Luis attending mass with his parents while visiting them in Queretaro, Mexico.
Luis was born in Oaxaca, Mexico and grew up in Queretaro, Mexico. Luis recalled that he learned to read English at school in Mexico and later learned to write in English when he immigrated to the United States. He learned to speak English by watching the PBS channel in Mexico along with other English television channels. Luis was grateful that he started learning English in Mexico, “Because that was my dream… to come to this country and be a part of this society.”
Luis remembers going to the market with his mother every day when he was kid since they could not afford to have a refrigerator at home, they needed to strategically purchase their groceries for the week. At the market there was a magazine and newspaper stand that sold Disney comic books. Luis wanted to enjoy cartoons as a kid and would ask his mother if she could buy him a comic book. His mother wouldn’t buy him the comic book because she said he couldn’t read yet, in Spanish of course. Every few days, Luis would ask his mother if she could buy him a comic book. In an effort to convince his mother to buy him his first Disney comic book, Luis asked his father if he could teach him how to read. Thanks to the help of his father, Luis was able to learn how to read ahead of his class and started elementary school in the first grade, where he helped his classmates learn how to read as well. This was Luis’ earliest memory of teaching, which later became one of his passions. Luis was finally able to get his first Disney comic book. Many years later, one of the first things Luis did when he came to this country was buy a ticket to Disneyland. When he was older, he asked his mother why she didn’t buy him the Disney comic the first time he asked all those years ago. His mother admitted that him not being able to read was not the real reason for not buying the comic, but rather that they could not afford to buy it at that time. She also stated that she was surprised at how fast he learned to read and what a testament that was to Luis’ commitment and ability to accomplish his goals when he sets his mind to something.
Luis recalled his mother worked as a housekeeper and his father worked as a factory worker in Mexico. Luis learned the importance of an education from his mother. His mother worked as a housekeeper for some very wealthy families in Mexico and she noticed the families she worked for all went to school and she frequently heard the parents tell their children that they needed to go to school so they could build a better life. After seeing how having an education can positively impact your life and your family, Luis’s mother passed on this knowledge to Luis and encouraged him and his siblings to go to school. Luis is grateful to his mother for sharing the value of education with him and he now shares that same knowledge with his two daughters Ana Luz and Laura, and the members of his community.
Luis immigrated to the United States with his family in the late 90’s, and came to reside in Castroville, CA. Luis lived on Geil Street, in a small one bedroom apartment that was a part of a group of apartments rented by his employer for their workers. Luis’s first job in the United States was working at an orchid farm that grew and exported orchids. The orchid farm was located near the borderline between Monterey and Santa Cruz County. Luis worked in the laboratory, growing the orchid bulbs that were then planted in nearby fields.
Luis later worked for the High School Equivalency Program (HEP) at CSUMB. At the time, Luis was a part of the HEP pilot program that helped migrant and seasonal farmworkers obtain their GED. The HEP program is now a part of Hartnell College. Luis was in charge of overseeing teachers from the various HEP program sites including King City, Greenfield, Salinas and the CSUMB campus in Seaside, CA. Luis recalled HEP was a great migrant education program that has helped a lot of members from our district and is happy to see how much the program has grown over the years.
Luis worked for CSUMB for approximately three years and then began graduate school at UC Santa Cruz. At UC Santa Cruz, Luis was a part of the Education program and expanded his studies to include Applied Mathematics and Statistics.
While Luis was in graduate school, he began working for the Salinas Adult School. Luis taught GED at Hartnell College as part of a partnership with the Salinas Adult School.
In 2001, Luis began volunteering at the Castroville Library where he volunteered for the past twenty-years. Luis recalled when the Castroville Library was a small corner library across from the Burger King before it transformed into the Andy Ausonio Library and moved across the street from Our Lady of Refuge Catholic Church. During his time as a volunteer at the Castroville Library, Luis helped tutor students from Elementary School students to college students in math and science subjects.
When Luis finished graduate school, he had the opportunity of teaching math at Watsonville High School. Soon after, Luis was offered an opportunity to teach statistics, algebra and pre-calculus at Monterey Peninsula College. Luis recalled that he taught MPC’s first Spanish statistics class as a pilot program, to expand opportunities for more students. A bilingual statistics class will now be offered at MPC this fall 2022.
For the past ten years, Luis has helped people become U.S. citizens by instructing them on how to succeed at their citizenship interviews in English and in Spanish, helping them prepare and file their paperwork, and translate documents such as the N-400 forms. In the past six years, under the support of the North Monterey County Unified School District, all of his students have passed their interviews in the San Jose Field Office of the USCIS. Luis has also helped people apply to renew their green card and helped a community member apply for and obtain their U-Visa.
When President Barack Obama enacted DACA, Luis was able to help people from indigenous communities go to school so that they were able to obtain legal status to temporarily work in the United States. Many programs in the area required people to verify that they completed middle school level education in order to qualify to apply for admission to GED classes. Luis recalled many people who wanted to apply for DACA could not qualify since many were not able to finish elementary school in Mexico. Through a community effort, more than twenty people from Oaxaca were able to attend a Castroville high school equivalency program that granted them admission without having to show completion of middle school education. These students were able to obtain DACA status and through their studies, some have also been able to obtain their GED. Luis recalled several students who did not finish elementary school in Mexico were able to obtain their GED after 3-6 years of working very hard in their classes. That unparalleled effort of some Mixteco women inspired Luis to write their story for an online magazine.
In his spare time, Luis is involved in his local church in Castroville – Our Lady of Refuge Catholic Church. Luis was also a part of a group called Communities Organized for the Relation Power in Action (COPA). During the pandemic, Luis worked with COPA to help members of some communities, now becoming part of District 18, apply for rental assistance that the federal and state governments made available for individuals who were struggling to pay rent during the pandemic. They went around to various communities including King City, Soledad, Seaside and Castroville and set up booths where they helped members of the community submit their applications for rental assistance. Additionally, Luis is a member of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), North Monterey County chapter and a board member for the Foundation of the Monterey County Free Libraries.
Luis is also a freelance writer for Voices of Monterey Bay, a non-profit bilingual news organization serving Monterey and Santa Cruz counties. Luis recalled how writing news stories for Voices of Monterey Bay brings him back to one of his favorite hobbies in Mexico, journalism. In the 1970s and 1980s, Luis worked as a journalist for a couple of radio stations in Mexico where he amplified voices of community members and encouraged more people to voice their concerns to their local politicians.
At the time Luis was a journalist in Mexico, there was only one dominant political party in Mexico. Luis was one of the few reporters who encouraged members of opposing political parties to speak up and share their views. Luis recalled that he and his friends had a radio show named Voz Ciudadana (the Citizens Voice) that encouraged members of the community to call into their show and share their concerns about their communities. It was also a space where community members were able to share what they loved and cared about in their communities.
From the moment Luis immigrated to the United States with his family, he has worked diligently and thoughtfully to try to help his community, through teaching, advocacy, volunteer efforts, and encouraging others in his community to voice their concerns. Luis has been a GED teacher for the past fifteen years and has taught GED in Spanish and in English. Luis is also an ESL teacher and a U.S. Citizenship instructor. Luis has been a high school teacher, a college instructor at MPC, has worked at an orchid farm, and has taught computer literacy classes in the community that have also helped people learn the fundamentals of Spanish. Luis described how most computer literacy classes are in English, not in Spanish. Luis taught his computer literacy classes in Spanish and used the opportunity to teach many Mixteco-speaking students how to use Youtube to take English and Spanish classes. Luis recalled that through his various classes in the community, he has met many incredibly hard working and dedicated people. Many of whom are from Mexico, El Salvador, and Guatemala. Luis has also had students from China, the Middle East and many other parts of the world in his ESL classes and college classes. Luis feels he can relate to many of his students who are also immigrants, through lived experience and similar struggles such as learning a new language and working hard to be treated with respect in this country.
Luis with his siblings and his parents in Mexico.
Soon after Luis and his family immigrated to the United States, they toured the 17-mile drive in Pebble Beach, CA. Luis is pictured with his eldest daughter Ana Luz, his youngest daughter Laura, and the mother of his children Maria Luz.
Luis studied the sun for his dissertation at UC Santa Cruz.
A small town community member who obtained her G.E.D. and became a DACA recipient after years of hard work.
An article written by Luis for Voices of Monterey Bay.
Luis was a leader of the Student Federation of the University of Queretaro, Mexico. Here he is pictured asking the Governor of the State Rafael Camacho Guzman for more funding for higher education.
Luis with his two daughters, Laura and Ana Luz, buying tamales on Christmas Eve 2019.
Luis is passionate about continuing to help and empower his community, and give back to the people who have long inspired him. Luis understands the struggle of immigrant families where parents work very hard to support their children, who are often first-generation students, to go to college and universities. He remembers that his parents could not even make it to the United States. They stayed in Mexico to help their children succeed. It was very hard. He now wants to help those families that embarked on a journey to this country not just to get better opportunities for them and their children but to keep those freedoms which many of us have seen threatened in our native countries. Vote for a Latino community leader who is a native Spanish speaker, keeps minority traditions alive, and seeks an opportunity to demonstrate that Latinos and Latinas can also work very hard and excel in many other areas of our society, including government.