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Manuel Gonzalez

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My name is Manuel Toledo Gonzalez. I'm from Morelia, Mexico. Well, when I was 18 I came to the United States. I travelled here because in Mexico it was super hard. It was difficult to find a job and we was quite desperate. We wanted to find work. So we and a couple of people, me and my cousin and a couple of people, we just jumped in a bus and trying to make it here to the United States to try and find a better life.

So it was very scary because, I remember the ride was, like at least two days, two days it was super hot, very, very, hot. We was hungry, sweaty, and we didn't even know where we going because we was nervous, we just wanted to get out. So I- when we arrived to Tijuana I was worried, because everyone tells so many stories about how the coyotes rob people, and we didn't know nobody over there.

So, it was funny, when the coyote came to pick us up, I knew him. I said "Hector, que está pasando?’ You remember me?" Like, we start talking about our hometown and then he decided to help us out. So, he put me in a hotel and you know, I was nervous. I couldn't sleep that night, I was scared, didn't know what was gonna happen. And around three o'clock in the morning they come and wake us up. So, they tell us it is time to go because Border Patrol is having a change in shift. I didn't even understand what that is. So I jump like my life was depending on it and we crossed to do it. And then we were nine hours, or more, without no food, no water. But we were determined to make it.

The nine hours' walk was hard, through snakes and cactus with no food, no Chipotle [laughs], but when we arrived, arrived to our meeting point, he had a smaller car waiting for us, and eight of us had to be fit into this car.

The first few years I lived in Salinas, California. My first job I got it as a strawberry picker, and I lived up in the mountain under a tree, me and my two friends. I didn't shower for a week, because the water was so cold. I lived in fear for a couple of years until I have my green card. It was quite brutal cause they used to pick us up and put us on the bus and send us back to Mexico. I was one of the lucky ones to receive my green card under the Amnesty Act under Ronald Reagan for all the illegal immigrants who arrived before 1986. We received it in 1988.

And now I live in Lodi. I'm married to a Danish woman that I met over while I was working over there twenty years ago. And I have three children and they all went to UCLA. I'm so happy I came here for a better life.