PEOPLE OF LA SAL
Luis has lived in La Sal for 19 years.
Luis was born in a small town in Mexico called Namiquipa, in the state of Chihuahua. He lived there, on a small family-run farm and ranch, until he moved to the Unites States at twenty-eight years old. As the oldest child of a father whom was away often, working in the U.S., Luis learned to manage and run the ranch at a young age. He started riding solo on a horse at age six. Which is also when he started roping. Roping is in Luis’ blood. He loves it. He’s good at it. Work on the ranch kept him very busy feeding cows, fixing fence, doctoring animals, etc. On a ranch there is always work to do, seven days a week. There was very little leisure time for just plain fun, so Luis and his friends would stay up at night when the moon was full to rope, ride, and wrestle cows for fun by the light of the moon.
Labor-intensive jobs pay three to four times less in Mexico than in the Unites States. Luis remembers chopping wood for three long days to make enough money to buy a goat. The opportunity to make mounds of more money for the same effort,
not too far from home, is very enticing. However, obtaining the proper paperwork that allows someone to legally come from Mexico to work in the U.S. is nearly impossible. First, someone from the U.S. must put in a request for that person, and that person must be a specialist at that job and will likely need a college degree, and the American putting in the request must prove that he cannot find someone with those qualifications from the 315 million Americans already running around. It must all be done through a lawyer. The process takes five to seven years and costs about $8,000. If anything goes wrong (written mistakes, inaccuracies, misbehavior, etc.) during the process your application will be cancelled and you will not be allowed to reapply for another ten years. So, combine that improbability, with the lure of money and the close proximity of the two countries and you get a formula that results in people willing to take the risks involved with crossing the Mexican-American border illegally.
Luis was one such person willing to take the risk. He had thought about coming to the United States for quite some time before actually doing it, but his grandmother was against it. She wanted him home. So he stayed. For many years. Then his grandmother passed away, and within a few months of her passing Luis was on his way to richer soil. He successfully snuck across the border. Twice. Both times in a similar manner.
The first time was in 1994. He used a Coyote. A Coyote is someone who helps smuggle Illegals across the border on foot, usually at night, and arranges a ride for you, from a certain pick up point once you are across the border, to take you to a “safe house”. It cost Luis $300. The Coyote led the group to the border, and seeing no patrol nearby, he told everyone to run as fast as they can. Using a well-worn trail just West of Nogales, Arizona, they made a run for it using creeks, ravines, and bushes to remain unseen. It was night. It was dark. It was hard to see. Luis knew he was getting close to the barbed-wire fence because he could hear those ahead of him wince when they ran into it. The bottom wire of the fence was a few feet off the ground and easy to crawl under. Once a safe distance from the border, Luis slowed to a walk until he reached the pick up point, a McDonald’s in Nogales, Arizona, where he got a ride to a “safe house” in Phoenix. It was a simple plan easy to carry out. Luis never felt nervous or scared to cross the border. He felt excitement and joy for the new opportunity that lay ahead.
Luis found his way to Denver, Colorado through family and friends. He got a job sheet rocking houses. Getting an I.D. with a fictitious name is easy, which makes getting a job easier too. He was in Denver for only two months when his cousin-in-law enlisted him to come work for La Sal Livestock in La Sal, Utah. He liked the idea of working on a ranch again so he went. Soon after arriving in La Sal he met a lovely Navajo girl. He was smitten. When he discovered that she was the daughter of his boss, Hardy Redd (read Hardy’s story here) he got nervous. Crossing a border illegally didn’t scare him but dating the boss’ daughter did. He pursued her anyway and won her heart. They had a baby a few years later.
When the baby was only a few months old, in 1997, Luis went back to Mexico to visit his family. It was easy to walk into Mexico. Nobody stops you. He made it to his family and after a couple of months they could tell that Luis was uneasy about something and it took them a while to get it out of him. Luis finally admitted to his family that he had a son back in Utah. That he missed his little family there and that he wanted to go back to be with them. So on December 5th he hired another Coyote, this time for $1,500, to get him across the border to a safe house. It was a little trickier the second time around. Border Patrol had beefed up their patrolling and they were everywhere. When Luis and his group got to the border, East of Nogales, there was no hard-packed trail. Their tracks would be seen. The Coyote had everyone walk backwards, in a single file, for a long distance so it would look like the tracks were leading into Mexico. But it didn’t fool the border patrollers and they were soon on the tail of Luis’ group. The group scattered and ran toward a creek. The bank of the creek was steep and deep. Everyone jumped behind the bank, put their backs up to it as tight as they could and held still like statues. Border Patrol caught up to them and drove back and forth looking through the darkness for people, all the while announcing through the loud speaker that they could see everyone and for them to come out. The Coyote whispered, “No, they can’t see you. Don’t move.” Nobody moved. Border Patrol continued to drive back and forth. When the patrollers were finally a little ways off the Coyote told everyone to make a run for it. And run they did. Well into the night. Luis got terrible blisters on his feet. By the time he reached the pick up point his feet ached tremendously. This time he was picked up in the middle of nowhere, far from any city. The van that was picking them up would not stop completely, nor would the driver put pressure on the brakes in order to avoid drawing attention to them with the brake lights, so everyone had to jump into the van while it was moving. The van was a mini-van. Not everyone in the group would fit into it so when it came around it was each man for himself trying to get a spot inside. The van circled around a few times until it was full. Luis was one of 25 people in the mini-van. He said if you had an itch, forget about it. There was no room to move. People were on top of people. Adding to the jam-packed discomfort was an extremely bumpy ride. The van stayed on rural back-roads until it neared Phoenix. Needless to say, it was a long ride.
But the hazzards were worth it. He was able to get home and hold his son in his arms again, and he married the girl. Not wanting to risk being taken away from his family by deportation he decided to apply for residency. It was a long drawn out process that took them back and forth from Denver to El Paso three times. But after enduring the process and complying with all of its demands Luis became a permanent resident of the United States of America in the year 2000. He is thinking about applying for citizenship so he can vote, but for now his residency allows him the freedom to visit his family in Mexico a lot easier, it gets him back into the U.S. a lot cheaper (by not having to hire a Coyote), and it makes his journey a lot safer (by not running from border patrol in the black of night or facing off with snakes and badgers in the desert). But most of all it secures his place at home as a provider, a husband, and a father.
Luis and his bride, Beverly, have been married for 15 years. Unfortunately, their son died at the age of three. But they have a beautiful daughter who is now six years old.
When Beverly’s father, Hardy, split the ranch up between the kids, she and one of her brothers got most of the cattle and the BLM grazing permits. Luis helps manage that part of the ranch through somewhat of a partnership with his brother-in-law, but plans are in the works for him to be running his own half of the cattle soon. Luis isn’t afraid of hard work. He loves ranching, chasing cows, and riding horses. When asked if he ever thought about doing something other than ranching he can’t come up with anything that would top it. But roping in rodeos comes close. He’s won first place in many rodeos around the West. And he’s even competed a few times in the United States Team Roping Championships.
Luis is a very jovial person whose good spirits are contagious. You will most likely grow a smile while talking with him. He is a great addition to La Sal.
With a little bit of luck and a lot of hard work Luis’ American Dream came true.