A Hispanic business owner’s reflections on how immigrating to the U.S. adds both cultural flavor and business savvy
As politicians and folks in coffee shops debate illegal immigration in the U.S., they should ask themselves why people leave their homes, safety nets and families to make it in another country. Their stories should cause people to reflect, think and genuinely care about the people involved and not the economic or political advantage that might be gained by legalizing immigration.
I’m a fourth-generation Hispanic immigrant. The previous three generations of my family uprooted their relatives and moved to other countries, settling on three separate continents. I hope that each of their stories about leaving what they know, providing for their families and working hard to develop something for future generations might just give you some perspective as to who these people might be in America today.
From Spain to the Philippines
Julian Jimenez, my great grandfather, left Spain in the late 1800s (likely due to the turbulent political situation) for the Philippines, which was a Spanish colony, for an opportunity to create a better life. Julian would’ve left Spain via ship, and the trip couldn’t have been easy He left his country with only stories of opportunity and sailed across the globe clinging to the notions of success, security and happiness. I never learned the details of Julian and his accomplishments, but I do know he established a greater than average life for his family in the Philippines, something that would have been difficult to achieve in his home country.
From the Philippines to China
Antonio Jimenez, my grandfather, was born into a Spanish family in the Philippines. He journeyed back to Spain to find a bride and, after doing so, headed to China, where he took over a family business his new in-laws owned in order to create a comfortable life for his new family. They started out in Han Kow City, where they packaged and shipped dried and salted intestines for the Spanish market.
This wasn’t an easy business. My uncle tells me stories of going to the plant where the smell was awful and how labor intensive the process of packaging the skins in barrels with salt to make sure the skin would last the long journey to Spain. It wasn’t a glamorous business but it provided well for my grandfather’s family. After his wife birth to their second child, she died of what would be known today as the common flu. Shortly thereafter, he travelled to the Philippines to reconnect with a previous acquaintance (now my grandmother) who subsequently married and followed him to China. In the early 1930s, China was a new and intimidating place for someone like my grandmother who knew very little about the country.
From Canada to the U.S.
I left Canada legally for the United States, completing my father’s dream in 1996 having married a great American lady, we lived our first six years of marriage in Canada. After visiting family in California on a regular basis and feeling like we were in a rat race in Vancouver, as well as not enjoying the high taxation in Canada, we chose to leave for San Diego, California. Our journey to the U.S. involved my brother-in-law and I driving a five-ton truck non-stop for 29 hours. We wanted to be close to one set of family, so moving to Southern California wasn’t a hard choice.
Unlike my ancestors, I knew exactly where I was going. There were no unknowns, harsh weather or sacrifices in lifestyle. I arrived with a college education, I was bilingual and going home would be easy. Working my way to developing my own business wouldn’t always be easy. So aside from choosing to live close to my wife’s family, I came for my American dream. Having made attempts and inquiries in 1985 and 1987 before meeting my bride, crossing the U.S. boarder wasn’t just my papa’s dream, it was mine as well.
We arrived in San Diego with a lot of ambition, desire and very little net worth. Our story has some tragedies but mostly lots of success. From the start, I was self-employed and, in the beginning, worked from our guest room at my $99 desk for five years. As a presenter and trainer of sales organizations, I have left on trips that lasted as long as 19 days and once even did six countries in six days. It sounds glamorous, but working from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. every day for more than a week can be grueling. Today, our business employs up to 14 people at any one time, and we enjoy our family, the California sunshine, community service and the freedoms we treasure as Americans.
From Dream to Dream
I hope my family history of nearly 100 years and four generations of Hispanic immigrants is a reminder that most Hispanic immigrants leave their homeland and families not only to fulfill their own dreams, but also to make where They’re headed a better place.
The average immigrant in America doesn’t make the news because they come to America legally and contribute to the whole of society just as any ordinary American would. Many of them endure real hardship to fulfill their dream of getting to, and making it in, America. Each generation works hard and provides for their families as best they can. My recommendation for all of the immigration doubters would be to look at immigrants, no matter where they come from, as an opportunity to make America better. Welcome them with open arms if they are coming to America legally and contributing to the American way of life.