Q: You made it to the US at age 15. How has your life unfolded since then?
A: Well, I stayed with my cousin for about nine months when I first arrived in Texas, but it was difficult to have a teenager and to care for her young family. But, I finally got smart and called my American friends who I knew through summer camp. I spent every summer with them, so I knew them well. I called about a dozen friends; I spoke to their fathers, explained the situation and asked for help. Within two weeks, I moved in with a family.
Q: How were your calls received?
A: Everyone was shocked about what had happened. They all knew my parents, because the last few days of camp was Parents’ Week, so over the last eight summers, all of the parents became friends.
Q: How did you decide where to live?
A: It was a hard decision because everyone was so generous. When weighing my options, I was overcome with that peaceful warm feeling I had with the Monarchs. I went to the home of a good friend. They took excellent care of me and I am eternally grateful.
Q: What about school?
A: I went to high school with my friend, but decided not to go to college. His father was an oilman, so I started working in the oilfield and fell in love with it. I considered him my new father and still do. He owned several oilfield service companies where I worked during the summers. I did well and, with his help, I started my own company at the age of 22. I expanded over the years and now own six companies that are doing well. I inherited my father’s talent for business and working deals.
Q: What happened to your family’s plantations in El Salvador? Have you ever gone back?
A: Nothing happened for a long time. I was too young to muster a defense; and the country went through a civil war in the 1980s. In the mid 1990s, I returned and started the process of reclaiming my parents’ assets. It’s taken a long time, but most of the property has been recovered.
Q: Monarch butterflies played a key role in guiding you to the US. How have they impacted your life since then?
A: Not that much. I play a role in their conservation because the milkweed plant has greatly diminished in the US because of land development. In my life, the key thing has been the peaceful feeling they woke in me during my journey. That has served me well and I try to nurture that feeling.
Q: Can you elaborate on that?
A: Whenever I have had a big decision to make, I quiet myself and ‘listen’ for that peaceful sensation. When I sense it, I know I am on the right track. For example, when I was trying to decide to work or to go to college, I knew the best path was working because I felt so at peace with it. When I met my wife I felt so peaceful on our first date, I knew she was the one. There have been business deals that went bad; those are the times I didn’t rely on the feeling, I just went ahead. Whenever I rely on that sense of peace, it works out. Over the years, I have become more in tune with it, through meditation.
Q: So you are a Salvadoran oilman who meditates?
A: (laughing) I am pretty weird, but I love my life.