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Interview with Jose Garcia

Garcia Alvarez, Jose
Desmarais, Melinda
Date of Interview: 
Immigration; Latino immigration; labor and immigrants; gender roles and family; 9/11/01 and immigration; language barrier; immigrants and school.
A native of Mexico City, Jose Garcia talks about his experiences as an immigrant to the North Carolina Piedmont. Garcia discusses the factors that propelled him to move to the United States and vividly recalls his arrival into the country via Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, where immigration officials temporarily detained him. He recalls the challenges he faced including the language barrier and the adaptation to a consumption-based culture. Garcia addresses the changes in the social landscape he's seen during his seven years in the United States, including the rising number of Latinos and the proliferation of Latin marketplaces. A father of two children born in the U.S., he discusses the opportunities he feels his children have and his desire to instill them with his own native heritage and language. Garcia heralds the American influence on some traditional Latino practices, however, as he describes how he has embraced a more liberal view of gender roles within the family while in the US. Garcia is ambivalent as he looks to the future for Latino immigrants. While he recognizes a growing acceptance on the part of many Americans, he also sees potential negative fallout as a result of 9/11/01. Editor's note: During a portion of this interview, Mr. Garcia refers to several photographs from the Smithsonian-sponsored exhibit "Americanos: Latino Life in the United States," which appeared in Charlotte's Levine Museum of the New South in 2002. UNC Charlotte's Special Collections unit has copies of the photographs available for review.
Coverage: 1994-2002
Interview Setting: 
Danaher Tool Group, Gastonia, NC
Levine Museum of the New South, Latino Series
MD (Melinda Desmarais): This is Melinda Desmarais, the interviewer, and today is September the 26th; the year is 2002. And I am here interviewing Jose Garcia at Danaher Tool Group in Gastonia, North Carolina. And Jose works at Danaher. I am interviewing him for the Levine Museum of the New South and for UNC Charlotte's Special Collections Department. And we are doing this interview in conjunction with the "Americanos" exhibit that will be held at the Levine Museum of the New South. Please state your name for me.
JG (Jose Garcia): OK. My full name is Jose Luis Garcia Alvarez.
MD: And tell me when your birthday is.
JG (Jose Garcia): OK. It's in August 26, 1973.
MD: And where were you born?
JG: Mexico City.
MD: And what were your parents' names?
JG: OK. [Laughter] My father has almost the same name, but the only, the only thing is different than mine is his second last name, because in Mexico we use two last names. So, so his name is Jose Luis Garcia Samudi. And my mother's name is Maria del Pilar Alvarez Salinas.
MD: And you were telling me a funny story earlier about
JG: [Laughter]
MD: how that difference--.
JG: Yeah.
MD: And how you have your name and your father's name is so close and how that's sort of different in the United States. How's that impacted you here?
JG: Well, first to me it was funny because I didn't know anything about junior or seconds or seniors. I, I didn't know that. But right now it's give me like a hard time trying to get things, what I need here in the United States. But I think, I think that if they tell me something when I, when I, when I get here it should be a little bit easier to me. [Laughter]
MD: So you were telling me you were trying to buy a house and--?
JG: Yeah. I'm just trying to buy a house, and the guys from the company, the mortgage company, they, they tell me that our, our credit, credit records are mixed, so I have to straight before they can tell me go ahead and let's sign for the closing. They give me hard time. [Laughter]
MD: So tell me a little bit about your family. Do you have any brothers or sisters?
JG: Yeah. I have a older brother. He used to work here, Danaher. And I have a little daughter, I mean a little sister. I'm sorry. She's in Mexico. She's in college right now. And my father's here. And my mom, she's still in Mexico because my sister, you know. She wants to stay with her until she finish her college.
MD: Now how did your mom and dad--? What did they work as in Mexico? What were, what were their jobs? Did they work?
JG: Yeah. Well my, my mother, she's a nurse. She works in the, like, it's like Health Department in Mexico. EMS is the name. And my father, he used to work under--. He's, he was, like--. Well, he got his own business. It's--. He sell--. Let me, let me, how, how you can understand what I'm saying. He sell electric equipment like wires, lamps, switch, stuff like that. Yeah.
MD: And so what was your life like growing up in Mexico City?
JG: Well, when I was in Mexico, my whole life, it was just school, school, school, school, school. And then when I move up here, I was at, at the middle of my, my career. I left my, my college and then I move up here. Yeah.
MD: So what, what enticed you to do that? To come up here? To move? [Laughter]
JG: [Laughter] My girlfriend. Right now she's my wife. Yeah, when I meet her in Mexico, and then her parents, well her whole family, had moved here. And we split, and it was hard for her and hard for me. And after a while she called me back to Mexico and asked me if I want to come up here, at least to see how is the United States. And we can do something else. We, we can try. So that's what I--. I talked with my parents. I explained to them what was my situation with my college. And--. Well, because it was hard, you know. The business in Mexico are not too good.
MD: Um-hum.
JG: And I, I, I was seeing my father going to down and down more and more and more because we was three brothers, and we all are in, in college, and sometimes he has not enough money to pay for materials. I was, I was--. Well, my, my major, it was electronics, and I have to buy a lot of stuff, expensive stuff. And I was like, Oh my God. How, how I going to tell my dad that I have to buy things if I'm watching my mom and dad fighting because there's no money. So that was one other thing that makes me quit from my career. And then my, my girlfriend called me and tell me, "Come up here. Up here is a little bit easier. You have to see for yourself to believe it." That's when I talked with my mom, my dad, and they tell me, "OK. Go ahead if you can go. OK. You can try and see what you think about it." And that's what makes me quit from my school and then move up here. And my brother, he finished his career, and my little--.[Pause]
MD: Sister?
JG: My little sister, she's almost done. Yeah.
MD: So, let me ask you this. So you decide OK, I'm going to come to the United States.
JG: Yeah.
MD: I'll give it a try.
JG: Um-hum.
MD: What did you pack to bring with you? Could you bring a lot?
JG: Just my, my, my clothes. That's it. Only my, my clothes. And that be--.
MD: Did you bring anything else with you that was sort of important to you? A book or pictures or anything like that?
JG: Well my mom gave me a Bible, a Spanish Bible, and pictures, you know, from them. I was like "Oh my God, I'm going to do it." At the same time I was excited because, you know--. Well, you are, you are American. When I was in Mexico, and then, you know, you see movies about the United States and things about United States. You always dream when you was child, one day I'm, I'm, I want to, I want to be up there, and I think everybody--. That's, that's everybody's dream in Mexico: one day I'll be able to travel to United States.
MD: And what is it that, that, that dream means? What do you think you'll find when you're little and your making those plans or dreaming or whatever?
JG: Well, first, first of all, it's like--. I don't know how to say this. [Pause] I'm, I'm living in Mexico City, and it's always crowd and (all we see) and too much troubles, and I was kind of like I'm tired of this. I need to go somewheres to take a break from the city. And my, my girlfriend tell me, "You won't believe what I'm seeing here is like in movie film. You, you won't believe it. It's so quiet. Everything is green. You, you, you, you won't see fences around the houses, you know. That's, that's like--. Oh my God. Is that real? [Laughter] Because in Mexico everybody has fence. Well, there's no fence, there's like a walls between house and house. And that kind of things makes you like, Oh my God. I've got to be there. I mean, I have to see them on my own. [Laughter]. Si.
MD: So when you first came here,
JG: Um-hum.
MD: you told me that you flew into Chicago.
JG: Yeah. [Laughter]
MD: So tell me about, about your experience. What the first hour or something-right?-that you're in the United [Laughter] States.
JG: Well [Laughter], I was sort of disappointed. They make me feel like, I don't know, like, like a stranger, like alien. [Laughter] I don't know, because they asked me for, for all my, my papers. And, and when, when I came from, when I came down from the airplane, I was trying to, to look on, on the lines to see the guys who was checking the papers. And I was trying to pick the, the nicer guy to me. And I get one that give me hard time. And they start to ask me questions. "Where you from? How are you? What you'd do down there? Why you come up here? How much money did you bring? What you going to do? Are you going to stay too long?" Things like you never expect they going to ask you and you have to answer. Just [Snaps fingers] like this. And when they ask me for my ticket to going back to Mexico, I tell them, " No. I don't have a ticket to going back because I don't know how long I'm going to stay here. My visa's for ten years, so I don't know." And they tell me, "Well, you see that room on your left?" And I say, "Yes." And he just fold my papers and give it to me and tell me, "Go in there. Somebody's going to be with you." I said, "Oh my God. Oh my God. I'm, I'm in trouble." [Laughter] Then after a few minutes, a big guy, a big cop, like-I don't know how, how you say-like seven, seven feet. Oh my God. I, I thought he was like the Sears Tower. [Laughter] Oh my God. He starts to ask me question again. Everything again. He make me pull all my things out from my luggage. He start to search. I don't know what he look for or what he's trying to find, but I mean I was shocked. I didn't know what--. I didn't know anything about what's going on, and I didn't speak English at all. And he has to ask for somebody to come to help me to translate. And then, we started all over again, "What you going to do? How long you going to stay here? How much money did you bring? Show me the money." "There, there is the money." [Laughter] And they, they see all my papers from my school, all my reports, so they proved that I was in school. I think if they catch me that I was lying, they send me back [Snaps fingers] just like this. But I proved, I proved whatever I tell them. And finally they decided they let me go. And I get in the O'Hare International Airport. Oh my God, that's a huge thing. In Mexico, it's just like this big [Laughter], the airport in Mexico City, and O'Hare is just huge. And I, [Laughter] I was shocked because when I'm as--, when they released me, I asked a girl--, a cop girl, that I need to get my second airplane, and she tell me, "You see those stairs. Go upstairs and then you have to jump on the train." And I was like, "No, no. It's not a train. It's an airplane. I have to go to Charlotte." And she said, "No, no, no. You have to get the train, and then you go to the next." I said--. Oh my God. I didn't know. It was huge. I mean, I never--. I mean I didn't know anything about it, how big it is, the airport down there. And how I was dressed. [Laughter] Do you remember? I came with suit and, and, and coat because in Mexico it was, it was raining, and down there in Chicago it was really hot. Everybody was wearing shorts and tank tops. And everybody look at me like saying, "What? What he's doing?" [Laughter] And I was so shy, because I feel like, Oh my God. What I'm doing? But finally I get, I get Charlotte. [Laughter]
MD: So what did you think about Charlotte when you got to Charlotte?
JG: Well, first, when I get from, when I get out from the airplane, the first thing I saw was my girlfriend, because she was just right beside the, the line. I said, "Oh my God." It's a little bit better, because the other one was too huge. [Laughter] And I like it. I finally start to feel like a little bit, like I catch my breath again because I was so nervous. Like, "Oh my God. Oh my God." Yeah.
MD: So you had people waiting on you
JG: Yeah. It was
MD: that you knew?
JG: my girlfriend, her brother, her mom, and her dad. It was like, "Oh, nice to meet you. Oh, nice to meet you." [Laughter] But I, I, I knew everybody, but I was like, I don't know what I have to say. You know, "Nice to meet you." I tell my mother-in-law, "Nice to meet you," and I already met her. [Laughter] Yeah. And they take me down, down to the car. They take me to the Burger King to eat something because I was starving. I was like, "Oh my God. I didn't eat anything." So they take me to the Burger King.
MD: So it was your first meal in the US?
JG: Yeah. It was my first meal in the US. I said, "Oh my God." Yeah, because in Mexico when you get Burger King, you have to make a big line, like two-hours line, yeah, to get your meal. And it was like, "Oh my God. That's cool." [Laughter]
MD: What was your first week like in Charlotte? I mean do you remember like the first week you were here?
JG: Actually I was in Lincolnton, because they, they have to work, and I didn't speak anything, I mean English.
MD: OK. So they lived in Lincolnton?
JG: Yeah.
MD: So that's immediately where you went.
JG: Um-hum. Yeah, we just, we just came down to Lincolnton. I stayed there like two, two weeks in, in the same house, eating and eating and eating and watching TV and eating and eating [Laughter] because I was afraid to go outside because, you know, if somebody asked me something, you know, I wasn't able to tell a word. Then, well, on the weekends, sometimes we go to the mall, Hickory, up here to Gastonia. And it's hard to, trying to, you know, get used to the people.
MD: How have the people been?
JG: Well, it's--. Well--. When, when, when we get Lincolnton in that year, it was very strange to see another Latin guy. It's like, "Oh, look there's another Mexican! Oh, Hello! Hello!" Right now, "Oh my God. There's another Mexican." [Laughter] It's like so crowded. Right now, it's so crowded Mexicans down there and guys from Costa Rica, Costa Rica. There's a bunch of guys from Costa Rica right now.
MD: So have you seen a real change?
JG: Yeah. Yeah. When, when we get to Lincolnton, there was no Latins at all.
MD: And do you think that's made things easier for you or harder for you?
JG: Well, it depends on, on, on what you, you think. Just let's say something funny. Yard sales. At the beginning when, when, when we get there, you go into the yard sales and you find a lot of things, and you can say I want to take this-no, no, no. Maybe not. Maybe this one. Right now, if you don't get up early, uh-uh. Forget about it. You, you won't find nothing [Laughter] at yard sales because right now there's a lot of people. So everybody get up really early in the morning, and they start to go around. And my son and my daughter, they like going to the yard sales, you know, because they like watching people and asking how much and things like that. Buying little toys and stuff like that. They like it.
MD: So tell me were there things that you, you know--. You had this dream about what it would be like here. You know, a lot of people in Mexico you say have that dream. Were there things here or how you found things here, were they what you expected?
JG: Well, yes. Down there in Mexico, in Mexico City, it's hard to get a car because sometimes you can afford the gas, sometimes you can afford maintenance or taxes, stuff like that. And one of the things you hear on the United States is the cars are cheaper. You can get cars like this. So there's one things I'm expecting to come up here and get my new car right away because I want it. [Laughter] And it's easy to get a car, but what they didn't tell you is about the payments. [Laughter] Because in Mexico, you, you want a car, you have to pay it in cash. It's paid up right away. I want it. There's the money. Give me the car, and give me the title. And here, you know, you have to make arrangement, and sign papers, and then you have to make payments every month, every month. There's a, a bunch of good things. There's a bunch of things you didn't expect, like making payments. Bills. The, the, the first word I learned here was bills. You have to pay the bill for the water, bill for the power, bill for the gas. Bills and bills and bills and bills. Oh my God. Everything here is bills. Yeah. And I have a lot of friends, when they come up here, they just get tired of pay bills and bills and bills. And they say, "There's no more. I'm go back to Mexico. Down there's no bills." That's right. Down there's just, I think, power is the only bill you have to pay and, and phone, telephone. Yeah, but there's a little bit difference. When I talk with my mom, she said, "So in United States, you can, you can own whatever you want, but you own it so you have to pay." I said, "Yeah, Momma. You can get whatever you want, but you have to pay for it." [Laughter] That's the difference.
MD: So how about, you know, you were in Lincolnton for a couple weeks and then you, you know, you see things starting to change. How did you find work? What was your first job here?
JG: Well, my father-in-law, he was working in a yarn company
MD: Um-hum.
JG: on Cherryville. The name was SCT Yarn. It's closed down right now. They tell me that they was hiring people, so they invite me to come down there to make an application to see if there was any chance to get a job. I went down there. The human resources girl was so nice. She was an old girl, but she was so sweet. She helped us a lot because she knew that we don't speak English at all. She help us a lot. And I got my first job down there, the yarn company, SCT Yarn was the name. And there was a bunch of Vietnamese guys working, and that, that was fun because when they finally tell me, "OK, you're going to work on these machines. He's going to work with you." There was a Laotian guy. His name was (Twon, Twon Kim), but he doesn't speak English. And I don't, don't speak either. So we just talked--, we signed. [Makes hand motions] Like, "You going to change this one, and I change this--. Good, good, OK. OK." And it was fun because we tried to communicate, [Laughter] you know, any way we tried to comm.--. [Laughter] Yeah, but he was a good guy, too.
MD: How about like, you know, Anglo-American workers who were there? How--? Did they--? Were they accepting of you and of the other folks?
JG: Yeah. Well, always there's like a kind guys who likes Latin guys. You, you know as soon as you meet them because they start to look at--. When, when they turn around to see you, you know if he is friendly or he is not [Laughter] friendly. And like fifty-fifty. Some guys talk to you, try to be friendly, and other guys they are just so like quiet. Don't talk, don't laugh, don't turn around and see. He just don't, don't bother with anything, and that's it.
MD: Have you found--? You know, you've talked about, Jose, how you've seen so many, like in Lincolnton, the Mexican population explode, right?
JG: Uh-hum.
MD: Have you found that, you know, natives of Lincolnton that the way that they are. Are they more accepting now because there are more Latino men and women? Or are they less accepting of you? Have you seen that attitude change?
JG: Well, yeah. I think--. Well, it's, it's, just like I'm saying like fifty-fifty. Some guys like just like they, they say OK, "Let's, let's talk to them and try to be friendly with them." And some guys they're like, "Naa, I don't want anything with those guys."
MD: So it's about the same? You think?
JG: Uh-hum. Yeah.
MD: Yeah. OK. Tell me about, you know, you say the Latin community is growing in Lincolnton, right?
JG: [Laughter]
MD: Tell me about what is the Latin community like in Lincolnton? Are their stores that you can shop at if you want something or--?
JG: Yeah. At, at the beginning when we get there, there was only one like Mexican store, and sometimes it was too crowd. A lot of people trying to buy stuff that you never can found up here like corn tortillas. It was hard to find them, so you have to go to that store and buy it there because there's no other way that you can get it. And, things like--. Let me say this. After a few years, you, you hear like in Charlotte there's another Mexican store, and now in Gastonia, and now in Hickory. And just after a few weeks [Snaps fingers] everywhere there's a Latin store. (We just went) Oh my God, that's good [Laughter] because sometimes you can found things you need or you expect to find it you can found it. Yeah. And I think right now in Lincolnton there's like five or six Mexican stores. Yeah.
MD: Are there things like, you know, you say now in some of these stores you can find stuff.
JG: Um-hum. Yeah.
MD: Are there things that you miss that you can't get here?
JG: Yeah. Well, the food is, is, you know, is very different from American food. And there's dishes that you miss all the time because there's, there's items that you can't found here, so you won't be able to do the dish just like in Mexico. But, right now, I mean you can found everything [Laughter]. Whatever you want. Yeah.
MD: And, you know, if you go to like the-see if I am saying this right-panaderia?
JG: Panaderia.
MD: Here, does it taste the same as it does in Mexico?
JG: The only difference is--. There's, there's one in Lincolnton, but the owner is, I think is Cuban. I'm not sure if he's Cuban or from Venezuela. And so they try to make bread like in Mexico, but sometimes he's not--. The taste is not the same. And you're like, Oh my God. OK. OK. Well, they tried. They tried. So I think if you are from the same country, like the owner, you found the same thing, but if you are from different country, maybe you are a little bit disappointed [Laughter]. Si. Yeah.
MD: Are there any customs or traditions, things that you did in Mexico
JG: Uh-hum.
MD: that you continue to do here that--?
JG: There's like, like Independence Day in Mexico. The first couple, couple years I was like missing. Say, Oh my God. I wish I can stay in Mexico. Because right now to me it's like I don't miss at all. Now I'm start to get used to the Fourth of July, you know, because I, I--. The first years they say, "It going to be Fourth of July." OK. Seems like it makes no sense to me. But right now it is. Now the, the independence of Mexico is like going to be September the 16th, and to me it's like OK, whatever. No, I, I, I'm--. Now I get used to Fourth of July because I know here it's the not September 16th. See what I'm saying? So, it's kind of like, like my mind get confused about which is the right one to me. See? See what I'm saying?
MD: How about, I know you, you have children.
JG: Uh-hum. Two.
MD: Two children. How old are they?
JG: My little boy is six year, and my daughter is four. Yeah.
MD: Are there certain things, ideas about family or church or customs or traditions or you knew in Mexico or that are important to you that you want to make sure that they know?
JG: We talked to them about the, the dead. How? What, What--?
MD: Day of the Dead?
JG: Day of the Dead.
MD: Or you can say the Spanish version.
JG: Dia de los Muertos.
MD: Muertos.
JG: That's what we say. Dia de los Muertos. We talk to them about it, and they just like get the idea. But they know here is Halloween, so what, what they expect is Halloween. They get the costume. They get to go outside to ask for candies. And I like it, because down there in Mexico there's no things like that. I mean, you can go and knock on the doors and they going to give you candy. I think that's a very cool thing. I like it. I like it because I, I, I see my son and my daughter enjoying. They are very happy when, when this come, you know, Halloween. And down there if you don't have money, unfortunately you, you, you won't be able to do anything, see. You won't be able to go to the markets and buy like a little skulls and stuff like that. So sometimes it's nice in Mexico, but if you have no money, it's going to be hard. Do you know what I'm saying?
MD: How about Spanish? Are you wanting to teach them Spanish?
JG: Yeah. Actually, my son, he's really good in Spanish. He can read now, and he can read in on English, too. About math, he's very good with math. And, and he gets excited when, when we try to teach him on Spanish. He's like, "Show me more." I mean, "Let me know more," I mean. He, he, he wants to know more.
MD: Is that important to--? Are you worried that them being in the U.S. that they won't know about your heritage or that are there things they will miss or--?
JG: Well, when I get here, we know several peoples with kids, and they speak Spanish because they come from Mexico. But as soon as they learn English, the kids, they don't want to speak Spanish no more. So we was worried about our kids do the same thing. So what we, what we did with our kids, we talked to them all the time in Spanish, because we know when they get school, they're going to catch [Snaps fingers] English like this. Maybe it's going to be a little bit hard at the beginning. My son was like, "What I'm going to tell her? She, she won't understand what I am saying?" So the few, the first year it was hard for him. She cry--, he crying because he, he feel like he was lost. To me, he looked like, like I was a traitor because I tell him, "You stay here with them, and I'll come back." He was like "No, Daddy! No! Please don't leave me alone. Please, no, no." I said Oh my God. So I tell him I got to go he say, "Ahh!" He's crying. You know, that make me, even make me feel bad because he was crying and crying and crying. And I was outside, like "Oh my God. No, no, no." Make me feels bad. But after a while he was like, you know, playing, happy
MD: Yeah.
JG: and, you know. That's why we talk, we talk to them in Spanish all the time.
MD: So it's important?
JG: Um-hum. Yes.
MD: You think that's really important? Do you think you'll stay in the U.S.?
JG: I guess, yeah. Like two years ago we went to Orlando to Disney World, and we rode like a shuttle down there, and now we got books in the mail like saying you can go Canada or China. And, and I explained to him you are so lucky because you born here and you can go anywhere in the world, wherever you want. The only thing you need to do is go to school, go to school, go to school. That is the only thing you need to do. So he is so excited, because he wants, he wants to go to Mexico, but he knows he's only going on vacation, and then he come back. So I think he, he will stay here. And we have our, our friends. When they, they move here, their kids born here, but now they going back to Mexico. And, and I was talk to one, one of them. I tell him, "I think I mean that's OK. You want to go back to Mexico because you got tired of bills and tired of this kind of life,
MD: Um-hum.
JG: but you didn't think of him. He's American, so he's going back to Mexico. Then, what? I mean down there is--, the, the life is so hard. You have to work hard. The same thing like here. And I think the chance for him is better here than down there, and you are not think of him. You're just thinking yourself." I think that's not a good, a good thing, and they just say, "Well, when he grew up, he, he be able to choice." And I tell them, "Yeah, but what about the English? I mean if he's going down there, he won't--. He's going to forget English, and then he's going back." You know, those kind of troubles?
MD: Uh-hum.
JG: They don't care, but I think I do. So for our oldest childrens, we want to stay here for them because it is a better, better life for them here.
MD: Have you been back to visit?
JG: No, no, no, no. My father does, but I think, to me it's going to be hard to going back because I'm really want to go see my mom. But sometimes what I think, I say but what about my job? If I'm going down there, I'm going to lose my job and then going to be hard to find another job when I come back. And what about my kids? What about my, my house? You know?
MD: Uh-hum.
JG: It's, it's going to be really hard if I decide to go back to Mexico and then come back. Going to be hard to catch up again. That's what I'm--. No I'm stay here. [Laughter] Si.
MD: OK. Well, let's move on and talk about the photographs.
JG: Uh-hum. Si.
MD: And what I'll ask you to do is if you'll just give me a, you know, just couple of words here, you know. And then tell me a little bit about why you, why you chose the photograph. Let me get this thing situated. Set it there.
JG: First I picked this one because it's the Day of the Dead and I really like it when I was little in Mexico. It was some like, like it was so exciting to me to go through the markets and see all that stuff different to me and weird because sometimes you see the altars smoking and smelling weird. And you ask, "What is this? What is it Mom?" And they explain me what it is. "And why is that thing down there? And why is those candles?" And they explain to me what it is and the traditions and stuff like that.
MD: Do people do that here?
JG: I don't think so. Since I've been here I haven't see any altar like this one in the United States. Uh-uh. I don't think so. They, they get--. I think what it is, they get confused with, with the Halloween and they use it more for the Halloween instead do the Mexican tradition I guess.
JG: [Laughter] This one. I like this one because you know in Mexico I think a hundred percent is Catholic people and December the 12th they do a big party in Mexico City on a big cathedral, La Virgin de Guadeloupe is the name. And I know people from [Coughing] from the whole country just going down there and meet down there that day. And they do dances and stuff like that. And, and to me its where, when, when you see this kind of dresses-Yeah, this one-when you be able to see it in person. [Laughter] That's what I'm seeing, that's what I like.
MD: How about, how about here?
JG: [Coughing]
MD: Are there any festivals or Latin American culture festivals? Have you ever done anything or been in anything like that?
JG: Like two, two, three years ago they made a party on the Martha Rivers, Martha Rivers Park. They say it was like a Latin festival. And they don't do things like that. They just do like in dances, like jalisco you know, jalisco in Mexico in the country? They do it like with the big dresses and stuff like that. But nothing like this. Yeah, this a little bit different. And I like this one because, you know, you are, you are--. You'll be able to see that she's not American and she's doing the flag, the American flag. That's what I like. That's what I like.
MD: Does this remind you of when you worked at the yarn plant?
JG: No. Remind me when down here, they, they, they do a thing, it's like saying "Made in the USA." And I was talking with another guy, the guys that run that big noisy machine. Boom-Boom. And I tell them yeah, but they should add something else. And he said, "What?" And I tell him, "Yeah, made in USA with Mexican hands." And we were laughing like, like twenty, twenty minutes. He was--, we was picking at each other. I tell him they, they should do that too. [Laughter] But that's why I picked this picture.
MD: Here where you work are there a lot of Latino men and women who work here?
JG: A few years ago it was but right now it's not too many. Yeah because, you know social security things. This one, I like this one because the stores in Mexico always look like this. Yeah.
MD: How about the stores here that you were talking about.
JG: [Coughing].
MD: Do they look like that?
JG: The stores right here on Lincolnton? No. No. Completely different. Yeah. [Laughter]
MD: What would you, if you were standing here what sort of things would you hear or smell or what would it be like there if you were standing there?
JG: Well, definitely they, they, they smell different. I think down, down here, I'm not sure if they bring the bread from somewhere else, but I think they don't bake it down there. And in stores like this, you'll be able to smell, you know, the, the furnace and all, all the things they put on it. [Laughter]. I don't know what it is. Yeah. Sometimes they, they sell, like little magazines like this. Yeah.
MD: What sorts of things, aside from food, can you buy at local tiendas and places here? Can you buy things that, other than just food? Do they have these magazines and--?
JG: Yeah. Yeah. Sometimes they, they sell like medicine. Like a mineral medicine like a stomach ache relief or sore throat, liquids. I don't know how you say that. When, when you are little boy, they tell you, "Oh you are sick. You have to drink this," the name of that thing. And when you come up here, you are expect to find that thing that you want. And now they, they bring it back and you say oh, that's good for the cough and that's good for when you, when you catch cold and things like that.
MD: And do you, do you use those remedies on your kids? The things that you grew up doing? JS: Yeah. My mother-in-law, she always do that. "Oh, buy that thing. That's for your son." "OK. OK. OK." Yeah, and now you can, you can found that here. Because when you go to the drugstore, you don't know anything. You just, you have to ask for it. But down there in Mexico no, you can, you can go to drugstores in Mexico and ask for a penicillin shot. And they, they just give it to you and you pay it and that's it. And down here you have to pay a large bills [Laughter] to get penicillin. JS: I like this one because my brother and I, we learned to play chess when we was, we were child. My uncle teach us how, and now I teach my son how. And he like it, and, and sometime he looks like the little girl on the picture, trying to think what he has to do to win me.
MD: And now tell me again how old is your son?
JG: Six.
MD: And he plays chess?
JG: Uh-hum. Yeah. Yeah. And have you seen the Harry, Harry Potter movie? You know he plays chess, and that's why he started to get excited about it, about chess. Because he saw the movie, and I tell him I know how to play. And he said, "Really? Show me how." And I bought a little chess set and we start to play and tell him how and, you know, stuff like that. Yeah, and sometimes he looks like, like this little girl.
MD: Is chess a very common thing that people play in Mexico City?
JG: No, not really. Not, not all the people can play. They say its boring, but I don't think so. It's so excited. Sometimes my brother, we always shared the room when we was in Mexico. And my, my, my sister she was in a different room, and at the night time sometime we used to play. And we was playing like one or two hours trying to win each other, and sometime my sister came and say "Aah, just go to bed." [Making hand motions indicating sister turning over chess board] And we, "No, no don't do that. We was like two hours playing and you just come and tear them up," because she don't know how to play. And that other people thinks it's boring thing, but I don't so. It's very nice.
MD: That's nice that you're teaching him something that you used to like to do or you still like to do but
JG: Yes.
MD: that you learned as a child. Yeah?
JG: Uh-hum.
MD: Well I have two more questions for you.
JG: Uh-hum.
MD: What do you think, say somebody is coming from the same place that you lived in Mexico City, and they're coming to Lincolnton or Charlotte or whatever, and they're coming today? How would their experience be like yours or do you think it would be different than yours? I mean, you know, you've been here what seven--?
JG: Yeah, like eight years.
MD: Oh, eight years. Do you think it, their experience would be similar or do you think it would be different?
JG: Maybe a little bit different because they, they, they be able to talk with more people, or, or see people who can talk with and (with) [Laughter]. That's one thing. And another thing I think the Americans, they get used to the Latin people, so right now they won't turn around and see you like, "Oh. Hello." Right now I think you can walk right beside them, and they won't pay attention. There's, there's little things that you feel, or you'll be able to figure it out when somebody turn around and see you. When I, when I got here first, they turn around like saying, "Is he American? No." And right now I think they, they won't, won't pay no attention on you. Yeah, I think that the only, only different thing. But one, one big change since I've been here I think is going to be the Social Security. When I got here, it was easy to get it. Right now, there's, there's hard to get a Social Security. And there's going to be a, big, a big trouble I guess.
MD: So you just-it was easy for you, you just went to--. How did you apply for one? How did that work?
JG: When I get here my father-in-law--. No, it was my mother-in-law, she take me to the Social Security office. I show my, my visa card and my passport. They check it. They give me the application. I fill it out. And they tell me you, you, you, you, you will get your card in fifteen days in the mail, and that be it.
MD: And how is it now?
JG: I think you won't be able to get it even if you are tourist you won't be able to get it. Yeah.
MD: And why, why not? How has it changed?
JG: I think--. Well I, I don't know exactly what's wrong, what happened. But I think to me it's like they have to stop the, the--. To me its like they try to stop growing the, the, the, the people come up here and try to get Social Security number. I think, I don't know exactly what it is. [Laughter]
MD: OK. I have one last question for you and then we will be done. You know, there's so much talk right now about immigrants
JG: Uh-hum.
MD: in the wake of 9/11.
JG: Oh yeah.
MD: And there's all kinds of stuff people are saying back and forth, good and bad. Right? How do you think 9/11 is going to affect immigrants who want to come to the United States or even immigrants who are already here?
JG: Yeah. Well, what I hear is before the 9/11 Mexico and United States well
JG: but the news say they was like this close to try to deal with all the immigrants that are here in United State, illegals sayings like this. And after the 9/11, everything was gone. All we, we win, we lost it that, that day. And when that happened in 9/11, I was like two hours shock like this: Oh my God. Oh my God. Which I was thinking all the, the problems it going to make. And I, I don't know.
MD: Are you hopeful about the future? Do you think it's going to get better?
JG: I don't know. I don't know because I was scared because when that happened a lot of people started talking about the, the residents and they was like, "Well if, if Bush get mad, they can tell all the residents, 'Go back home.'" And I was like, Oh my God. They might. I mean they can do that.
MD: Uh-hum.
JG: So I don't know if they going to change it or not. They going to do better things or not. I don't know. I don't know. I hope they do something good [Laughter]. There's, because there's too many good people come to work and, and finally get a job. And after a few days they say, " I'm sorry. You won't be able to work here no more." And they was like, "Oh my gosh! Again." And that makes you feel bad like, Oh my God. So. Yeah. That's, that's one thing I wish they can do something about it, all the people ( ).
MD: Is there anything else that you want to tell me that we've not talked about? You've got great stories.
JG: [Laughter]
MD: Is there any other good story that you can remember about being here or coming here or?
JG: Well, just about my, my son and my daughter. In Mexico you won't be able to get in on the delivery room, and when my son was born I didn't expect they going to tell me here's the scissors and cut the, the, the. I was like, "Oh my gosh. No, no, no, no!" [Laughter] Is it going to hurt or something?" Yeah, and it was so exciting. I mean was like oh. I wasn't expecting to see all the things I saw on the delivery room. [Laughter] Yeah. And I like it. I liked that. I think that made you feel like a little more responsible for you, for your kids because you saw them born. And, and I really enjoyed that.
MD: How about family? Is family life different for Latino men and Latina women? Is it different in the United States do you think? Or is the same? I mean--?
JG: I know too many guys from Mexico and sometimes when they move up here they try, they try to keep everything like as the same like in Mexico. The, the wife stay at home cooking and watching kids. And they go to work, and go outside, and get drunk and stuff like that. And I don't like that. I think if we are here there's this equal you know. If you go to work and I go to work, I'm going to help you to cook and you going to help me to cook. And we try to keep our eyes on the kids. And that's what my wife and I do. Sometimes she cook, sometimes I have to cook [Laughter] and, and sometimes I help her, you know, to, to fix our apartment, you know, do the bedrooms, stuff like that. And I think that's better. I mean to me make me feel better that she's well like, let's say, like a little bit free sometimes to do things she want to do. Because I think we are, we are about the same, you know. And I think right here is better than Mexico because Mexico they, they, they are very, how you say that-machistas?
MD: Machismo?
JG: Machismo. Yeah.
MD: Sort of sexist?
JG: Uh-hum. And here there's not like in Mexico, so you have to forget about that and, and start all over again. And we do the same things. That's, that's what I like from here. Uh-hum. [Laughter]
MD: Well, thank you very much.
JG: Thank you.
MD: It's been great. Thank you.
JG: Thank you very much.