A better life

By Ezequiel Mojica

Apoyo founder and executive director, Ezequiel Mojica

Where are you from? Who are you? … We all have a story to tell. This is the story of my life.

I was born in a small but vibrant rural village, Santas Marias, in the state of Querétaro. One could say that it was a village without men because at that time, 90 percent of men above the age of 15 would migrate to “el norte.” For this reason, it never occurred to me to dream about something different. My father crossed the border, illegally, maybe 20 or 25 times, walking through the hills and surrounding mountains. My brothers did the same, and, finally, my sisters as well. Occasionally, my father and my mother worked as tlachiqueros, the people who produce pulque, which they sold in the market of San Miguel. They also had a small grocery store in the rancho but my father was an alcoholic, so despite my mother’s efforts at running a successful business, we always lived in poverty.

My oldest brother died at the age of 23 from an accident at the Pepsi-Cola factory, leaving a five-year-old and a two-year-old behind as orphans. The death of my brother destroyed our family, especially my mother, and we decided to move to the city, leaving our home, cornfields, and my childhood behind. We moved constantly, spending time in every colonia of San Miguel, always looking for a place to rent but never feeling like we were home. I was 10 years old at the time.

School was difficult for me. I hardly finished secondary school and it was only with the help of my mother, working and studying, that I finished high school at the age of 25. Obviously, studying at the university was never a priority in our family although I was interested in continuing my studies. At the time, though, it was very difficult for young students from the campo to go on to university; in fact, I am the only one in my family who finished high school, and, believe me, my mother thinks I am a licenciado.

Because I had no formal higher education, I had to make up for that in some way. I started reading as much as I could. The biographies of Gandhi, Luther King, Cesar Chavez, were my teachers, English books and conversations with Monsivais, Poniatowska and García Márquez. Their books were my school. Now I learn from Muhammad Yunus and Kiyosaki.

Then it came my turn to meet the family tradition of pursuing a better life by going to el norte which I did by following the railroad tracks to the border at Laredo, all the while walking. Walking became a part of my life. Once north, I cleaned offices and schools in Dallas and Mesquite, worked at McDonalds, and was always striving for a better life that always seemed out of reach.

When I came back, I had nothing, only the hope of finding a job to survive and help my parents. But one day, as I was sitting at the Jardín, a young woman approached me and asked, ‘do you want to work at CASA (a local NGO)?’

Something in my life changed then, I found out that I was good for something. I met good and successful people who taught me that anything is possible. 10 years ago I founded, with the help of good friends, a nonprofit organization to help entrepreneurs in the rural area to realize their dreams for a better life. This organization became known as Apoyo. I think we have accomplished a lot over the past 10 years. Our entrepreneur training and loan program has helped put over 300 enterprising people into their own small family businesses. Over 80 percent of these are women, mostly poor, with limited education, opportunity and resources. They spend a full year attending seminars and workshops to teach them the very basics of starting and running a small business. We provide no-interest loans to help them get started and over the 10 years of our program, 90 percent of these loans that average 350 are paid back in full and on time.

I want to do my part to reduce the cycle of poverty and dependency that has existed in my country for such a long time. I want to give people a chance to provide for themselves and their families. Only through education, encouragement and a helping hand can people who want more for themselves have a chance to live a productive, proud and dignified life.

It has been 14 years since my adventure as an undocumented worker in the US, and very recently I have been accepted in a first class training program in Albuquerque, New Mexico. My US visa is ready and soon I will get on an airplane for the first time in my life. The learning process continues for me. I want to learn more so that I can continue teaching others in my communities; I want to take the message to remote villages that everything is possible if our goal is to learn, not merely to make money. I want every poor child in our villages to believe everything is possible, no matter where we come from, what our gender is, our skin color, or if we are educated or not: we all have the right to pursue a better life.

Apoyo a Gente Emprendedora AC is a registered nonprofit in San Miguel de Allende. For more information or to inquire about volunteer activities, please call 415-152-2867 or visit our web site: http://apoyoemprendedores.weebly.com/.


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