Interviewer: Lizzy Stuart
Narrator: Lu MCarney
Lizzy: Now we’re recording, awesome, Bueno, ¿quiere hacer la entrevista en espanol primero, o en ingles primero?
Lu: En ingles primero
Lizzy: En ingles primero, ok. Umm… Professor Gutierrez told me that you immigrated here from… oh I’m sorry, for the record, will you say your name?
Lu: Yes, I’m going to tell you my full and complete name, because that is very important
Lu: coming from a Latin country, the names are different. My real name is Maria de Guadalupe de Luz Delores…
Lu: Paramicoy Jimenez de Mcarney. Being Mcarney, my married name.
Lu: and now that is because, I have such a long name, it’s just Lu
Lu: Lu, it stands for Guadalupe, that’s the “lu” it’s not the Lou like a Russian name. And, that is my name, so please do call me Lu
Lizzy: Lu, ok, alright. Thank you very much, that’s a very interesting name.
Lu: It is
Lizzy: ok, um, so from what country did you immigrate?
Lu: Ok, I was born in Mexico City,
Lu: and I lived there until I was 31 years old and I married an American citizen of Irish descent, that’s where the Mcarney name comes from.
Lu: But my visit when I came to this country at the age of 31 was the first time I came to the United States
Lu: So logically because of my age, you have to realize I have a long history and I have lived many things. And uh, one important visit that we did when I was a child was during the Second World War.
Lu: My father, who had a degree in architecture in Mexico, had also been in New York in Columbia University, and obtained a degree of structural engineering.
Lizzy: Oh, wow
Lu: So then when we were, I mean he moved back to the U… to Mexico and he married my mom, and then I’m the second child of four siblings. And so then, during the Second World War, the government of the United States logically checked to see who all had that degree of structural engineering, because they were needing that for land strips and all that for the planes and stuff during the war. So then they invited my father, living in Mexico, a Mexican citizen, to come to the United States, to help in that, uh, venture. So we moved to Alhambra, California during that time and I was a very young child, and so um, we lived there. And so then, all of a sudden my father gets drafted, even though he is a guest of the United States. And it was due to the fact that they were already full force into the Second World War, with the allies into the Second World War, and they were bombarding air strips a lot and they needed these experts in the field and they couldn’t do it unless my father was drafted. So he was excited, he thought he was, he thought he died and had gone to heaven, he really wanted to go to the war. And so then of course my mother, who spoke zero English, and we were four little girls, and so then my father asked permission and they gave him six months to take us back to Mexico. Unfortunately, the war ended. My dad was furious he didn’t get to go. (laughs)
Lizzy: (laughs) oh no
Lu: But that was my first approach to being in the United States. My father’s family, they’re French. And my older sister and I spoke French as children. And so my dad had been in the United States and he spoke perfect English and he wanted us to learn English. So then, all four of us little girls were sent to LA, in a boarding school for the sole purpose to learn English. So that was the second trip, towards my existence into being in the United States.
Lu: At the time, I was perhaps in 6th grade. It was… age-wise, 6th grade. Uhhh..
Lu: and it was very funny because I had very, very high grades in school. And my English lessons that I took in Spanish I got.. I aced it. So I thought, well hmm I’m just gonna (wush??) it and I arrived and I discovered that there was only one word, only one word, that I could pronounce correctly in English and that was “no”.
Lu: Outside of that I don’t know what my teacher that was teaching us English in Mexico was teaching us, because what her language was, was not the same language I heard. So all I would here was blahblahblahblahblahblah and of course I would smile and.. but it was… So then it w…. Then we went back to Mexico, and um, then I… I was planning to move to Europe.
Lu: Cause I had been married and divorced and I had a child and I was planning to move to Europe and my mother wanted to move back to the States and she…
Lu: So then my dad says “oh, you have to come” and I said “oh, no I don’t” I already had a flat rented in Spain for two years and I was taking my daughter with me so that she would have the same opportunity I had to be bilingual.
Lu: And so then, my dad said well just give me one year, and then well you know ok, and I thought, all what’s all this expense, but it was his money, soo… I didn’t care. So, I moved with them to the States, and a year went by and my younger sisters decided that they didn’t like it. So they decided to move back to Mexico. So then we were all moving back to Mexico. But by this time, I had met this absolutely fantastic, gorgeous looking Irish man, who looked just like Paul Newman.
Lu: And so, funny thing, they all went back and I stayed.
Lizzy: Oh my gosh (laughs)
Lu: So, I married him, and so then I had my second daughter, was his child.
Lu: And he was from Iowa, from Des Moines, so we moved to Des Moines, because we lived in San Antonio for a while.
Lu: So then we moved to Des Moines. And then, um, I lived here for 40 years.
Lizzy: 40 years?
Lu: 40 years.
Lu: 40 years. And then after, of course, before the end of the 40 years he died, and so I stayed here for about 4 years more, so then I moved to Mexico for 10 years.
Lizzy: oh, wow.
Lu: But that’s just part of my story. So why don’t you ask me a question. I’m a talker
Lizzy: That’s awesome. This is already… you’ve got my attention already, wow. So you moved back to Mexico for 10 years, you said.
Lizzy: When did you decide to move back to Io….
Lu: Well, my daughter from my second marriage had moved to Vail, Colorado. And she became ill, she had adrenal fatigue. And so when she would call me she would just cry. And for me it was horrendous knowing that she was there crying all by herself. So I closed shop in Mexico. By the time I was teaching English in Mexico and I had 57 students.
Lu: So then when I closed shop, I sold everything, and moved to Vail with only my clothes. I was there for a year, my daughter got better. And then she nicely informed me that I could move back to Mexico, (laughs) which I did but I had nothing, and again I started all over again – I had students. Then my first child, from my first marriage, she has Autism. And so, she lives in Iowa in a group home in Jefferson. So then she started having problems due to her age, menopause and all that, and then she had the problem of communication, so she wasn’t able to tell the staff what was wrong with her so they presumed she was withdrawn, and so they… I heard there was a possibility they would ask her to move out of the house. And I thought, well I mean, I’ll go get her and I’ll bring her to Mexico with me, but then, my child doesn’t speak Spanish. All she can do is say sí. If she hears Spanish, and it’s something foreign, she’ll say sí. So then what was I going to do with her in Mexico City? So then I chose to move to the.. back to the… back to Des Moines.
Lu: So I sold everything, and I came back with my clothes again and umm. It’s going to be, well 2 days ago it was a year that I arrived here.
Lizzy: oh, wow
Lu: And then, my daughter, who was in Vail, heard that I was moving back into the States she thought well, maybe I’ll move back with you. So she’s here with me.
Lizzy: Oh, wow, so does she live in the apartment here too?
Lu: mhmm yeah, mhmm.
Lizzy: that’s great. So umm.. do you ever miss Mexico? Do you want to go back?
Lu: well, I umm, I have the ability to adjust very fast to whatever situation and circumstance. That has to be because of… my father’s way… the way he thinks about things. I come from a very powerful, wealthy family in Mexico. And my dad was an architect, like I said, and so he could not stay put in one place. We moved from house to house, from residential section to residential section, from city to city, from state to state, from country to country, all my life
Lu: So it was an uprooted thing, my sisters hated it. But for me it was an adventure. And so that gave me the, the, the ability to instantly adjust to whatever is around me. So when I was in Mexico, logically I missed shopping (laughs)
Lu: and my daughters, because they were here. And, um, but, um, so then now that I’m here, I miss the weather, certain foods, the drinks, and my sisters, I have my sisters there, and my whole family is in Mexico.
Lizzy: Wow. Well, that has to be a hard split, having family here and in Mexico.
Lu: No, no it isn’t because see I can have both at the same time so I, I… when I lived here for the 40 years, I travelled constantly to Mexico. 2, 3 times a year I would go to Mexico, and I would send them tickets, and they would come and visit, and so, but it was uh, a very nice, nice, nice thing.
Lu: But the weather in Mexico is unbelievable
Lu: Especially in the area where I lived.
Lu: I lived in what it would be like the Midwest of Mexico. Like, you know, you’ve been to Guadalajara, and the state I was in was Guanajuato, which is adjacent to Guadalajara, and I lived in the city of Leon, which is the capital of the world of shoe manufacturing
Lu: All the shoes like Floor Shine, Hush Puppies, all the shoes like those are made in Leon,
Lu: And so it’s, it’s, it’s… even if the area is the Midwest of Mexico, it is so historical and touristic, highly, except Leon. Leon is an industrial city. Because they work leather and they do the shoes, and so, there’s all this business going because that enterprise
Lizzy: So would you say you like Mexico better or the United States better?
Lu: Same. Equal. They’re both my countries. I became an American citizen out of umm.. love for the country, I lived here, and at the beginning, you know, logically, the law has changed throughout the time. And it used to be that if an American citizen married a foreigner, automatically that foreigner became an American citizen. And Mexico had the same law. If a Mexican married a foreigner automatically that foreigner became and Amer… er, Mexican citizen. Both countries at the same time changed the law. It didn’t happen anymore, and that was two months before I married my husband.
Lizzy: You’re kidding! (laughs)
Lu: (laughs) So I was not in that instantaneous… so then it would have to be paperwork and all that stuff. So. But I mean I had been in this country, I had been, my kids were growing up so it was… I had been working and I did not want to stop being a Mexican citizen.
Lu: Especially that the oath to become a citizen for this country. You don’t ummm say you don’t want to be a citizen of your own country anymore, you don’t have to renege, that’s a horrendous word; they should take it out of there
Lizzy: I know!
Lu: My husband used to say, “you don’t have to say it”. I said: No, but I mean, it’s there. So then, I had a lot of contacts because of my family and government and all in Mexico, and I found out that the law in Mexico was changing and they were about to pass the law that any Mexican national that had obtain nationality in another would continue to preserve their Mexican Nationality. SO then I put my papers in.
Lizzy: Well, yeah!
Lu: So then I had both nationalities. I have the two passports, and except in Mexico it’s alright for me to have two passports but here’s it’s not.
Lizzy: It’s not alright to have two passports?
Lu: No. it’s not they don’t like it. (laughs) especially that for instance, in my country, the laws keep changing, they do this from time to time, you know. A married woman, and you probably remember from when you were in Guadalajara, and when you were in Costa Rica. The woman has her married, her married name, and then a d, which is “property of” and then her married name. They changed that and now they, you don’t use your married name. You use your maiden name. So now I have two personalities, two identities. My Mexican passport is Lupita de Guadalupe Paramo Nicoy. My American passport is Lu McCarney. Two people
Lizzy: (laughs) oh my goodness!
Lu: two names. So that’s a conflict when you want to do legal documentation. But I cannot have this one change it and those… so I have two.. accepted. In Mexico I’m Lupita Paramo and when I’m here I’m Lu McCarney.
Lizzy: wow. So does that cause problems when you’re going back and forth.
Lu: No, no, no, no, because I travel as an American citizen.
Lizzy: Ok, so when you go to Mexico you show your American passport, and when you come back…
Lu: I travel as an American citizen. So when I go into Mexico, I have to obtain a Mexican visa for a foreigner to be in Mexico. The visa would give you up to six months. And then of course when you return, you have to turn… return your visa.
Lu: It’s just the permission that the Mexican government gives for me to be in their soil. I could stay there forever, which I did when I moved, because I’m a Mexican citizen.
Lizzy: So do you have to get a visa… because you’re an Amer… er. Mexican citizen?
Lu: No… it’s just I supposedly lost my American visa.
Lizzy: oh no.. (laughs), well it happens (winks)
Lu: But I used to travel back quite often from Mexico to go here. So every time I returned, I would just return my visa and every time I went back they gave me another one.
Lu: But once I was in Mexico, my American passport would be in a drawer.
Lu: Just like now my Mexican passport is in a drawer.
Lizzy: Yeah? Wow.. (laughs) So would you say you identifiy more as an American citizen or as a Mexican citizen?
Lu: Because I have both cultures. I have had the opportunity to live here long enough to immerse myself in this culture. When I moved here, and of course because of the law, my husband, and I decided I was going to stay because that was it… I wasn’t going to get married for six months as a trial and then decide… no
Lu: And then I decided to immerse myself into this society. I didn’t bring my music, I didn’t bring my enchiladas, I didn’t bring my tacos, no I immersed myself. I was going to live in this country and that was it. The love for my country was different. I mean I could hear Mexican music and I would feel like tearing up, y’know. And it was that… there… and I was here. And I made everything correct living in this country. I followed the rules, I learned everything that has to be learned, and… the funny thing as a foreigner, you learn the language and then you have a better command of that language than the natives. Because you learn it though grammar.
Lizzy: it’s true
Lu: And you learn English just growing up, hearing it, repeating it, and so when I was teaching in Mexico I used to ask my students “how long it took you to learn Spanish?” and they said “well, since I was one year old”. And I said “no. since you were about twelve when you were in school. Because you spoke Spanish but you did not know Spanish”. When you were in school you said “ohhh so that’s a verb. So that’s a noun”. Right now you’re just repeating everything you hear like a parrot; and you recognize it because this is a phone (holds up phone), not this (points to table) this is a table. Because you know that the gender of the words in Spanish have to do with the vowels—you know that la mesa. But you know that, you hear that, it was always la mesa because you hear it and that’s it. And then you get to school and you learn that “ohhhh that’s why the la is before mesa and it’s not el or lo.
Lizzy: Wow, never thought about it like…
Lizzy: Yeah, that, I don’t know that blows my mind because I always thought about that while I was learning.. er.. re-learning English.
Lu: and the funny thing is for instance we have French, ok? French also has gender in their nouns, except their different. German also has gender. You guys do not have gender in your nouns. Uh… The English language is the softest language, in the world, sound-wise. Sound-wise because you have phonetics. We don’t because we have 5 sounds, a, e, i, o, u. doesn’t change. The consonants have the onomatopoeic sounds like “puh” you don’t say P or B or no no, you don’t say letters, you don’t say ELLLLLL… no, no, no. That’s what it is, the onomatopoeic sound, of L is “L”. So then you have the phonetic sound that causes the sound, the vowel sound, softer. You have C-A-U-G-H-T; and it sound caught. So then you say, well why do you have the A-U-G-H, well because that softens, it just brings the sound this way, to the word. Umm, like you could say like cut, like for hair. But then it has an “augh” rather than an “uh” and, and, well, we don’t have that. In Spanish, we have… they.. it’s just the same. But then you go to what it comes to grammar. And your grammar could be about, oh, those pages (points to stack of roughly 30pages) in Spanish grammar, so you could learn that, it’s only about that much. I mean, let’s go to verbs. Let’s go to the future tense. What you have, “will”… or “shall”
Lizzy:… is there a difference?
Lu: No. In English, will, to make your future. And in Spanish we have every single verb is conjugated differently with every single different personal pronoun. This is why in Spanish you can eliminate your personal pronoun. Because if I say “digo”, it’s only yo digo, never tú. No es tú digo, no, es tú dices. So then when you say dices, it’s only tú. I can say it correctly in Spanish without using the personal pronoun, and it’s just as correct as if I use it. It’s not redundant if I use it, it’s just a decision.
Lu: It’s your option of which one you want, and in English, you can’t. Because the conjugated form of your verb is probably identical, with the exception of the he/she/it form of the verb in certain levels of the verb. But outside of that, it’s can, can, can, can, can; which is an auxiliary. So then, there are no irregular verbs in Spanish.
Lu: They are all irregular verbs. Because your irregular verbs are the ones that change the conjugated form with the personal pronoun. But not in Spanish because they all change. It’s not to say that you don’t have irregular verbs because all the verbs are the same, no. They have the same grouping. So that… yeah, that’s…
Lizzy: Oh, my gosh. So you obviously know a lot about grammar.
Lizzy: And you said you spoke French too? And you mentioned German…
Lu: no, no, no. I was just mentioning that German language also has Gender in their nouns.
Lizzy: So you speak three languages fluently?
Lu: Well, no, I uhh.. I used to speak French fluently, but not anymore, I have no one to practice with. I can read it. I mean when I went to Europe, it was a very funny trip I had, that trip I took when I went to Europe. I did not travel as a tourist. I have some friends in Spain and Barcelona and so I took a plane to Barcelona to visit my friends. And because of my age, when I was little, it was the Second World War. And I was so impressed with the Holocuast, and that children my age on the other side of the world were dying while I was playing. So I became so focused on that it became an obsession. So then I decided that I wanted to visit the areas in France where the French Resistance held the fight against the Germans. So I made an appointment. At the time I had a business, so I had my secretary contact this group so that I would go see them in the Pyrenees. So then my trip was Barcelona with my friends and then the Pyrenees to see the caves where the French Resistance, where that all started. And I was in the area of France and I was in these little shops and they were doing this things, and there were some gals, American girls, in the hotel where I was staying. And I was having lunch or something or whatever and so anyways then they approached me and said “so…um… there are no places to shop around here” and I said “oh yes, there are. I found a nice shop” and then.. then.. I said “I’m going tomorrow” and they said “oh, can we go with you” and I said “sure” so then we… in the morning we go into this shop, and there are three gals there, young chicks. And I was not a young woman, you know I was… I was already a widow. So then, we’re in this shop and we’re looking around and then up comes this little girl, this French little girl. Y’know around to… and she hears us speaking English. She says “are you… British?” And the gals say “oh, no. we’re American” and this chick turns around and walks away. And I cussed at her in Spanish. Big time.
Lu: And she stood up. And I thought she was going to fight me… I thought, I said ok, I can take her and this girl is going to help me. So then she comes out and she says “are you Spanish?” No, I’m Mexican. Oh, she loved me! Oh, they love Mexicans. “Mexican! Mexico!” And I turned to the American girls and I was like “eat your heart out!”. (laughs).
Lu: But it was funny. So, anyways I learned that uh, uh… I was not going to speak English in France.
Lu: So then I thought that I would try to see if I could remember my French, and oh, sure. It was no big deal. It was just like you hear it, and then you pick it right back up. And then you have all this stuff that you’ve learned and then you say “no I have forgotten this” and then you start reading it no but I mean I remember this, I remember this, I remember this. Yeah, so that’s… yeah…
Lizzy: wow. Ok so tell me more about when you went to Europe. Like why… you just went to go see…
Lu: Yeah, I was not, I had no interest in going to see 17 countries in five days.
Lizzy: you saw 17 countries in five days?!
Lu: no, no, no, that’s like a tourist. And I didn’t want that
Lu: No I had… I had. No, no, no… for instance, being in…in…in Spain and in France; the towns, the cities, they looked like my country. I really (laughs) really have no interest in going to see that. No, I mean, I went to go see France and we had, and I went… in Barcelona I did not do the tourist things. They took me where the people from Barcelona go. And so then I had very nice, incredible restaurants, and then tapas… is not… as classic as has been told about the Spanish thing. Tapas is more like… is less like… snack. But the real, the refined hors d’voures that the Spanish eat is called pica pica. Because you pica pica.
Lizzy: Pica pica
Lu: Pica pica
Lizzy: well, ok.
Lu: They are very exquisite pieces of morsels to eat. And like well, I mean, I went to this place, and they had, umm… I was waiting for my friends and so then I was in the hotel, cause I did not stay at their place because the flats in Spain are not as big, especially Barcelona, they’re not as big as we have here. They’re not like, oh you come and stay with me, you know. So I walk into this shop, and they were having all this tapas things. And I thought… and I looked and there was this piece of bread with a meatball on top. How do they eat this?! (laughs)
Lu: You know, so oh no, no, no, no, of course there was some people on some tourist or something there, and they were trying to tell them that this was the classic thing. The guy looks and I me and I go like (shakes head). (laughs). But I mean, could you imagine? Just like, this… and then a meatball… or a piece of liver. It was not appetizing, No, no… But I ate… I really loved… umm… at the time, I saw a lot of immigrants in Spain. And of course, well, where I was, was in Barcelona, and there were a lot of people from Venezuela, a lot of blacks… from the Africans, there were umm… Muslims. And in the area of France I did, I was close to a ski resort. And I don’t think Africans ski (laughs). But I was not interested, I mean coming from snow to go to snow… no, I was not interested. My point was to go see the caves in which the resistance were… and it was unbelievable because uh, this people that were there, that lived there, and there were some who were a little bit older than me that had been involved in the resistance. I was impressed and at the same time ashamed that I was perhaps the tenth person…ever…who went to visit.
Lizzy: That was it?
Lu: So as you can imagine, I had a very big reception, I had a very big party, we had a lot of wine (laughs). They wanted to know why I did not take tequila, and I said “because, oh, I didn’t know I could do that” (laughs). It was a lot of fun, it was… so a very interesting trip. Have you ever been to Europe?
Lizzy: No, I haven’t. Oh, my gosh… I would love to go…
Lu: mhmm. It’s it’s, uh, ah.. umm… of course you know I flew into Germany. And then I understood what it was to not understand a word of what people says. You know (gibberish). My words in German were “raus, Hund.” Which means “get out of here, dog”. And the other one was “heil Hitler”. (laughs)
Lizzy: no! (laughs)
Lu: (laughs) so it was new…. Oh I could say “danke” and, and, and, but then, you know, there you speak English and of course they say, yeah I’ll take your dollars, you know, money is money, honey. They’ll take your dollars that fast, I mean.
Lizzy: Oh, wow. So you visited Germany as well?
Lu: No, I was just, it was just, the, the, in the airport. And I flew from there into.. I can’t remember the name of that airport and from there to Barcelona. So, that was, but I mean this was the place that I thought “wow, I could get totally lost in here”. (laughs)
Lizzy: I can understand that (laughs). So… wow. You have so much to tell me, there’s just.. I mean wow.
Lu: So you want to know what I did when I lived here?
Lu: Ok, I, umm., I had a business. I was a simultaneous interpreter in English to Spanish and Spanish to English, for the federal courts, for the Polk county courts, a lot of the government agencies, FBI, CIA, DEA, and I was the interpreter for… umm.. eh, there was a group people were not aware that in Des Moines were protected witness program. And I was their interpreter because they had a lot of Latinos here. And it was a very interesting type of work, I was the first interpreter they had. They did not even know how to function with an interpreter. So I had to have.. to sit down before the hearings with the judges and the prosecutors and, to teach them how to work the umm, eh, the presence of an interpreter. I had a judge who would….. speak…… like….. this…… And I said, no you have to go, because I cannot translate unless I hear the whole thought. And they said but you can’t and I said oh yes, but I am, I’m a certified simultaneous, so they speak and I spoke in a different language. But of course if they ask me what did he say… (shrugs shoulders). I mean I’m emptying my mind to get the other one, to get the other word in. But I mean I was able to do from one language to the other, and I was able to do from this one to this one so, it was… I worked trials, it was a very, very, very fascinating thing. I was the only one for many years, and the reason was that a lot of the Lat… people from Latin countries came from the…Mexico and the northern part of Central America, and the majority were people who came to work farms. They were uneducated, and pretty soon the south of central America and South America started moving in and they were.. these were people that have been in school, have knowledge, so this was the competition became, there was, competition where before there wasn’t and my husband had died and I was already older, and I thought.. “well, (throws hands in the air) they can have it”. I already did it, they can have it, so.
Lizzy: How long did you… how long were you an interpreter?
Lu: about 15 years.
Lu: and of course I had the most fantastic practice. I worked eight hours
Lizzy: oh, jeez!
Lu: Because at first, it started, it started with the Feds. And then it, ah… the, the… county inquire with ahhh… Feds’ judges who you were using, there was only one name: mine. So then, NAFTA comes along and then people are trying to do the business and they start calling and “who are you using?” It was my name, the only name. And I did work, I worked so much, I used to tell my husband that my brain squeak.
Lu: It was so worth it, though. It was fascinating
Lizzy: that would be, wow that would be amazing.
Lu: Yeah, my first trial, I told the prosecutor, they had the jury, and they had the jury selection in front of me, “they’re doing this wrong”. And he says “what do you mean they’re doing this wrong” and I says “that’s not what Perry Mason does” (laughs). I had never seen anything, except in television, but it was so… uh, incredible. And then this one time, one of the (throw) judges says “come on, Lu, you should try to pass the bar. You know so much law by now you can pass and you can be like one of those guys.” And I said “no, I make more money than they do”.
Lu: Which I did. Because those guys had one client and I had all of them.
Lizzy: Right, oh my gosh, wow… What was the most interesting case you ever had, or at least one….
Lu: Some of the cases I cannot talk about because their still in the process of um… being um… perhaps trying to change their decisions. There was one, it was this one guy and he was from Cuba. And it was all… logically, the big things were drugs. And this guy was a big guy, not tall, but short but, I mean.. probably… I mean not fat, I mean just like a gorilla type looking guy. And so he had… when the DA stopped him he was in a third floor apartment here in Des Moines, and from the balcony he jumped. He landed, and they took him two blocks for the DA to catch him.. and he had both legs broken.
Lizzy: oh, my goodness.
Lu: But that’s what drugs do. They… it’s just… they… and so then he got arrested and it was a big thing. This guy’s name was Pedro Sanchez, was the guy. And it was a big thing because they… he… he was not going to be doing anything so he claimed he didn’t understand any English and so then I was the interpreter. And so, then… he… was told there was going to be a trial because they couldn’t convince him to do anything he was not accepting anything. And so finally, after he had surgery, and he came back from surgery, and then he was ready for the trial, so then.. then… umm… he had said in the jail that he was going to put a show that he was insane. So then he.. when… I went with an attorney, a different attorney, and he had a different, his own client. So his client came out and he said that. So of course I’m translating. So then I told the attorney after the… the, the, the his client went away and I says “look, I cannot repeat what he said. But if I get hurt because you didn’t open your mouth, I’ll sue you”. But, you know, I can’t say what he said.
Lu: So then his attorney went and said something and then they had… during his trial, everyone in the (throw) court knew that something was gonna happen. And so then, they had more of the um, marshalls in the court and they brought him in. And so this guy was into Santeria. So I had told them, you know, I had to sit next to them, like this (gestures as if there were a chair facing hers). I had moved the chair, so that this back was in between the two of us.
Lu: And so I was the one that could tell what kind of reaction he was going to have and so then the rule was if I raised my arm, this means this guy was going to do something. And then they were going to act. Everybody knew. All of the people on the office and the throw court were… and the, and the, and the…. Jury were in the trial, in the courtroom. The only ones that did not know a thing was the jury. So then I’m sitting in here talking.. er, translating and this guy started mumbling, ok? (demonstrates mumbling) And I could see his stomach is doing this (moves her stomach around with her hands) and I thought to my myself, this guy vomits on me and then they have to take him away from me I’ll kill him. You know? Man, I’m doing this, I raised my hand and as I raised my hand he jerks back with such force he came out of the anklets and the shoes, and go back. But he went into like a seizure. And so then, of course, my professionalism died right there because there was… and the judge said “Get Lu out of there!” and this huge marshal came and grabbed me by the waist and pulls me like this (picks up a pen) and… But all of the members of the jury were standing like this, and I mean you could see their hair standing up. It’s true! I mean, I saw, and they were… And so then it took five marshals to get him out.
Lu: And he was laying down, he was… but I mean that was the worst thing that… ever… so then finally, he… were able to get him medicated so he’d go down. And the federals, when they do their sentences, they give them their sentence in months. And I think, no that I know that’s the case, but it’s my thought, I think they do that so that by the time they figure out how many years those months are they’re already out of the courtroom (laughs)
Lu: This guy had three-hundred-and-some months,
Lizzy: Oh, wow.
Lu: so then he turns to me, and I felt so bad, because he turned to the judge and ask him if he was going to be home for Christmas. So then, he wanted the judge to send him to Cuba by train. And the judge says “I will”. (laughs)
Lu: but I mean, this is what, this is one of the… and the most interesting things that…
Lizzy: oh, wow.
Lu: because they had had such action involved in it and… it was… and he, you know, I did not… logically I could never communicate with any felon on any… unless the attorney was there. Because it was not my place. Besides, it was so, so, so, so dangerous because they see you, they recognize you…
Lizzy:… and they think you did something…
Lizzy: wow… so was that all you… was that your main work while you were in the United States… or, while you have been in the United States?
Lu: No, I also worked at the um, Mercy Hospital. I worked at Mercy Hospital at the um… medical records department.
Lu: yep. And I joined a club which I love, it was called Toast Masters.
Lizzy: Toast Masters?
Lu: Toast Masters. Do join, it’s fantastic. It has to do with speeches. And so then, they, and I, we would do speeches there and all that and um, one of the gals there said to me “you know, why don’t you do translations”. And I said “because they don’t pay well”. And I didn’t want to have anything to do with that. And she says, well I have a friend who has ah… and she taught at Drake, and uh… she taught Spanish at Drake. And she said that a friend that she has, this agency, so I’m going to tell you, she calls me, and then she invited me over. And so, to chat, you know she had been in Columbia for six months and, um, that’s where she worked her Spanish. So, um, I went there to her office, and the first thing she does is she pulls out this job application, and I said “oh, no…no… I thought I’m not applying for a job, cutie, I came here to chat”.
Lu: And so then we.. so we… parted. And then about two or three weeks later…This is when the Amnesty program had originated, and so then the Feds, the DEA, busted one of the kill floors and they arrested thirteen Mexicans. And they weren’t supposed to be because Amnesty was… um… starting into function. And so then, she calls me, and she says, you know that the Federal Judge had called her and that they had so many arrested people that they umm… can she go? And I says… she asked me if I could help her and I said “look, I really have never done anything legal”. And she says “oh, no, don’t worry I’ll help you”. So we walk in there, and there’s six for her and six for me; her attorneys, my attorneys; she worked there and I worked there, and we run around until I went home. She paid me. And so then she calls me the next morning, and she says “you know, the judge called me, he wants me to come again and he wants me to bring my friend”. So, I go there. And I have my six, and she has her six, and all that. The next morning, the judge calls me. He called her to get my number. And I did all twelve of them.
Lu: That’s how I started. So then my friend told me, don’t get excited, I have been here for ten years and this is the first time the feds call. But it exploded.
Lu: It exploded! I had work like you cannot believe. I mean I made money like this (gestures as if she’s pulling something in from the table). Because I told them how much I wanted to get paid, I told them how they had to maneuver the things, I… and so then I would have two or three defendants in the same case. So I would bill the feds for just… you know, and the judge says “no. Each felon has an attorney and a case. You bill for each one.” And I says “It’s the same, it’s like… double… billing, you know I cannot do this” and he says “that’s the way we want it”. (slams hands on table) well… ok..
Lizzy: Alright! (laughs) wow.
Lu: So it was unbelievable. So then, when I… the NAFTA came along, by this time I was very good at what I did. And I knew how to… I had my business, I incorporated, I had a secretary, and I let my husband run my business cause he did not speak Spanish, but I was the only one that works so. So then, I would have… clients would call and they would want to know if… they find out that not only was I bilingual and I had the interpreting, but I had connections in Mexico. So then I would do… they would, um, this is what they want, so then I would call Mexico and say “I have a client who wants this, this, this, and this” and they would call me back, and I would arrange the meetings. Oh, I was very smart. Cabo San Lucas, Cancun, Acapulco, Mazatlán, ah…. You think I was going to go to a town? No.. no… Beaches. That’s where we met. And so then, but I would charge them a thousand dollars per day. And all my expenses paid.
Lu: And so they were having two people coming, and they wanted to know if I could do it. So then, we couldn’t, we did not talk about rates at all. And then I said “what part of Mexico are your people coming from?” and he says “no, they’re coming from Brazil”. I says “whoa… hold on.” I said “I don’t speak Portuguese”. I understand Portuguese, because… any Latino who… you would understand Portuguese because of your Spanish. If you speak slowly, they would understand you. But that’s just not what I wanted, I said… But they couldn’t find anybody. So then I thought I was going to give them the classic line so that they would tell me “ok, we’ll call you”. And so I triple my fee, so that they would say, ok, we’ll call you. A week! When they (sighs) (laughs) but I earned that money with blood, honey. Because they wanted… I became an expert in DNA. Cause that’s what they wanted. We went to labs, and everything was DNA. So I had to go from English into Spanish slow, one of them was more intelligent than the other one. The other one just looked at me and I thought he was going to figure out I was his next dish, you know?
Lu: you know, you look more like a savage than anything. (laughs). So then, but I mean, after that, when the people left and I got that check, it was my down payment for a condo.
Lizzy: In Mexico or in… here
Lu: Here. I was living at the time in this apartment; in this building and I got an apartment. You’re probably familiar, you know where Saint Augustin’s Church is?
Lu: Well, the, the, the, the school Saint Augustin’s?
Lizzy: right, right
Lu: The building next to it?
Lu: I had it. I bought one of those condos.
Lizzy: oh, wow. So how long did you live there
Lu: oh, about eight years.
Lizzy: eight years, wow.
Lu: From there I moved to Mexico
Lizzy: and then… Mexico. Ok, ok, I’m trying to get the timeline straight in my head. So when did you work at the hospital?
Lu: uhhhmm… before the court. Because that’s when I was like this (shows her two fingers crossed) with Sister Patricia Claire who was the President of Mercy and the Mother Superior of the order. And so, um, at one time, I was working both Mercy, and the work I did, I was a Discharge Analyst. So I didn’t have anything to do with phones or doctors or anything like that. I switched my hours to the third shift, so it would work for me, from eleven at night until seven in the morning so I had the day. So then I would get off from here, go to my house, shower, and go to court to do the work. So then, there was this trial that was going to be in Davenport. A Federal trial. So then, I asked permission to my boss, and I said “the judge says it’s going to be so many days” so then I asked permission. So, once we’re in the trial, the judge says, you know, Lu, it’s not going to be… we’re going to have to have two more days. And I go “well, then I have problems”. And he said, “oh, you are?” and I said “well, I think I have my work”. So then, needless to say, the federal judge, who was the federal judge, the chief of the federal judges called Sister Patricia Claire. Sister Patricia Claire calls my boss. Chews the shit out of her. And from then on I could back and forth whenever I wanted to.
Lizzy: Wow. That’s amazing.
Lu: Yeah. So finally I quit Mercy because I could not take the two jobs. It was impossible. But it was a funny thing. Because I hurt a knee, my knee. I tore a ligament to a point where I heard the ligament tore in my leg, when it tore my leg went (pbbbt) like this. The assistant manager said that I had to go to workman’s comp. And I said, I have about two hundred hours of sick leave. No, you have to go to workman’s comp. Alright, so then, I go to workman’s comp, and at the end of workman’s comp I… they… I get a letter saying that I have to check with human resources to obtain a position similar to the one I had. I said, “ahh… these idiots aced me out of my job through the workman’s comp. So of course, who did I know? Every single attorney in town.
Lu: So I go to the meeting. So I walk in with Alfredo Parish. … whatever you want… Alfredo did not speak one word, he just walked in with me. Of course, I told him “I’m not paying you for this, honey” because… (laughs)
Lu: Just because he was the top at the time. He’s still big, but he was the attorney at the time. I just walked in with him and whatever I wanted I had. But I just didn’t want anything anymore. I was out. That was all.
Lizzy: so they offered you anything you wanted and you were just like “eh, not worth it”.
Lu: I just wanted them to eat their…. Poop…..
Lizzy: I would too…
Lu: yeah, but it was so funny, because I walked in with him and they were like (gasps).
Lizzy: oh no! (laughs)
Lu: (Laughs) Alfredo and I had a funny story. And I do this, quite often, as a joke, you know. I eat out, and I love to eat out. I used to go to the restaurant with friends or whatever, clients. And the waiter would come along with the tab, and I would say “oh, give it to them”. As a joke, give it to them. So I’m at the Embassy Suites and I’m with one of the prosecuters and we’re having lunch, she and I, and we’re laughing, and so then the bill comes, and I say “oh, no, give it to those guys over there”. We were sitting over there and then I turn around and all of a sudden Alfredo Parrish stands up. Would you believe the waiter took this check over to Alfredo Parris and Alfred agreed to pay for it?! (laughs). He tells the story to everyone he knows because he thought it was hilarious (laughs). But I said “no, no, no, no, no, no!” But it was too funny. And I had… the thing was that all of the judges and all of the attorneys treat me like as if I was one of them. I have never, ever felt prejudiced. Ever.
Lu: But, then, I don’t take it. So that’s… I’ve always said that, you know, it’s not that they’re asking for it, but you know… if you like cowardly move back, that gives me the opportunity to what? Stand forward. And I said, Dan, “Dan, you don’t have to be rude, you don’t have to be gross, you don’t have to be insulting, you just…. Admire who you are, and that’s it.
Lu: I mean one time, you know… when, when, I used to… When I had my company, I used to have very fancy dinners, and Embassy Club and all that kind of stuff, you know. No, at the… yeah, yeah, at the Embassy Club, which the one over there by… um, 801. So one time, I had several, I mean, attorneys… and, with their spouses and there was this one… woman, a wife of one of the attorneys I had never met. And she’s sitting in the table, and they were all sitting there, and they were shooting the shit and all that and some fun. And so, she turns around and she says “oh, so you have a mixed marriage. Don’t you?” And I said, yeah I hope so, he’s a man and I’m a woman, you want to know mixed?
Lu: She had no… I mean if I had gone like aww! (grabs chest and has hurt expression her face). No, no I mean yeah, I do have a mixed marriage. We were not the same. He was a man and I am a woman. Isn’t that a happy mix, you know? And, and, so, I have never, ever… I would lie if I said I have ever been mistreated because I was Mexican, no.
Lizzy: well, good.
Lizzy: that’s amazing!
Lizzy: so when you transitioned into the U.S. it was just pretty seamless? And you…
Lu: well, I’ve always been very sure of myself.
Lizzy: that’s excellent.
Lu: I grew up in a fantastic environment. I’ve gotta tell you a story about that.
Lu: Being Catholic, I attended… uh, when I lived… when I worked at Mercy Hospital, and I attended um, Saint Ambrose, and they invited me to a round table. And, it was huge, there were about 20 people, all sitting around and talking about… and the priest wants to know, in your own words tell us how you encounter God. So this, this, this, they started here (points to her left) and I was going to be the last one because that was the direction they were going. And it became, um, competition of horrendous things in life.
Lizzy: oh, no.
Lu: From rapes, to abuse, to ah…. So they come to me. How am I going to tell them that I lived in wealth all my life? So, then I said “I grew up in a concentration camp and I don’t wanna talk about it!” (laughs)
Lu: And, so I told my husband what I said and he said “what? Why did you tell them that?” and I was like, well what was I going to tell them? I mean here, I grew up with so much, and, you know? And so then, you know, one of my classic jokes was that… you know… people come to this country looking for what? The American Dream.
Lu: I came to this country and became poor. Because my husband didn’t make that much money; my new husband, that I married, you know? I found out because, you know, we got married and so then, two, three days later, we’re just in our little apartment and I says “why don’t you give me some money and I’ll go to the store and bring you… cook food for you?” Cause I had been to finishing school, and all that, so.. you know, so then I go to the store, and I buy the thing, and we have a four course meal with wine and candles and flowers and the whole enchilada. We’re drinking our wine and smoking cigarettes and la la la. And I says to him, “you know, baby, why don’t you give me more money for tomorrow?” He hits me twice. He said to me “you no longer live out of your father’s wallet.” (laughs).
Lu: “the money I gave you was for the whole week!” (laughs more)
Lizzy: (laughs) oh, no!)
Lu: So, for the rest of the week we ate macaroni without cheese because I used the cheese in the dinner (laughs)
Lizzy: oh no! (laughs)
Lu: So that was my… that’s what I said, I came to the United States and became poor. There was no American Dr… you know, it never occurred to me, never. It never crossed my mind to ask him how much money he made. Because, it was.. well, it was.. ok… Let’s say that you grew up drinking clean water all the time. You don’t think about it, you just pick it up and drink it.
Lu: It’s there. This happened when you grow up with money. Everybody has it. It is not a competition of who has more or who does not. And, so, you just have, you know,…
Lizzy: You’ve always had enough.
Lu: I grew up that way, and I’m very happy, so then people say “well, so then how is it possible that you could be without…and all of a sudden you come back again and make it?” I say because, see… my… line is this one. If you have never tasted vanilla ice cream you’re not going to walk two blocks to get vanilla ice cream. ‘Cause if you have never tasted it, you’re not going to, you don’t have the desire to do that. So, when you’ve had it, you’re going to want it back. What? You’re going to wan… and you’re going to work and you do it.
Lu: So that’s, that’s the main thing. That, I mean of course, my business landed in my lap. I didn’t ask for it. It just came and it just landed in there and I was just like (gasps).
Lizzy: and your business being the… translating?
Lu: yeah. Right.
Lu: cause I formed my company, McCarney, Inc.
Lizzy: Oh! It was a whole… company?
Lu: Yeah. And then later I hired interpreters, and you know, so it was… it was very profitable. But then the competition started being fierce because there started being people who were qualified. And I fought the ones that were not qualified, because it wasn’t fair for the people who were receiving a poor service.
Lu: And so, for instance, you know that in the legal situation where the person is going to say that they are guilty, that term is called a plea, a guilty plea. And that woman translated that “plea” as oracion, like plea (puts hands together in praying motion). So the guy said, yeah, he wanted to pray for being guilty, so he agrees. It was a big mess. But I mean that’s the whole thing. It’s a different thing when a person speaks a language. For example, I could not do interpreting in French because I don’t have the knowledge of the thing. I mean I studied the documentation, the, the, the, I did not just show up there, you know, I would prepare myself, give me the information. The same thing was with my clients. When we travelled, give me the stuff, I want to know exactly… and I would check and see the terminology I didn’t have, and so, so that I would be prepared and ready and I wouldn’t have to say “oh, God, how do you say that?”
Lizzy: Oh, wow. I can’t imagine someone signing up, and then not being able to… interpret!
Lu: Oh, well, because they think, oh you know, I used to tell them, someone used to say “enchilada” without an accent and they think they’re bilingual.
Lizzy: yeah, I could see that, I mean, that’s…
Lizzy: that would be frustrating. Ok. So you said you had the school while you were in Mexico; the school for English speaking, for teaching English.
Lu: oh, no, no, no, no, it was private.
Lizzy: It was private? Oh, ok!
Lu: No, it was private. I did not taught in a school. No it was private and it started because I was tutoring. I had ah… some friends of mine said “oh, you know, my son flunked his exam for the university, and he’s going to have another test, can you help him?” So this is the summer, and they call me one week before the exam.
Lizzy: Oh, jeez.
Lu: Sure, I do, but I need him eight hours a day. No, no, no, until the day he goes to… And he has to work. So, then I started with him and we worked and worked and worked and worked and then he aced his test. He had the gall to say “if I had known it would have been that easy I wouldn’t have studied so hard”. And I said, “idiot, don’t you think why it was easy? Because you studied, because you knew it.” And so then, he spread the word. And then I had, I mean I had, children, I had… it was so much fun. I had these little… these one kids, and they were funny, hilarious, you know, and I had all this different type of equipment that I taught. Because I would be coming here to see my daughter who was in Jefferson, and so then I would get all material and take it all back, and so no, I tell you I had 57 students that I had.
Lizzy: yeah, you did. Wow! That’s… a lot. How long did you have the school going?
Lu: Oh, since I got there. I was there ten years, no, nine years, because one year I went to Colorado, and then I came back, and it was three years. Six years, and then I was gone one year, and then three years, and then I came back. Cause when I came back from Colorado, the word spread that I was back and I got my students back.
Lizzy: oh, wow.
Lizzy: that’s pretty… that’s right because you said you had to start over when you came, but they all heard, and…
Lu: yeah, and immediately, I rented a house, it had three bedrooms. I mean just by the self, and I would have… I purchase a gorgeous dining room table that would sat ten, because that was where I had my classes.
Lizzy: Oh, wow.
Lu: and then my system was not like… one, time one is one, time two is two, two times two is four, no. Each student has his or her own… And I provided the books and all the material, they just came into study. No homework, no tests, no anything. But each one had their own level. And I was able to work with all of them at the level they were. And so then it was like one-on-one.
Lizzy: wow, that would be… that’s hard to do one-on-one with 57 students.
Lu: Yeah, but, they were not at the same time. I mean, obiviously, they would have separate times. Some would come one hour, and some would come two hours per week, and then… but I mean, it was a lot of fun. Lot of fun, I loved it, I’m a social person. If you cannot believe that… (Laughs).
Lizzy: I can tell that, that’s amazing. So you ran the school alone while you were there?
Lu: It was not a school.
Lizzy: Er, I’m sorry, the tuto….
Lu: It was just my classes
Lizzy: the classes.
Lu: my classes, my classes,
Lizzy: I’m sorry, I always think like private place for classes… schoo…
Lu: oh, now that I came here, I was going to tutor Spanish, but it didn’t work, because… my friend said, oh you just come here, and my kid goes to Johnston, and there’s all these kids, so you just come here.
Lu: so then I see this kid, it’s my godson. And I said, “ok, Grady, how are you in Spanish?” And he says “oh, I’m getting As”. So the first thing he said to me was hola. Mmmmmmmm
Lu: And I said “what do you know in Spanish, Grady?” “the colors” And I said “what else do you know?” “the colors”. And I said, “well, no wonder you’re getting As”. And that’s when I realized they don’t do that much actual conversation with the Spanish. They just do something that covers what they have to have.
Lu: So they teach them, three, four, five things and then they do their little test and they pass them and that’s it. So then I had a student here who was a teacher, who lived up here, in this building. And then I also taught Alfredo Parrish’s daughter, she’s now in the East Coast studying something, I don’t know what she’s studying, law or something. Of course law.
Lizzy: well, of course, law! (laughs)
Lu: (laughs) and so, but I mean, it’s so, it’s ummm.. so then the teaching didn’t work. So then of course I’m here as an elderly, because I am an elderly person. And so then they have a group of elderly people here, because this is now a dorm.
Lu: well, the University is right next door. Of the hundred and sixty some apartments that are here, eighty percent are students.
Lu: six percent of people, old people, and the rest are the “normals”, you know…
Lizzy: the normal… (laughs)
Lu: (laughs) And so the elderlies, they decided that we should be doing something socially. So they send me a format, and I went to the first meeting, and there was a gathering, you know, for the first meeting, and there was a lady who had worked, had worked in the embassies. So she was very… so she decided that the group needed a president. And I thought, “well shit, this is like in my country, where some guy says ‘I’m going to be the President’ and that’s it”. And I said, “no, no, no, wait a minute, is this going to be a business meeting?” Because she had old things and new things. And I said “is this a meeting? Is this going to be a business meeting; because if it is, I’m out of here.
Lu: So then we all decided that we’re out of here, so then she lost her positon the same day (laughs)
Lu: So then, now, without having any other position of any sort, I run the group. I send them the fliers when it’s time and I talked them into doing tai chi.
Lizzy: oh wow,
Lu: so we got a tai chi teacher, I talked the management into paying for it. So we meet at the end of the corridor there is a club room and we meet there. So then we have thirty minutes of tai chi followed by five minutes of meditation which was another invention followed by goodies and we sit and chit chat and talk about everything and anything available. And it is a lot of fun, we now have 14 mem… or people that show up in the group.
Lizzy: that’s so cool!
Lu: Yeah! It is a lot, a lot of fun.
Lizzy: Wow, you’ve just been a leader wherever you go.
Lu: Well, I mean it’s just that I’m a social person.
Lu: And I just like people and if you like someone, that person almost automatically likes you. I mean there are some people that I don’t like, but, I mean, (laughs)
Lizzy: yeah (laughs) those people…
Lizzy: So you said you went to finishing school, was that in…
Lu: in Mexico. All my schooling was in Mexico. Here I went to DMACC because I intended to do some work for Mercy, and I realized I had zero, zero abilities. I had gone to the University in Mexico, I was headed to become an architect. I did thr… five semesters. I could not finish because my mother did not allow me to stay in Mexico City, and she wanted me, and we moved back to this other town. They didn’t have an architecture school, they had a med school. My mother said she wanted me to study medicine. I said no, I wanted to be an architect like my dad. That’s what I wanted to be. So actually, in my country, if you do not finish a professional career you don’t have anything.
Lizzy: oh, no. OK
Lu: It’s not like here where you have so many credit hours, you have a major, you have a minor, no; you don’t have anything.
Lizzy: oh, wow.
Lu: So I didn’t have anything when I got here. So I went to DMACC to learn how to (types fingers on imaginary keyboard). My husband wanted me to take typing. I said “is this your only chance to sleep with a secretary?” (laughs).
Lu: I took four different things at the same time.
Lizzy: oh, wow, like four different…
Lu: yeah! But see, when I was in the University in Mexico we carried fourteen subjects…per semester!
Lizzy: Drake doesn’t let you take any more than six! Oh, man!
Lu: So, you see, when I first came here, I went to Drake with some friends. And I said, ok, “I wanna take a test in Spanish”. And I says “maybe I’ll get some sort of degree”, you know. I tested enough to get a master.
Lu: They wouldn’t give it to me.
Lizzy: why not?
Lu: I didn’t pay tuition (laughs)
Lizzy: (laughs) that’s fair… yeah.
Lu: I said “oh!” (laughs), but you know
Lizzy: But, oh my goodness
Lu: But, they also offered me to teach (laughs) I said “you’re not giving me a degree, but you’re hiring me to teach?” (laughs) She says “well you’re Spanish is excellent” and I says “I know!” (laughs more).
Lizzy: Right! (laughs) I know it is… just give me the degree and maybe I’ll teach
Lu: But I mean, I thought it was funny at the time. I never thought at the time that I would be doing anything. I just thought I would be at home having two hundred kids, but no, I have two. Got two husbands, one for each.
Lizzy: wow, so…
Lu: I don’ know how many subjects you needed to cover…
Lizzy: I mean this was just kinda… a general… idea (gestures to interview framework). I was just here to hear what you had to say, really.
Lizzy: what else do you want to tell me?
Lu: Oh, I could tell you a lot of things, but first I want you to tell me what this is all about, what, uh, it’s going to do for you.
Lizzy: For my project?
Lizzy: Well, this is really just, uh, we’re doing Oral Histories, I’m sure you saw that with all the emails.
Lizzy: We’re starting… well, we got to choose, and I wanted to start, like, with like birth, til now…
Lizzy: If you were… of course if you were willing to do that, but if there was something you wanted… something like an aspect or an area that you wanted to focus on more; that you wanted that story told… then, we could do that too. Really, this is your story that I’m just publishing.
Lizzy: On the internet
Lu: Well, I was w… a lot of people, a lot of my friends, and I know that Penny Furgusen who is a friend of Lourdes, told her that I had a very interesting life.
Lu: Well, I didn’t think so because it was my life, you know, I have always, I lived it, and… but I have enjoyed every single instant of my life. I had some bad, bad, bad, bad moments, but those bad moments are just the mistakes you make, but a mistake that you repeat is a stupidity.
Lu: The mistake is a teaching, it’s a lesson, you learn. But if you repeat it… pfft. So I’m very aware of where I blew it so that I won’t blow it again.
Lizzy: that’s a good point
Lu: right, right.
Lizzy: that’s something that I still need to learn
Lu: well, you’re too young, honey, you’re too young. I mean, I was 22 when I was married the first time, I was 31 when I was married the second time, and there was a big difference. Total difference, I mean when I married the first time, I really didn’t even know what I was getting into.
Lu: I had no idea what life was all about, I had never done anything of the sort. And so, when I married the second time, so I thought (laughs), I knew… the thing, the only thing was that when it came to the normal life of an American woman, which I admired tremendously, a lot of people think that American women are lazy, because there’s so many things to make it easy for… housework, per se. But it is because American women, the majority work.
Lu: And so then, we, in my country, we have maids. I mean, at my house, my mother had four girls to do bedrooms, living rooms, and dining rooms, two cooks, two girls to do the washing and the… the washing, and do the ironing, a seamstress, three gardeners and a chauffeur. That’s how I grew up with.
Lu: so, when I married my second husband; you know this is a funny thing because there should be a book… a special book written to say “stupid questions you ask a foreigner”.
Lu: So, my father-in-law found out, logically, that I was from Mexico, and so he must have read something, perhaps a post card or something. So then he asked me if it was true that the Aztecs virgins; open their chests up and pull their hearts out and offer it to the gods. I say “yeah”. Do they still do that? Uh… no. Why? Well, we ran out of virgins.
Lu: (laughs) how did you want me to answer it, you know?
Lizzy: How do you…? Well, we just ran out one day, I don’t know.
Lu: (laughs) So then my mother-in-law asks me: do you have anything automatic in Mexico? I said “well, it all depends on what you mean by automatic”. Let’s, let’s just assume you’re talking about the washer and dryer. Ok, so let’s put it this way: Thursday is the day you choose to do your laundry.
Lu: So you get the clothes out of the hamper, you separate them, you put them in the washing machine, you put in the detergent, you push the buttons, you do all these things, and then you wait. When it stops, you put it in your automatic dryer, you put it in there, you (gibberish). When it stops, you take it out, you fold it, you put it away. In my country, you tell the maid “it’s Thursday, you wash!” That’s automatic. (laughs)
Lu: (laughs) You agree?
Lizzy: yeah, I agree. That’s way more automatic!
Lu: (laughs) And she says “oh, I would not know what to do with a maid!” And I says, “I’ll teach ya” (laughs)
Lizzy: (laughs) Makes life a lot easier
Lu: Oh, God, yes! Yes.
Lizzy: Do you miss having a maid?
Lu: I have one.
Lizzy: you have one? Really?
Lu: yep. The chick that cleans the place in here, I have hired her and she does my apartment.
Lizzy: wow! Oh, my goodness.
Lizzy: so that’s like a little taste of home then?
Lu: But, I mean, it’s like…um… she’s Mexican.
Lu: And so I help her, because she gets so frustrated about many things and so I talk to her about her and all that. And so she comes to my house once a week. I’m a very organized person. I’m not a perfectionist, I’m an organized person. By the time I finish doing something, everything is put away, in order, the whole thing. And so then, all she does is the bathrooms, cause I don’t like to do the bathrooms…
Lu: … the kitchen because I don’t like to do the floor in the kitchen. She dusts, because I hate to dust. I do the laundry, but I had to learn how to do laundry because I had never done laundry before. And so then when I married my husband, he said to me “can you explain this to me?” and it was this pink T-shirt. Oh, and I said “don’t worry!” and I pull out.. “it’s a set” and I pull out some pink underwear (laughs)
Lu: and if you like it there’s two sets (laughs). Cause I had put everything together.
Lu: And… so then my mother-in-law started with the “oh I know this woman that puts all the clothes together”. And finally, it got to the point that I told my husband, “you know what? You can take your laundry to your mother”. There’s people like her that does laundry all the time. I’m not there for that. But, I did have to learn. And I still put everything together, but I do it cold water (laughs).
Lizzy: Right! (laughs) I like the way you think!
Lu: mhmm sure, I mean, come on… it’s…
Lizzy: I do the same thing (laughs)
Lu: No, I mean you should never let stress get to you.
Lu: No. Never, never, never. And then you live longer. See, I’m going to be eighty years old next year.
Lizzy: no way!
Lu: oh, yes way.
Lizzy: I would never have believed that.
Lu: I was born in 1936. I tell you that I was a child when the Second World War!
Lizzy: I… it…
Lizzy: it didn’t click. Like wow, that’s incredible!
Lu: but, it’s because I’m a happy person, I think, I’m a happy person. But, I mean, it’s in my genes. My great-grandmother died at 114.
Lizzy: oh, my god!
Lu: And she died of old age. But, she was little. And I think as little people, we live longer. My husband was six foot, or so, and so I used to tell him, I said “listen, look, my blood goes (makes small circle with her finger) and yours goes (draws large circle with finger) and mine goes (makes small circle again)”. So he told me, he said I was nuts. So I went to, one day, he was always sick, I’m never sick, so I would go up to him with his doctor and he asked him and he said “she’s right, why do you think that children grow faster?” you know? Because their whole system runs faster than the bigger people (laughs)
Lu: no but it’s… but I am working now!
Lizzy: Oh, you are!
Lu: A friend of mine has hired me, well, I made him hire me. And, so then, now I run his office. First, I told him I just wanted to help him, because I had had a business, and he was starting his own business after 20 years of working in an office and then he decides to open up his own business. And so then, I was going to help him with that, and pretty soon I told him, “no, I think you have to pay me”. And then, so pretty soon I had to raise my money all the time (laughs). But, umm… I work the mornings because I have luncheons here and I have my tai chi classes and I can’t miss it. But I like that, I enjoy it very, very much. I’m an active person; my brain works all the time, all the time.
Lizzy: that’s incredible. Yeah, that’s what I want to be
Lu: mhmm. And you have, well how much more time do you have left in your… to finish your studies?
Lizzy: I have… this is my last year, so I have one more semester, after Christmas.
Lu: And then?
Lizzy: And then… I’ll probably go on to graduate school.
Lu: And do?
Lizzy: I’d like to be a psychologist… like a clinical psychologist, so I will have maybe four or five more years
Lu: and you do the post-grad where?
Lizzy: I don’t know…
Lu: oh, ok. Where would you like to do it?
Lizzy: North Carolina…?
Lizzy: it’s warm
Lu: (laughs) well, check it out, honey, they’re flooded!
Lizzy: I know… I’m starting to… I have a friend from Mexico who, from Guadalajara, who was just up visiting, and he was just trying to talk me into a school there.
Lu: But, what do you gain?
Lizzy: From going to Mexico or…?
Lizzy: well, it’s done in two years and it’s a lot cheaper.
Lu: But then you can revalidate it here?
Lizzy: Probably not…so I would probably live there for a while, if I did go there. But, I don’t know.
Lu: Is he good looking?
Lizzy: (laughs) oh, no! He was my professor while I was there
Lu: hey, that doesn’t make him ugly, right?
Lizzy: No, (laughs), no it doesn’t but, no, he’s married, and he’s yeah…
Lu: watch out, because Mexican men don’t give a shit about that (laughs)!
Lu: I married a Mexican, the first one was a Mexican, and I learned my lesson. I said, nope.
Lizzy: Oh, no…
Lu: well, it’s interesting, it’s… psychology is something that is so wide and the ability to help is very important. But at the same time it is very dangerous because a wrong advice, see they come to the psychologist or psychiatrist so vulnerable. I had, I mean, I had when my first husband left me, um, everybody thought that I was suicidal. And so the doctor said “well, have you considered ending your life?” And I says “well, I found a bullet in a drawer and I thought I would swallow it and jump off the roof and see if I explode at the bottom”. He told my mother “she’s not suicidal!” (laughs) I mean I didn’t even think of it. I mean that’s all I could think of, swallow a bullet and jump, see if I explode! (laughs). So he told my mom, no of course I wasn’t suicidal. I mean life is so fantastic, you know? This guy, I was so mad, I was five years dating this guy, since I was sixteen, and I was, and he was my age and we were so madly in love, and he was also incredibly good looking ,you know, so we get married. And so then, my, a year and a half he’s with someone else, he packed his things, and left!
Lizzy: oh my goodness
Lu: I had a three month baby. And I lived in Mexicali which is the border and my parents over here, and I… no money, no anything, and I’m… so then my dad came to got me and you know of course I came home the instant I walked in my home I get my keys to my car, and… And the guy still, I mean he doesn’t still, because he’s dead now, but he lived with this chick for… I don’t know, they had eight or nine kids, I don’t know.
Lizzy: oh, my goodness
Lu: but at least, if it wasn’t for that, I wouldn’t have met my darling, good-looking husband!
Lu: So, every bad thing brings a good thing in life. The thing is, to take it that way. And to always see everything as… you have to always find the good stuff, out of anything, no matter how bad it looks, there’s always something good.
Lizzy: that’s an excellent way to look at things!
Lu: My daughter used to say: “how do you define, how do you define the problems in life?” And I… well, let me tell you, it’s like bull fights. If you stand… If a bull comes at you and you stand still, gonna hit you right?
Lu: but if you slowly move to the side and let the bull pass, not only you save yourself but you’re going to look good! And that’s how you have to take the problems in life. If you… you cannot do them head on,
Lu: you have to maneuver them, so that way… that they would pass you. And then, when they pass you, you either look good, and you, you, you, excel, or you and then, so that’s… And so the thing is, the difference is, I used to make lists. For instance, this is what I wanted and I couldn’t get it, so then I made my list: what’s the benefit of getting it and then the other list, what’s the bad things that’s gonna happen if I get this. If this (negative) had more than this (positive) then this (the thing she wanted) was out. If this (positive) had more than this (negative), then this (the thing she wanted) was in. That fast.
Lu: because you have to see it, see, if you’re thinking it in here (points to head), then it’s like the snowball. It gets bigger or it melts, but if you see it, visual, then it’s easier to make a decision.
Lizzy: that’s true
Lu: ok, so tell me how much time we have
Lizzy: oh, yeah! Oh, my goodness, we’re already over time! It’s already been like an hour and twenty minutes!