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 Rubens 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 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 Rubens future was written in whatever pain and grief one lifes 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 Fn 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. Rubens 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 Rubens 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 Rubens body. I have promised payment to avoid this, but can you imagine the Fn animals we have to deal with in such a time as this?
And just as I paid for Rubens 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 grandmothers 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 Sheriffs 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.