Where was Congressman Gutierrez at 25?

Congressman Gutierrez sits down with Lauren Chooljian for her Year25 series

May 7, 2013

Illinois U.S. Congressman Luis Gutierrez has made a name for himself across the nation as one of the most vocal  proponents of immigration reform.

Gutierrez is a longtime member of the U.S. House of Representatives – he's been serving since 1992. And years before that, he served as alderman of the 26th Ward in Chicago.

So, you’d think, this guy must have been working toward a spot on Capitol Hill all his life.

Wrong.

25-year-old Luis Gutierrez was a 1st, 2nd and 3rd teacher in Puerto Rico. He had followed his then-girlfriend, Soraida, there and eventually married her.

The two were making a life for themselves - Soraida was going to school, and Luis was the lone male teacher in a little school out in the mountains. He was paid minimum wage - about $3.25 per hour, he says – which was hardly enough to feed the two of them and get Soraida to school. So, as Gutierrez recalls, he gave what little money he had to Soraida for school and then got creative.

“I remember - it’s probably a violation of the law today, I hope it wasn’t one then, although I’m sure the statute of limitations have run out,” Gutierrez said. “I used to eat with all the children in the school lunch program.”

Gutierrez says he soon realized Puerto Rico wasn’t the best option for him and his wife, so they moved back to Chicago, where he was from originally. After a month or so of fruitless attempts to find a job, Gutierrez decided to get his his chauffeur's license and drive a cab.

Yes, you read that right. Illinois U.S. Congressman Luis Gutierrez, drove a cab when he was 25 years old.

“So, for all of those that see the cab driver, remember, it could be a transitional moment in their life, and one day they could be actually adopting and proposing the laws of the nation, that guy in the front seat,” Gutierrez said.

In this interview with WBEZ’s Lauren Chooljian, Gutierrez tells the stories of his 25th year, and explains how that person had not a clue in the world that he’d wind up in elected politics. He also discusses how his personality has changed over the years, and what parts of his 25-year-old self had to change in order to be the lawmaker he is today.

Lauren Chooljian is the WBEZ Morning Producer and Reporter. Follow her @laurenchooljian