Andres is describing all the jobs he’s had over the 25 years he’s been in Chicago. His daughter Michelle has already explained what he intended to do with the money he was hoping to raise.
You know the crazy thing about America? When you swim in the Rio Grande to come to Chicago, to come to America, you come with a lot of ideas. A lot of hope to make a lot of money. You think, It’s America! I mean, everybody thinks America is the glory, God is there, you made it to America you gonna be rich now, you not gonna be poor any more. So you come with the idea, and you work. It doesn’t matter what kind of job they give you, you take it, because you have the idea that you’re gonna make more dollars and more dollars. That’s why a lot of people like myself, you give me job shoveling the snow and I’ll do it, ‘cause you pay me five dollars. That’s why I come here, with the idea of making a lot of money.
(photo by swanksalot via flickr)
So when the housing market was good, in 1997, somebody told me, Why don’t you buy a house? Nah, no no. I wanted to go home to Mexico. Every day I wanted to go home to Mexico. I have my mom over there, my uncles. Every day, I wanted to go home.
I decided to buy the house ‘cause I was paying rent and I had how many kids, two kids by then, Michelle and Andy. I didn’t want to keep moving them from apartment to apartment. Now it’s not only me, I have a family. So I say, OK, I’m gonna buy the house. I bought the house.
Nine years later, same person says, Why don’t you sell me your house? You can make a lot of good money. I say, OK. So I sold the house, and I wanted to buy a building with a garage. That other house did not have a garage. I made about seventy thousand dollars from that house, then I bought the building where I am living now, and I lived there another eight or nine years. I fixed it, I gutted it, remodeled the building. I try to give a better house to my family every day, and now I don’t want to go back to Mexico. I try to give the family a better life here.
I was getting tired of the junk business. It was too heavy, and I wanted to be a business man. I wanted to open a little store, sell pop and candy. So the same guy, he sells houses, he says, Why don’t you mortgage your building?
They gave this building to me for four thirty. It used to be for hair, to cut hair, a barbershop. Everything happened too fast and I go to the guy and they sell me this building. They gave me the lease and I sign the paper, and then, Here are the keys, This is your building. Oh my God, Now what am I going to do . . .
I wanted to open a little store, but my wife say, Look around. There’s too many stores. One guy told me, Most of the stores are very difficult, they rob them a lot, it’s very dangerous. You don’t make a lot of money the way you think you will selling chips and pop. You make ten cents, twenty cents. Not too much money. Open a restaurant. You know a lot about food, you been working all your life in restaurants.
But I also knew restaurants are really hard. It’s a lot of work. It doesn’t matter how much you love it, it’s a lot of work. Responsibility. Like last night, I been working about 18 hours a day right now in my regular job, and same thing in the restaurant and on my day off, which is today, I am here because I had to give my cook a day off.
But I have a lot of friends that are chefs, so I talk to a lot of people. I say, Look. How can I open my own restaurant? They give me ideas. I wanted somebody who knows the business to make the menu for me, the pricing, figure out how much money you make with a box of tomatoes. You know, all that stuff.
I go look for somebody to make blueprints, an architect, I get the architect and we go to the city and they talk with them—he know how to talk with them. You know, boom boom, it’s done. All the things to get it approved.
When everything was done and I was ready to open, the City of Chicago—man, they are a nightmare. The guy he say you have to build an airduct going outside, so I did that. I said OK, fine. I’m gonna spend another three thousand dollars to do it. When I called him and said, OK it’s done, he said you know what? You have to have another machine that brings hot air. So I did one over there. Now he say the vents are too close to the chimney. They want me to fix the basement. I said I cannot. When I applied for the permit, I showed you guys the blueprints and I told you, This is what I want to do. You approved it.
I was broke already when things started getting down. The bank took my credit. I mean, I was rich! I had a lot of credit, a good job, I was making eighty thousand dollars a year where I was working. I was living the American dream. Now with the housing come down, people start panicking.
I mean you just keep trying. Tomorrow is gonna be OK. Tomorrow is a new day. I mean, if you come from Mexico with nothing—I hitchhiked from Mexico to here. If I got to Chicago to buy two buildings, I know I can keep on working and buy another two buildings. I mean, that’s nothing. The only thing you have today is, Go to work. Get up in the morning and go do it.