search of a better life, so what does that really mean?
Growing up in this
fast paced life I never really understood why my parents had came here, all
they would say is “we came here to give you what we
did not have”. So now twenty two years into my life I have
learned the real meaning of “in search of a better life”, by listening to my
father’s story. Join me as we will venture through the life of a man that
never went to school, and that now is one of the most successful Hispanic
Figures in Phoenix.
The Life of Andres Montes
I remember being a little boy barely even strong even to
wheel a barrel, but I was the oldest
and we were a large family. We lived in a poor
“rancho” (ranch) which
is called “La Guamuchilera”
located in the state of Sinaloa, Mexico. Our house was not the worst and not
the best, but we survived and we were happy.
We always had our home cooked meals and a
warm bed to come to. Then came the time when I had
to go to school. Two months into the first grade I had to drop out, things
around the house became too much for my mother to handle. A few years later
tragedy hit me as a child, when my mother and father separated and my father
did not contribute any money to the family anymore. At this time we were
nine children and we had to find a way to survive. My mother worked as a
“partera” (a midwife) but that was not enough
to feed nine children. It was then at the age of
twelve that I was destined to become a man and leave “el rancho”.
I remember that I only had 200 pesos which was about $60.00 back then. I
took the bus to Tijuana, Mexico with hopes of working for a while to save
enough money in order to cross over to California. I worked on the streets
as a “boleador” (a shoe shiner) in Tijuana for
two years. I lived with some relatives until I had saved enough money to
cross over to California.
I was now fourteen years old and I crossed that fence leaving my country, my
family, and my people. Crossing was
not easy and many may not believe everything I suffered through, but it is
my truth and God knows. I remember that we had to
swim through a part of the beach, and we had to walk many miles through the
hills. The worst part that I will never forget was when I fell in quick sand
and almost died. A man that I
was going with pulled me out with a stick. One time we ran out of water and
we drank our own urine in order to survive. I
was dirty, had no money, I was only a kid playing the role of a grown man.
Once we were out of danger and officially in the United States we all went
our separate ways. I had no where to go. I thought
everything was going to be easy but nothing was.
Then an American man that saw me on the street
offered to help me and took me to his house where he let me take a shower
and gave me clean clothes. He asked me if I had any family here, and I told
him that I did have an Uncle in San Diego and I had brought a paper with his
address. He offered to give me a ride and to this day I thank him for his
kindness. My trip was not over; I
decided to go to Los Angeles, where I had heard that there were many jobs.
I got a ride, but when I got there once again I had no where to go.
For two weeks I hardly had a bite to eat and I slept on
top of a building. I will never forget those cold nights I wished I had a
blanket. I would remember the “rancho” and sometimes I wished I had never
left. Things were getting more and more difficult,
then one day I walked into a little restaurant called
“Alexis Restaurant” in
Westwood, California. I told the person that was there that I would work for
food. He told me “You don’t have to work for food, come here I will give you
food”. I was so grateful so I started helping out in whatever I could, it
turned out that the man that had helped me was the owner and he liked the
way I was working, so he offered me a job washing plates. I was earning
about $60.00 a week. I worked there for two years and lived in a small
Things took a positive turn when I met a lawyer that was helping me out in a
case where I had gotten some bad checks from a so called “friend”.
He told me “Andres do you want a better job? You seem like a hardworking guy
and I want to help you.”I immediately took up his
offer and went to work as a waiter at a luxurious restaurant in Beverly
Hills called “El Bistro”.
Then my life got 100% better, at “El
Bistro”. I met famous people like Lucille Ball,
Michael Jackson, and Whoopee Kennedy’s. The pay was great;
sometimes I would receive very big tips. I remember the first tip I got was
for $80.00, and I remember hiding the money in my pocket because I thought
they had made a mistake and given me too much money. Then I realized the
people I served were extremely rich and that it was normal for them to give
such big tips. The average money I made there on a weekly basis was about
$1500, sometimes I would even make up to $3,000 if I worked twenty hour
shifts. I had saved a little money and I decided to go back to Mexico. After
a few months later I came back to Los Angeles and went back to Mexico again
after two years of working. I was now nineteen years old and dating my
future wife. I was twenty years old and she was seventeen when we got
After a month
of being married I decided to go back to Los Angeles again.
A few months later I brought my wife and she became pregnant and we had our
first son Andres Jr. Montes. We saved money and
went back to Mexico where we lived for about four years and we had two other
sons, Jose Narciso Montes and
Hector Rolando Montes.
We decided to leave “el rancho” permanently to
establish our lives in the United States. We went once more to Los Angeles.
I started working at “El Bistro” again.
After a few years of working there my family and I
became legalized with the Amnesty Act of 1987. During this time I
had four children, 3 Boys and a girl and another baby girl on the way. I had
some money saved and I had decided to start my own
business. So I started out selling close out shoes
at a nearby swap meet. The first day I had almost sold everything. I put
piles of shoes on the floor and people bought them. As time went on I put a
nice little shop at the swap meet, this time I had all the latest styles of
shoes. Then business got so good I
quit my job at “El Bistro” and opened up my first store. We named it
“Vanessa’s Sports Shoes”
after my daughter.
Three years later we had three stores and a few businesses at the swap
meets. I remember that we would go to expositions in Las Vegas and
people couldn’t believe I was the owner. My wife and I will never
forget the time we went to an exposition in Atlanta Georgia. We had been
planning that trip for months. When we were with some representatives at one
of the booths that were advertising their product I remember this man saying
to my face, “How can you be the owner, you’re a
Mexican” and I replied: Believe it or not I am the owner”.
I remember feeling upset but one just has to turn the other
cheek and ignore their discrimination. I did not let that try to stop me
from becoming a successful man. About eight years went
by and we then became bankrupt. Many horrible things had happened
through the course of those eight years.
My mother had died; we had been
robbed multiple times, losing all together around $900,000 dollars of
merchandise, which lead us directly to becoming bankrupt.
I thought that all my work, my sacrifices had
vanished out my hands just like everything else that was stolen from me.
We had to close our stores and we had nothing going for ourselves anymore.
We had to move out of our new house to go and live back to our old house,
after being threatened by some robbers that had broken into our house.
I remember that was the worst experience of my
life. We had all left that morning to work and the
kids were all at school, the only people that were home were the
housekeeper, her baby girl, and a relative of mine. A man walked up to our
front door and showed her a fake police badge and told her he had a warrant
to search the house for drugs. She opened the door not knowing this was
going to mark our lives forever. Then all of a sudden around ten men that
were hiding around the house come barging in and through them on the floor
throwing the sofas on top of them so that they wouldn’t see who thy were.
They ransacked the entire house stealing jewelry, clothes, money and they
even had the nerve to eat our food.
When the cops had gotten there I remember feeling so angry when one cop
said, “It’s because you sell drugs, that’s why this happened to you”.
That same day my blood pressure got so high that I was rushed
to the emergency room with a heart attack.
I was hospitalized in the intensive care unit for three days and my family
stayed at one of my relatives’ house since they were so afraid of staying
home after all that had happened.
After becoming bankrupt we decided to go and try
our luck to Phoenix, Arizona. Once again we opened a little
business in a swap meet called “El Gran Mercado” (The Great Marketplace).
Business was so good that we decided to leave California and come to live to
Arizona. I now own three retail stores called
“La Gran Bota” and
a warehouse where we import and export merchandise from Mexico. All my sons
and my daughter own their own businesses, and my youngest daughter is in
high school. I have fourteen grandchildren that I love very much, although I
will not allow them to call me Abuelito, but “Pa” instead.
I feel I have succeeded and I am not ashamed
that I can barely write my own name. My children
are the most important thing in my life and for them I will surpass
anything. We are a strong united family and that is the most important thing
for me to have. I have taught my children to be
hard working, and to not care about what people think.
If you do not like the way you are treated you have a right
to speak your voice and be heard. I have accepted the changes
that my wife is not like the
typical housewife, although she loves to cook for us.
I have always told my children that my wife is my
right hand and that for any matrimony to work you always need to be united
and always be there for each other. I know that without the
help of my wife I would have never gotten where I am today.
I thank my children for their sacrifices, I know it was not
easy for them
growing up with a father that was never able to help them with their
homework or give them the time they would have wanted because I was always
I would like to tell all those read this that coming to the U.S has given me
the opportunities that Mexico could not have given me, but that nonetheless
I love my country and my people. I
have suffered much discrimination from the people here in the U.S, and I
have received many acts of kindness as well. I believe that it all
counterbalances in the end. I still try to keep
our traditions alive and I help anyone that I could because I remember all
the times that I needed someone. Since I came to the U.S I have brought all
my brothers and sisters over and they have established their lives here as
well. I am sending out a cry for help that only we can bring about change if
we really want to. There are men, women, and
children dying in the desert, in trailers, in rivers, oceans, and car
accidents everyday just to come and live the American Dream. Lets stop the
inhumane conditions these people surpass while we enjoy the freedom they die
for. WE NEED TO BRING ABOUT
CHANGE. God Bless you all, and never let anyone tell you that you
Para mi Esposa Hermosa; Guadalupe Yolanda Lugo de Montes
Mis Hijos; Andres, Joe, Hector, Vanessa, Claudia
Mis ñietos; Andy, Leslie, Cho-Cho, Hectorin, Chiquis, Amber, Aaron, Danny,
Jose-Andres, Daveigh, and Brian, I Love you all
Andres Montes is a well known Hispanic figure in
Phoenix and Los Angeles. He contributes to his community and has helped
hundreds of people initiate their own business. He recently had a song
composed by a famous Mexican group in his honor in Spanish known as “un
corrido” that tells about his life. The group that sings it is named “Los
LLaneros de Guamuchil”. He now resides in Glendale Arizona with his family
and is planning to keep the family business growing and the family always