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A Mexican Migrant Reflects on His Experiences

During the Mexican Revolution of 1910-20, Pablo Mares left the army and came to the United States to work. In this interview with a researcher, he explains his reasons for leaving, describes the type of work he found, and reflects on the differences between Mexico and the United States.

In my youth I worked as a house servant, but as I grew older I wanted to be independent. I was able through great efforts to start a little store in my town. But I had to come to the United States, because it was impossible to live down there with so many revolutions. . . . The Villistas [followers of Pancho Villa] pressed me into service, and took me with them as a soldier. But I didn't like that, and because I never liked to go about fighting, especially about things that don't make any difference to me. So when we got to Torreón I ran away just as soon as I could. That was about 1915. I went from there to Ciudad Juarez and from there to El Paso. There I put myself under contract to go to work on the tracks. I stayed in that work in various camps until I reached California. I was for a while in Los Angeles working in cement work, which is very hard. From there I went to Kansas, and I was also in Oklahoma and in Texas, always working on the railroads. . . . Here in the Miami mine [Arizona] I learned to work all the drills and all the mining machinery and I know how to do everything. The work is very heavy, but what is good is that one lives in peace. There is no trouble with revolutions or difficulties of any kind. Here one is treated according to the way in which one behaves and one earns more than in Mexico. I have gone back to Mexico twice. Once I went as far as Chihuahua and another time to Torreón, but I have come back, for in addition to the fact that work is very scarce there, the wages are too low. One can hardly earn enough to eat.

It is true that here it is almost the same, but there are more comforts of life here. One can buy many things cheaper and in payments. I think that as long as we have so many wars, killing each other, we will not progress and we shall always be poor. That is what these bolillos [white Americans] want. It is here that the revolutions are made. It is over there that the fools kill each other. It is better for the bolillos that we do that, for they want to wipe us out in order to make themselves masters of all that we possess. It is a shame that we live the way we do and if we go on we shall never do anything. I don't care about political matters. It is the same to me to have Calles or Obregón [two Mexican presidents in the 1920s] in the government. In the end neither one does anything for me. I live from my work and nothing else. . . . It is not, as I have already told you, that I like it more here. No one is better off here than in his own country. But to those of us who work, it is better to live here until the revolutions end. When everything is peaceful and one can work as one likes, then it will be better to go back there to see if one can do anything. . . .

I hardly read the papers for I know that they tell nothing but lies. They exaggerate everything and besides, I hardly know how to read, for my parents didn't have the means with which to send me to school. I, by myself, with some friends, have learned to read a little and to write my name. I had to do this when I went back to Mexico. If I hadn't, they wouldn't have let me come back in [because of literacy requirement].

Source | Pablo Mares, interview by Manuel Gamio, in Manuel Gamio, The Mexican Immigrant: His Life-Story (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1931), 1-5.
Creator | Manuel Gamio
Interviewer | Manuel Gamio
Interviewee | Pablo Mares
Item Type | Oral History
Cite This document | Manuel Gamio, “A Mexican Migrant Reflects on His Experiences ,” HERB: Resources for Teachers, accessed December 17, 2018, https://herb.ashp.cuny.edu/items/show/2181.

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