Antonio Ruiz (pictured far left) is a highly respected Advertising executive and a partner in a leading NYC Ad Agency. He was kind enough to grant us this interview during a recent IAP visit to NYC.
Q: What did you learn from your immigrant parents?
A: "I came to understand that their mission was to ensure that my brother and I got a shot to advance, to go even farther than they did, through hard work, through honor and integrity. I learned those principles and those values from them. And I learned the value of hard work and owning something that you had worked for. So, 'You want that pair of sneakers, you want that Sony Walkman? You've got to work for it.' My dad took me to work. My first job was a dishwasher. The other thing I learned from my dad was about being a father. Because my mother was there. My mother got home at a reasonable hour and made sure we ate and made sure we got out in the morning. My dad was working all the time, but somehow he was never missing from my life. His influence was always there. I don't accept as an excuse when a father says, 'I work all the time so I can't be that father to my kids.' I can't accept that. My dad showed me to never accept that. So now my immigrant, blue-collar, hard-working, because of them and what they did, I work in a nice office with airconditioning. I get to cross the street to work almost. I don't have to take the New York City subway system. I have a lot of things that my parents didn't have. A very good friend of mine always says, 'Our children come from a better family than we did.' Well, I definitely live a certain life that if it wasn't for their sacrifice, I wouldn't have." - Antonio Ruiz, Advertising Executive, Partner, Communications Planning - The Vidal Partnership, son of Cuban and Dominican immigrants, Immigrant Archive Project testimony.
"I was show and tell. The teacher, I remember, in second grade, she would stand me up in the front of the class, every day. With the exception of my brother who was in Kindergarten, we were the only Cuban kids in the whole school. So we were an oddity. And people can be cruel, without knowing it. They would say things like, 'How did you get here?' I got here on an airplane. "Oh, you have airplanes? Did you have a refrigerator?' And you know, I had more in Cuba than I did when I got here. But she would stand me in front of the class, and it was a good exercise. She would point to objects and I would tell the children how it was pronounced in Spanish and then the children would tell me how it was in English. And even though it was fun, you still feel different. You know? Your different. And you don't know really where you belong. Are you Cuban? Are you American? Do you want to say you are American, so they don't know you are Cuban? You know, it's difficult and it goes on for a long time." - Ivonne Arabal Bandin, Cuban Immigrant, Immigrant Archive Project testimony
The power of storytelling: A young lady explains how her grandfather's immigrant journey has influenced her life.
"He tells us the stories all the time, about how he got here, about all the obstacles that he had to overcome to get here. So usually when we sit outside with the whole family he always tells them in Spanish and in English because my mom's there. So, he shares all of them with us and its pretty cool to hear. It's a story, it's almost like a book, but he hasn't written it, he's actually experienced it. So it's cool to hear it because you know its true. You know its not fake. It's just awesome. Its taught me to be strong. You can't give up, because if you give up you won't make it. And you have to live life to the fullest. I'm so grateful for what I have. I can never complain, because I have everything." - Sarah Hernandez, teen daughter of immigrant father and American mother, Immigrant Archive Project testimony
Fernando Espuelas was just nine-years-old when he and his mother emigrated to the United States in 1976 with only $100. After a series of factory jobs making everything from dresses to ice cream sandwiches, his mother found work as a housekeeper in Greenwich, Connecticut.
Q: What advice would you give to a nine-year-old boy who has just arrived?
A: "We had to move out of this town. Even Railroad Avenue was too expensive for us. Across the border from this town was a very poor town with a horrible school system. And I said, 'I can't go to that school. It's not good for me.' So I went to the Superintendent of Schools of this town in Connecticut and I hand wrote a letter to him outside of his office, explaining why we had to move and what it meant for me not to finish school there and on and on. I signed it and I gave it to his secretary. She read it. I remember she looked at it quizzically, and I thought she must think I'm crazy, or whatever. She took it inside and she said, 'Just wait here.' And he came out. He just looked at me and said, 'I just wanted to meet you and you can stay. You can stay in our school.' I was twelve. A lot of people told me I couldn't do that. But I had to do it. And I had to do it for a very specific purpose. So the advice is, in the end, there are many things here in the United States that are possible, that are not possible anywhere else, but fundamentally, it's about you and it's about your internal strength and your desire and your ambition. And if I had to give one last piece of advice to a nine year old, I would say, 'Don't aim low.' If you aim low, you are going to reach it. Aim very high. If you don't reach your goal, that's ok, but always reach higher than you think you can achieve and you'll surprise yourself by how much you can actually achieve and how strength you have inside of you to get to that goal, whatever that goal is for you." - Fernando Espuelas, Uruguayan immigrant, Internet pioneer, Network Radio talk show host, author, Immigrant Archive Project testimony.
"I believe my father's generation is vastly different from my own. They tell us stories about life in the Dominican Republic. They had no shoes, they had nothing to eat. Because they didn't have that they emigrated to the United States, with the dream of having a little more than they had in the Dominican Republic. I think we always take that for granted. And you know, you look back and its like, wow, its like a movie. You don't believe it. But you know sometimes you have to go back and really think, wow, they sacrificed so much. And I grew up in the Bronx, maybe feeling like I was poor, but I wasn't poor like they were. I had a TV, I had a bed, I had a Playstation, I had enough to eat everyday. And I never noticed how hard they worked. My dad had to get up at 3AM. My mom worked late every night. I never noticed because everything was there. And now I'm able to look back and say, 'Wow, they sacrificed so much, so much hard work that they put in to ensure that my brothers and I were taken care of.' And it really makes you value life and it's something beautiful, very beautiful." - Geoffrey Royce Rojas, better known as "Prince Royce", American singer-songwriter and record producer, son of Domincan immigrants, Immigrant Archive Project testimony.
Q: What are you the proudest of?
A: "I would have to say my family. My parents, my siblings, my wife, my kids. I mean, we can do five hours of this on my kids alone. I think that we're put on this planet to prepare the next generation and I take that responsibility seriously. And that goes whether you are Mexican, Black, your green, whatever, it doesn't matter. It's to make the next generation better and leave this place a better place than when you found it. And I think that my kids, by far, will be my way of leaving my stamp. I'm not trying to accumulate 16 houses for them to inherit. I want them to inherit a good heart. I want them to inherit good character. To have morals and values that they can be proud of. They don't need anybody to validate anything for them. Just look inside. And if that happens then it will be the proudest day of my life." - Arturo Perez, son of Mexican immigrants, Immigrant Archive Project testimony.
"A lot of the guys in the band didn't have all their paper work and were not legal yet here in this country. It was really hard to travel. It was hard to move across the country and stuff and we were on a trip to LA, to the Latin Grammys and we got stopped. And they wanted to see everyone's papers and everyone had their paperwork, but some people didn't have all the right stuff to show. We got detained for a while. And it was really serious, you know. It was a long two hours. And at the same time we were there, there was more people detained. And some people were not as lucky as us because they let us go. And our singer, he wrote a whole song about it. It's called "De Dode Es". It's on 'La Verdad', on our last album. And it's a really great song about that whole immigrant experience." - Mark Kondrat, Locos Por Juana, Grammy and Latin Grammy nominated band, Immigrant Archive Project testimony.