Valentin said he had a typical upbringing in Mexico, which is a little different than childhood here in the Unites States. “Here you go to a park, but I grew up in a rural ranch area,” he said. “But I would get toys and balls and toy figurines and play. And at a very young age, around 8, I would go with my grandpa, and he took me to learn how to farm and raise goats.”
By the age of 12, Valentin could do that ranch-style work on his own, and would bring his brother along to teach him. He was always a hard worker and had a strong sense of responsibility to care for his family.
At 15, Valentin came to the U.S. “It was a very huge culture change and it was really hard on me,” he said. Valentin was part of a family of seven, the oldest of the boys. “I was very close to my grandparents and was lucky to have them. I am very family oriented. My parents and grandparents instilled in me to do everything I could to help the family. My father took on the responsibility to support the whole family the best he could. That’s what I’m trying to do as well.”
Before he left for the U.S., Valentin, then just 14 years old, met a girl while playing soccer. “I was embarrassed to tell her I was interested, but I did,” he said. “I planned to save up money to prove to her parents that I could take care of their daughter—that I could provide.
“When I returned from the U.S., I asked her parents for her hand in marriage, and they approved. Since I met her, she’s my whole life, my best friend, the love of my life. We have three beautiful children together.”
Valentin spends most of his time in the U.S. working, but returns often to be with his family. “We’ve been married for 23 years,” he said. “I call her as often as I can—I’ve never gone more than eight days without talking to her.”
When Luis first came to the U.S., he was undocumented. “Thanks to my dad, he filled out all the paperwork, for me to become a legal citizen. I was the first of my family to be accepted. I went back to Mexico and followed all the rules and regulation to become a U.S. citizen.”
In the last few years, Valentin was introduced to drugs, and recently got in trouble with the law for having drugs on him. “I feel ashamed for that,” he said. “When I became documented, my father told me to follow the rules. It’s very difficult to get citizenship. It’s kind of an honor to receive an appointment and follow the processes and do it the right way. It’s very hard for people in Mexico. So my father told me that if I didn’t behave, I could lose that paperwork. He told me to respect and obey the law. So I take it personally that I did that. It’s up to a 50 percent chance that I lose my citizenship, after my dad did all that work. It hurts me that I’ve ultimately jeopardized my citizenship. I’m praying on it."
When Valentin got into trouble, he learned about the Mission. Even though it wasn’t court-mandated, Valentin decided to come. “I know I need help and I’m seeking it,” he said. “I’m in a good place now. I came on my own because I want to change my life.”
Valentin has been in the program for over three months now. “Everything is going good,” he said. “I feel so content, so welcome. Everything about this program is perfect for me at this time in my life. I’m surrounded be great people.
“I like the morning devotion, being able to speak our minds, and having the time to speak from our hearts and express our feelings. I’m very sincere about the things I say and do, and I’m doing my best at every aspect of the program. I put effort into everything, and I’m glad I’m here.”
A fellow client, Mark, agrees about the effort Valentin puts in. “He will always help anybody with any need that he has, and he’ll go above and beyond,” Mark said. “He’s a very humble person and brings a lot to the group.”
The faith-based aspect of the program has been comforting for Valentin. “I was brought up in the word of God,” Valentin said. “I love, believe and trust God. He’s first in my life, and that will never change. I’m very God-oriented.”
Valentin is taking it day by day, but plans to finish the program and get back to work. While he’s spent most of his life in Santa Barbara, he is starting to feel at home in Santa Maria. He also said he needs to see his wife and children, as he misses them very much. “I will see where God leads me,” he said.