend, with whom I didn’t pay rent either; however, the money I received from my family wasn’t enough to eat.
Every time I had vacations, I returned to Loja. Then, I left school for several reasons, the most important being that upon my return to my town, I encountered friends with their engineering career and they were working as taxi drivers instead, or at jobs that were not related to engineering at all. This made me weight my current situation, and I decided to stop studying; in addition, at that exact time, my brother Francisco was visiting. He had five years working in the North and he invited me to go with him. In 1982, I left with him to try .
It was easy to cross because I had obtained a visa at the border.
My brother was a smuggler, so when I left, I waited for him at his friend’s home in Los Angeles. That specific time, he had trouble crossing people; he spent five days at the border. The group of people trying to cross with my brother was from Loja; my brother likes to help our “paisanos.” Upon his arrival to Los Angeles, we left for Madera. He had worked there before, so it was easier to get a job there. It was January, so we arrived during grape picking; however I was not used to the agricultural job and I didn’t like it, besides the weather was very cold I didn’t like that job because we had to wake up around 4am or 5am, and finish working until 4pm. After work, we used to stop by the store for a six-pack and then went to rest. On the weekends, the only entertainment was to get drunk. There was no place to have fun. Another problem was that the border patrol used to stop a lot by the agricultural fields, so we had to be careful. I only worked there for two months; I asked my brother to return to Los Angeles. Thus, we left for Santa Ana. I worked there for four months crossing people.
One day, my brother’s girlfriend called him up to let him know that she was in San Jose. She invited him to a concert of Los Bukis. Since we didn’t have anything to do, we went there. We expected to find people from Loja, but we never imagined finding a lot of acquaintances. The next day, we drove a friend to his work at a restaurant. He invited us to eat. While eating, the manager arrived and told us that he needed a worker; he asked me if I wanted to stay. That’s how I got that job, through my friend who I had met at school back in Loja.
I worked for five years as busboy. In fact, in that restaurant, recent arrivals from Loja work there. Then, I worked at a gym as a janitor. Then, I worked at another restaurant as a cook, but I didn’t last long because I had problems with the manager. It was not a great deal, but one day I arrived to work without shaving, and he asked me to shave. Since I had forgotten my wallet, I explained to him that I didn’t have money to shave me. He didn’t care; if I didn’t shave, I had to go home. I got upset and asked him if I would work the next day, and he replied that he would consider that. The next day, I waited for his phone call, but he never called, so I lost my job.
I rested for a week, until I found a job at a casino. I only worked there for five weeks, since I didn’t like my schedule. I worked from midnight until eight in the morning. I didn’t have a choice, I talked to my previous manager at the restaurant, and I started working there again.
I like living here at the U.S. We currently live at an apartment; even though the apartment is small, our rent is only $425 dollars. My wife used to work as a waitress; however, since my child was born, she doesn’t work anymore.
I like my current job because is secure and constant; it’s not like agriculture. At this job, it doesn’t matter if it’s sunny or raining, there job all year long. Also, it has vacations and other benefits non-existent in agriculture. It’s true that in agriculture one can raise the same amount of money in six months, while here I do it in eight. However, the difference is that the agricultural job is physically tiring, dirty, and the main problem is to be careful of the border patrol. At the restaurant, the job is less tiring; there’s the opportunity of learning a bit of English, while in agriculture, since English is not needed, no one learns it.
Since our last trip to Loja, we are planning to return to Mexico and start a business. We are saving between 500 and 700 dollars per month. We are thinking to stay here another 8 years before retuning. My wife likes it here better; she thinks there are more opportunities for women. Also, the children can learn English and it’s easier to work here than in Mexico. In addition, in Mexico, Men feel “machos”. So, for women, life is much better here. My wife says that she doesn’t know any married woman who wants to return; the only women that plan to do so are single women who have family back in Mexico.
Yes, I live all right here. Everything has its pros and cons. Children have more benefits: English, medications, and good doctors. However, raising them is more difficult. There is less control because they are protected by the government. We cannot spank them. That’s why our youth is lost in drugs. Another issue here is that one lives as a slave of the clock. In Mexico you can take a day off and there’s not much problem.
The most important thing in Mexico to live happy and peaceful is the economic. Comprehension is not enough; living good means being economically well off. My wife says that in U.S. the pay is good, while in Mexico one doesn’t earn enough even though one may be a professional. The only way to make it is having a business. I think that way because almost all of my extended family have some sort of business back in Loja. Thus, the only way to keeps me here is that in Mexico one lives better if one has money.