Living in America

Meet the neighbors

Vasquez: It's our friends that "hook" us, for the company. The company recruits. They tell us there are jobs that Americans don't do. Fine with me. Twelve people from Mexico ride around in one car and do the work, 10 hours a day, 50 hours a week. We get a check for $900 every two weeks. I send $600 back every two weeks. I have two children, and I'm married. Our wives are housewives. Back home, I make doors and windows. I'm self-employed. We do whatever we can to make the money, and the money is better here. There's not as much for us in Mexico, but we can only get permission to work, not to live here. It's worth it, yes.

Chaves: I have two children, one year and seven years. I come to work; it's pretty good for us. We definitely make more than people working in the restaurants. There are four of us in an apartment in St. Paul. We work all over, mostly in the suburbs, in the city, the whole region. Wherever we have to go.

Vasquez: I get very lonely. I miss my family. I talk to my wife on the phone every weekend. That's when we talk. I like it here, but mostly it's just work for me here. Have to make the money. But it's not my home, no. In November I get to go back.

Bill Cameron



I don't have any papers. My wife and family are with me--we have a child that is nine years old--and we've been here for two years. I'm 26 years old, and we come from Guanajuato. During the week, I work in a print shop. But no, I'm not here legally. It doesn't seem to matter as long as I do my job.

You don't really get scared of being deported because the job is more important. I just want to do that job. Well, I am always scared of being caught, but that's not the most important thing. I have a car, I drive without a license, without papers, and I just hope I don't get pulled over or in an accident. But it's what I have to do to earn a living.

The pay is pretty good for us; I can work 40 hours a week and make $300. Then on the weekend, I can work here [at a market] and maybe make another $60 to $70 a day. The money now I can keep, I already paid what I owed to get me here.

I paid $1,500 dollars for a "coyote" to escort me across the border, and it took me one week to get into the States. We came through Juarez, and the coyote got me some papers that belonged to someone else. Then we flew into Dallas and then I came to St. Paul. It was me and the coyote and another guy. The coyote had fake driver's licenses for me, and I picked one of a guy that looked just like me. It wasn't a big deal because I crossed, all of this happened, before 9/11.

My wife was already here, and had already been here for a year. My wife and I both have family back in Mexico; we're the only ones here from either family. We send some money back, but mostly we have to keep it here to live here and spend in the shops. My family works in Mexico, so maybe one weekend my wife sends $100 back. We're trying to save up to build a house back home. The family business is something I want to get back into. They run a leather shop--they are all leathermen. But there's more money here for us.

Sure, I like it here, but I only plan to stay another three years. There's really no cultural problems here for me with people who are different, because I mostly just stay here on the West Side, where everyone is friendly to us. We are all part of the same culture here, so many are Latinos, so it's easy for me.


Laura Bonilla

I'm 25 years old, from Morelia, and I've been here for a year. I just live here with my husband and our one-year-old girl. I have papers to be here, I have a visa to work for one year. It's got two more months on it, so I can work until then. Same with my husband, then we go back. We have a good chance of being allowed back again to work, and we'll come back [to St. Paul]. I don't think we can be allowed to stay here permanently.

Monday through Saturday I'm at the Burger King. I work five hours a day, for about $150 a week. I work in back, in the kitchen. I send money back to family, about every two weeks, half of [my paycheck.] It's mostly going to my four brothers. My husband works as a carpenter, and he works about 40 hours a week. I don't know what his pay is. We live on the East Side, and my husband picks me up and drops me off here when I work.

There are no jobs for me in Mexico, so I'd like to stay here another year. Women don't work there. I like it here, even though my family doesn't live here. I don't have much interaction with Anglos, so sometimes it's lonely. I don't ever talk to the customers; I just do my job in the kitchen. I make the Whoppers, the specials, yeah. But everybody who works here is Hispanic, my boss, everybody, we're all Mexicans. The employer doesn't mind.

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