Gerard Guzman

Transcription of Gerard Guzman
Interviewer: Sarah Altinbasak
Interviewee: Gerard Guzman
Date: February 14, 2014
Place: Edgewater Library, 6000 N. Broadway, Chicago, IL
Transcriber: Sarah Altinbasak
Total Time: 15:30

Copyright © 2014 Edgewater Historical Society

SA: So, why don’t you tell me about where you grew up?

GG: I grew up in a farm, you know.

SA: Uh huh.

GG: Small farm, only my grandfather, my uncles, was in there. It’s in …. The farm is in [unclear] state. Ok. So I grew up down there, I mean there’s like …like we … there’s like no, you know, you had to make everything to survive.

SA: Uh huh.

GG: There’s nothing to buy, no grocery stores, you know. You had to just grow your own things to survive in there. I grow there. I grow my own things. It’s too late, fourteen years, sixteen years old. I was there with my grandmother and one day I decided to come here. I was sixteen years old. And I had just traveled to Tijuana. You know, I crossed here. We spent eight days in the river, close to San Diego. You know, that’s not easy. I was sixteen, nothing to eat, eight days. Then nothing. You know, I was thinking I would come over here to make some money. And I did it. I start learning a lot of things. You know, because where I come I don’t even know how to use a [unclear], not even a toilet. I told you the truth. I swear it’s the truth. You know what I mean.

SA: Yeah.

GG: But uh…

SA: So you came here to work?

GG: Yeah.

SA: Did you come alone?

GG: Yeah.

SA: Wow.

GG: You know, I was with a friend. Two peoples. And then we cross in here and I stay in California. And I was with no job, and I was so… I mean I don’t know. I don’t know anything about here because I don’t know if you supposed to pay rent, to live somewhere, so…. Then , I was in Lancaster California. You hear about that?


SA: Uh huh.

GG: And I was supposed to live with two guys. And they say…. One day they decide , “We don’t want you here,” and I had to walk out [of] the house. And I lived two weeks in the streets, when I was sixteen. I tried to go back, but there’s not even way to go back.

SA: Right.

GG: And I got lucky one day, when another guy, older guy, he find me on the street. Then he find me a job. We drive to Lancaster California. He find me job. It was hard for me to find a job, because I was sixteen. And I mean, not even how to use a phone, I don’t even know.

SA: Uh huh.

GG: And, I got so lucky he find me. He find me a job. He find me a place to live. And then after that I start to learn things of here. Little by little, and I’m surprised. I used to be, my last……..last four years, four years ago no, more than four years ago, six years ago I used to be the head cook. Not the chef because I didn’t have the license for this Italian place. You know this for me this is a big surprise to grow like that.

SA: Uh huh.

GG: You know just start from like nothing, and I used to be the head cook in this place for many years. Well I learn a lot of stuff, a lot of stuff. To fix, how to fix cars. No, for me that’s not too much because where I come from, it’s nice. You know I love it and I want to go back. Believe it or not, I have to go back. To go back, now. I been there now - my father house again because my father move to another town and the house fall down. Now I have to….We start to build a new house to go back to. Now it’s not like before. Now you can drive down there. Now it’s not like I talking about thirty six years ago, but so different, more than thirty years ago, no, more than forty years ago, maybe forty five. But I come in this country and I’m happy here. I learn a lot of stuff. I have a nice life.


SA: How old were you when you went, when you moved to Chicago?

GG: Not even seventeen, because I just stayed in Lancaster like few months. Then my brother was here and then he was calling me, “Come over here.” And I say, “How?” “Just take an airplane, be here at home.” And to take an airplane was another thing, you know what I mean?

SA: Yeah.

GG: Somebody drive me to the airport but they was afraid you know to immigration. They can catch them. They can catch me down there, so they left me in, outside, in the door, with my ticket But they said, ‘Go ahead. Go there.” And I go inside and I don’t know…

SA: Yeah.

GG: Where am I going to go? I was lost inside the…. I was so lucky that nobody called immigration or the police on me, because I was sixteen. So I was a baby, you know, right here sixteen. That’s still a baby boy.

SA: Sure.

GG: And then I was around, around, around, around, and I see the airplanes just go boom. I said, “Why, wha, wha, which one is mine?” And an older guy, he saw me, and he say, “Let me see your, you know.” And then I show him my ticket and then he say, “We go together.” And then after that I was following him all over because you know, he knows about airports and everything. I was following him all over the place, one hour, because I don’t want to get loose. And this guy go here and there. Then when we was ready to fly here he told me, “Let’s go!” And then I start. I come to Chicago, and it’s all my life here.

SA: In Edgewater?

GG: Exactly. I move by a guy. I buy a house and because I’m at 95 th and [unclear] and I don’t like it. And then I decided to sell it and come back and come back in here. I lived….

SA: So you like it here?

GG: Yeah, it’s a nice neighborhood. I mean, you talking about this city or the neighborhood?

SA: Both? Either?

GG: Yeah, I like it.

SA: Does it feel like home?

GG: Yeah.

SA: Well that’s good.

GG: Yeah. And then I go back to Mexico and then I think about here, about this area. Because I live all my life in here, Balmoral and Kenmore, I live down there. And ….

SA: Do you have family here now?

GG: Yeah. My daughters, I got two daughters. My older daughter, she is thirty years old. The younger one is nineteen. They already grow up. They start surviving. And that’s why now I just want to try to go back. You know, that’s my … where you are coming from, you want to go back.


SA: Do you want to permanently go back and just stay there or do you want to go back and…?

GG: I want to stay there just to try…, you know, I’m fifty one right now, if I wait when I sixty-two, sixty-three, what I going to do down there? Nothing! Now I can go there and work.

SA: Uh huh.

GG: You know my work it’s now. I do construction. I do landscaping. I do sidewalks, all this stuff. Now I can go there and do a lot of stuff for myself. You know, here is real nice, beautiful. I just, I’m … come here was not easy, but I’m not from here. You always think to go back.

SA: Uh huh.

GG: You know, my daughter, both daughters they say, “Dad, why you want to go over there?” They like it, when they go you know, two weeks, three weeks. They have a lot of fun. Pero {Spanish for but) they say is to live there, I said, “You know it’s nice. This is the life. It’s nice. You don’t have to worry about to pay bills, you know, to pay this, and this, and this, and this, and this, and this, no. Down there you could survive with no money for six months. You know you save a lot of stuff. “

SA: Uh huh

GG: And then you know, you don’t have to buy anything…


SA: So do you like it better there or better here?

GG: Better here, I know.

SA: But you want to go back?

GG: Pero, I just want to.

SA: Because that’s home.

GG: It’s home. And before I got older. Now I can move. I can work. I like it here. Pero, there’s a lot of pressure. You know, right here there is too much pressure. The amounts just press up like that. Because you are waiting for something to pay all the time.

SA: Um, hum

GG: You know, you know.

SA: Um, hum.

GG: So that’s… and down there you don’t have to worry about nothing. Now there’s a different way to live in the farm because you can buy a… like to get power in your house, you can buy like a [unclear]?

SA: Um, hum.

GG: With a [unclear] and then boom, you buy everything and then…. And then you got everything and this money is….But that’s why I want to go back. And I will. I say, “Thank you U.S.A., I’m happy here.” Pero, you know, this is got to be over sooner or later. My family don’t wanna move. They don’t wanna go. Even my wife she said, “NO! You go by yourself.” I said, “Ok.” I said,”You go down there.” And you know, I work so hard here, you won’t believe it. I used to all the time. Two jobs, I don’t get a chance to go to school because my mother….And my mother needed money and this not easy for us. You have to support your mother and your father all your life, after you grow up, you know what I mean.

SA: Mm hum.

GG: And that’s why I had to work two jobs all the time. And I started washing dishes, my first job was right here in Skokie.

SA: Mm, hum.

GG: My first, you know the [unclear] Center?

SA: No.

GG: Ok. It was a restaurant a long time ago and that was my first job. it was… I was washing dishes. Then after that they try you to salads. And then you go a little bit, a little bit….And then I learn other stuff, boom. And it was not easy, but I did it.


SA: You did.

GG: Yeah, I did. It’s part of my life, you know what I mean. It’s, pero, you know I told you, I got another one, nice job doing here. I make, summertime, I make good money. I’m so happy because I work by myself. Nobody told me what I got to do.

SA: Uh huh.

GG: And just in a way, I’ve just been thinking go back. It’s enough, it’s enough. Well because, maybe you born in Chicago?

SA: No, I’m from New York.

GG: See. Same thing like you, you know. Because you wanna go back.

SA: Oh yeah. I do.

GG: Yeah.

SA: So is there anything else you think that we should know about you or your experience?

GG: Well it was a lot of stuff, a lot of things, I mean…

SA: Anything in particular that you think is important?

GG: Mmm, well I dunno, that’s like…important things for me like you know. Bad things happened to me here too. Not real bad but you know - when I grow twenty. And then I go a little bit crazy you know, embarrassing. And drive - drunken driver, you know, I do that for like three or four years and I said, after that, I said, “Nope.”

SA: No more?

GG: No more. No, you pay for what you do. You know what I mean?


SA: Mmm hum.

GG: And you learn by mistakes all the time.

SA: That’s true.

GG: Especially us, especially teenagers. You hear a lot of Spanish people say, “No. These people are the ones here because they don’t have nothing over there. And they don’t have nothing, it’s like, because maybe you see sometime you was in Mexico too?

SA: I think I went one time.

GG: Pero… you was little huh?

SA: I was little.

GG: You don’t remember.

SA: I don’t remember.

GG: No, Mexico’s got a lot of rich peoples, you won’t believe it. There is so many classes. Two, one, two, three, like four classes. You know rich, very rich peoples and beautiful places, beautiful places. You go to [unclear]. You won’t believe it. And I dunno. I got lost now. But right here is beautiful. Pero I told you this. It’s too much pressure.

SA: I understand.

GG: Too much, too much, too much pressure. You never finish what you wanna pay. You need money just to move everywhere, with no money you…

SA: Mmm.

GG: And everything and every stuff you do, it’s money. That’s why it’s so hard. You make money pero you give it away.

SA: Uh huh.

GG: Yeah. Anything important you wanna ask me?

SA: No that was it.


GG: Ok.

SA: If you’re done.

GG: Yeah that’s…

SA: Well thank you.

GG: You’re welcome Sarah. Anything….