IMAGINE… That not EVERYTHING you “think” you’ve seen, read, or heard “might” NOT be true!!

“PEDRO’S STORY” —  an insider’s first hand knowledge — might make you re-think exactly that.

Immigration reform, citizenship, amnesty, undocumented workers, bipartisan deals…. These words and phrases are seen, read, and heard in every news, press, and media outlet repetitively ad nauseam. Yet not many people know what they “actually” mean. Sadly, fewer still can apply what they do” know” to events happening in our country.

Don’t worry, this is not a vocabulary lesson of epic proportions. This is a story about a young man. For the sake of keeping things fairly similar to the facts — we will call him Pedro.

Pedro Luis Vasquez hails from a village in the mountains of Guatemala. Its inhabitants lead a simple life, with few of the comforts that even poor Americans take for granted, like, for example, floors made of something besides dirt.

Unschooled and illiterate, Pedro begins work at age seven — in the fields. He is helping his father pay off a debt to a crooked politician. This debt is owed for that very politician “allowing”  Pedro’s older sister to leave the country so that she can attempt some sort of life by heading to the United States.

The father knows it is unlikely that he will ever be able to pay off this debt. He is a man dependent on his simple wages. He vows that Pedro’s departure not be the same once he is sent to America.

So at the age of ten Pedro begins his journey to America via “first class transport” in an old fire truck. Fire truck? Yes, fire truck. The best part is, the money for the journey comes from… American donations!!! The people donating believe that they are donating to a charity which sends older trucks from various cities in America to cities in Guatemala. Of course, many are actually exchanged this way. The older trucks from the cities in Guatemala are often bought and refurbished by collectors in America. Every now and then, a truck is hollowed out and rigged to transport people and supplies for the long journey to the U.S.

For Pedro, it is not a comfortable trip, but he does not complain. He’s used to difficult living conditions, and the work in the fields has made him very hardy.

The truck arrives in Atlanta, Georgia, where it is unloaded at the warehouse of an American who has been  paid rent a year in advance and does not ask questions. Who could blame him in the post 9/11 economy?

From here the group splits up, each heading to different parts of the country. Some stay in Atlanta and merge with the Hispanic population there.

Pedro boards a bus with some others and heads to Providence, Rhode Island.

Pedro is surprised by the climate. The weather is much colder in Rhode Island.  His Providence neighborhood is very nearly all Guatemalan people. Spanish is spoken everywhere,  even the Americans ( to Pedro this would be anyone not from his country) can speak at least some Spanish. He lives with his older sister and her family.

He is inserted into the public school system where his lack of schooling  has left him seriously behind other children his age. Programs for non-English speaking children and special tutors benefit him… and these are all staffed by Guatemalans. His sister shops at stores owned by Guatemalans. Her husband works at a mechanic shop owned by a Guatemalan. (He is an American citizen whose family has lived here for many years… and, because of the marriage, so are his wife and children.)

Time passes quickly, and Pedro learns enough English to get by fairly well. He does not enjoy school, however.He is used to working a full day and wishes to earn money to  send home to his father. There are many early teens from his country working in his neighborhood. When he turns fourteen, he begins working at a restaurant owned by a relative from… take a guess! Pedro learns the delicate art of dish-washing, then floor cleaning, table busing, and even some cooking!

His neighbor gives him and another young coworker a ride to and from work daily. They pay him weekly for the service. They also pay his sister weekly for daily homemade hot meals. This may sound expensive, but we are talking twenty dollars per week for meals and rides to work. Sounds good, doesn’t it? (Just to be clear, the sister provides this service to many young unmarried men. She makes a tidy profit even after buying all the supplies every week.)

  • Pedro also gives his sister money every week for rent, plus some to send back home to his still laboring father. American money exchanges in Guatemala at about 8:1… so it is very welcome!! Some money sent home also funds organizations that arrange trips like Pedro took years earlier.

  • A few years later, Pedro begins landscaping and learning masonry at a small company owned by… an American. Imagine that! Yes, this small business owner can pay good hard workers like Pedro dollars less per hour than the average American worker. Pedro still works nights at the restaurant. He moves into a good sized apartment with seven other men his age who all work close by in various places. The Guatemalan landlord pays utilities, and the rent is minimal when divided seven ways.

  • Like most Guatemalans, Pedro is frugal and hard working. After saving for awhile, he buys a used car, which his sister registers and insures. He pays her for this of course. He becomes the chauffeur for several men at his job. He has no license, but always drives very carefully and slowly.  In time, he grows skillful at masonry and becomes his employer’s best man. Pedro is now making good money at his two jobs, and still saving a lot of money with his apartment.

  • Pedro has been very busy working to help his father, and finally succeeds in paying off his father’s debt. With the extra money at his disposal he begins paying towards some land back in Guatemala. He has been talking online to a young lady from a city near his village, and he is eager to get back and start a life with her. He is now in his twenties and ready to settle down.

  • His family builds the house for him as he continues to send money to the bank to pay off the mortgage. He takes a trip to Guatemala to visit his family, his lover, and his future property.

  • Unfortunately, Pedro never gets to finalize his dreams. Guatemala is plagued by gang violence and kidnapping. He is captured and murdered within sight of his new home. The corrupt bank manager divides his money with the gang and repossess the house.

  • Reading Pedro’s tragic story, the typical American would hesitate to believe this is possible. Variations of this story abound all over both countries. We all cringe when an affluent politician tells us that they want to “fix” the illegal immigration “problem” when all they care about is votes that keep them in power. The truth is, the entire system has been twisted and corrupted to a point that it is nearly impossible to “fix.” So, Dear Reader, is it more important to spout off fancy phrases in front of a camera or to accomplish something that actually helps people? An elected official that does the latter would  actually be doing what the people elected him to do!!!! Imagine THAT!— Aaron C / Man-Cestry


  • on the river to a better life