Don Pedro, Sanmiguelense by Conviction
By Sandra Ríos
Don Pedro is well-known in San Miguel for his hardware store, but he is also a great parent and a committed citizen of this community.
Sandra Ríos: Where are you and your parents from?
Don Pedro: I am from Chilangotitlán (Mexico City) my dad was German and my mother, Italian from a small town.
SR: How did your parents happen to come to Mexico City?
DP: My dad was against the Hitler regime and was imprisoned. Later he fled to France and met my mother, and they came here. In the United States they were not given visas, and under Lázaro Cardenas (president of Mexico 1934-40), they were allowed to enter as war refugees, like Jews, Germans, Spaniards, etc. My parents arrived in Veracruz and then went to Mexico City. My father was engaged in fixing stoves, heaters, and everything that had to do with gas. From my childhood, I accompanied him, and that is how I learned the profession. Later I studied at the normal school and then in 1965, I studied archeology, but I did not finish. Then came the ‘68 student demonstrations. We were in Tlatelolco on the third balcony on the ninth floor of the Chihuahua building. My older brother was arrested and taken to Santa Marta Acatitla (prison). My younger brother and I were taken to military field 1. Eight days after they released us, I started to work on the subway in Mexico City in the archaeological recovery area. Then I helped to my dad, who had had an accident. After that I came here.
SR: How did you come to live in San Miguel?
DP: My family and I lived in the Clavería neighborhood in Mexico City, which was very close to the refinery, so the pollution was quite strong. We started to looking for another place to live. We wanted a nice, typical town and went to Cuetzalan in the Sierra Norte of Puebla, Pátzcuaro, and Cuernavaca. Then we decided on San Miguel.
SR: How old were you when you went in search of a better place?
DP: I was 35 years old. I was married and had two children and a third on the way. We came to San Miguel in 1978, and I happened to go to the largest hardware store here to buy a gas connection. In Mexico City, it would have cost me 3.50 pesos, and here they sold it for 12 pesos. I said “Here’s the papa (food)!” So we rented a small shop on Canal Street and started the business. It spread like wildfire. When we started, we did not have a lot of material so we filled the shelves of the store with empty boxes to make them look a bit fuller. When people asked me about a product I didn’t have, I told them that tomorrow morning we would have it, and I went to Celaya or Querétaro to buy everything they asked for. Obviously, with this service, business started going very well. Actually I’ve never felt a crisis in this business. We have always grown, and now that my older children take care of the hardware store, they have given it a big boost. I think business has tripled in six years. My daughter studied “Dad’s Management” (business administration), one son is an electronics engineer, and the other is very good negotiator. The three make a formidable team.
SR: How many children do you have?
DP: From my first marriage I have three children. They work at the hardware store. With my second wife, I have four children. In total I have seven children.
SR: What changes do you see in San Miguel between your arrival here in ‘78 and today?
DP: People have an acceptable cultural level in the city, but it is very lacking in outlying communities. There are still people who cannot read or are still cooking with firewood. Progress has been uneven. San Miguel is really an island in the Republic, yet it still maintains certain traditions and a very acceptable level of city life. However, leaders are allowing it to grow too much with many residential developments that are transforming it into the “Cuernavaca of the Bajío.”
SR: What are your plans now?
DP: I bought a ranch in the community of Ojo Zarco in the municipality of Dolores. We are reforesting, and we have planted 7,000 trees there. Most important is that there is also an archaeological site on the place that is more extensive than Cañada de la Virgen. We spoke with the mayor and the state director of the INHA, and I think they will begin to evaluate the site this year to see if it’s worth doing restoration work. It would be important because it would give work to many people in that area. Then maybe we will donate this place for tourism development.
SR: I know that you will be opening a new hardware store soon. When is the opening?
DP: We plan to open on May 15. The store is located on Salida a Celaya, two kilometers from the Pípila roundabout. We will sell products on the web and will have express home delivery. On May 16, the day of the plumber, we will celebrate at Casa de Aves because it is our 35th anniversary. It will be a great event.
SR: Is there anything else you would like to add?
DP: I am very grateful to the community for the support and confidence people have given us. Now we have a project to make ecological stoves because people continue to burn a lot of wood in all the surrounding areas. These stoves consume three times less wood. It is a project that I think will be ready this year; we hope to make at least one each 15 days or each month. I imagine there may be many people interested in supporting us in this project because we will have tremendous dust storms and very deforested areas in ten years if we do not protect the remaining trees. These stoves will be free for the communities.