Ruben Valdovinos Cortes, October 24, 1982 – October 2, 2010

Ruben with his younger brothers Mike and Johnny
On October 2, 2010 at 4 A.M. in the morning at the General Hospital in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico a friend and a son as well as a brother died of AIDS. He never got to see his 28th birthday. The story is one of the saddest that I have been involved with, and the pain I am in feeling is just terrible and the only outlet I have is to tell Ruben’s story here on my blog. It is times like this that I understand that I do have a great deal of compassion, I sometimes wonder if I have much anymore. For at this time I am in a state of emotional pain and devastation, and I am pleased to have these feelings. My concern, is that as I have grown older I do feel the pain of others at times, but I also feel numb to the stupidity and anguish of some of what I see and read about, both in my work as well as what I read and see in the news. These feelings of pain and anguish are normal and healthy, and most of all a process of healing, even for me.

There is a Marion County Sheriff, Salem, Oregon that should be very very proud of himself, good “police work!” Approximately 18 months ago, it was a deputy who sealed Ruben Valdovinos Cortes’ fate. Ruben was pulled over for unpaid registration on his old beater that he drove to and from his work at Jack in the Box (Ruben was someone would work double shifts and anything else he could to pay his bills). That stop also revealed a small amount of “weed,” “grass”…pot. Times have changed, when I was a police officer as well as a deputy I can recall clearly giving young people breaks. I had the authority to enforce the law, there was the “letter” of the law and there was the “spirit” of the law. Everyone did not have to get a ticket or go to jail, it is a fact! Did I want to screw up a young person’s future? Hang a felony arrest on a kid that would be kicked to a misdemeanor or kicked out altogether?….I always sided on the thought “give a break” when I could. Why do you ask? Easy, “there by the grace of god go I.” Or, was it all the coppers who cut John J. Nazarian a break way back when I was a real “ADAM HENRY,” and I would one day pay them back by going into law enforcement. I don’t know, I would have to say that their good will was not wasted…after all, I made it!

Ruben Valdovinos CortesRuben had been in the United States most of his 28 years, coming from Mexico as a child with no choice at the age of 4 years old (some of these kids never return to Mexico, hell some don’t even speak Spanish, the US is all they know). Attended school and graduated Mendota High School, Fresno County, California (I can remember sending Ruben money for his cap and gown, it was just the thing to do). Ruben had all the same dreams that every teenager who graduates has, onward to bigger and better things! He applied for his green card through the Catholic Charities in Fresno, California, reaching for the Dream. I would also provide financial help for him and a few of his family members to chase this dream. All was on target and the months turned into years and one day a letter comes, the letter denied Ruben further access for a green card, his blood test came back “HIV POSITIVE”. Ruben was being denied…but he had lived here since he was 4 or 5, did that not mean anything? Graduated from school and worked hard and paid taxes, and did more to take care of his brothers and sisters than many fathers do. God Bless America, America the Beautiful, the land of plenty…well for some anyway.

Typical of Ruben, he was upset but set his goals to going back to work and seeing if in time things would change…they did in early 2009, “unpaid registration” and “pot.” Smoking pot helped ease the pain of the different things his body was going through from the AIDS and was a huge help for his appetite. It would almost seem Ruben’s future was written in whatever pain and grief one life’s could be written….was it all just written in some book that this would be the trail Ruben would have to follow, was this just a sick celestial gag? He would be sent off to Arizona and be held in Federal Detention, in less than comfortable conditions for someone developing full blown AIDS. Waiting for hearings and whatever nonsense that comes with being deported, however some of his medical needs were being met and he was dealing with the issues at hand, he was relatively healthy and alive! But his situation soon changed for the worse after being sent back to a country that he did not know, one that would allow him to get sicker and sicker, with a goal to let him die, this F’n great Catholic country!

His mother had been deported to Mexico a few years earlier for attempting to bring a younger relative into the United States using the papers of a United States citizen. But this was a place she was very comfortable with….it was her country. Ruben agreed to go along with some “recommendation” and was sent back to Mexico. Ruben tried to find work any place he could and a place to live and to just live a life in a place that was as foreign to him as it was home for his mother. Ruben worked and loved to work, and paid taxes when he was in the U.S. Remember, he came to the United States as a young child. One positive was that Ruben had learned Spanish…can you imagine if he had not spoken Spanish?

One of the wonderful things about Mexico, is that this is a country that F*%Ks the Americans that visit every year…well do not feel too bad, they do the very same things to their own people…even someone who is forced to return to his “homeland,” after living almost his entire life in what seemed like his country, the good ol’ U.S. of A. Ruben would become so sick that he would search out his mother. Funny, is it not, when we cry out it is always for the ones you hope can help, help she did in her own way. Ruben’s mother lives in her extremely humble cinder block shack with tin shutters and no running water hot or cold, and toilet facilities that would make any porta-potty seem inviting. This was so depressing for me to see, nothing was good, nothing seemed clean. Even the animals that were tied to the trees in front of this shack were sick, it was all sick, everywhere I looked, sick,sick,sick. Who would ever think to build their “Hacienda” in a dump, it was not his mother’s but her friends, dead animals were tossed into a pit not far from the “Hacienda.” I had not seen Ruben in a very long time and took a trip on business to Mexico and stopped by. When I saw him I knew it was not going to be good. Ruben had a look I had seen hundreds of times, yes I said HUNDREDS of times in San Francisco and in Los Angeles. Most of my friends back in the day who got infected, in a period of three to four years all died of AIDS. Why am I such a SOB, there is one little clue! It is a look that we saw in documentaries of concentration camps, the bony structure of the face and the sunken eyes of the survivors. Ruben was dying, and he was not going to survive. My son and I checked the amount of Pesos we had in our pockets and we gave it all to him (Sure my solution is to throw money at issues, even issues that I know can’t be won, I hope that for a few weeks those dam pesos were a little help).

Understand this, and hear my pain, had a deputy sheriff in Salem, Oregon showed a little compassion and told him to park the car and let him walk away, Ruben could have lived many more years. And if this miserable rat trap called Mexico could show a little compassion for its own people, perhaps Ruben could have seen a few more birthdays in his “new” country, after all he was one of its “sons” returning to his “home” compliments of the United States. Ruben Valdovinos Cortes died in Nogales, Mexico on October 2, 2010 at 4 AM, alone, in a place that was as foreign to him as it would be for you or me.

There is so much anger in my body at what happened to Ruben that I cannot clearly express it, my language is tame compared to what I want to scream towards the heavens. Ahhhh but what the hell, now we get to deal with a Mexican Mortuary that is just as big a rip-off as those famous donkey bars of Tijuana, Mexico. So, I sent two of my sons to Tucson on the morning of October 5 to take control of Ruben’s affairs as well as his remains (keep in mind, I handled thousands of bodies in the years I worked in the funeral industry here in Los Angeles. You name it…did it and saw it all, nothing in one’s imagination can compete. All of the rules and regulations that protect us as consumers in the United States involving the Funeral Industry, none of these protections are available to protect the people of Mexico from the vultures in the funeral business that they must deal with, like Funerales Y Crematorio – J.G. Noriega, Nogales, Sonora, Mexico. Keep in mind folks, here if you are a millionaire a cremation can be as cheap as $299 and as high as you would want to spend. In Mexico it goes the other way, and remember if they can “figure'” you and your situation out, they are going to go for the gusto. These are poor people and they get hammered for this and almost everything else, “this” being trying to handle the affairs of the dead. And if you have ever dealt with anything in Mexico, they know from the first breath, they got you! Soooo, I had my sons pay these ridiculous fees, knowing we were getting screwed to the wall…what else could I do. Like everything else in Mexico it is all about screwing you alive or dead, anyone and anything they can for the almighty peso or dollar depending how you like it. We are also working on the threat that Department of Health will take the body and we will never see it again, or have to pay what adds up to a ransom for Ruben’s body. I have promised payment to avoid this, but can you imagine the F’n animals we have to deal with in such a time as this?

RubenAnd just as I paid for Ruben’s cap and gown for his graduation from high school, I am now paying for his body to be cremated so that he can be placed with his grandmother’s remains in some far away place in Mexico. I have asked for some of his ashes to be kept here in my home…as it seems he has as much right to spend eternity here with us as in Mexico. One of the most painful things for me now is the thought, could I have done more? We all thought of ways to get him across the border, he had California and Washington State identifications, but the system in place today is so much more difficult to beat…I will always have these thoughts.

My final thoughts: I, John J. Nazarian hold the Marion County Sheriff’s Department, Salem, Oregon, The United States of America as well as Los Estados Unidos Mexicanos responsible for the death of Ruben Valdovinos Cortes. Many of you will have opinions as to my findings on the short life and the death of Ruben. Simple, real simple, all I have to say is tread lightly if you disagree with me, and if you agree with me I still have lots more tears to shed.

14 Responses to Ruben Valdovinos Cortes, October 24, 1982 – October 2, 2010

  1. John J. Nazarian P.I. says:

    OOOPs I forgot, Ruben could not read or write Spanish….then why should he, he was educated here in California since a child…..

  2. John, I’m so sorry for your loss my friend. Humanity doesn’t comport with Legality. It sucks. I saw many things in Haiti while I was working on relief efforts. I’m going back knowing full well of the corruption and so forth in place. WE ALL BLEED RED BLOOD. There is no difference between any of us. Again, so sorry for your loss.

  3. Cynthi says:

    Ruben was a good friend of mine, he spoke really good English, I knew he was Mexican but I did not know he was from Mexico. I recently spoke to him after he was deported, he had found a job in Hermosillo in a customer center
    For direcTV, and he worked there for about a month and was fired thereafter because he was unable to learn to read Español. Every time I would call and check on him he would be sick with a cold, which was everyother week, I thought it was the change in climate, or maybe the food was making him sick, but I never thought it was aids that was killing him, he never opened up to reveal such intimate details about himself, he always worked and was always busy trying to work, support himself and his young siblings who were stranded by their mother’s deportation a few years a go. Luckily ruben had a younger brother who took over his youngest siblings otherwise where would they be, in foster care no thanks to that guy who arrested him for practically no reason at all. I’m sure if we dug deep enough we could finds hundreds of such cases, I’m just glad that some one is talking about this one, one is all it takes to get the ball rolling, hopefully more cases like this can be prevented.

  4. Perfecto Castillo says:

    Dear friend:
    I last talked to you a day before you passed. I felt great pain in your voice and sorrow.But we talked as much as you could and we told each other we loved one another and how we missed each other, my son and wife also miss you and will always miss you, member your little ninja Ethan. I miss the happy and playful hello’s i used to get from you when i would call. You were a great friend and brother to us all, i love you and will miss you very much. You did more than others have done for me. You were there, I’m very sorry i could not do much for you i feel like i owe you, one day we will meet again and it will be like the old times, when we used to wake up and 5 am to work or to walk to the river to fish, i really miss you brother, i remember you used to sneak in my back window to chill and watch movies in mendota, i remeber when we accidently met up at the fresno court house and you talked me out of filing my divores paper THANKS YOU SO MUCH, YOU SAVED ME FROM A BIG MISTAKE, i rember you gave me a home when i did not have one, Ruben i remeber you were one of the best things that happen to me and im sorry i did not tell you this, Ruben you were a great person and had a great heart, i know you are were you need to be in heaven, keep an eye out for my son Sebastian, brother i cant wait till my time in this earth is up and we all meet up and live for ever in peace, and enjoy our friendship for eternety, one day god will call me home. I’M SORRY RUBEN I COULD NOT BE THERE WHEN YOU NEEDED A BROTHER OR A FRIEND, MY HEART HURTS, AND NO MATTER HOW MANY TIMES I TELL YOU I’M SORRY IT DOES NOT CHANGE THE FACT THAT YOUR GONE, I MISS YOU AND LOVE YOU, RIP BROTHER,

  5. ashley f. says:

    hi i didnt know ruben to much but i did know his sister..i just wanted to say im sorry for the loss and the couple of times i met him he was a really nice gentlemen..i know he ment alot to rosie and i know she’s missin him right now, even though she’s tryin to be strong..i am once again sorry for the lost of Ruben!!

  6. John, my heart is breaking over this story and the loss of a loved one. I am so sorry for you and your sons that you have had to endure this terrible tragedy. Please call or e-mail me if you or the boys need ANYTHING!! I love you all. Carey

  7. luis says:

    This bring tears to my eyes ..because I too has similar problems…I too am positive and illegal…and I been here since I was a kid…the only difference is that my mother just became a citizen….don’t know where my life is gonna go..I’m really healthy and I try to be strong …but I think about it all the time…where I live people get called by immigration is you get pulled over and have no ID…and that would be my problem…god be with ruben and all of us still suffering to this day…my heart goes out to you…god bless

  8. Luke says:

    I sympathize about your loss but this does not change the fact that several laws were broken here. Are they to be ignored?

  9. John J. Nazarian P.I. says:

    Laws Broken? How about the laws of common sense? This man came as a 4 year old child, what if he had not learned to speak Spanish? He knew about as much about Mexico as I did….sure I get the ‘law thing’ but get real. If these people no matter what the age or illness are breaking laws and are just bad send them back to where ever. This is not the case for Ruben and thousands of others.

    Did you know , when you think of popping your girlfriend in the ass in some states you once could be jailed? Or that a good O’l BJ that too was a law breaker…what do we do with all those violators of the law?

    The only laws broken here pal was that of common sense, I have seen dozens of cops like the one that caged Ruben, was more likely cold and would have hooked and booked his mother if he was sure he had ever had one!


  10. Fred Duran says:

    John, im so sorry for your lost. I worked with Ruben here in Mexico about 3 months ago, he was a really nice person the only thing we knew about him was that he came to Mexico because his mother was sick (heart problems). I really regret not knowung more abour him and helping him because he was such a good person with all at work! RIP Ruben.

  11. Ana says:

    I am so sorry about your lost, but I once dated Ruben for several years. I can’t believe that he is not with us anymore. He was not only my BF but my best best friend ever. I know that I will always miss him and that he is truly love by me. I am so sad and upset at the laws that toke Ruben to where he is at. Where is the compasion I asked i would love to know more of what hapen to him I lost track of Ruben were abouts since we graduate but I wish I would have know to help him. Please John let me know more I know you were a good frien to his intired family. He would always tell me good things about you. RIP RUBEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!I will always remember you as the Good person you were.

  12. Ana says:

    Thank You for being a good friend and Dios este contigo!!!!!!!!

  13. ana perez says:

    I am sorry to hear that we have lost a true friend but please contact me I was a good friend of Ruben for many years until we graduated from school.RIP Rubuen we will always LOVE YOU!!!!!!!!!

  14. silvia says:

    Ruben is my cousin. He and I were very close. It breaks my heart to read this. I miss him so much. I lived with Ruben for a few years when he was up here. He took care of me and rosie. He was always working and when he wasn’t he always spent his time with us. I could never thank him enough for being there for me. He was like a father to me. I still can’t believe he’s gone.

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