Last spring, Wendy Wardwell and I drove Gabriel Gutierrez to the airport in San Francisco to see him off after more than 12 years in Pescadero. He was headed “home” to Oaxaca, to family there and grandchildren he had not yet met, already growing fast. Both Wendy and I felt that after so many years we might have staked the claim that Pescadero counted as another home to Gabriel. He had worked hard, contributed on the Puente board of directors, and made many friends. All along, he had been putting his children through school in Mexico, saving money towards home improvements there, and providing capital for his wife to start a little tiendita (grocery store) for his neighborhood in San Bartolo Coyotepec, outside the City of Oaxaca, Mexico.
Gabriel is of course a capable adult and traveling between Mexico and Pescadero is not novel to him, but Wendy and I worried over him like we had to see him all the way to his seat. We helped him check the flight information board, stood by him through the check-in process, and watched as his cowboy hat disappeared into the scrum at security. Finally we waited just a few more minutess to be sure he had most likely made it through and was on his way to his gate. We had no doubts about his competence, we just had a hard time letting this man go knowing he has no plans to come back this time, and that it would not be easy if he wanted to return.
My husband and I traveled to Mexico in October and were pleased to get in touch with Gabriel while we were in Oaxaca. It did our hearts good to see him and see the pleasure he takes in his grandsons. He reported with a grin that it’s a lot hotter there than in Pescadero. He showed off the progress he’s made on enlarging his house, saying, “When this is done you’ll have a place to stay when you visit.” Pescadero misses him, but he’s home.
Liz Chapman is a resident of the South Coast who volunteers repairing bikes that can be donated to farmworkers. She also tutors people who want to become U.S. Citizens. Liz is a former member of Puente’s Board of Directors.
Gabriel Gutierrez continues living in Oaxaca, Mexico. He is a former member of Puente’s Board of Directors. He approved this story.
There are many “men alone” on the South Coast. Men who are working mostly in agriculture and who left their families in their home country: Mexico, El Salvador and Guatemala. These men work hard to send money to their families to build a home, pay their children’s way to college or buy their own farm. Puente has provided welcome bags, rental assistance, field trips, food, bikes, tax services, recreation activities, education programs, and more, including its twice-weekly La Sala program, to the men living on the South Coast since 1998.
Please consider donating to Puente to support vital services for men working on the South Coast.