By J. G. Robinson / San Diego Free Press
As I said in my last column, Latinos in our community have been among the groups most affected by the foreclosure crisis. In the next two columns I tell the story of one Latino family and what foreclosure has meant to it. I found this story moving, and it is one of the strongest indictments I know of the politicians and business people who have done so little to help people facing foreclosure. In this first installment I will look at what led up to the foreclosure for this family, and in the following column I will examine what happened after the foreclosure took place. This is the story of someone I will call Jose.
Jose was not originally from San Diego, but rather from a small west Texas town. He was brought to San Diego, like so many others, by the military.
..[M]y family lives in a poverty portion of the state of Texas. We live out in West Texas, a small farming community called Salinas View. In order for a youth to have a good job there it is hard cuz it’s so small. There are only two gas stations, one grocery store, one high school, one elementary school and they are all on one single block. That’s how big the community is. Half of the population is on Section 8, welfare. So the only job that was good paying in the fifty mile radius was at the Rio Grande Electric Co-op, but they have a policy that if you have a family member working there, then no one else can work there. So that’s why I ventured out of the state. I felt that I had no option. My parents couldn’t send me through school, and they said you’re going to go work as a ranch hand and do hard labor in the fields and provide for the family and so that your younger siblings can pursue a better life. I felt that that was unjust, so I decided to go and enlist in the Marines.
While Jose only spent a few years in the Marines, it colored how he saw the world. His hair was close-cropped in the military style, his language was clipped and peppered with military terms and metaphors. Throughout my interview with him he spoke quietly, with the ‘yes sirs’ and ‘no sirs’ of someone who had spent time in the service. His story was heart-breaking in many places, but he his voice never broke or changed tone—even when his emotions overcame him. He would stop for a few seconds, collect himself, and then continue.
Jose had done well in the Marines. “I was an infantry assault man, and then I made it into a special operations team which was tactical rescue of aircraft personnel. I was point man for the alpha team.” What the Marines didn’t do for him was give him practical work experience. Combat training didn’t translate well into the skills needed by the San Diego workforce that he found when he separated from the service in 2001. The aerospace industry, the part of the San Diego economy most directly related to the military, wasn’t hiring in any numbers during this period, but healthcare was expanding and he decided he would give that a try.
I went to United Educational Institute [a private for-profit technical school], and went through the Medical Assistant program. It was a 9 month program. Eight months into the program they had us start doing office training- teaching us how to do a job interview. They asked me if I was willing to do an interview. They told me it was a potential hiring position, and so I said sure. I went out and got the job the same day. I didn’t even go back to school.
He was employed in a podiatry clinic, which largely serviced elderly people on Medicare. “I became the office manager after three months after I started at that job.” He was hard working, polite, and with his military discipline, punctual. His salary was good, the work was steady, and his employer liked him.
For the remainder of this article, go to San Diego Free Press.