Date: July 22, 2006
Interviewers: Jason Siska
Note: Questions are in bold italic
Today is July 22 and I just finished interviewing your sister. What is your name?
What influenced your decision to come to the Bloomington area?
My brother was here and his wife. [Catarino and Juanita Villaneuva] There were about 12 people here that were Hispanic; twelve or 15. And the population was about 16,000. I came here like her, I worked for the farmers. They raised tomatoes for Campbell’s soup.
So what exactly led you to this area?
My brother called me. And you see, like everybody, there is better opportunities here. Down there I was making 5 dollars a day.
Do you remember what you were making here?
Oh yea, it was minimum wage and that was a dollar an hour. I work forty hours here and got forty dollars. And I work 5 days down there and only make 25 dollars. So it was a lot different. Everything was cheap you know, here and over there too. You could go to the meat market and buy three pounds of hamburger meat for a dollar. Gasoline was about 35 cents, depending on the brand. Gas was cheap. I used to visit Texas from up here and I spent twenty-five dollars; now, coming up here [it costs] two-hundred. The Greyhound is cheaper. During the winter time I worked in restaurant and you know. And then I had my own business here. I worked with a man who used to run a gas station. And after he left they took me to run the gas station. I ran it here at Linden and Emerson. It was on the corner there. Afterwards I saw in the newspaper that this man was hiring people. He was building houses and I used to go to Indiana, Ohio, Washington D.C., Virginia, Missouri . . .
This is in 1973?
Yea, somewhere around that time. Then January was coming and there was a first shortage of gas. And when the gas wasn’t there sometimes it was hard to get here . . . up there to here and to there. And then, they moved out so I went back to Texas in 1974.
And what did you do when you went back to Texas?
I worked in a gas station for a man you know. For sometimes and then I worked with in San Benito for 15 years. And I did some mechanical work there because that’s what I used to do when I worked at the gas station. Then I had a heart attack so I got don’t got nothing to do. I’m disabled so every chance I get I travel. I’ve been to California with my brothers. We got some family over there. And some families that were there after the Katrina Hurricane. I went out there and there’s plenty of work there. Fixing the roof and fixing the houses there. But since I got nothing to do, I go back to Texas and wait for the social security check. You know, how the system is here.
Do you think it provides you with enough money?
Well you always need more money then you get. But ah, you have to watch your P’s and Q’s. And you can... after paying for everything you have a few dollars left. Its okay, it’s okay. We come from a family you know, and we had a lot of.... we had a couple of brothers that serve in the Korean War, the second World War, Vietnam, and Iraq, and all that. They complete their hitch up and they come back home. We’re pro Americans. You see my sister has a lot of red, white, and blue flags. So, you know, we’re happy. We always live in this country. My mom and dad came to the United States, they came around 1898; a long time ago. In 1898 you had to cross the river in a boat. At that time you were called a wet back. So, my dad and my mom got married there in Texas so, we’re here; born in San Benito, Texas. There are people that say they were the first here. Well that’s not so. That’s not so. And then we came here and the other people came about like 10 years later.
Do you have children?
Yea I was married here and I had four daughters. Then I got a divorce. After that I spent a couple of years single and then I met my second wife and started a new family. And so on, you know. We’ve had a good life. There’s a lot of difference between Mexicans from Mexico and Mexican-Americans. Even though we’re the same race, the background is different.
Do you visit Mexico very often?
I’ll be honest with you; I don’t care to go to Mexico. People are very different than here. They are very hostile and they are always trying to find ways to take money from you. I don’t care about Mexico, I don’t care. If the government wants to build a wall, go ahead, I could care less.
Do you think their attitudes towards life are different?
Oh yea, yea. It’s an account of money. If you raised poor and you don’t got nothing to eat so they had to get their money some place, either steal it or work for it. They are very good workers you know. My dad was a truck driver in the 1920's, he used to come to Louisiana and pick up vegetables because they raised a lot of vegetables over there.
So your family never had any problems of putting food on the table?
No, you could say we were well enough off. My dad used to tell me that working in other places people were getting paid 5 dollars a week and my dad was getting 25 a week for driving. And 25 dollars a week was a lot of money in the 1920's. He kept us with food and everything and we had a so-so life. We never starved to death. Thanks to the job my dad had. He was educated in Mexico and could write in Spanish but could understand everything you say to him. But he didn’t have much education but he found his way around. Well, that’s about it you know.
Thank you so much.